Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), had a tremendous impact on German culture and society, both during and after his lifetime.  This selection of quotes highlights some of the major themes in Nietzsche's writings.  Some of these themes would have significant political implications in twentieth century Germany.

After World War II there has been an effort by some to suggest that Nietzsche had no connection to the creation of Nazi Germany.  This is total nonsense.  After all, he had a very low opinion of  German nationalism and despised anti-semitism.  However, these quotes show that key parts of his thinking did indeed lay the intellectual groundwork for Hitler's regime and Hitler himself would repeatedly cite his debt to Nietzsche.


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"The order of castes, the highest, the dominating law, is merely the ratification of an order of nature, of a natural law of the first rank, over which no arbitrary fiat, no "modern idea," can exert any influence.  In every healthy society there are three physiological types, gravitating toward differentiation but mutually conditioning one another, and each of these has its own hygiene, its own sphere of work, its own special mastery and feeling of perfection.  It is not Manu but nature that sets off in one class those who are chiefly intellectual, in another those who are marked by muscular strength and temperament, and in a third those who are distinguished in neither one way or the other, but show only mediocrity -- the last-named represents the great majority, and the first two the select.  The superior caste -- I call it the fewest -- has, as the most perfect, the privileges of the few: it stands for happiness, for beauty, for everything good upon earth.  Only the most intellectual of men have any right to beauty, to the beautiful; only in them can goodness escape being weakness."

In all this, I repeat, there is nothing arbitrary, nothing "made up"; whatever is to the contrary is made up -- by it nature is brought to shame. . . The order of castes, the order of rank, simply formulates the supreme law of life itself; the separation of the three types is necessary to the maintenance of society, and to the evolution of higher types, and the highest types -- the inequality of rights is essential to the existence of any rights at all.  A right is a privilege.  Everyone enjoys the privileges that accord with his state of existence.

Wrong never lies in unequal rights; it lies in the assertion of 'equal' rights."

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist, Paragraph 57



When Zarathustra arrived at the nearest town which adjoineth the forest, he found many people assembled in the market-place; for it had been announced that a rope-dancer would give a performance. And Zarathustra spake thus unto the people:

I teach you of the Superman.  Man is something that is to be surpassed.  What have ye done to surpass man?

All beings hitherto have created something beyond themselves: and ye want to be the ebb of that great tide, and would rather go back to the beast than surpass man?

What is the ape to man?  A laughing-stock, a thing of shame.  And just the same shall man be to the Superman: a laughing-stock, a thing of shame.

Ye have made your way from the worm to man, and much within you is still worm.  Once were ye apes, and even yet man is more of an ape than any of the apes.

Even the wisest among you is only a disharmony and hybrid of plant and phantom. But do I bid you become phantoms or plants?

Lo, I teach you of the Superman!

The Superman is the meaning of the earth.  Let your will say: The Superman shall be the meaning of the earth!

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, Prologues 2-3


History belongs, above all, to the active and powerful man, the man who fights one great battle, who needs the exemplary men, teachers, and comforters and cannot find them among his contemporary companions. ... In order not to despair and feel disgust in the midst of weak and hopeless idlers ... the active man looks behind him and interrupts the path to his goal to take a momentary deep breath. His purpose is some happiness or other, perhaps not his own, often that of a people or of humanity collectively.  He runs back away from resignation and uses history as a way of fighting resignation. For the most part, no reward beckons him on, other than fame, that is, becoming a candidate for an honored place in the temple of history, where he himself can be, in his turn, a teacher, consoler, and advisor for those who come later.

For his orders state: whatever once was able to expand the idea of "Human being" and to define it more beautifully must constantly be present in order that it always keeps its potential. The greatest moments in the struggle of single individuals make up a chain, in which a range of mountains of humanity are joined over thousands of years.

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, "On the Use and Abuse of History for Life," Section II

"History is endured only by strong personalities -- the weak ones are extinguished by it."

