- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Was Hitler a moral aberration or a man of his people? This topic has been hotly argued in recent years, and now Jay Gonen brings new answers to the debate using a psychohistorical perspective, contending that Hitler reflected the psyche of many Germans of his time. Like any charismatic leader, Hitler was an expert scanner of the Zeitgeist. He possessed an uncanny ability to read the masses correctly and guide them with "new" ideas that were merely reflections of what the people already believed. Gonen argues that Hitler's notions grew from the general fabric of German culture in the years following World War I. Basing his work in the role of ideologies in group psychology, Gonen exposes the psychological underpinnings of Nazi Germany's desire to expand its living space and exterminate Jews. Hitler responded to the nation's group fantasy of renewing a Holy Roman Empire of the German nation. He presented the utopian ideal of one large state, where the nation represented one extended family. In reality, however, he desired the triumph of automatism and totalitarian practices that would preempt family autonomy and private action. Such a regimented state would become a war machine, designed to breed infantile soldiers brainwashed for sacrifice. To achieve that aim, he unleashed barbaric forces whose utopian features were the very aspects of the state that made it most cruel.
"In the search to understand the genocidal mind, Gonen's book is a major step." — Clio's Psyche
"His may be in perfect case study for those in Washington and London convinced that they are all that stands between the frail blossom of civilization and the icy breath of barbarism." — H-Net Reviews
"Gonen makes a major contribution to understanding the destructive power of messianism, utopianism, apocalyptic ideology, and barbarism — phenomena that, in addition to scapgoating, the civilizing process must master if there are to be no more holocausts." — Journal of Psychohistory
"Traces the psychological currents flowing through the national character that allowed Hitler to promise German dominance and rebirth — the public fantasy of renewing the Holy Roman Empire." — McCormick (SC) Messenger
"Argues that German myth and history fostered 'shared group fantasies' of Jewish treachery." — Newsweek
"A very serious inquiry into the many ideas — some rational and intelligible, others illogical and crackpot — that helped shape Hitler's weird ideology." — NYMAS Newsletter
"Compellingly written and blessedly free of social science jargon." — Publishers Weekly
"No amount of patient scholarly probing of Hitlerism can render this grim piece of political pathology intelligible without empathic insight into the deeper workings of mass psychology and the quasi magical force of Hitler's message of national danger, deliverance and death. Gonen brings just such insight to this task in The Roots of Nazi Psychology, which for all his modest disclaimers, will leave reader after reader with the sense of a mystery solved." — Rudolph Binion
"A well-written, even brilliant psychohistorical analysis that will prompt a great deal of discussion." — Saul Friedman
"Presents an interesting and insightful case that makes the popular support for Hitler and the National Socialists more intelligible.... This book deserves a broad audience." — The Historian
"Nobody has succeeded as well as Gonen in proving by ideological analysis as well as by psychological and historical arguments that the logic of Hitler's world view would necessarily culminate in the Holocaust with all of its terrible consequences." — Utopian Studies
The Role of
Political discussion is, from the very first, more than theoretical argumentation; it is the tearing off of disguises—the unmasking of those unconscious motives which bind the group existence to its cultural aspirations and its theoretical arguments.
Ideas, forms of thought, and psychic energies persist and are transformed in close conjunction with social forces. It is never by accident that they appear at given moments in the social process.
—Karl Mannheim, Ideology and Utopia
The resonance which Hitler's words evoked among many Germans in the period between the two world wars has been of great interest to Germans and non-Germans alike. The basic premise of this study is that the Nazi success in mobilizing the masses was not due merely to the deliberate use of fear and terror but primarily to the Nazi ideological messages that fell right on target.
Any progress in fathoming the underlying causes of this responsiveness, which characterized the interaction between the leader and the masses during the Nazi era, could advance our understanding of the fateful course of events in the first half of the twentieth century. And in this respect it is of paramount importance to try and shed as much light as possible on the underlying dynamics of the German response to the humiliation and defeat of World War I, which escalated into unleashing a new world war and perpetrating a holocaust. An analysis of Hitler's ideology, itsmanifest content as well as its underlying psychology, is therefore indispensable for gaining a better understanding of why so many horrible and seemingly incomprehensible things could have happened. The application of psychoanalytic models in this study relies on Freudian rather than Jungian postulates. It should be borne in mind, however, that essentially what psychoanalytic concepts provide is a metaphorical language.
