Strauss, Zarathustra and Hitler

How was Richard Strauss able to compose a piece like Also Sprach Zarathustra during Nazi Germany? Weren’t the Nazis against anything that was non-German? And wasn’t Zarathustra a Persian prophet? If I am way off here could someone give me some history on this piece and Zarathustra?

More at the link, but obviously you tie Nietsche into the whole thing to make it work. I think that Cecil did something on Nietsche once upon a time.

First thing you need to do is get a comprehensive Nietzsche collection; one that includes Also Sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra in English.) Next, read Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Now, it’s been a while since I read Nietzsche, but it’s all philosophy.

Hitler, like several college students I have run into, was apt to misquote Nietzsche. Your first problem is meaningless in that Nietzsche was indeed German, living from 1844-1900.

Now, you’re right that Zarathustra is associated with Zoroastrianism (Zoroaster, and no relation by the way.) It can even be argued that Hebrew exposure to Zoroastrianism changed the way Hebrew society saw some things. However, none of this matters. Nietzsche is using a historical figure to “push” his own ideas.

Nietzsche, of course, is famous for the phrase “God is dead” as well as other ideas such as “supermen” (as far as I know, these supermen were not susceptible to kryptonite and never had a Bizarro-twin.) The latter, especially, was one of the ideas used by Hitler.

As for Strauss, I don’t know. I’m not a big Strauss fan, although Also Sprach Zarathustra is a kinda fun short piece for the timpanist.

On preview, I see I’ve sorta been beaten to the punch. Seriously, though, I would advise a good philosophy course if you can’t get one specifically on Nietzsche, or at least reading one with a good translation and footnotes.

Well, a) the piece was written in 1896 ;).

But b) Strauss based his work, very loosely, on Frederik Nietzsche’s book of the same name. To quote:

*I did not intend to write philosophical music or to portray in music Nietzsche’s great work. I wished to convey by means of music an idea of the development of the human race from its origin, through the various phases of its development, religious and scientific, up to Nietzsche’s idea of the superman. The whole symphonic poem is intended as a homage to Nietzsche’s genius, which found its greatest expression in his book Thus Spake Zarathustra. *

As it happens, Thus Spake Zarathustra ( the book ) was a favorite of the Nazis as well, because of its expression of the concept of an ultimate evolution towards a ‘superman’. Jibed well with Nazi notions of racial notions.

Zarathustra himself was sort of the protagonist in Nietzche’s work, acting as a mouthpiece for Nietzche’s ideas.

I might get into Hitler’s odd concept of the Germans as descended from ‘Aryans’ ( only true in the sense of a common link as Indo-Europeans ), who the Persians most certainly are ( Iran derives from the same root as Aryan ). But I am uncertain as to Hitler’s interest, if any, in Zoroastrianism.

  • Tamerlane

How the Nazis possibly read Zarathustra favorably is beyond me. While it is cynical about many things, it is especially cynical of nationalism and the herd mentality. And it’s superman revolution is all about a personal transformation of moral vision, not any sort of genetic evolution.

Nietzsche’s not-well-loved sister is largely responsible for trying to make his ideas fit into Nazism. Strange but true: after Nietzsche lapsed into a helpless stupor and insanity, she basically toted him around like a circus exhibit.

What I want to know is, what’s the tie-in between the Nazis and 2001: A Space Odyssey!