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, Thoughts Out of Season, Part II, Section 5


"It is easy to give the recipe for what the masses call a great man.  By all means, supply them with something that they find very pleasant, or, first, put the idea into their heads that this or that would be very pleasant, and then give it to them.  But on no account immediately: let it rather be won with great exertion, or let it seem so.  The masses must have the impression that a mighty, indeed invincible, strength of will is present; at least it must seem to be there.  Everyone admires a strong will, because no one has it, and everyone tells himself that, if he had it, there would be no more limits for him and his egoism.  Now, if it appears that this strong will is producing something very pleasant for the masses, instead of listening to its own covetous desires, then everyone admires it all the more, and congratulates himself.  For the rest, let him have all the characteristics of the masses: the less they are ashamed before him, the more popular he is.  So, let him be violent, envious, exploitative, scheming, fawning, groveling, puffed up, or, according to the circumstances, all of the above."

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All too Human, Section 8, Paragraph 460


"Terribleness is part of greatness: let us not deceive ourselves."

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, Book IV, Paragraph 1028


"The goal of mankind cannot lie in its end, but in its highest specimens."

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, Thoughts Out of Season, Part II, Section 9


"From now on there will be more favorable preconditions for more comprehensive forms of dominion, whose like has never yet existed. And even this is not the most important thing; the possibility has been established for the production of international racial unions whose task will be to rear a master race, the future "masters of the earth"; a new, tremendous aristocracy, based on the severest self-legislation, in which the will of philosophical men of power and artist-tyrants will be made to endure for millennia -- a higher kind of man who, thanks to their superiority in will, knowledge, riches, and influence, employ democratic Europe as their most pliant and supple instrument for getting hold of the destinies of the earth, so as to work as artists upon "man" himself.  Enough: the time is coming when politics will have a different meaning."

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power, Book IV, Paragraph 960


"Let us consider the other case of so-called morality, the case of breeding, a particular race and kind.  The most magnificent example of this is furnished by Indian morality, sanctioned as religion in the form of "the law of Manu."  Here the task set is to breed no less than four races at once: one priestly, one warlike, one for trade and agriculture, and finally a race of servants, the Sudras.  Obviously, we are here no longer among animal tamers: a kind of man that is a hundred times milder and more reasonable is the condition for even conceiving such a plan of breeding.  One heaves a sigh of relief at leaving the Christian atmosphere of disease and dungeons for this healthier, higher, and wider world.  How wretched is the New Testament compared to Manu, how foul it smells!

Christianity, sprung from Jewish roots and comprehensible only as a growth on this soil, represents the counter-movement to any morality of breeding, of race, privilege: it is the anti-Aryan religion par excellence.  Christianity--the revaluation of all Aryan values, ... the gospel preached to the poor and base, the general revolt of all the downtrodden, the wretched, the failures, the less favored, against "race": the undying Chandala* hatred as the religion of love."

* Nietzsche defines the Chandala man as the "counter-concept, the unbred man, the mishmash man."

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Twilight of the Idols, "The 'Improvers' of Mankind," Paragraphs 3-4


"The morality of breeding, and the morality of taming, are, in the means they use, entirely worthy of each other: we may proclaim it as the supreme principle that, to make morality, one must have the unconditional will to its opposite.  This is the great, the uncanny problem which I have been pursuing the longest: the psychology of the "improvers" of mankind.  A small, and at bottom modest, fact -- that of the so-called pia fraus [holy lie] -- offered me the first approach to this problem: the pia fraus, the heirloom of all philosophers and priests who "improved" mankind.  Neither Manu nor Plato nor Confucius nor the Jewish and Christian teachers have ever doubted their right to lie.  They have not doubted that they had very different rights too.  Expressed in a formula, one might say: all the means by which one has so far attempted to make mankind moral were through and through immoral."

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Twilight of the Idols, "The 'Improvers' of Mankind," Paragraph 5


"The fact that, in Christianity, "holy" ends are not visible is my objection to the means it employs. Only bad ends appear: the poisoning, the calumniation, the denial of life, the despising of the body, the degradation and self-contamination of man by the concept of sin -- therefore, its means are also bad.  I have a contrary feeling when I read the Code of Manu, an incomparably more intellectual and superior work, which it would be a sin against the intelligence to so much as name in the same breath with the Bible.  It is easy to see why: there is a genuine philosophy behind it, in it, not merely an evil-smelling mess of Jewish rabbinism and superstition -- it gives even the most fastidious psychologist something to sink his teeth into.  And, not to forget what is most important, it differs fundamentally from every kind of Bible: by means of it the nobles, the philosophers and the warriors keep the whip-hand over the majority; it is full of noble valuations, it shows a feeling of perfection, an acceptance of life, and triumphant feeling toward self and life -- the sun shines upon the whole book."