At the point of contact between leaders and followers reside ideologies. The term "ideology" is used here in quite a loose sense. It refers to any idea or set of ideas that provides a prescriptive view of life. The term is therefore not confined to lengthy doctrines that are systematized in the form of a tract or a dissertation, since ideologies may also be expressed by short slogans. Moreover, they can be loaded with different layers of meaning. They can consist of a formalized and presumably conscious worldview that includes many parts. But they can equally well be comprised of unconscious shared group fantasies, which have the power to charge up the entire group with sufficient energy to trigger unified mass action. Consequently they frequently include myths while their promoters engage in the selling of those myths. Moreover, slogans, catch phrases, enticing ideas, poignant jokes, stirring songs but also a variety of visual images that appear on posters, placards, and walls as well as in illustrations and cartoons published by newspapers and magazines may all represent small bits or chunks of ideologies. Whatever form they take, whether it is one picture that is worth more than a thousand words or an uplifting short slogan, these bits and chunks of ideology encapsulate succinct and rather unidimensional views of the world or of national life. What is more, they may be widely dispersed and "float in the air." When that happens, the ideological prescriptions frequently express themselves through aphorisms. A current American example would be the saying "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." An earlier German example which is taken from a Nazi marching song would be the lines "For today Germany belongs to us and tomorrow the whole world." As can be seen, such small ideological segments, which prescribe what to expect from life, ride on a variety of "carriers." That is why they may frequently be lifted from songs, plays, jokes, drawings or paintings, political speeches and similar layers of the cultural repository. They are embedded in the culture but their drawing power fluctuates according to the position they happen to occupy in the particular zeitgeist, or spirit of the time. The zeitgeist is a concept that denotes the ripening of a cultural image or idea to the point where its time has arrived. It also connotes a notion of movement where ideas float to the foreground when their time comes or sink to the background when their time is gone. The issue of when an ideology's time for action has arrived is largely determined by changes within the zeitgeist that reflect an altered emotional climate and the shifting winds of public mood.
Sometimes, when a very forceful theme or even a whole constellation of highly energized themes emerges in the life of the collective to dominate the zeitgeist, one encounters the phenomenon of shared group fantasies. These are the shared psychological basic assumptions that dictate the group identity. Not only do they determine for the members who they are by virtue of their group identity, they also instill expectations concerning what future life would be like, for good or bad, because of this group belonging. These fantasies are therefore dynamically charged, include large unconscious elements, and also function as psychological defenses. Consequently the images they present of both self and world tend to be distorted because they filter reality through an intricate grid of defense mechanisms. Thus, failures become rationalized, blame projected, self-fulfilling prophecies adopted, affect reversed, and contradictions maintained by separating them into walled-off mental compartments (the mechanism of isolation). Then expectations are tailored to fit the preexisting basic assumptions concerning the life of the group. All this means that nothing less than reality itself is being distorted. Yet reality stands in the way between wish and wish fulfillment. And a cardinal wish of individuals and groups is to preserve their distinct continuity and to maintain a gratifying self-image devoid of narcissistic wounds, i.e., emotional injuries that are destructive of self-esteem. This is why shared group fantasies modify, distort, and even fabricate reality in a highly defensive fashion.
It is important to emphasize that the occurrence of group fantasies is not confined to any particular national group although different groups can have specific fantasies. In earlier works concerning Jewish psychohistory, I have illustrated the operation of shared group fantasies such as the Israeli illusion of omnipotence following the Six Day War (Gonen 1978) and the suicidal Masada Complex (Gonen 1975, 213-36). After the 1967 lightening Israeli victory over three Arab states, there was a collective Israeli illusion that mideastern regional conflicts could be solved by massive military power. But soon afterward the Israelis also experienced renewed fears that they were on the verge of reenacting the old Masada scenario: in 73 A.D., the Jewish defenders of Masada committed mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans. These two fantasies became part of an interrelated network of shared group fantasies, which, on the one hand, were based on the legacy of Jewish history but, on the other hand, distorted it. Some of these fantasies had even included reactions to the Holocaust in which the victims themselves were blamed. This inappropriate condemning attitude was an outcome of the desperate need to draw a sharp distinction between the nonfighting Jews of yesteryear and the fighting Israelis of today. So horrendous was the reality of the Holocaust that it became deeply ingrained in the Jewish psyche as a prototype for what Jews should expect and what could always happen. Hitler has now joined the other biblical and timeless enemies of Israel such as Amalek or Haman while Jews continued to torment themselves with the question of why they allowed themselves to be led like sheep to the slaughter. Thus at this shared fantasy level the Six Day War, in which victorious Israelis wished that the murdered European Jews could see them now, clearly was a response to the Holocaust demonstrating that Jews can fight and are not predestined to passively accept extermination. Yet because of such a long history of victimization, this switch from holocaustal impotence to victorious omnipotence triggered a new obsession with the Masada Complex, reevoking fears that even fighting Jews can meet their death either on the battlefield or by their own hand, in order to avoid being captured alive. It can be seen from even these brief illustrations that group fantasies can be psychodynamically interconnected and collectively shared.
