The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

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Children first become aware of death as a phenomenon very early in 
life and in view of these unusual circumstances it may have dawned 
on Hitler even earlier than with most children. The thought of death, 
in itself, is inconceivable to a small child and they usually are able 
to form only the vaguest conception of what it means or implies 
before they push it out of their minds, for later consideration. In 
Hitler's case, however, it was a living issue and the fears of the 
mother were in all likelihood communicated to [00010178.gif Page 172]
him. As he pondered the problem in his immature way, he probably 
wondered why the others died while he continued to live. The natural 
conclusion for a child to draw would be that he was favored in some way 
or that he was chosen to live for some particular purpose. The belief 
that he was the "chosen one" would have been reinforced by the fact 
that as far as his mother was concerned he was very much the chosen 
one in comparison with her two step-children who were also living 
in the home at that time.

This belief must have been strengthened considerably when, at the age 
of five, his baby brother was born. This baby brother has undoubtedly 
played a much more important role in Adolph's life than has been 
acknowledged by his biographers. The pertinent fact at the moment, 
however, is that this brother too died before he was six years old. 
It was Adolph's first real experience with death and it must have 
brought up the problem of death again in a much more vivid form. Again, 
we can surmise, he asked himself why they died while he continues to be 
saved. The only plausible answer to a child at that age would be that 
he must be under divine protection. This may seem far-fetched and yet, 
as an adult, Hitler tells us that he felt exactly this way when he was 
at the front during the war, even before he had the vision. 

Then, too, 
he speculated on why it is that comrades all around him are killed 
while he is saved and again he comes to the [00010179.gif Page 173]
conclusion that Providence must be protecting him. Perhaps the 
exemplary courage he displayed in carrying messages at the front was 
due to the feeling that some kindly Fate was watching over him. 
Throughout MEIN KAMPF we find this type of thinking. It was Fate that 
had him born so close to the German border; it was Fate that sent him 
to Vienna to suffer with the masses; it was Fate that caused him to 
do many things. The experience he reports at the front, when a voice 
told him to pick up his plate and move to another section of the 
trench just in time to escape a shell which killed all his comrades, 
must certainly have strengthened this belief to a marked degree and 
paved the way for his vision later on.

 The Messiah. complex.

Another influence may have helped to solidify this system of belief. 
Among patients we very frequently find that children who are spoiled 
at an early age and establish a strong bond with their mother tend to 
question their paternity. Eldest children in particular are prone to 
such doubts and it is most marked in cases where the father is much 
older than the mother. In Hitler's case the father was twenty-three 
years older, or almost twice the age of the mother. Just why this 
should be is not clear, from a psychological point of view, but in 
such cases there is a strong tendency to believe that their father is 
not their real father and to ascribe their birth to some kind of 
supernatural conception. Usually such [00010180.gif Page 174]
beliefs are dropped as the child grows older. It can be observed in 
young children, however, and can often be recovered in adults under 
suitable conditions. Due to the unsympathetic and brutal nature of 
his father we may suppose that there was an added incentive in 
rejecting him as his real father and postulating some other 
origin to himself.

The problem is not important in itself at the moment except insofar 
as it may help to throw some light on the origins of Hitler's 
conviction in his mission and his belief that he is guided by some 
extra-natural power which communicates to him what he should and should 
not do under varying circumstances. This hypothesis is tenable in 
view of the fact that during his stay in Vienna, when still in his 
early twenties, he grew a beard and again directly after the war when 
he again grew a Christ-like beard. Then, too, when he was a student at 
the Benedictine school his ambition was to join the Church and 
become an abbot or priest. All of these give some indication of a 
Messiah complex long before he had started on his meteoric career and 
become an open competitor of Christ for the affections of the German people.

Fear of death and desire for immortality.

Although beliefs of this kind are common during childhood they are 
usually dropped or are modified as the individual becomes older and 
more experienced. In Hitler's case, however, the reverse has taken 
place. The conviction [00010181.gif Page 175] became stronger as he grew 
older until, at the present time, it is the core of his thinking. 
Under these circumstances, we must suppose that some powerful 
psychological stream continued to nourish these infantile modes of 
thought. This psychological stream is probably, as it is in many other 
cases, a fear of death. It seems logical to suppose that in the course 
of his early deliberations on the deaths of his brothers his first 
conclusion was probably that all the others die and that consequently 
he too would die. His fear would not be allayed by his mother's 
constant concern over his well-being, which he may have interpreted as 
an indication that the danger was imminent. Such a conclusion would 
certainly be a valid one for a child to make under the circumstances. 

