Forgotten Fatherland: The Search for Elisabeth Nietzsche

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In 1886 Elisabeth Nietzsche, sister of the famous philosopher, and friend of Richard Wagner, traveled with her husband, Bernhard Forster, and a select group of blond-haired, blue-eyed Germans to the remote Paraguayan wilderness to found an Aryan colony she called Nueva Germania. In Forgotten Fatherland Ben Macintyre tracks down the descendants of this early racial experiment, still living in Nueva Germania and breeding among themselves. Many have maintained the language, customs, and ideals that first brought ...
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Overview

In 1886 Elisabeth Nietzsche, sister of the famous philosopher, and friend of Richard Wagner, traveled with her husband, Bernhard Forster, and a select group of blond-haired, blue-eyed Germans to the remote Paraguayan wilderness to found an Aryan colony she called Nueva Germania. In Forgotten Fatherland Ben Macintyre tracks down the descendants of this early racial experiment, still living in Nueva Germania and breeding among themselves. Many have maintained the language, customs, and ideals that first brought their ancestors over from Europe more than one hundred years ago. But Elisabeth Nietzsche's story does not end in Paraguay. A supremely dominating woman, she returned to Europe to take control of both her brother and his work until his death, and beyond. It was she who largely wrote Nietzsche's posthumous "masterwork," The Will to Power; invested Nietzsche with her own proto-Nazi views; and invented and organized the semi-mythical cult of his philosophy, projecting it into the new order emerging in war-torn Europe. Admirer of Mussolini, mentor to Hitler, she died just before the outbreak of the Second World War and was given a full Nazi funeral, attended by a tearful Fuhrer. Forgotten Fatherland re-creates the bizarre history and atmosphere of Nueva Germania, and contains startling revelations about the last days of Josef Mengele. A remarkable work of investigative journalism, shot through with Waughian wit, Forgotten Fatherland will necessitate major reevaluations of the life and posthumous reputation of one of the most influential thinkers of the nineteenth century, and provides an illuminating portrait of a woman whose influence on the history of the twentieth century can only now be fully understood.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1886 Elisabeth Nietzsche, the bigoted, imperious sister of the famous philosopher, founded a ``racially pure'' colony in Paraguay together with her husband, anti-Semitic agitator Bernhard Forster, and a band of fair-skinned fellow Germans. In 1991 Macintyre, once a foreign-affairs reporter for Britain's Sunday Correspondent , tracked down the survivors of Nueva Germania, as the colony was called; he found a strange, tight-lipped people, still interbreeding to the point of genetic deterioration. Digging into recently opened German archives, he tells how Elisabeth, who returned to Germany in 1893, grafted her anti-Semitic, nationalist ideas onto her brother Friedrich's philosophy, building a mythic cult around him. Elisabeth later became a mentor to Hitler; her stately funeral in 1935 was attended by a tearful Fuhrer. Laced with mordant irony, Macintyre's brilliant piece of investigative journalism adds weight to the view, shared by many scholars, that the Nazis' use of Nietzsche's ideas to justify their evil deeds and doctrines was a perversion of his thought. Photos. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In 1886, Nietzsche's sister, Elisabeth, together with her husband, Bernhard Foerster, and 14 German families, founded a colony in Paraguay that they christened ``Nueva Germania.'' Their purpose was to escape a fatherland they believed to be in serious decline and to live in a place where their beliefs--anti-Semitism, vegetarianism, nationalism, and Lutheranism--could flourish. Macintyre vividly recounts the sights and sounds of the villages and jungles, the flora and fauna he encountered in his arduous adventure to locate the remains of this colony. The story reads like a novel, yet Macintyre's journalistic brio is matched by his solid research into German and Paraguayan history and his wealth of detail about Elisabeth's long life and her relationship with her brother. The pathetic group of descendants he finally found would hardly have delighted the founders. Where Macintyre's book rests on a solid research base, Aschheim's book is exhaustively researched; in addition, it is a model of academic scholarship--highly informative yet accessible even to the lay reader. The narrative sweeps from pre-Weimar Germany to the recent reunification. Especially insightful is Aschheim's balanced treatment of whether Nietzsche can be seen to have been a proto-Nazi and whether the Nazi's claiming him as such is justified. A final chapter, ``Nietzscheanism, Germany, and Beyond,'' considers why Nietzsche's influence has been and continues to be pervasive, not only in Germany but throughout the Western world. Both books are highly recommended for most collections.-- Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Mgt. Lib., Washington, D.C.
Kirkus Reviews
A mad curiosity carries an apparently sane young man to a lost German colony in Paraguay. In the picaresque romp that ensues, Macintyre, former foreign correspondent for Britain's Sunday Correspondent, discovers a forgotten people, exonerates Friedrich Nietzsche, and manages to piece together a rather chilling portrait of the troubled philosopher's far more dreadful sister. Not that Elisabeth Nietzsche was all that obscure to begin with: As editor and executrix of her brother's works, she was responsible for misshaping an entire generation of Nietzsche scholarship through a series of blatant misreadings aimed at serving the Nazi cause. A thoroughgoing racist and anti-Semite, she became convinced early on that the purity of the German nation was under siege, and, with her husband Bernard F"rster, concocted the idea of an elite German settlement abroad that would eventually replenish and invigorate the downtrodden Aryan blood at home. Paraguay—of all places—was chosen as the most propitious site, and a small band of pioneers set sail in 1886 for what shortly became an unmitigated disaster. The land turned out to be untillable; the climate was deadly; and the finances were mismanaged from the start. Within a few years, F"rster killed himself, and Elisabeth returned to Germany to care for her brother (who had lapsed into his final madness). Incredibly enough, the colony managed to survive precariously on its own and maintains itself to this day as a surreal Bismarckian outpost in the Paraguayan jungle. Macintyre weaves together several stories here—Nietzsche's stormy relations with Wagner; Elisabeth's influence on the Nazis; the fate of the colonists leftbehind—without weakening the central narrative of his own journey to Nueva Germania and its gente perdita, a journey that was both the impetus and agent for this weird and marvelous tale. Lurid and delightful: Rider Haggard couldn't ask for more. (Thirty-two b&w photos.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060975616
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/1/1993
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.67 (d)

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