This last point can be confusing. In what exact sense could group fantasies be collectively shared? The concept may evoke images of a group mind or a collective mind, which can easily be misunderstood. The concept of a collective mind is not meant to deny the obvious fact that only individuals have brains. Nor is it meant to imply extrasensory processes or parapsychological methods of communication connecting individual brains. What it does imply is the easy availability and reach of a variety of prototypical or dominant themes within a given group. These themes are able to evoke similar reactions in most group members who embrace them because of their common history and shared cultural background. Moreover, these themes are inculcated by the culture as the particular sacred lore is fed into individuals since early childhood. The sacred lore includes not just religious texts, but all art or literature that traditionally denotes what it is like to be a member of the group. This shared cultural repository makes it possible for group members to experience common themes whenever they rise to dominance. But even when a group fantasy is being activated, not every person down to the last group member has perforce adopted it. The implication of a group mind as reflected in shared fantasies was never meant to be that literal and all inclusive. There is no one "group brain" that commands, so to speak, all the individual brains. This was not true even with a select group and on very special occasions such as the annual Nazi party rallies, although it almost seemed to be the case.
The emergence of shared group fantasies, out of current interplays of themes competing for zeitgeist dominance, is a highly dynamic process. The concept of a zeitgeist implies a public recognition of and a readiness to accept certain ideas as both valid and timely. In the case of the highly emotionally charged group fantasies, this timeliness, which surfaces out of the interaction of competing ideas, feelings, and the unfolding of current events, can even generate public pressure and a clamoring to transform the fantasy into reality. This is why the zeitgeist is frequently the outcome of the interactions of psychological forces with historical developments that are very subtly "negotiated" between followers and leaders. And this elusive gamesmanship is being conducted under a psychohistorical law of supply and demand, which on the surface mandates that the leaders do the selling while the masses do the buying. Yet just under the surface it is the masses who signal, both knowingly and unknowingly, which ideas now have a magic impact on them and can therefore mobilize them. It is the charismatic leader—the expert scanner of the zeitgeist—who for some reason has an uncanny ability to read the masses correctly; he guides them with his illuminating "new" ideas that, in truth, are borrowed from the ones he leads.
All this points to a fascinating meeting between psychobiography and group psychohistory. The point of intersection is where a significant individual (be it a political leader or an artist or a man of ideas) and the group at large interact. This interaction is likely to create a joint reinforcement of underlying psychological drives and motives. Erik Erikson (1962, 254) once described that point of intersection as the interdependence of individual aspiration and societal strivings for optimal psychological states. The interdependence that Erikson alluded to can assume an even more crucial importance when both the individual's and the society's psychological state is pathological. In such instances the interdependence can be expected to result in mutual reinforcement of pathologies. And if the individual happens to be a supreme political leader who controls the state's power, then the reinforced pathologies are likely to be acted out en masse.
A major stride in this line of enquiry was made by the psychohistorian Rudolph Binion (1979). As we shall see further along in this work, Binion explicated a double-track theory of Hitler's aims consisting of solving the imaginary Jewish problem as well as the imaginary problem of inadequate living space. In this connection he demonstrated how the interdependence of the two tracks as well as the interaction between the leader and the led was mutually reinforcing with catastrophic results. Yet while it lasted, this interaction provided the leader with ongoing opportunities to repeat earlier personal traumas. One was the trauma of his mother's death from a cancer, which in Hitler's fantasy was seemingly inflicted by her Jewish physician; the other trauma was a war injury, which reinforced the earlier one. At the very same time, however, the interaction between leader and led also provided the masses with similar opportunities to replay the national trauma of defeat and territorial loss in World War I at the hand of the allies. Through the wide embrace of a shared group fantasy, this stunning defeat was "explained" as due to Jewish machinations and treachery. Binion consequently subscribed to the basic notion that beneath the historical plays of current events unfolded a drama of psychohistorical replays of the group. And as the basic ingredient of the drama happened to be trauma, the replays and their variations were bound to produce replicas in their compulsive repetition of the central emotions and impulses. Because of the remarkable accuracy of the repetitions, the results were also doomed to be once again a total failure in mastering the trauma. Therefore, the new defeat that results from each current reliving of the unresolved trauma keeps the shock as alive and as intense as ever and sets the stage up for the inevitable next replay, which would be equally doomed to failure.
