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Forgotten Fatherland: The Search for Elisabeth Nietzsche

3.52  ·  Rating details ·  408 Ratings  ·  53 Reviews
Macintyre describes his 1991 journey to the Paraguayan site where Elisabeth Nietzsche and her husband founded a utopian Aryan colony in 1886. He also traces her return to Europe in 1889 to care for her sick brother, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and her orchestration of his rise to fame. Photos.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published August 1st 1993 by Harper Perennial (first published 1992)
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Now I have a better idea why I've never really gotten a handle on Nietzsche. As Ben MacIntyre makes clear in this book, the taint of Nazism that clings to the philosopher's name is largely due to the machinations of his odious sister, Elizabeth, who dominated her mentally ill brother in his last years and then took control of his work afterwards, even going to far as to cobble together one of Nietzsche's "masterpieces," Will to Power, using bits and pieces that Nietzsche had discarded and probab ...more
Nick Sweeney
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Ben Macintyre writes some fine books on recent history. His research is wide-ranging and thorough, and yet he doesn't insist on putting every scrap of it on the page. I've come to expect great writing from him, and this was no exception.

Elisabeth was the forward-thinking sister of Friedrich Nietzsche. She wasn't content to be decorative and delicate, like many women of her time and class. She loved her philosophising brother, but not enough to accept his dire warnings of the consequences should
Erik Graff
Dec 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nietzsche fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: biography
This was a delightful discovery. I've been a fan of Nietzsche since college and had, during the course of my studies, often heard of his Aryanist sister and her racist utopia in Paraguay. I hadn't known, however, that there were any books in English about all of this.

What Macintyre offers herein is a biography of Elisabeth Nietzsche, emphasizing her relations with her two-year-older brother, Friedrich; with her husband, Bernhard Foerster; with the Wagners and with the Nazis. Herein also is the s
Feb 04, 2012 rated it liked it
Good book, as expected from the author who does have an excellent way of presenting material. I felt less connection than I did to the last book I read of his, possibly because he wrote this when he was younger, or more likely because the subject matter dealt with here is so much darker.

It is a triumph of putting together sources to create a full picture of the happenings in Nietzche's time, and sifting through Elisabeth's propaganda to show the story going on outside of her militant self-belief
Jul 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
In the late 1880s, Elisabeth Nietzsche, sister of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, together with her husband, Dr Bernhard Forster, sailed to Paraguay to set up New Germany, a colony for the pure Aryan race. The land they traveled to was ill-suited for the immigrants and the colony did not thrive. Some years after, Elisabeth returns to Germany.

While Friedrich Nietzsche abhorred anti-Semitism, Elisabeth embraced it, but following her brother's death, she promoted him through segments of his writin
Jul 10, 2012 rated it did not like it
True story: Nietzsche's sister and her anti-Semite husband founded an Aryan colony in Paraguay in the 1880s. In 1991, the author tracked down the remains of the colony and found a small group remaining; inbred, insane, destitute.


The problem is that only handful of the book's pages are dedicated to the colony's beginning and present. The vast majority of the book is an essay on Nietzsche and his sister. Boring.
Sep 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
I found this book very interesting in that it was two true stories in one. It is the authors search for signs of life left over from the attempted colonization of a German town in Paraguay, and also the story of Elizabeth Nietzche and how she controlled her brothers legacy to inspire Nazi Germany. It was Elizabeth who went with her husband to Paragguay to startNueva Germania in the middle of no where.
The authors treck to the location of her town was one I would not want to attempt.
Max Williamson
Jul 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
loved it, perhaps even as much as operation mincemeat
Mar 29, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
The title of the book is a bit misleading as it makes one think that this story is only about Elizabeth Nietzsche and what happened in Nueva Germania, Paraguay, where she tried to set up a sort of Nazi colony 50 years before Hitler. However, I think it's more accurate to state that it's really about E.N. relationship with her famous brother, Frederick Nietzsche, and how she shaped her life around his. The author's main focus is Nietzsche himself and his downward spiral into insanity, which his s ...more
Fascinating subject but not nearly as readable as Macintyre's more recent books, like Operation Mincemeat and Agent Zigzag.
Wendy Jackson
Sep 10, 2017 rated it liked it
This was a random pick at the library, and it appealed because it was one of those non-fiction books that seem to provide further evidence that truth is always stranger than fiction. The book is mainly about Nietzche's sister Elisabeth, a rather unlikeable person who - in short - spends earlier years of her life trying to establish a German colony in Paraguay that is based on anti-Semitism / German nationalism, and the later years of her life misrepresenting and capitalising on her brother's wri ...more
I remember reading this years ago, and I was reminded of it again after reading Fordlandia, which I reviewed here as well. This book does two things. It gives you a biography of Elisabeth Nietzsche, sister of the philosopher. Two, it gives you the story of the Aryan community her husband and her established in the middle of the Paraguayan jungle. The author went there to find the few remaining descendants of that community. I remember liking the book, and this was probably one of my first readin ...more
Kevin A.
Sep 06, 2012 rated it liked it
A good book, but an odd one. It starts out as a travelogue heading deep into Paraguayan jungle to find traces of Nueva Germania, founded in 1886 by Friedrich Nietzsche's sister and her husband as an Aryan utopia. Then most of the remainder of the book is a discussion about Elisabeth Nietzsche hijacked her brother's legacy for anti-Semitic and ultimately Fascist ends. There is also a discussion of Paraguayan history.

