by Elke A. Wachendorff, translated by Anthony K. Jensen
The “Nietzsche Forum München e.V.” reflects a long history and tradition in Munich, in which the vestiges of the tragedies, fortunes, and revolutions of the 20th century in Germany and Europe have left their significant traces.
Founded at precisely 5:00 pm on December 10th 1919, at Königinstraße 15, on the border of the famous English Garden in Munich, the first entry of the registry reads: “Nietzsche-Gesellschaft e.V. The administrative board is recorded as the founding members: Dr. Friedrich Würzbach, Thomas Mann, Professor Heinrich Wölfflin, Dr. Richard Oehler, Dr. Ernst Bertram, and Dr. Hugo von Hoffmansthal (who was also the founder of the Salzburg Festival). Records indicate a total of 90 founding members, some of whose names are only partly known.
As far as we know, this Munich society was the first ever established Nietzsche-Society in the world.
In 1920, Friedrich Würzbach, a well-known Nietzsche-connoisseur, was commissioned by Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche to produce with her cousins Richard and Max Oehler an edition of Nietzsche's complete works and Nachlass together. Würzbach sent that work to the Musarion Publishing house in Munich, which then published the 23-volume Musarion-Ausgabe. Mounting differences between Würzbach and Förster-Nietzsche concerning inconsistencies and manipulations of editorial practice finally led to the break between the Munich Society and Elisabeth's Weimar archive in the Autumn of 1929. A legal dispute ensued, as did Würzbach’s abdication of responsibility for the Musarion-Ausgabe and Richard Oehler’s exit from the “Nietzsche-Gesellschaft e.V.” in Munich.
With his own publication in 1940, Das Vermächtnis Friedrich Nietzsches—aus dem Nachlaß geordnet, Würzbach also publicly expressed his interpretive focus. His text was reprinted in 1969, in Heinz Friedrich’s newly founded Deutschen Taschenbuch Verlag (dtv), as Friedrich Nietzsche: Umwertung aller Werte. Aus dem Nachlaß zusammengestellt und herausgegeben von Friedrich Würzbach, mit einem Nachwort von Heinz Friedrich.
The “Nietzsche-Gesellschaft e.V.” was formally dissolved by the “Geheime Staatspolizei” (GeStaPo) on March 19, . A truckload of files, documents, manuscripts of lectures, and letters was confiscated: in short the entirety of the archive and library at that time was thought to be lost. It was not until the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Wall that at least part of the confiscated archive was discovered to have been given to the Weimarer Archiv of Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche.
The multifaceted ingratiation of the Weimar Nietzsche-Archive into the National-Socialist regime is well known today. The Nazi’s reference and abusive quoting of Nietzsche, as well as his subsequent suppression (out of inadequacy, manipulation, or ignorance), finally led to a general taboo of Nietzsche and his philosophy in both West and East Germany after its catastrophic defeat in 1945.
By 1950, Würzbach considered the re-founding of the Nietzsche-Society premature due to the widespread misuses of Nietzschean slogans. With considerable private support, he finally ventured to take the step of a new foundation on June 4th, 1956, thereby explicitly re-forming the society that had been dissolved by the GeStaPo in 1943.
After Würzbach’s death in , and with him the waning of its spiritus rector, the society went into a period of abatement until 1964. Without the official qualifier of ‘e.V.’ [registered association], however, the “Nietzsche-Gesellschaft” carried on under the administration of a couple of its members. From 1969-1987, under the directorship of Albert Kopf, the society persisted under the name “Nietzsche-Kreis.” Despite difficult cultural and political conditions —lacking university support or even a permanent home for presentations— the commissioned task of discussing the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche continued without interruption under his meritorious leadership, at least in the sense of a heartfelt and personal duty to further the noble goals of Würzbach’s first Nietzsche-Society.
In 1987 Dr. Beatrix Vogel (initially with Dr. Wolfgang Class) took directorship of the “Nietzsche-Kreis” and later the “Nietzsche-Forum-München e.V.,” and single-handedly took responsibility for the society from 1988-2012. Through the dynamic efforts of Dr. Vogel, the “Nietzsche-Forum-München e.V.” found a new home in 1991, in the newly renovated Seidlvilla (North of the Munich city-center, just west of the famous English-Garden), the founding-area and original home of the very first Nietzsche-Society.
The “Förder- und Forschungsgemeinschaft Friedrich Nietzsche e.V.” [The Association for Support and Research of Friedrich Nietzsche e.V.] was founded in Halle on the 100th anniversary of Nietzsche’s death on October 14th, 2000, thereby formally constituting themselves anew in Naumburg under the name “Nietzsche-Society e.V.” Prior to that, on June 13th, 2000, the Munich society had relinquished its legitimate claim to the reuse of this name expressly for the sake of the Naumburg initiative. Rightly so, since now the city of Naumburg and the state of Sachsen-Anhalt could undertake the support of Nietzsche-relevant sites in Röcken, Naumburg, Schulpforta, and Weimar, as well as the task of insuring, maintaining, documenting, editing, archiving, collecting, and researching their holdings, memorabilia, and memories.