The psychohistorian Helm Stierlin has, quite justifiably, emphasized Hitler's ability to weld together the art of power politics or political stagecrafting with the art of mythmaking or, better, myth selling. Therefore, Hitler in the political field came to resemble Richard Wagner, who in the artistic field created the Gesamtkunstwerk or total art work (Stierlin 1976, 74). It is well established indeed that Hitler, who prided himself on being an artist, elevated politicking into a new art form in which he controlled and enchanted his national audience as if in a theater. But even more than his theatrical skill, the key for his success was the selling of the right myths. If we are to combine Stierlin's underscoring of myth selling with Binion's emphasis on repetition of traumas, then our conclusion would be that Hitler's highly successful myth selling was due to the peddling of those psychological goods that happened to be in highest demand—repetitions of traumas. If unconscious repetitions of traumas have indeed been the German psychological malaise, then what Hitler offered was a perfect solution to the German problem—a solution that consciously promised redemption but actually courted disaster. In other words, it seemingly offered a new utopia but inevitably led to the new catastrophe. In accordance with this emphasis, the aim of our present enquiry would therefore be to explain as well as possible the psychological significance of that which Hitler sold. The psychological loadings which permeate various components of his ideology will be identified and related to each other. Possible implications of these psychological factors for German history will sometimes be suggested. But the immediate focus of this study will remain the uncovering of the underlying psychology of Hitler's ideology. To what degree the results accord with Hitler's life and with the German heritage is a judgment that this author primarily leaves to other scholars.
Identifying the major psychological ingredients of Hitler's ideology and exploring their full meaning is of vast importance because they struck such a responsive chord among many Germans. This responsiveness alone suggests not only the likely involvement of unconscious motivation, but also that an older history may have created a receptivity and even cravings and yearnings for certain myths and mottoes. This can be well illustrated by "the stab in the back" theory as an explanation for the defeat in the First World War. Germans were led to believe almost until the end that they were winning the war and were therefore stunned by the apparently sudden and seemingly treacherous surrender. Ernst Nolte (1969, 388-89) averred that, in the propagation of this lie, Germany's very downfall has been used as a proof in an argument to turn a lie into a so-called truth. And this truth was useful in blaming anything that looked like a weakness, especially remnants of the tradition of civil liberty. And it was in its most primitive form that this legend had the greatest appeal to the masses. Nolte was right, but there was even more to it than the clever turning of the reality of defeat into a myth of betrayal for use against political opponents. The fact that there was a need for such a myth to begin with (for without a myth the defeat could remain inexplicable) in itself suggests that the defeat was unacceptable and simply could not be swallowed. It represented not a shock, which was somehow coped with, but rather a trauma which was not assimilated and which became an object of obsession that could lead to compulsive repetition. But a symbol for an unassimilated traumatic defeat does not necessarily have to be "a stab in the back." That this particular symbol was adopted by many Germans and exploited by Hitler probably was due to an already existing cultural heritage that included the Nibelungenlied and Richard Wagner's operas, and which played on the theme that the unconquerable Siegfried could only be killed by a stab in the back. In like fashion, it was imagined that German soldiers during the First World War had been courageous and invincible, so that nothing but a stab in the back could possibly explain their subsequent defeat.