It's all quite interesting, but the long digression on Elizabeth's post-colonial
Jun 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Gwen by: 6.28.2012 TYWKIWDBI post
Shelves: history
Usually I enjoy Ben Macintyre's books, but this one just didn't grab my attention like his others. I wanted more from this book than a combined rehashing of F. Nietzsche's biography with old travelogues of Paraguay. I wanted to learn more about the interplay between German immigrants and the Paraguayan government, especially as the years passed. I enjoyed Macintyre's own journey to Nueva Germania, but it fell flat--where was the analysis of what Elisabeth's experiment actually achieved (if anyth ...more
Aug 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
"Nueva Germania"
By sally tarbox on 15 August 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
An interesting and informative work, following Elisabeth, the self-aggrandizing younger sister of the philosopher.
As a young wife, she was an enthusiastic supporter of her anti-semitic husband, Bernhard Forster, in his scheme to found an Aryan colony in the wilds of Paraguay. Encouraging her countrymen to follow her with some highly inaccurate propaganda, Elisabeth reveled in her position as 'queen' of the little fiefdom, as
Audie Alger
Feb 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
PJ Ebbrell
Jun 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fascinating read with some interesting walk on characters who are not in the main historical narrative.
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An absolutely fascinating book on a most obscure and little-known true story.
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
An interesting story, extremely well told. Elizabeth Nietzsche married a nasty idiot, Bernhard Förster, in the hope of becoming some kind of queen in the middle of the South American jungle. Förster's decision to set up a German colony in Paraguay grew from a genuine hatred of the Jews who, he felt, were wrecking his homeland. However, he was also a crook, and an ineffectual one at that. After syphoning all the donations meant to launch the colony into the building of a luxurious mansion for him ...more
Nov 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
I liked this book a lot more than many other reviewers. I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing about Nietzsche or Paraguay, so in that regard, it is an excellent introduction to these two seemingly unrelated topics. I don't really like philosophy as a subject matter, and some of the other reviews had me a little nervous that the book would get bogged down in Nietzsche's philosophy. I did not find this to be the case. There was a general overview of his philosophy, and then the author q ...more
Fascinating look at how one can spin a story to suit ones desires and ultimately change history; this book includes an inside look into Paraguay's tempestuous and violent political history; and a modern day trek into its' jungles in search of what remains of a colony of 19th century pure German anti-semites who tried to start a new colony of pure Aryan Germans lead to Paraguay by Elizabeth Nietzche and her husband Berhard Forster.
Really interesting and comprehensive look into the thinking and l
David Roberts
Dec 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
The book I read to research this post was Forgotten Fatherland by Ben Macintyre which is a very good book which I bought from kindle. This book is about Nietzche & the German settlement in Paraguay which was all used to validate Nazism in Germany under Hitler. Elisabeth Niezche would twist her brothers teachings for ulterior motives and apparently as opposed to how she portrayed things in real life they didn't get on. Her brother wanted nothing to do with the German settlement in Paraguay &a ...more
Mar 04, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History fans, those interested in Nietzsche
Shelves: biography
This biography of Elisabeth Nietzsche, sister of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, is interesting particularly for the author's claim that she, rather than he, was the real nationalist, anti-semite. In fact, according to MacIntyre, she wrote his infamous "Will to Power," the book most quoted for his racist and aryan views, after he died, drawing from bits and pieces of his notes and inserting her own extreme views. For better or worse, she get him from obscurity, creating a cult of Nietzschis ...more
Aug 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Macintyre retraces the path that Elizabeth Nietzsche and her fellow German purists took into the Paraguayan jungle in their quest to create an Aryan homeland. There really isn’t much left to find, so most of the book is dedicated to documenting the life of Elizabeth. Ruthlessly, Macintyre writes of Elizabeth’s machinations to manipulate the men in her life, her brother’s legacy and her own rise of influence within the Third Reich.

