Was Nietzsche a proto-Nazi? Did he lay the philosophical foundations for Nazi ideology? That would be a hard case to make given the elements in Nietzsche's thinking that are antithetical to National Socialism. To mention one such element, there is Nietzsche's oft-expressed hostility to socialism. There are, however, passages in Nietzsche which aid and abet the Nazi mindset. They ought not be ignored. A good example is Gay Science #325 (Kaufmann tr. emphasis in original):
What belongs to greatness. Who will attain anything great if he does not find in himself the strength and the will to inflict great suffering? Being able to suffer is the least thing; weak women and even slaves often achieve virtuosity in that. But not to perish of internal distress and uncertainty when one inflicts great suffering and hears the cry of the suffering -- that is great, that belongs to greatness.
This is a passage that could have given great comfort to Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS and the one who orchestrated the Final Solution to the Jewish Question. One should read Himmler's speech at Posen (Poznan in Polish) in which he advocates die Ausrottung des jüdischen Volkes, the eradication or extermination of the Jewish people. Some Holocaust deniers in their perversity try to interpret Ausrottung to mean a mere uprooting in the sense of a displacing or deporting. But anyone who knows German knows that the word means extermination, destruction, extirpation, purging, stamping out, and the like. In plain English, killing. Thus an Ausrottungskrieg is a war of extermination, not a war in which the other side's combabtants are merely pushed out, displaced, deported, or segregated.
It is interesting to observe how Walter Kaufmann, who was eager to decouple Nietzsche and National Socialism, tries to play down the 'chilling' character of GS #325. He appends a footnote in which he refers to GS #311 supra. There Nietzsche speaks of how boldness in expressing one's ideas can cause emotional hurt to those near and dear. Kaufmann: "The distress that this section [#325] caused some of Nietzsche's first readers illustrates his point. He knew how his development and books had pained his mother and sister, Richard and Cosima Wagner, Wagner's admirers, and ever so many others." (The Gay Science, Vintage, 1974, p. 255, n. 52.)
This soft-pedalling won't wash. Read #325 again. Nietzsche speaks of the infliction of great suffering and of having to listen to the cry of the suffering without perishing of internal distress and uncertainty. Ask yourself: was Nietzsche in any danger of perishing from the pain it caused him to offend the tender sensibilities of his mother and sister? Of course not. But this was a danger to the young SS men who were ordered to strip naked and shoot down in cold blood helpless men, women and children standing at the mouths of mass graves -- all for the 'crime' of being Jewish, or for that matter Slavic, Untermenschen, subhumans. It can't hurt to reflect on that word for a moment. What is the opposite? Übermensch, superman. Kaufmann translates it as 'overman' for obvious reasons. But would he translate Untermenschen as 'undermen'?
Some Nietzsche lovers will of course scream in protest. But I am not saying that Nietzsche was a Nazi or a proto-Nazi. Nor am I saying that he is not worth reading or that his books ought to be banned, or that there is nothing to learn from him philosophically. I am saying that he expressed views that not only could be interpreted, but were reasonably interpreted as justifying the sorts of crimes the Nazis committed. Or will you try to argue that Nazi philosophers like Alfred Baeumler had no justification at all for regarding Nietzsche as a precursor of Nazi ideology?
Of course, one cannot build an interpretation of Nietzsche on one passage. But there are many passages like the one I cited. And when one interprets these passages in the light of such key Nietzschean doctrines as the death of God, the Will to Power, the perspectival nature of truth, (which amounts to a denial of truth), the denial of a moral world order, it becomes clear that there are definite links between Nietzsche's philosophy and Nazi ideology. But I can understand why leftists don't want to be reminded of this.