The choice of the imagery of a stab in the back to "explain" the indigestible defeat suggests that this imagery had, in the past, already stood for unassimilated psychic elements. It could have even represented a traumatic verdict concerning a fatal flaw in the German character and notion of peoplehood. It may have been the notion that the Achilles heel of the German folk, or people, which accounted for their geographic divisions and political retardation, was the failure to watch themselves against surprise blows by undetected external as well as internal enemies, and that this failure could spell their undoing. If it were an external enemy, then the fatal flaw might have been inadequate borders. If it were an internal enemy then the fatal flaw could be either the existence of a fifth column, comprised of a foreign element, or a dreadful defect in the German character itself, which made each German his own worst enemy. And if it were all of the above, then the implications were that new ways should be found to reverse the present unacceptable outcome in such a fashion as to supposedly guarantee that the new, yet old, trauma will never again repeat itself. In sum, in the German heritage of both history and myths, an emotional disposition or psychological expectation has already been built up for despicable treachery as the explanation for the defeat of unblemished German heroes.
Another example of such a psychological expectation was the grim warning to be forever on the alert against evildoers who cleverly disguise themselves. The prototype for this image can be found in medieval notions concerning the cleverly disguised devil who does his harm by fooling the people. But this theme of ominous disguisability received an added reinforcement in the nineteenth century in the famous collection of fairy tales by the brothers Grimm. Ranke (1966, xviii-xix) emphasized that the tales of the brothers Grimm included vilifications of Jews, and he underscored the fact that the Nazis reintroduced the original version of the tales which included bloodletting and violence. Waite (1977, 262-63) provided a few telling examples of bizarre physical and psychic cruelty in the tales. Yet the tales were extremely popular. Consequently almost every German child came to know, for instance, that in "The Wolf and the Seven Kids" the mother goat's warning to her seven children not to open the door of their house to the wolf was to no avail. The children were fooled just the same because the scoundrel wolf cleverly disguised himself as their own mother. With this preexisting prototype already embedded in German culture, Hitler's labeling the Jews as masters of disguise was bound to be an effective ploy.
As mentioned earlier such national myths as the stab in the back or the disguised Jews are referred to in the field of psychohistory as shared group fantasies. These shared fantasies are capable of setting the stage to new psychohistorical replays of old historical issues and foster great receptivity to new ideologies so long as the latter tap into the existing public pool of emotional dispositions and psychological expectations. Whenever that happens, the new ideologies are capable of reactivating the old myths so as to channel their energy potential into the mobilization of the masses. Those particular ideological themes that promise newness while connecting to powerful old stuff are the very ones that prove to be effective energizers of the masses. The promised newness can be offered under the banners of change, revolution, messianism and utopia, but in all its attires the newness remains essentially a promised reversal of the status of any of a number of old psychocultural prototypes or myths, such as a stab in the back, that stand for an unacceptable psychological condition.
By the same token, ideological themes such as respect for authority that promise a future that would be the same as an idealized past are also most powerful. In this case, the potent current mottoes, which evoke highly charged psychocultural prototypes of the past, play to conservatism, fear of change, and even ruthlessness in preserving the status quo against unacceptable and traumatizing threats. The common denominator of these mottoes is the ultimate protection of all that is precious in the past and present from destructive changes that seem to emanate from the present and future.
It matters not, however, whether the available mottoes promise a future that reinstates the past or a future that breaks with the past, although the latter carries a greater revolutionary aura. Either way the consequences are the same. Powerful ideological themes that hover within the zeitgeist now need only mounting public pressure to achieve dominance and exert the power of myths. It is therefore a good psychohistorical bet that whenever a leader's ideological mythmaking and myth selling resonate among the followers, it is likely that he is selling something old yet new or vice versa. If that which is old can be packaged as new, while that which is new can be clothed with past tradition, the success of the myth-selling job will be phenomenal—so long as the ideological mottoes represent highly charged themes that already exist in the cultural repository. Indeed, Hitler's great success in his selling job suggests that the psychological factors with which his ideology was loaded represented the kind of timeless mythic elements whose recurrent visibility and cultural prominence is timed by the elusive zeitgeist. As a side note, it is interesting to observe that when Hitler entered the German Workers' Party in September 1919 as an Army spy, he gave his profession as "salesman." (Here was a disguise that suited him!)
