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]

It is true that in the end he turned upon them one after another and treated them in a despicable fashion, but usually this change came after he discovered their personal shortcomings and inadequacies. As in many neurotic people of Hitler's type who have a deep craving for guidance from an older man, their requirements grow with the years. By the time they reach maturity they are looking for, and can only submit to, a person who is perfect in every respect -literally a super-man. The result is that they are always trying to come in contact with new persons of high status in the hope that each one, in turn, will prove to be the ideal.

No sooner do they discover a single weakness or shortcoming than they depose him from the pedestal on which they have placed him. They then treat their fallen heroes badly for having failed to [Page 157] live up to their expectations. And so Hitler has spent his life looking for a competent guide but always ends up with the discovery that the person he has chosen falls short of his requirements and is fundamentally no more capable than himself. That this tendency is a carry-over from his early childhood is evidenced by the fact that throughout these years he always laid great stress on addressing these persons by their full titles. Shades of his father's training during his early childhood!

It may be of interest to note at this time that of all the titles that Hitler might have chosen for himself he is content with the simple one of "Fuehrer". To him this title is the greatest of them all. He has spent his life searching for a person worthy of the role but was unable to find one until he discovered himself. His goal is now to fulfill this role to millions of other people in a way in which he had hoped some person might do for him. The fact that the German people have submitted so readily to his leadership would indicate that a great many Germans were in a similar state of mind as Hitler himself and were not only willing, but anxious, to submit to anybody who could prove to them that he was competent to fill the role. There is some sociological evidence that this is probably so and that its origins lie in the structure of the German family and the dual role played by the father within the home as contrasted with the outside world. The duality, on the average is, of course, not nearly as marked as we have shown [Page 158] it to be in Hitler's case, but it may be this very fact which qualified him to identify the need and express it in terms which the others could understand and accept.

There is evidence that the only person in the world at the present time who might challenge Hitler in the role of leader is Roosevelt. Informants are agreed that he fears neither Churchill nor Stalin. He feels that they are sufficiently like himself so th at he can understand their psychology and defeat them at the game. Roosevelt, however, seems to be an enigma him. How a man can lead a nation of 150,000,000 people and keep them in line without a great deal of name-calling, shouting, abusing and threatening is a mystery to him. He is unable to understand how a man can be the leader of a large group and still act like a gentleman. The result is that he secretly admires Roosevelt to a considerable degree, regardless of what he publicly says about him. Underneath he probably fears him inasmuch as he is unable to predict his actions.

Hitler's mother and her influence.

Hitler's father, however, was only a part of his early environment. There was also his mother who, from all reports, was a very decent type of woman. Hitler has written very little and said nothing about her publicly. Informants tell us, however, that she was an extremely conscientitious and hard-working individual whose life centered around her home and children. She was an exemplary housekeeper and [Page 159] there was never a spot or speck of dust to be found in the house - everything was very neat and orderly. She was a very devout Catholic and the trials and tribulations that fell upon her home she accepted with Christian resignation. Even her last illness, which extended over many months and caused her great pain, she endured without a single complaint. We may assume that she had to put up with much from her irrascible husband and it may be that at at times she did have to stand up against him for the welfare of her children. But all of this she probably accepted in the same spirit of abnegation. To her own children she was always extremely affectionate and generous although there is some reason to suppose that she was mean at times to her two step-children.

In any event, every scrap of evidence indicates that there was an extremely strong attachment between herself and Adolph. As previously pointed out, this was due in part to the fact that she had lost two, or possibly three, children before Adolph was born. Since he, too, was frail as a child it is natural that a woman of her type should do everything within her power to guard against another recurrence of her earlier experiences. The result was that she catered to his whims, even to the point of spoiling him, and that she was over-protective in her attitude towards him. We may assume that during the first five-years of Adolph's life, he was the apple of his mother's eye and that she lavished affection on [Page 160] him. In view of her husband's conduct and the fact that he was twenty-three years her senior and far from having a loving disposition, we may suppose that much of the affection that normally would have gone to him also found its way to Adolph.

The result was a strong libidinal attachment between mother and son. It is almost certain that Adolph had temper tantrums during this time but that these were not of a serious nature. Their immediatel purpose was to get his own way with his mother and he undoubtedly succeeded in achieving this end. They were a technique by which he could dominate her whenever he wished, either out of fear that she would lose his love or out of fear that if he continued he might become like his father. There is reason to suppose that she frequently condoned behavior of which the father would have disapproved and may have become a partner in forbidden activities during the father's absence. Life with his mother during these early years must have been a veritable paradise for Adolph except for the fact that his father would intrude and disrupt the happy relationship. Even when his father did not make a scene or lift his whip, he would demand attention from his wife which prevented her participation in pleasurable activities.