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist, Paragraph 56


"On its political sickbed, a people usually regenerates itself and finds its spirit again, which had been lost gradually in the seeking and claiming of power.  Culture owes its highest achievements to politically weakened times."*

Note - In German, and particularly in the romantic tradition, the term Kultur has political implications in that it signifies an "organic cultural community".  It does not mean simply those things normally thought of as "cultural" activities.

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All too Human, Section 8, Paragraph 465


"The same new conditions under which ... a leveling and mediocritizing of man will take place [i.e. democratization] -- a useful, industrious, variously serviceable, and clever gregarious man -- are in the highest degree suitable to give rise to exceptional men of the most dangerous and attractive qualities.

The collective impression of such future Europeans will probably be that of numerous, talkative, weak-willed, and very handy workmen who require a master, a commander, as they require their daily bread; while, therefore, the democratizing of Europe will tend to the production of a type prepared for slavery in the most subtle sense of the term: the strong man will necessarily in individual and exceptional cases, become stronger and richer than he has perhaps ever been before -- owing to his unprejudiced schooling, owing to the immense variety of practice, art, and disguise.  I meant to say that the democratizing of Europe is at the same time an involuntary arrangement for the rearing of tyrants."

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Paragraph 242


"The interests of tutelary government and the interests of religion go together hand in hand, so that if the latter begins to die out, the foundation of the state will also be shaken.  The belief in a divine order of political affairs, in a mysterium in the existence of the state, has a religious origin; if religion disappears, the state will inevitably lose its old veil of Isis and no longer awaken awe.  The sovereignty of the people, seen closely, serves to scare off even the last trace of magic and superstition contained in these feelings; modern democracy is the historical form of the decline of the state."

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All too Human, Section 8, Paragraph 472


"The Celts ... were definitely a blond race; it is wrong to associate traces of an essentially dark-haired people which appear on the more careful ethnographical maps of Germany with any sort of Celtic origin or blood-mixture, as Virchow [Rudolf Virchow (1821-1902), German pathologist and liberal politician] still does: it is rather the pre-Aryan people of Germany who emerge in these places.  The same is true of virtually all Europe: the suppressed race has gradually recovered the upper hand again, in coloring, shortness of skull, perhaps even in the intellectual and social instincts: who can say whether modern democracy, even more modern anarchism and especially that inclination for "commune," for the most primitive form of society, which is now shared by all the socialists of Europe, does not signify in the main a tremendous counterattack—and that the conqueror and master race, the Aryan, is not succumbing physiologically, too?"

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, First Essay, Paragraph 5


"We know of no other means to imbue exhausted peoples, as strongly and surely as every great war does, with that raw energy of the battleground, that deep impersonal hatred, that murderous cold-bloodedness with a good conscience, that communal, organized ardor in destroying the enemy, that proud indifference to great losses, to one's own existence and to that of one's friends, that muted, earthquake like convulsion of the soul. Afterward, if conditions are favorable, the brooks and streams that have broken forth, rolling stones and all kinds of debris along with them, and destroying the meadows of delicate cultures, will start to turn the wheels in the workshops of the spirit with new strength. Culture absolutely cannot do without passions, vices, and acts of malice.

When the Imperial Romans had tired somewhat of wars, they tried to gain new strength by animal-baiting, gladiator contests, and the persecution of Christians. The present-day English, who seem in general also to have renounced war, are using another means to produce anew those fading strengths: they have undertaken dangerous voyages of discovery, crossed oceans, climbed mountains-for scientific purposes, as is said, in truth to bring surplus energy home with them from every sort of adventure and danger. People will discover many other such surrogates for war, but perhaps that will make them understand ever more clearly that such a highly cultivated, and therefore necessarily weary humanity as that of present-day Europe, needs not only wars but the greatest and most terrible wars (that is, occasional relapses into barbarism) in order not to forfeit to the means of culture its culture and its very existence."