Hitler expounded his ideology in the two volumes of his famous book Mein Kampf, which were published in 1925 and 1926 (Hitler 1943). He also preached his ideas in his speeches (de Roussy de Sales 1941; Baynes 1942; Domarus 1990 and 1992). The basic tenets of his ideology are interrelated and form a fairly consistent set of messages. The interconnectedness of the basic notions could be sensed intuitively by Hitler's followers and added to the psychological appeal of the separate elements. The drawing power of the ideology was enhanced by the tacit perception that it added up to a coherent totality that presumably made sense. And since the appeal that the central ideological motives held for the masses was largely of an emotional nature, it did not require any elaborate formal systematization of the ideological body. Actually, when a more systematized version of Hitler's ideology with an accent on foreign policy was prepared in the form of Hitler's so-called second book—Hitler's Secret Book (T. Taylor 1983), it was shelved by Hitler probably because it would have not had much of an impact. Eberhard Jäckel (1981), who was interested in the issue of how comprehensive Hitler's weltanschauung, or worldview, was, traced its development from a more rudimentary world picture to a more systematized worldview. This development corresponded to the progress he made in formulating his ideas during his Vienna years from 1907-1913 to post-World War I years which produced Mein Kampf and later the second book. True enough, the second book was more specific and detailed on certain foreign policy guidelines. It was also more systematic in tying the principle of inherent merit among individuals and peoples to its foreign policy derivatives. Nevertheless, a formal systematization of a weltanschauung is not necessarily the secret of its power. The truly effective and shared group "secrets" were neither highly systematized nor locked in Hitler's desk drawer. Jäckel himself cautioned that he did not contend that Hitler's later and more systematized weltanschauung was the cause of his political impact. It therefore seems that the added systematization of the second book is not going to provide us with the key that unlocks the hidden source of Hitler's effectiveness.
Indeed, Hitler himself was a nonbeliever in the effectiveness of complicated discourse that would prove too cerebral for the masses. Moreover, the second book does not seem to contain anything new in principle. The underlying notion about the interrelatedness of such key ideas as race, the Jewish threat, world domination, the folkish state, living space, the femininity of the masses, and the leadership principle was already present in Mein Kampf Jäckel correctly pointed out that not only were the chapters of Mein Kampf complete in themselves but they also related meaningfully to each other. Hitler's ideology was consistent and fairly integrated while the interrelatedness of its repetitive themes was easy to grasp. Moreover, if one cares also to identify the psychological loadings that underlie each dominant theme, it becomes evident that they do not add up at random but form a well-recognized psychological pattern. As we shall have occasion to see later on, this pattern refers to primitive stages in ego development, which are characterized by infantile terrors that stem from archaic issues of power and boundaries. At any rate, all the important information was already available prior to Hitler's second book, which does not add much to the understanding of the basic assumptions that he was selling to the German people. What is more, unlike the speeches and Mein Kampf, the second book was written too much like a dissertation that was to be read by an "intellectual" eye rather than like a speech to be absorbed by an "emotional" ear. It may therefore be the case that Hitler decided to forego publication not so much because the foreign policy issue of South Tyrol became outdated due to the cultivation of Italian friendship but rather because as a myth seller the book was not written well. And although it was subsequently translated into English under the title Hitler's Secret Book, it contained no new secrets.
Regardless of how well systematized or how clearly organized Hitler's ideology was, it is evident from the very start of his political activity that he had a set of unshakable principles concerning German life and history. These principles, which also reverberated with underlying psychological basic assumptions, were definitely linked to each other and were not subject to opportunistic revisions in spite of Hitler's well-earned reputation for demagoguery. Much as he has been a manipulative actor each time in which he publicly lent his voice to the masses in order to express on their behalf the newly unified national will, he also was an ideological fanatic who could alter only the variations on the central themes but could not change the basic messages.
These unalterable messages in his ideology will be explored in this study, which is neither a psychobiography of Hitler nor a group psychohistory of the Germans. The spotlight will consistently remain on the ideology and its underlying psychological loadings. In a certain sense Hitler's ideology has been treated here as literary works are sometimes treated. It is a common practice to treat a literary or artistic creation as if it has a life of its own. It assumes its own fate and is allowed to stand on its own regardless of the personal fate of its author. Like some artistic creations, an ideology too is a literary creation that can achieve independence from its creator and outlast him, or her, however unfortunate the results. The impact of an ideology keeps changing, of course, in line with changes in the zeitgeist. And different elements of a single ideology may evoke a wide range of changing emotions, being felt as inspiring or repugnant by different sets of people. By and large it has been accepted that Hitler's speeches inspired German listeners much more than non-German readers. It stands to reason, therefore, that there just might have been an underlying psychology there specific to the Germans. For this reason, themes that Hitler repeated to the point of apparent boredom to non-Germans have been considered in this study as very significant. This is so because the repetition served as a clue that these specific themes were the very ones that were interconnected with the underlying psychology. In this connection, it is interesting to take note of Freud's contention in his essay "Beyond the Pleasure Principle" that what would be an exhausting and boring repetition for adults remains fresh and interesting for children who need the repetition in order to gain mastery (S. Freud 1955b, 35). This could suggest that Hitler intuitively treated his crowds like children in the Freudian sense. But he acquired this sense not from Freud but via Freud. It is ironic that Hitler probably picked up the technique of repetition from secondhand sources which were likely derived from Freud's summation of Gustave Le Bon's suggestions concerning how to handle the crowds.