Under the dynamic patronage and honorary-presidency of Professor Heinz Friedrich, the Munich society was then reformed again under the chair of Dr. Beatrix Vogel as an association with legal capacity under the new name: “Nietzsche–Forum-München e.V. – Denken mit Friedrich Nietzsche” [“The Nietzsche-Forum of Munich e.V. – Thinking with Friedrich Nietzsche”]. Among the founding members was the noted Nietzsche biographer and longtime president of the German “Goethe Institut,” Professor Werner  as well as Professor Heinz Friedrich, the president of the “Bayerischen Akademie der Schönen Künste” [Bavarian Academy of the Fine Arts] and founder and publisher of the publishing house “Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag – dtv”. Apart from the above-mentioned publication of the Würzbach book, as well as his own Nachlass edition, Professor Friedrich was above all the project initiator and held publishing responsibility for the decisive and indispensable paperback Nietzsche editions, realized by dtv: the Kritische Studienausgabe Werke (KSA), Kritische Studienausgabe Briefe (KSB), and Ausgabe Jugendschriften (BAW).
On June 13, 2012, the day of the 12th anniversary of the founding of the “Nietzsche-Forum-München e.V.,” Dr. Elke A. Wachendorff assumed the chair of the society.
The first “Nietzsche-Gesellschaft e.V.” of 1919 stated its mission as follows: “The support of a thoroughly unpolitical but truly European spirit in the sense of Friedrich Nietzsche” in order to “combat the uncritical Nietzsche-cult” and to free the work from polemical exploitation.
With unanimous resolution on January 23, 1931 (after the dispute with Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche’s Archive and their editorial practices), the general assembly reconfirmed its assignment: “The assembly expects that the executive board continues to advocate a philologically-correct and complete edition of Nietzsche’s Nachlaß.”
A 30-year plan, “The tasks of the Nietzsche-Society,” was recommissioned on October 13th, , the scope of which included biographical, bibliographical, editorial, and organizational assignments with historical-critical standards, including the establishment of a foundation and creation of its own library and documentation center. Viewing the achievement of these goals at that time as impossible —especially concerning the motivation of “the leading minds in philosophy, science, art and literature and their corresponding research and support, such as those Dr. Würzbach could rely on at the time,” not to mention finding the required financial support— Albert Kopf reformed the society into the more humble “Nietzsche-Kreis.” As Max Werner Vogel wrote in his chronicle of the cultural situation of the time: “Redressing the allegation that Nietzsche was a trailblazer for National Socialism was the main concern of Albert Kopf’s 'Nietzsche-Kreis' for many years after the Second World War. For at that time one hardly dared speak the name ‘’.”
For that reason, the decades-long firm and constant commitment of the entire society —to esteem and respect the philosophy of Nietzsche— deserves admiration today, especially in its aims to:
- Above all protect Nietzsche against the forgeries of his opportunistic sister, so as to
- Resist its exploitation by National Socialism, and in so doing,
- Overcome the stigmatization and subsequent taboo-ization as the ‘philosopher of the [Nazi] movement’
The city of Munich nurtures in its heart an inheritance and tradition whose inestimable worth it admittedly does not quite seem to have realized yet.
Against the ‘cultification’ and ‘exploitation’ and instead in favor of a true ‘European spirit’, the society, in all its different phases and reconstitutions, remains true to this early mission statement and goal. Indeed, it is still considered to be the society’s imperative task to this day to make the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche fruitful for the present and future, to lead the renewal and rebirth of the expressly Nietzschean orientation to a philosophy of the future out of the diffusion and indeed overcoming of nihilism, to initiate new approaches and new beginnings. “Denken mit Friedrich Nietzsche”—this phrase indicates the present motto and task of the “Nietzsche-Forum München e.V.”: more than that, it is to set free the creative impulses and potential of the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche so that it can become fruitful.
Professor Heinz Friedrich rendered an inestimable service for the worldwide reception of Nietzsche and Nietzsche-studies in both its influence and its meaning as the publisher of the “dtv” paperback edition of the new critical edition of Nietzsche’s works and letters (KSA and KSB, 1980ff), as well as the early writings, besides their exemplary yet prohibitively expensive first edition (1967ff), thus making the teachings and research available to a worldwide audience and thereby reaching the minds of hundreds of thousands. Due to the tireless collaboration of the editors Giorgio Colli and Mazzino Montinari, Nietzsche’s work has been promulgated worldwide especially in the form of the three affordable “Studienausgaben,” enabling today’s undeniable and overflowing reception, exploration, and elevation of Nietzsche as the ‘Philosopher of the Century’.
Thus Professor Heinz Friedrich finally realized the central point of the mission set by the first “Nietzsche-Gesellschaft” of Munich: the once lofty goal of doing justice to Nietzsche's thought. Thus the circle could be closed.