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All too Human, Section 8, Paragraph 472


"In all great deceivers there occurs a noteworthy process to which they owe their power.  In the actual act of deception, among all the preparations, the horror in the voice, expression, gestures, amid the striking scenery, the belief in themselves overcomes them.  It is this that speaks so miraculously and convincingly to the onlookers.  The founders of religions are distinguished from those other great deceivers by the fact that they do not come out of this condition of self-deception: or, very infrequently, they do have those clearer moments, when doubt overwhelms them; but they usually comfort themselves by foisting these clearer moments off on the evil adversary.  Self-deception must be present, so that both kinds of deceivers can have a grand effect.  For men will believe something is true, if it is evident that others believe in it firmly."

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All too Human, Section 2, Paragraph 52


"There is an instinct for rank, which more than anything else is already the sign of a high rank; there is a delight in the nuances of reverence which leads one to infer noble origin and habits."

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Chapter IX, Paragraph 263

"Egoism belongs to the essence of a noble soul ... [meaning] "we" other beings must naturally be in subjection, and have to sacrifice themselves. The noble soul accepts the fact of his egoism without question, and also without consciousness of harshness, constraint, or arbitrariness therein, but rather as something that may have its basis in the primary law of things:--if he sought a designation for it he would say: 'It is justice itself.'"

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Chapter IX, Paragraph 265


"The dangerous and disquieting point has been reached when the greater, more manifold, more comprehensive life is lived beyond the old morality; the "individual" stands out, and is obliged to have recourse to his own law-giving, his own arts and artifices for self-preservation, self-elevation, and self-deliverance.  Nothing but new "Whys," nothing but new "Hows," no common formulas any longer, misunderstanding and disregard in league with each other, decay, deterioration, and the loftiest desires frightfully entangled, the genius of the race overflowing from all the cornucopias of good and bad, a portentous simultaneousness of Spring and Autumn, full of new charms and mysteries peculiar to the fresh, still inexhausted, still unwearied corruption.  Danger is again present, the mother of morality, great danger; this time shifted into the individual, into the neighbor and friend, into the street, into their own child, into their own heart, into all the most personal and secret recesses of their desires and volitions.  What will the moral philosophers who appear at this time have to preach?  They discover, these sharp onlookers and loafers, that the end is quickly approaching, that everything around them decays and produces decay, that nothing will endure until the day after tomorrow, except one species of man, the incurably mediocre.  The mediocre alone have a prospect of continuing and propagating themselves--they will be the men of the future, the sole survivors; "be like them! become mediocre!" is now the only morality which has still a significance, which still obtains a hearing.  But it is difficult to preach this morality of mediocrity!  It can never avow what it is and what it desires!  It has to talk of moderation and dignity and duty and brotherly love -- it will have difficulty in concealing its irony!

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Chapter IX, Paragraph 262


"The concept of good and evil has a double prehistory: namely, first of all, in the soul of the ruling clans and castes.  The man who has the power to requite goodness with goodness, evil with evil, and really does practice requital by being grateful and vengeful, is called "good."  The man who is unpowerful and cannot requite is taken for bad.  As a good man, one belongs to the "good," a community that has a communal feeling, because all the individuals are entwined together by their feeling for requital.  As a bad man, one belongs to the "bad," to a mass of abject, powerless men who have no communal feeling.  The good men are a caste; the bad men are a multitude, like particles of dust.  Good and bad are for a time equivalent to noble and base, master and slave. ... Our present morality has grown up on the ground of the ruling clans and castes."

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All too Human, Section 2, Paragraph 45


"The strength to will, and to will one thing for a long time, is ... strongest of all and most astonishing in that huge empire‑in‑between, where Europe as it were flows back into Asia, in Russia.  There the strength to will has for long been stored up and kept in reserve, there the will is waiting menacingly ... in readiness to discharge itself.

... I mean such an increase in the Russian threat that Europe would have to resolve to become equally threatening, namely to acquire a single will by means of a new caste dominating all Europe, a protracted terrible will of its own which could set its objectives thousands of years ahead ‑ so that the long-drawn-out comedy of its petty states and the divided will of its dynasties and democracies should finally come to an end. The time for petty politics is past: the very next century will bring with it the struggle for mastery over the whole earth ‑ the compulsion to grand politics."

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Chapter 6, Page 208


"We [Germany] require an unconditional union with Russia, together with a mutual plan of action which shall not permit any English schemes to obtain mastery in Russia.  No American future!"

Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morals, Page 187