Nietzsche and the Nazis
by Stephen R.C. Hicks
In the middle of December I attended a solstice celebration with some friends. During this gathering we played a gift giving game where gifts were traded anonymously. The game was a lot of fun and better yet I chose this book as my gift. Thanks go to my friend Don Parrish who contributed this book to the game and made my choice possible.
I read the book almost immediately after receiving it but I have had difficulty gathering my thoughts and deciding how to review it, not because the book itself was difficult to read; but because I was unsure how to approach this small jewel of a book. I decided to lay out some of the reasons why I both think highly of this book and like it as well.
Looking at its title, Nietzsche and the Nazis, I wondered what kind of book is this. Is it history, biography, some combination of both with sociology, or something else? The subtitle, "A Personal View", suggests that the author will inject his own personal opinions into the narrative in some manner. Looking at the Table of Contents we find that it is in fact something else; namely a book primarily about philosophy. In fact, the first three parts of the book have philosophy in their titles. This is one of the reasons I like the book. Books about philosophy appeal to me; especially well-written and well-reasoned books like this one.
The introduction identifies the aim of this book by highlighting how people in general tend to have an interest in history, and then briefly defining the philosophy of history. The author describes the philosophical perspective of history as one that "is a huge laboratory of experiments in human living." (p 3) The book specifically focuses on one "major experiment" in the twentieth century, the rise of the Nazis.
The remainder of the book methodically and very efficiently tells about the nature of Nazism: its philosophy, National Socialism's programs, and the effective means that the Nazis used while in power over the Third Reich. The discussion of the Nazis is then contrasted with the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. His life and influence is told through discussion of philosophical concepts that were key in his work such as nihilism, the death of God, the slave mentality, and the "overman". Having laid out the ideas of the Nazis and those of Nietzsche the book's climax presents the important differences between Nietzsche's thought and Nazism. This includes a discussion of ways in which Nietzsche's thought can be seen as a precursor of Nazism; they agree in such key areas as anti-individualism, anti-reason, and authoritarianism.
The book is excellent in several respects. It has a clarity of purpose and a logical structure. The principles of both the National Socialists and Nietzsche are well defined; in addition the conclusion highlights those principles which oppose the Nazis. This approach lets readers make their own decision about which principles they stand for. There are also helpful appendices that highlight relevant quotations on the ideas presented. If you are fascinated by history this book is a great place to discover both the reasons for one of the most important episodes in the history of the modern world and why each of us need to understand those reasons.
Nietzsche and the Nazis: A Personal View by Stephen R. C. Hicks. Ockham's Razor Publishing, 2010 (2006).