The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Psychological Analysis & Reconstruction

[Transcription note: Bracketed [Page] links provide access to the individual images from which these transcriptions were made]

His early conflicts expressed in symbolic form.

Unconsciously, all the emotions he had once felt for his mother became transferred to Germany. This transfer of affect was relatively easy inasmuch as Germany, like his mother, [Page 165] was young and vigorous and held promise of a great future under suitable circumstances. Furthermore, he felt shut off from Germany as he now felt shut off from his mother, even though he secretly wished to be with her. Germany became a symbol of his ideal mother and his sentiments are clearly expressed in his writings and speeches. A few excerpts will serve to illustrate the transfer of emotion:

"The longing grew stronger to go there (Germany) where since my early youth I had been drawn by secret wishes and secret love."

"What I first had looked upon as an impassable chasm now spurred me on to greater love for my country than ever before."

"An unnatural separation from the great common Motherland."

"I appeal to those who, severed from the Motherland, ...and who now in painful emotion long for the hour that will allow them to return to the arms of the beloved mother."

It is significant that although Germans, as a whole, invariably refer to Germany as the "Fatherland", Hitler almost always refers to it as the "Motherland.

Just as Germany was ideally suited to symbolize his mother, so was Austria ideally suited to symbolize his father. Like his father, Austria was old, exhausted and decaying from within. He therefore transferred all his unconscious hatred from his father to the Austrian state. He could now give vent to all his pent-up emotions without exposing himself to the [Page 166] dangers he believed he would have encountered had he expressed these same feelings towards the persons really involved. In MEIN KAMPF he frequently refers to the Austrian state, for example, in terms such as these:

"... an intense love for my native German-Austrian country and a bitter hatred against the Austrian state."

"With proud admiration I compared the rise of the Reich with the decline of the Austrian state."

The alliance between Austria and Germany served to symbolize the marriage of his mother and father. Over and over again we find references to this alliance and we can see clearly how deeply he resented the marriage of his parents because he felt that his father was a detriment to his mother and only through the death of the former could the latter obtain her freedom and find her salvation. A few quotations will illustrate his sentiments:

"And who could keep faith with an imperial dynasty which betrayed the cause of the German people for its own ignominious ends, a betrayal that occurred again and again."

"What grieved us most was the fact that the whole system, was morally protected by the alliance with Germany, and thus Germaey herself...walked by the side of the corpse."

"...It suffices to state here that from my earliest youth I came to a conviction which never deserted me, but on the contrary grew stronger and stronger: that the protection of the German race presumed the destruction of Austria...that, above all else, the Royal House of Hapsburg was destined to bring misfortune upon the German nation." [Page 167]

"Since my heart had never beaten for an Austrian monarchy but only for a German Reich, I could only look upon the hour of the ruin of this state as the beginning of the salvation of the German nation."

When we have grasped the significance of this transference of affect we have made a long step in the direction of understanding Hitler's actions. Unconsciously he is not dealing with nations composed of millions of individuals but is trying to solve his personal conflicts and rectify the injustices of his childhood. Unable to enter into a "give-and-take" relationship with other human beings which might afford him an opportunity of resolving his conflicts in a realistic manner, he projects his personal problems on great nations and then tries to solve them on this unrealistic level. His microcosm has been inflated into a macrocosm.

We can now understand why Hitler fell on his knees and thanked God when the last war broke out. To him it did not mean simply a war, as such, but an opportunity of fighting for his symbolic mother - of proving his manhood and of being accepted by her. It was inevitable that he would seek enlistment in the German Army rather than in the Austrian Army and it was also inevitable, under these circumstances, that he would be a good and obedient soldier. Unconsciously it was as though he were a little boy who was playing the part of a man while his mother stood by and watched him. Her future welfare was his great concern and in order to prove his love he was willing, if need be, to sacrifice his own life for her. [Page 168]

The effects of Germany's defeat.

