You might have heard of this book by Nietzsche, or if not then you’ve at least heard the quote “God is dead” from within its pages. It speaks of a disdain for the modern world’s morality and about a master race drawing us up out of our miserable existence. Terms like “splendid blonde beast” and “superman” as the rightful owners of the world make it clear why it was the inspiration for a number of rather unpleasant people in history. Not the least of these was Hitler himself.
There’s a lot about this that most people don’t know though. Facts that Hitler himself was clearly unaware of. The thing about this book is that it got a heavy-handed edit after he died. Nietzsche was a man who had a burning hatred of anti-Semites. So much was his opposition to them, that he refused to attend his own sister’s wedding because she was marrying a member of the Nazi party.
At his death, his sister Elisabeth inherited the rights to his work and set about heavily re-editing them with a completely new subtext to support her anti-Semitical viewpoints. At the same time, another Nazi named Martin Heidegger began espousing the philosophical views of Nietzsche with his own spin that followed the views of his favored party.
What resulted was a skewing of the moral implications of the book. Many things we now interpret to be supportive of the Nazi philosophy had nothing to do with it. Superman, for example, wasn’t talking about some German master-race. It was supposed to be a term for any person who believed in the subjectivity of morals and who finds their own sense of right and wrong. The splendid blonde beast wasn’t Aryans, it was a reference to lions!
Thanks to the editing and the interpretation of several major historical figures, we now look at this book with disdain, like a road map on how to become evil. The author’s real intent, and indeed all versions of the original work, are all but lost to us now. It is one more in a long string of books where what we know about it is completely incorrect.