The thought of his own death, however, is almost unbearable to a small 
child. Nothing is quite so demoralizing as the constant dread of 
self-annihilation. It gnaws away day and night and prevents him from 
enjoying the good things that life affords.

To rid himself of this devastating fear becomes his major objective. 
This is not easily accomplished, especially when all available evidence 
seems to corroborate the validity of the fear. In order to offset its 
potency he is almost driven to deny its reality by adopting the belief 
that he is of divine origin and that Providence is protecting him from 
all harm. Only by use of such a technique is the child able to convince 
himself that, he will not die. We must also [00010182.gif Page 176]
remember that in Hitler's case there was not only the unusual succession 
of deaths of siblings, but there was also the constant menace of his 
father's brutality which helped make the fear more intense than in most 
children. This danger could easily be exaggerated in Hitler's mind due 
to a sense of guilt concerning his feelings towards his respective 
parents and what his father might do to him if he discovered his secret. 
These feelings would tend to increase his fear of death at the same 
time that they caused him to reject his father. Both tendencies would 
serve to nourish the belief that he was of divine origin and was under 
its protection.

It is my belief that this basic fear of death is still present and 
active in Hitler's character at the present time. As time goes on and 
he approaches the age when he might reasonably expect to die, this 
infantile fear asserts itself more strongly. As a mature, intelligent 
man he knows that the law of nature is such that his physical self 
is destined to die. He is still not able, however, to accept the fact 
that he as an individual, his psyche, will also die. It is this 
element in his psychological structure which demands that he become 
immortal. Most people are able to take the sting out of this fear of 
death through religious beliefs in life after death, or through the 
feeling that a part of them, at least, will continue to go on living 
in their children. In Hitler's, case, both of these normal channels 
have been closed and he
[00010183.GIF Page 177]

has been forced to seek immortality in a more direct form. He must 
arrange to go on living in the German people for at least a thousand 
years to come. In order to do this, he must oust Christ as a 
competitor and usurp his place in the lives of the German people.

In addition to evidence drawn from experience with patients which would 
make this hypothesis tenable, we have the evidence afforded by Hitler's 
own fears and attitudes. We have discussed these in detail in Section IV. 
Fear of assassination, fear of poisoning, fear of premature death, etc., 
all deal with the problem of death in an uncamouflaged form. One can, 
of course, maintain that in view or his position all these fears are more 
or less justified. There is certainly some truth in this contention but 
we also notice that as time goes on these fears have increased 
considerably until now they have reached the point where the precautions 
for his own safety far exceed those of any of his predecessors. As long 
as he could hold a plebescite every now and then and reassure himself 
that the German people loved him and wanted him, he felt better. Now 
that this is no longer possible, he has no easy way of curbing the 
fear and his uncertainty in the future becomes greater. There can be 
little doubt concerning his faith in the results of the plebescites. 
He was firmly convinced that the 98% vote, approving his actions, 
really represented the true feelings of the German people. He 
believed this because [00010184.GIF Page 178] he needed such 
reassurance from time to time in order to carry on with a fairly 
easy mind and maintain his delusions.

When we turn to his fear of cancer we find no justification whatever 
for his belief, especially in view of the fact that several outstanding 
specialists in this disease have assured him that it is without 
foundation. Nevertheless, it is one of his oldest fears and he continues 
to adhere to it in spite of all the expert testimony to the contrary. 
This fear becomes intelligible when we remember that his mother died 
following an operation for cancer of the breast. In connection with his 
fear of death we must not forget his terrifying nightmares from which he 
awakes in a cold sweat and acts as though he were being suffocated. If 
our hypothesis is correct, namely, that a fear of death is one of the 
powerful unconscious streams which drive Hitler on in his mad 
career, then we can expect that as the war progresses and as he 
becomes older the fear will continue to increase. With the progress 
of events along their present course, it will be more and more difficult 
for him to feel that his mission is fulfilled and that he has 
successfully cheated death and achieved immortality in the German 
people. Nevertheless, we can expect him to keep on trying to the best 
of his ability as long as a ray of hope remains. The great danger is 
that if he feels that he cannot achieve immortality as the Great 
Redeemer he may seek it as the Great Destroyer who will live on in 
the minds of the German people for a [00010185.GIF  Page 179]
thousand years to come. He intimated this in a conversation with 
Rauschning when he said:

"We shall not capitulate -- no, never. We may be destroyed, but if 
we are, we shall drag a world with us--a world in flames."

With him, as with many others of his type, it may well be a case of 
immortality of any kind at any price. 

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