It is well-known that Nietzsche’s sister, Elisabeth Foerster-Nietzsche, was a nationalist and anti-semite who took control of her brother’s papers on his death and propagated a distorted version of his thinking in tune with her own views. As a review of Ben Macintyre’s biography of her puts it,

she played down his momentous break with Wagner, denied his opposition to German nationalism, and soft-pedaled his contempt for Christianity. In compiling “The Will to Power” from her brother’s writings, […] she further distorted his beliefs by cobbling together unrelated fragments of his writings.

Kakutani, On the Trail of the Other Nietzsche

The review and Wikipedia note that Hitler himself attended her funeral in 1935. However, there is no mention of her actually meeting the Fuehrer. But Brigitte Hamann’s Hitler’s Vienna relates a conversation between the two people. Hitler explained to her why he had never married:

[It was] “that he couldn’t even consider marriage, because he belonged to the whole Volk, and to the work of construction dedicated to the Volk. He was surely not born for enjoying life, but for shaping and molding it.” And his conversation partner, Nietzsche’s aged sister Dr. Elisabeth Foerster-Nietzsche, exclaimed, “my brother always preached [hat immer gepredigt], ‘A hero must be free!’”

(Hamann German paperback edition, p. 538. The citation is from H. S. Ziegler, A. H. aus dem Erleben dargestellt, Goettingen 1965.)

My question: When and under what circumstances did Elisabeth Nietzsche meet Hitler? More generally, where could we find more examples of spoken statements by E. F-N. where she (mis)applies her brother’s thought to Hitler or to the Nazi regime more broadly?

3 Answers 3


It took place outside of the Nietzsche’s Archive Building in Weimar: Hitler kissed Elisabeth Foerster-Nietzsche's hand as a clue to acceptance of the Nietzsche's philosophy by Nazis. (Strathern, Paul., Nietzsche in 90 Minutes (Farsi translation), p44) (Photo1) (Photo2)

Unfortunately, I do not have English edition of the book in hand.

See also: Hitler's Private Library


She died in Nov 1935. I think the meeting referred to above took place in the summer of 1935 - she was still quite spry aged 89 - but, definitely after Hitler became Chancellor (1933,34 are also possibilities) - but I think Hitler was too busy those years - long knives and all. By 35 he was more confident - and the answer above quite correct - it was understood by all to be supremely symbolic at the leader-level so to say - he was photographed in a richly staged way with Nietzsche's bust in the background.

I can say with more confidence that I think his sister presented Hitler with Nietzsche's walking stick (which he had mostly used in Switzerland and Italy - ha ha!)

Hitler himself - the great actor - probably never read a word of Nietzsche - and was proud of it!


As to the final paragraph of your question: look at a book published by Prin Univ Press in 2015: "Nietzsche's Jewish Problem" ISBN 9780691167558

He actually seems to develop a much more sympathetic approach to the sister than you usually hear; it was her husband who was the rabid anti-Semite - she stepped back from it after his death by the 1890s - also never a member of the Nazi party - and never particularly vocal in her support of it (still, she no doubt jumped at the Hitler visit chance - she was an operator!) she also acknowledged apparently genuinely the place Jewish scholars had had in Nietzsche's belated "discovery" - etc etc -- also of note: the Nazi regime always had to treat Nietzsche very carefully - always wanted to "claim him" of course, but that was made difficult by the copious amount of plainly philo-semitism in his (particularly early) work - I recall lines in Daybreak to the effect of the Jews "inheriting" the Earth and the sooner the better (I summarize)- --the planned critical edition of his works (briefly?) underway in the mid-30s had to be quietly shutdown for that reason. -- Heidegger was a member of the board for the critical ed. - would love to know how he stirred to pot on that issue!

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