It was natural, under these circumstances, that Adolph should resent the intrusion into his Paradise and this undoubtedly aggravated the feelings of uncertainty and fear which his father's conduct aroused in him. [Page 161]

As he became older and the libidinal attachment to his mother became stronger, both the resentment and fear undoubtedly increased. Infantile sexual feelings were probably quite prominent in this relationship as well as fantasies of a childish nature. This is the Oedipus complex mentioned by psychologists and psychiatrists who have written about Hitler's personality. The great amount of affection lavished upon him by his mother and the undesirable character of his father served to develop this complex to an extraordinary degree. The more he hated his father the more dependent he became upon the affection and love of his mother, and the more he loved his mother the more afraid he became of his father's vengeance should his secret be discovered. Under these circumstances, little boys frequently fantasy about ways and means of ridding the environment of the intruder. There is reason to suppose that this also happened in Hitler's early life.

Influences determining his attitude towards love, women, marriage.

Two other factors entered into the situation which served to accentuate the conflict still further. One of these was the birth of a baby brother when he was five years of age. This introduced a new rival onto the scene and undoubtedly deprived him of some of his mother's affection and attention, particularly since the new child was also rather sickly. We may suppose that the newcomer in the family also became the victim of Adolph's animosity and that he fantasied about [Page 162] getting rid of him as he had earlier contemplated getting rid of his father. There is nothing abnormal in this except the intensity of the emotions involved.

The other factor which served to intensify these feelings was the fact that as a child he must have discovered his parents during intercourse. An examination of the data makes this conclusion most inescapable and from our knowledge of his father's character and past history it is not at all improbable. It would seem that his feelings on this occasion were very mixed. On the one hand, he was indignant at his father for what he considered to be a brutal assault upon his mother. On the other hand, he was indignant with his mother because she submitted so willingly to the father, and he was indignant with himself because he was powerless to intervene. Later, as we shall see, there was an hysterical re-living of this experience which played an important part in shaping his future destinies.

Being a spectator to this early scene had many repercussions. One of the most important of these was the fact that he felt that his mother had betrayed him in submitting to his father, a feeling which became accentuated still further when his baby brother was born. He lost much of his respect for the female sex and while in Vienna, Hanisch reports, he frequently spoke at length on the topic of love and marriage and that "he had very austere ideas about [Page 163] relations between men and women". Even at that time he maintained that if men only wanted to they could adopt a strictly moral way of living. "He often said it was the woman's fault if a man went astray" and "He used to lecture us about this, saying every woman can be had." In other words, he regarded woman as the seducer and responsible for man's downfall and he condemned them for their disloyalty.

These attitudes are probably the outcome of his early experiences with his mother who first seduced him into a love relationship and then betrayed him by giving herself to his father. Nevertheless, he still continued to believe in an idealistic form of love and marriage which would be possible if a loyal woman could be found. As we know, Hitler never gave himself into the hands of a woman again with the possible exception of his niece, Geli Raubal, which also ended in disaster. Outside of that single exception he has lived a loveless life. His distrust of both men and women is so deep that in all his history there is no record of a really intimate and lasting friendship.

The outcome of these early experiences was probably a feeling of being very much alone in a hostile world. He hated his father, distrusted his mother, and despised himself for his weakness. The immature child finds such a state of mind almost unendurable for any length of time and in order to gain peace and security in his environmlnt these feelings are gradually repressed from his memory. [Page 164]

This is a normal procedure which happens in the case of every child at a relatively early age. This process of repression enables the child to reestablish a more or less friendly relationship with his parents without the interference of disturbing memories and emotions. The early conflicts, however, are not solved or destroyed by such a process and we must expect to find manifestations of them later on. When the early repression has been fairly adequate these conflicts lie dormant until adolescence when, due to the process of maturation, they are reawakened. In some cases they reappear in very much their original form, while in others they are expressed in a camouflaged or symbolic form.

In Hitler's case, however, the conflicting emotions and sentiments were so strong that they could not be held a latent state during this time. Quite early in his school career we find his conflicts appearing again in a symbolic form. Unfortunately, the symbols he unconsciously chose to express his own inner conflicts were such that they have seriously affected the future of the world. And yet these symbols fit his peculiar situation so perfectly that it was almost inevitable that they would be chosen as vehicles of expression.

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