THE ROOTS OF NAZI PSYCHOLOGY
To my loving wife, Mary Coleman, who enriched my thoughts
Was Hitler a moral aberration or a man of his people? This topic has been hotly debated 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. Hitler's success with the masses was the result of the German response to the humiliation and defeat they suffered in that war. 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 aspect of the state that made it most cruel.
Jay Y. Gonen is a retired professor of psychology who taught at the University of Cincinnati and the University of Rochester Medical Center. A former consultant to the American Psychiatric Association and past president of the international Psychohistorical Association, he is the author of A Psychohistory of Zionism. Born in Haifa, Israel, and educated at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, he now lives in Upper Grandview, New York.
I thank Noel Kinnamon, who provided excellent copy editing to the book. I am also deeply indebted to very special persons who are all both colleagues and friends. David Beisel gave the manuscript a thorough editing and greatly enriched it with his psychohistorical acumen. During various stages of the-work Bernhard Blom strengthened my hands with insightful suggestions, editorial help, and moral support. David Ihilevich reviewed the manuscript and reinforced my attempts to present psychoanalytic theory in terms that the sophisticated layman could understand. Last, but not least, I am most grateful to Rudolph Binion whose groundbreaking work on Hitler and the Germans has been a source of inspiration for me. He made invaluable contributions to the final shape of the work through many editorial comments, historical suggestions, questions, and challenges. I thank them all.