Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, ca. 1894
|Born||Therese Elisabeth Alexandra Förster-Nietzsche
July 10, 1846
|Died||November 8, 1935
|Known for||sister of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, founder of Nueva Germania and Nazi sympathiser.|
Therese Elisabeth Alexandra Förster-Nietzsche (July 10, 1846 – November 8, 1935), who went by her second name, was the sister of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the creator of the Nietzsche Archive in 1894.
Förster-Nietzsche was two years younger than her brother. Their father was a Lutheran pastor in the German village of Röcken bei Lützen. The two children were close during their childhood and early adult years. However, they grew apart in 1885 when Elisabeth married Bernhard Förster, a former high school teacher who had become a prominent German nationalist and antisemite—Friedrich Nietzsche despised antisemitism.
As his caretaker, Förster-Nietzsche assumed the roles of curator and editor of Nietzsche's manuscripts. She reworked his unpublished writings to fit her own ideology, often in ways contrary to her brother's stated opinions, which were strongly and explicitly opposed to antisemitism and nationalism. Through Förster-Nietzsche's editions, Nietzsche's name became associated with German militarism and Nazism, although later 20th-century scholars have counteracted this conception of his ideas.
Förster planned to create a "pure" Aryan settlement in the New World, and had found a site in Paraguay which he thought would be suitable. The couple persuaded 14 German families to join them in the colony, to be called Nueva Germania, and the group left Germany for South America on February 15, 1887.
The colony did not thrive. The land was not suitable for German methods of farming, illness ran rampant, and transportation to the colony was slow and difficult. Faced with mounting debts, Förster committed suicide by poisoning himself on June 3, 1889. Four years later his widow left the colony forever and returned to Germany. The colony still exists as part of San Pedro.
Friedrich Nietzsche's mental collapse occurred in 1889 (he died in 1900), and upon Elisabeth's return in 1893 she found him an invalid whose published writings were beginning to be read and discussed throughout Europe. Förster-Nietzsche took a leading role in promoting her brother, especially through the publication of a collection of Nietzsche's fragments under the name of The Will to Power.
Affiliation with the Nazi party
In 1930, Förster-Nietzsche, a German nationalist and antisemite, became a supporter of the Nazi Party. After Hitler came to power in 1933, the Nietzsche Archive received financial support and publicity from the government, in return for which Förster-Nietzsche bestowed her brother's considerable prestige on the régime. Förster-Nietzsche's funeral in 1935 was attended by Hitler and several high-ranking Nazi officials.
- My Sister and I (a reputedly counterfeit autobiographical text by Friedrich Nietzsche, allegedly published by Oscar Levy)
- See e.g. Nietzsche, Nice, end of December 1887: Draft of letter to Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche:
- In the meantime I've seen proof, black on white, that Herr Dr. Förster has not yet severed his connection with the anti-Semitic movement. [...] Since then I've had difficulty coming up with any of the tenderness and protectiveness I've so long felt toward you. The separation between us is thereby decided in really the most absurd way. Have you grasped nothing of the reason why I am in the world? [...] Now it has gone so far that I have to defend myself hand and foot against people who confuse me with these anti-Semitic canaille; after my own sister, my former sister, and after Widemann more recently have given the impetus to this most dire of all confusions. After I read the name Zarathustra in the anti-Semitic Correspondence my forbearance came to an end. I am now in a position of emergency defense against your spouse's Party. These accursed anti-Semite deformities shall not sully my ideal!! Nice, end of December 1887: Draft of letter to Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche
- Martin Heidegger, 1930s courses on Nietzsche (parts of which have been published under the name Nietzsche I (1936-1939), ed. B. Schillbach, 1996, XIV, 596p. and Nietzsche II (1939-1946), ed. B. Schillbach, 1997, VIII, 454p. — note that these publications are not the exact transcription of the 1930s courses, but were done post-war), and Mazzino Montinari, 1974 (Montinari made the first complete edition of Nietzsche's posthumous fragments, respecting chronological orders, whilst Elisabeth Förster's edition was partial, incomplete and arbitrarily ordered, as Heidegger had already noted. Montinari's edition has provided the basis for all further scholarship on Nietzsche's work).
- Wroe, David (19 January 2010). "'Criminal' manipulation of Nietzsche by sister to make him look anti-Semitic". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche, who went on to become a prominent supporter of Adolf Hitler, systematically falsified her brother's works and letters, according to the Nietzsche Encyclopedia [...] When she died in 1935, Hitler attended her funeral.
- "Nietzsche's Sister and the Will to Power: A Biography of Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche". International Nietzsche Studies. University of Illinois Press. July 2007. Retrieved 2 July 2013.
Diethe concludes by detailing Förster-Nietzsche's brief marriage and her subsequent colonial venture in Paraguay, maintaining that her sporadic anti-Semitism was, like most things in her life, an expedient tool for cultivating personal success and status.
- Diethe, Carol, Nietzsche's Sister and the Will to Power, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003. (A biography of Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche)
- Macintyre, Ben, Forgotten Fatherland: The Search for Elisabeth Nietzsche, New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1992.
- Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche (1895). Das Leben Friedrich Nietzsche's. C. G. Naumann.
- Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche (1897). Das Leben Friedrich Nietzsche's. C. G. Naumann.
- Entretien autour de Friedrich Nietzsche et son temps