The dual story of the modern journey into the jungle with the his
Elliot Ratzman
Jun 21, 2011 rated it liked it
The sister of the philosopher Nietzsche started a white supremacist colony in Paraguay in the late 1800s. It went almost nowhere, but Elizabeth made a name for herself—even nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature—as the curator of her brother’s legacy. By the end of her long life, she had become a minor celebrity, pen pal and admirer of Hitler and Mussolini, and sketchy editor of her brother’s last writings. F. Nietzsche himself went mad and was later appropriated by Nazism and other ultrana ...more
David R.
May 31, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: world-history
Elisabeth Nietzche, unlike her more famous brother, was the real anti-semite and proto-Nazi in the family, and her pursuit of a new Germany frames this work. MacIntyre searches for her legacy in two ways. One, telling the tormented Nietzsche story from the first contact with Richard Wagner to the rise of the Nazi state. MacIntyre takes pains to separate Friedrich from his sister -- Friedrich broke from the Wagnerians and assuredly would have resisted the Nazis -- but Elisabeth twisted his legacy ...more
Aug 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ben Macintyre weaves together three parallel tales. One is how Friederich Nietzsche's sister Elisabeth ended up in Paraguay in the late 1800's with her husband and a German peasants to form an Aryan settlement. The second story is how Elisabeth Neitzsche misrepresented and twisted her brother's philosophy to make it meld with the growing Nazi movement in Germany. The third thread is Macintyre's tracking down of the descendents of the original German settlers still living in Paraguay.

Macintyre is
Dec 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
One of the things that makes this book so interesting is both Macintyre's heavy research and strong disdain for several of the main subjects. He masterfully, as always, weaves a compelling story of the establishment of a commune of rabid German anti-Semites in Paraguay in the 1880's set against the culture and scholarly thoughts of Frederich Neitzche. The story loses steam when Macintyre describes his travels through Paraguay, but his later observations about what was left of the doomed commune, ...more
Dawn Piburn
Feb 25, 2012 rated it liked it
Elizabeth Nietzsche was the founder, along with her husband, of a colony of ex-pat Germans in the jungles of Paraguay in the 19th century. Macintyre traces their journey, to discover if Nuevo Germania is still in existence, and if the founding ideas of a new Aryan utopia are still in practice.

What follows is an extensively researched and well-written book about the Nietzsche siblings, and Elizabeth's gift for promotion of both her brother and herself. He details her flair for twisting words and
May 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The history of Elisabeth Nietzsche and how she firstly was instrumental in setting up a German colony in Paraguay and then took over managing her brother's philosophical legacy was fascinating. Ben Macintyre's own visit to Paraguay was less interesting. However, as a whole the book was an excellent introduction to Nietzsche and how his philosophy was used by the Nazis and gave insight into an unexpected aspect of European history.
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Ben Macintyre is a columnist and Associate Editor on The Times. He has worked as the newspaper’s correspondent in New York, Paris and Washington. He is the author of nine previous books including Agent Zigzag, shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award and the Galaxy British Book Award for Biography of the Year 2008, and the no. 1 bestsellers A Spy Among Friends, Operation Mincemeat and Double Cros ...more
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“The true man wants two things: danger and play. For that reason he wants woman, as the most dangerous plaything.” 4 likes
“The myth of Aryan dominance, initially an attempt to trace the lost language of the Aryas, began as a set of undemonstrable racial assumptions, and ended in a colossal, perfectly unscientific lie: “I decide who is Jewish and who is Aryan,” announced Goebbels. That is what the Nazis meant by natural selection.” 2 likes
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