Hitler was a constant borrower of themes that floated into prominence in the zeitgeist. In his youth he was an avid collector of bits of thinking and scraps of information from manuals, pamphlets, brochures, leaflets, street conversations, café arguments, and a variety of whatever other secondary sources he stumbled upon. It was therefore fairly easy for him to go fishing regularly for prominent themes and to come up with the catch of the day in a manner of speaking. On some of these central mottoes—as for instance the power of the will—he imposed his distinct personal imprint. Consequently his doctrine of the will became thoroughly magical and did not much resemble its antecedents. But some other mottoes he borrowed and utilized without major distortions because he found them to be very dear to his heart in their original form. This was the case with the central theme of conspiracy for world domination, which was lifted from the notorious forgery known as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (Cohn 1970). The significance of this theme will be elaborated with reliance on the valuable contributions that Konrad Heiden (1944) made on this topic. The theme of world domination was tied to Gustave Le Bon's (1897) notions concerning the psychology of crowds, especially the qualities of femininity and suggestibility that left crowds wide open to mass manipulation. Furthermore, both the ideas of the infamous Protocols and the ideas of Le Bon were linked by Hitler to Otto Weininger's (1906) notions concerning sex and character. Especially attractive to Hitler were the notions of the fatal flaws of Jewishness, the fundamental defects of femininity, and the singularity of the genius, or the timeless man, who is able to impart meaning to events by virtue of his significant memories. Le Bon's and Weininger's works created a sensation in Europe at the turn of the twentieth century and easily attracted Hitler's attention. He then incorporated much of these timely elements into his ideology providing his own explicit or implied connections between them. The main thrusts of Weininger's and Le Bon's assertions are described in the chapters on the Jewish danger and on the leadership principle respectively.
Hitler's public pronouncements through speeches and writings accomplished the direct communication of a worldview from leader to followers through conscious as well as unconscious channels. The explicit ideology with its psychological undertones remained both consistent and interconnected. Though it is paranoid, murderous, racist, mystical, magical, Manichean, messianic, utopian, grandiose, counterphobic, and suicidal, it is not incomprehensible. There is meaning and "logic" in this horrendous ideology, which at bottom is actually an ontogenetically primitive worldview. This can be illustrated if one is willing to engage in a gathering of ideas and judge their coherence from a psychological standpoint that takes account of the peculiar "logic" of emotions.
But in so exploring the meaning of a body of ideas that had such a proven genocidal impact, it will be necessary for readers to allow themselves to be taken for an ideological ride making an effort not to apply personal brakes. In exploring any ideology, especially a revolting one, a person has to respect the ideological confines and check the basic meaning of each motto from within this thematic edifice. The material must be allowed to speak for itself, and the reader should try to imagine how the various messages were absorbed by Hitler's ideological cohorts at the time of delivery. At the end of this journey, after completing the exploration of the major dominant themes and their underlying psychological reverberations, an overall examination will attempt to check whether these themes do indeed coalesce into a coherent whole and an identifiable psychological pattern.
A word of caution is necessary concerning that final analysis. It will be based on a list of central ideological principles that interweave and crossconnect. These central principles, however, will not all represent overt statements by Hitler. Quite a few of them will not be so readily recognizable because they will consist of extracted principles that the present study will attempt to demonstrate are derived from the ideology. Without exception, however, all of the central principles will represent a set of the underlying and highly emotionally charged basic assumptions concerning German national life that are imbedded in Hitler's ideology. Bearing this in mind, the reader should not expect a standard summary of Hitler's ideology. It is hoped that the novelty of this approach will be justified by the results.
|1||The Role of Ideologies||1|
|2||The Jewish Danger||17|
|3||The Leadership Principle||71|
|4||The Expansion of the Living Space||99|
|5||The Folkish State||137|
|6||Ideology as Psychology||169|