Su­per­men, or su­per bad?

Real Crime - - Leopold And Loeb -

The phi­los­o­phy of Friedrich Ni­et­zsche ( 1844- 1900) was some­thing of an ob­ses­sion for Nathan Leopold, and one as­pect of his work in­trigued him more than the rest. This was Ni­et­zsche’s con­cept of the ‘ su­per­man’, or ‘ über­men­sch’. This was a man who was su­pe­rior to oth­ers, and thus jus­ti­fied the ex­is­tence of hu­man­ity; the or­di­nary man sig­ni­fied only the half­way point be­tween an­i­mals and the über­men­sch.

The su­per­man was above the law be­cause he was no or­di­nary man; he could do what he wanted be­cause he was not sub­ject to the moral codes of or­di­nary peo­ple, and in­stead cre­ated his own val­ues and be­liefs. This con­cept was, to Leopold, a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for mur­der. As a su­per­man, he should not be con­strained by moral­ity; com­mit­ting mur­der was ac­cept­able be­cause it gave him plea­sure, and that was what was im­por­tant.

Leopold fur­ther jus­ti­fied the mur­der of Bobby Franks be­cause he saw it as fur­ther­ing sci­en­tific en­deav­our. “The killing was just an ex­per­i­ment, a sac­ri­fice to sci­ence,” he ex­plained to po­lice. “A thirst for knowl­edge is com­mend­able, no mat­ter what pain or in­jury it may in­flict upon oth­ers. A boy is jus­ti­fied in pulling the wings from a fly if by so do­ing he learns that with­out wings the fly is help­less.”

Leopold had cre­ated his own, warped, ver­sion of the su­per­man. So too, around the same time, did Adolf Hitler. Hitler adopted the con­cept of the über­men­sch after be­ing in­tro­duced to it by Ni­et­zsche’s anti- Semitic sis­ter, and saw it as a po­tent sym­bol of a master race. Leopold com­mit­ted mur­der believ­ing him­self jus­ti­fied as a su­per­man; so too did Hitler, on a larger, even more per­verse scale. Iron­i­cally, Ni­et­zsche – who dis­agreed with anti- Semitism – saw the su­per­man’s strength in his abil­ity to over­come the urge to tyranny, rather than in giv­ing in to it.

A Ger­man philoso­pher’s views were adopted, and ma­nip­u­lated, by both Leopold and Hitler to jus­tify their crimes

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