Activities & Projects
For decades, the “Nietzsche Forum München e.V." has regularly hosted evening lectures on questions of interpretation, reception, and the historical ramifications of the philosophy of Nietzsche. It has featured symposia and colloquia on vital and contemporary problems. Special consideration and emphasis are given to Nietzsche's philosophy in its interdisciplinary, intercultural, and in particular its comparative dimension insofar as it fosters discourse for the present and future. In the course of these presentations, different perspectives and disciplines are given an audience. Special attention has always been paid to providing a platform for the audience and guests to discuss their unique perspectives and theses.
Thus, the “Nietzsche-Forum München e.V.” sees as its central task, expressly in accordance with the first constitution of the “Nietzsche-Gesellschaft e.V,” the invitation and coordination of people for the sake of “thinking with Nietzsche” about philosophy, science, and art in an open Agora of discourse. Herein it provides a place for stimulating ideas that allow new concepts and experiences to emerge, a place to open up experimental perspectives and to offer theses. The list of presentations and lectures from 1965-2012 is thoroughly documented (see the website and “Chronik”), and is also published in the yearbooks and special volumes ("Denken mit Nietzsche —Publications of the Nietzsche-Forum München e.V."; see the website for further information).
Expressly supported are projects directed toward young people, with the aim of having them engage and wrestle with Nietzsche's philosophy. Examples are the essay competition “Mein Nietzsche” (2008); and the student project "SINNeszauber, WAHRnehmung, und Philosophie” in 2010 in cooperation with the "Turmdersinne GmbH" and "Virtuelle Schule e.V."
Thanks to generous private donations, the “Nietzsche-Forum München e.V.” is able to offer a yearly research stipend/scholarship. The award is in memory of Professor Werner Ross, the longtime director of the German Goethe-Institute, and author of the comprehensive Nietzsche-biography, Der ängstliche Adler, as well as other works on Nietzsche and his context.
The society also operates a continuously updated website with comprehensive materials for any further questions about our history, chronology, presentations and activities, research themes, specific projects, and stipends/scholarships.
Apart from that, most presentations are offered in a digitalized version on CD. The use of these CD’s must, however, be limited to the circle of members, due to copyright laws.
More precise information with respect to by-laws, contact information, and membership applications can be found at:
We look forward to hearing from you!
1. Max Werner Vogel, Chronik des Nietzsche-Krises: Versuch einer Rekonstruktion, special edition volume 2, edited by Beatrix Vogel (Munich, Allitera Verlag, 2007) II, p. 18.
2. Kleine Chronik, from August 28th, 1922 (Stadtarchiv München); Chronik II, p. 17.
3. According to Vogel; for further names see: Vogel Chronik II, p. 17ff.
4. Oscar Levy had similar experiences already in 1913 as editor of the Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, 18 vols. (Edinburgh/London: T.N. Foulis, 1909-13). Levy was a member of the Munich Society since 1921, and in fact his membership card can be seen today in the Nietzsche house in Sils Maria.
5. Chronik II, p. 20f.
6. Chronik II, p. 26.
7. David Marc Hoffmann, Zur Geschichte des Nietzsche-Archivs: Chronik, Studien, und Dokumente (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1991), p. 119. "The Munich Nietzsche Society founded by Friedrich Würzbach in 1919 was, by order of the Reich's propaganda ministry (through the Gestapo?) dissolved on the grounds that the center of Nietzsche studies should be the Stiftung Nietzsche-Archiv in Weimar alone. The president, Friedrich Würzbach, allegedly would not have produced the required "Aryan-proof" and is not a member in the "Reichsschrifttumskammer" [the official chamber of literature, under the auspices of Joseph Goebbels' culture ministry]. The notes of the society (9 boxes in sum) goes to the Nietzsche-Archiv." The contents of these boxes (it's still unclear how complete they are) is presently located in the Goethe und Schiller-Archiv Weimar; Signature GSA 72/3147-3191. The remaining archival materials can be found today in the possession of the “Nietzsche-Forum München e.V.”
8. Chronik II, p. 27.
9. The history of Friedrich Würzbach is recently told in the form of a biographical novel by his daughter, Natascha Würzbach, in her Das Grüne Sofa (Munich: dtv, 2007). A critical presentation is found in a dissertation by Martha Zapata Galindo's, Triumph des Willens zur Macht —zur Nietzsche— Rezption im NS-Staat, (Hamburg: Argument-Verlag, 1995). An extensive investigation of Würzbach's life and works—with attention to its various ambivalences—has yet to appear.
10. Chronik II, p. 28.
11. Chronik II, p. 33.
12. Chronik II, p. 40.
13. Chronik II, p.56.
14. See also www.nietzsche-forum-muenchen.de
15. Under the title Friedrich Nietzsche: Weisheit für übermorgen. Unterstreichungen aus dem Nachlaß (1869-1889) (Munich: dtv, 1994).
16. Kleine Chronik, August 28th, 1922 (editor not listed); Chronik II, p. 17.
17. According to Else Kornetzki from Bad Heilbrunn/Tölz, colleague of the first “Nietzsche-Gesellschaft”; Chronik II, p. 18.
18. Chronik II, p. 25.
19. Chronik II, p. 34.
20. According to Max Werner Vogel; Chronik II, p. 40.
21. Chronik II, p. 24.