Much like the pronunciation of his name, Friedrich Nietzsche’s stances are the elusive stuff of popular misconception and obscurity. Anarchists, fascists, leftists and even Nazis all tout Fritz, as he was known to family and the clumsy-tongued, as one of their own despite his declaration: “I want no ‘believers.’” His more sinister hagiographers, explains Meredith Hindley in a dissection of his Nazi-tainted legacy, owe their interpretations to his sister, Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche could not have been more unlike her syphiitic brother. From a long line of pastors, she was appalled by Fritz’s anti-Christian work. In turn, he loathed her far-right politics and her marriage to a prominent anti-semite. But she lived with the lonely philosopher as he withered, so his papers passed to Förster’s hands by default. She arranged a church burial for him (he had left orders to be buried here), a sign of the abuse his legacy would endure.
A steady stream of Nietzsche’s collected works and letters had also appeared under Förster-Nietzsche’s direction, with more on the way. The volumes are riddled with forgeries large and small… Förster-Nietzsche also wasn’t above changing the identity of letter recipients or altering the text to soften her brother’s rants against anti-Semitism.
The years she spent molding her brother’s work and memory to align with her right-wing beliefs had made him a hero to the Nazi leadership… she began receiving three hundred reichsmarks a month from Hitler’s private purse in honor of “her services in preserving and publicizing Nietzsche’s work.” When she died in 1935, Hitler attended her memorial service.
Fritz had been very close with Richard Wagner until the latter’s anti-semitism caused a deep rift, a fact made pointedly ironic by recent events.