Everything went smoothly as long as he felt sure that all would turn out well in the end. He never complained about the hardships that were imposed on him and he never grumbled with the other men. He was happy in what he was doing and met the trials and tribulations of army life with his chin up until he discovered that things were going badly and that his symbolic mother was about to be degraded as he had imagined his real mother had been degraded in his childhood. To him it was as if his mother was again the victim of a sexual assault. This time it was the November Criminals and the Jews who were guilty of the foul deed and he promptly transferred his repressed hate to these new perpetrators.

When he became fully aware of Germany's defeat he reacted in a typically hysterical manner. He refused to accept or adjust to the situation on a reality level. Instead, he reacted to this event as he probably reacted to the discovery of his parents in intercourse. He writes:

"I stumbIed and tottered rearwards with burning eyes...Already a few hours later the eyes had turned into burning coals; it had become dark around me."

In another place he writes:

"While everything began to go black again before my eyes, stumbling, I groped my way back to the dormitory, threw myself on my cot and buried my burning head in the covers and pillows."

[Page 169]

At the time this happened he had been exposed to a slight attack of mustard gas. He immediately believed that he was blinded and speechless. Although he spent several weeks in hospital, neither his symptoms nor the development of the illness corresponded to those found in genuine gas cases. It has been definitely established that both the blindness and the mutism were of an hysterical nature. The physician who treated him at that time found his case so typical of hysterical symptoms in general that for years after the war he used it as an illustration in his courses given at a prominent German medical school. We know from a great many other cases that during the onset of such attacks the patient behaves in exactly the same manner as he did earlier in his life when confronted by a situation with the same emotional content. It is as though the individual were actually reliving the earlier experience over again. In Hitler's case this earlier experience was almost certainly the discovery of his parents in intercourse and that he interpreted this as a brutal assault in which he was powerless. He refused to believe what his eyes told him and the experience left him speechless.

That this interpretation is correct is evidenced by his imagery in dealing with the event later on. Over and over again we find figures of speech such as these:

" what wiles the soul of the German has been raped."

"...our German pacifists will pass over in silence the most bloody rape of the nation."

which illustrate his sentiments very clearly. [Page 170]

The origins of his belief in his mission and his longing for immortality.

It was while he was in the hospital suffering from hysterical blindness and mutism that he had the vision that he would liberate the Germans from their bondage and make Germany great. It was this vision that set him on his present political career and which has had such a determining influence on the course of world events. More than anything else it was this vision that convinced him that he was chosen by Providence and that he had a great mission to perform. This is probably the most outstanding characteristic of Hitler's mature personality and it is this which guides him with the "precision of a sleepwalker."

From an analysis of many other cases we know that such convictions never result from an adult experience alone. In order to carry conviction they must reawaken earlier beliefs which have their roots far back in childhood. It is, of course, nothing unusual for a child to believe that he is some special creation and destined to do great things before he dies. One can almost say that every child passes through such a period on his way to growing up. In many people remnants of such early beliefs are observable inasmuch as they feel or believe that Fate or Luck or Providence or some extra-natural power has chosen them for special favors. In most of these cases, however, the adult individual only half believes that this is really so even when a whole series of favorable events may make [Page 171] the hypothesis plausible. Only rarely do we find a firm conviction of this kind in adulthoed and then only when there were extenuating circumstances in childhood which made such a belief necessary and convincing.

In Hitler's case the extenuating circumstances are relatively clear. Mention has already been made of the fact that his mother had given birth to at least two and possibly three children, all of whom had died prior to his own birth. He, himself, was a frail and rather sickly infant. Under these circumstances, his mother undoubtedly exerted herself to the utmost to keep him alive. He was unquestionably spoiled during this period and his survival was probably the great concern of the family as well as of the neighbors. From his earliest days there was, no doubt, considerable talk in the household about the death of the other children and constant comparisons between their progress and his own.

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