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Forgotten Fatherland: The Search for Elisabeth Nietzsche Paperback – August, 1993

3.9 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers 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.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From 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.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Perennial; Reprint edition (August 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006097561X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060975616
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,102,744 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tracy Davis on January 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most curious books I have ever read: on the one hand, there is the story of a failed 19th C German colony in Paraguay, founded on eugenic principles that would be echoed in Hitler's time; on the other hand, there is the biography of one of the most overlooked figures in 19th C philosophy - Elisabeth Nietzsche, sister of the famed philosopher, and apparently the one who twisted her brother's ideas to conform to her own concept of racial purity (and a woman who Hitler courted in his early years of power).
The author, Ben Macintyre, does an admirable job of bringing these two stories together: Elizabeth and her husband, "professional anti-semite" Bernhard Forster, attempt the Paraguayan colony as `New Germany' (Nueva Germania); this colony was designed to appeal to `true' Germans who wanted to establish not only an ideological power base, but flee economic problems at home. The colony does not succeed, as Macintyre discovers when he journeys there in 1991: there are a few of the old families around, and the dangers of inbreeding, according to one recent German immigrant doctor, are becoming noticeable, heralding the inevitable decline of what Elisabeth envisioned as her own pure, private kingdom.
As the parallel story of Nietzsche develops, we see perhaps Elisabeth's real impact on history: her reinterpretation - or even reinvention - of her brother's theories.
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I should get one thing taken care of right off the bat: The author's trip to an Aryan colony in Paraguay is only a pretext for a larger discussion of the rather interesting dynamic between the philosopher Nietzsche, his strong-willed if intellectually mediocre sister, and the rather tumultuous events swirling around fin de siecle Germany. This has its good points and it bad points. The bad first: From the blurbs on the book one expects the author to recount a journey of unremitting horror, fascination and farce as he discovers the depraved Ubermen who still people a failed and fading 19th Century experiment in Aryan race politics gone awry. This isn't what one finds. In fact, the colony of Nueva Germania really acts only as an incidental prop or set-up for the real meat of the story: What happens to Nietzsche the man, the myth and the philosophy under the willing and able hands of his manipulative and single-minded sister. So, like a reviewer below, I would that the author had spent a bit more on the colony and its people and indeed his adventure and misadventures as he made his way to them and lived amongst them for a month. I suspect that the author chose not to do this not only because he had a bigger fish to fry, but also because he is a bit lacking in the skills that the best travel writers possess which allow them to really string an audience along over every rut in the road, sore belly and improbable situation. On the other hand, I believe that the author does an excellent job of describing the political foment that overtook Germany and eventually produced the Holocaust. Before reading this book, for instance, I had no idea how prolonged and widespread was the phenomenon of active, political anti-semitism and what it meant for the likes of people such as these.Read more ›
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My wife and I had the same reaction. We're not especiallyinterested in history, we've never read anything byNietzsche, we know nothing about Paraguay, and of course we'd never heard anything about Nueva Germania. Yet this book held our interest, page after page, beginning to end. The only writer I can compare Macintyre to is John McPhee. The writing is skillful, and he has a sure sense for what is _interesting_ in this strange story. The interplay between anti-Semites and what I can only call anti-anti-Semites is fascinating.
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A fascinating look not only in the formation of Nazism in the late 19th century but how it figured in to the more familiar time of the 1930. Elizabeth Nietzsche, one of the advocates of what later became National Socialism was opposite to her brother F. Nietzsche who found her ideas repugnant.

We find out about the interesting history of South America which had fought a huge war started by Paraguay against Brazil, Chile and Argentina. we find out interesting information about Elizabeth and her husband and the way things were in the 1880's and 1990's when Ben McIntyre went.

Photos also help in shots taken when Nuevo Germania was founded and a century later.

Worth it for those who want to find out about those over looked parts of history as I do.
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I knew of Nietzsche and his association with Nazi Germany but I had no idea that his legacy had been twisted and utilised by his younger sister for her own benefit. I was fascinated with the idea of a lost Aryan colony in Paraguay but the colony is a mere footnote to the story of Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche and her single-minded campaign of self-aggrandisement.

The story was compelling but, as other reviewers have said, I would have liked to have learned a bit more about what happened to the colony and know more about the descendants of the original settlers. Obviously, many of the residents of what was known as Nueva Germania were unwilling to speak on record but I wish there had been a little more of them and a little less of Frau Förster-Nietzsche. I suppose it is fitting that she dominates the story to the detriment of others, much as she did in life.

The story of Nueva Germania serves as a warning against the intolerance we see today - highlighting the folly of those who believe that everything would be alright if everyone were the same race/religion/sexual orientation. It is also a reminder that those who espouse prejudice are usually in it for personal gain and are often willing to dispose of their lofty ideals when they become inconvenient.
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