THE ROOTS OF NAZI PSYCHOLOGY by Jay Y. Gonen

THE ROOTS OF NAZI PSYCHOLOGY

Hitler's Utopian Barbarism

KIRKUS REVIEW

A useful introduction to the roots of Hitler's ideas concerning the Jews and the German people, combined with a reductionist

analysis of the psychology of the F?hrer and the German masses.

Gonen (A Psychohistory of Zionism, not reviewed) is most informative when delving into the roots of Hitler's "leadership

principle" or speculating on the biological origins of Nazi anti-Semitism. He stumbles badly, however, in supplying a number

of dubious psychoanalyses of the dictator and those who followed him. He argues, for instance, that Hitler's advocacy of

Lebensraum for the German nation in a 1937 speech actually reflected his doubts that he could achieve such a goal. But the

excerpt from the speech that Gonen quotes doesn't reflect such misgivings at all, leading Gonen to engage in some psychological

double-talk: "the denial of any doubts smacked too much of an affirmation through negation, that is, betraying the deeply hidden

doubts by allowing the subject to be only mentioned within the context of total denial." Statements such as these can neither be

proved nor refuted, and they depend totally upon the reader's trust in the author to adduce what is "deeply hidden." Gonen also

makes the highly dubious claim that the "physical genocide [of the Jews] reflected also an internal psychological self-immolation"

on the part of their German persecutors—as if Eichmann and other engineers of the Final Solution suffered from "psychological

self-immolation." Finally, Gonen writes about Germans in an undifferentiated, ahistorical way, maintaining that "the ideology

of death to the Jews but life to the Germans did not put the German self in conflict with its past beliefs." This assertion seems

historically false, given nongenocidal nature of most of pre-Nazi German anti-Semitism—as well as the opposition of small but

significant numbers of German gentiles to the Nazi program.

In short, the internal psychological dynamics of Nazism deserve a more nuanced, historically grounded treatment that is

provided here.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-8131-2154-X
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Univ. Press of Kentucky
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2000




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