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Forgotten Fatherland: The Search for Elisabeth Nietzsche Hardcover – September, 1992

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus & Giroux (T); 1St Edition edition (September 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374157596
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374157593
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #783,205 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

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.

More About the Author

BEN MACINTYRE is writer-at-large and associate editor of the Times of London. He is the author of Agent Zigzag, The Man Who Would Be King, The Englishman's Daughter, The Napoleon of Crime, and Forgotten Fatherland. He lives in London with his wife, the novelist Kate Muir, and their three children.

Customer Reviews

It is good to be reminded of the evils of Anti-Semitism.
I enjoyed this book because I found the story of Nueva Germania very interesting, although it turned out to be more of a biography of Elizabeth Nietzsche.
Worth it for those who want to find out about those over looked parts of history as I do.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful 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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Zendicant Pangolin on August 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
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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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 21, 1996
Format: Paperback
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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 21, 1998
Format: Hardcover
MacIntyre's book casts a light over a little known part of our history from the end of the last century over the the Weimar republic (1918-33) and onwards. It also shows how a philosopher's work can be totaly misused in order to fit other purposes; in this case the furthering of nazi theories still, unfortunately, not dead.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Yali on August 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I started the book with the expectation to read something about the fate of an Utopia - the fate of the settlers of the New Germany Colony in Paraguay in 1886 and their descendants. However, the book is rather a very nicely and interesting written story about Friedrich Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth. The colony of New Germany in Paraguay - in my opinion - is supposed to be a catching hanger for Elisabeth's story. This is why the books starts to tell about the beginning of the colony and the author's own journey to find the descendants of the early settlers in Paraguay. But then the books starts again with the life story of Elisabeth, the relationship to her brother, her marriage to Bernhard Foerster and move to Paraguay, her return back and the re-interpretation and publication of Friedrich Nietzsches work. Only the last chapter deals with the lost descendants of the colony. Probably the author is not to blamed for this - apparently nothing much can be told about it, i.e. because the descendants do not talk to him.

Elisabeth's story is very intersting and worth reading. The author tells this story in lot of details (sometimes too much detail and to lengthy) and the twist between Elisabeth's life, the colony's fate, and the author's own journey to Paraguay is nicely done. I loved the pictures because the gave the whole story more depth and made it easier for me to picture the characters and the country.

I give only four stars because I expected more about the colony. The story is based on extensive material, i.e. diaries of Elisabeth and other books. However, I had sometimes a hard time to tell what exactly is fiction and what not. I also would have preferred a time table because I was sometimes lost and did not know what year the author was talking about.
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