Was Friedrich Nietzsche anti-Semitic? In Nietzsche’s Jewish Problem, Robert C Holub shows that resolving this question requires painstaking analysis of his thought, both published and unpublished, likewise of his correspondence. It also demands an understanding of the milieu in which he lived and of how conceptions of anti-Semitism have changed over time. In this context, The Socialism of Fools?, by William I Brustein and Louisa Roberts, provides invaluable material.
There were probably no Jewish inhabitants either in Röcken, Saxony, where Nietzsche was born in 1844 or in Naumburg to which his family removed in 1850. Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche recalled that neither she nor her brother met any Jews during their early years. Not surprisingly, then, there are no references to Jews or Judaism in his notebooks at this time or in his correspondence prior to first attending the University of Bonn in 1864 or during the year that he resided there.
In 1865, Nietzsche registered at Leipzig University as a student of classical philology. In the same year he visited Berlin with fellow student Hermann Mushacke whose father Eduard was openly anti-Semitic. This evidently did not bother Friedrich and the two became instant friends. He also tolerated anti-Jewish statements by fellow students, Carl von Gersdorff and Erwin Rohde. Gersdorff, for one, accused “Stock market Jews” of fomenting wars and of benefitting financially from them. (Brustein and Roberts note that, in due course, Henri Rochefort, editor of L’Intransigeant, would blame the Jews for the Franco-Prussian War and for the reparations afterwards. And J A Hobson, likewise, inImperialism, would attribute the Boer War to the influence of “men of a single and peculiar race”). Nietzsche himself made deprecatory observations about the Jewish merchants participating in the Leipzig trade fairs. To his mother he writes that he will soon be relieved “of the smell of fat and the numerous Jews”.