THE HISTORY OF AN OBSESSION by Klaus P. Fischer

THE HISTORY OF AN OBSESSION

German Judeophobia and the Holocaust
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A striking—and potentially explosive—combination of history and psychology. Perhaps no subject lends itself more to the temptation of psychologizing than Hitler and the Holocaust. For the past 50 years, the “Final Solution” and its creator have been subjected to every school of psychoanalysis by experts and charlatans alike. This is dangerous terrain. Critics of psychohistory point out the obvious—that the analysand is no longer around to analyze. Defenders’such as historian Peter Gay—insist that the field can yield new insights if properly controlled. This new contribution to the literature is by the author of the highly praised Nazi Germany: A New History (not reviewed). Fischer attempts to psychoanalyze an entire culture over the last 900 years of its history. He traces the roots of German Judeophobia back as early as the First Crusade in 1096, with the pendulum swinging between periods of relative toleration and bestial brutality. Fischer points out that the Nazis did not invent the notion of the Jew as spiritually perverse (credit goes to St. Paul and the early Church), nor the idea of biological racism (the first grand inquisitor, Torquemada, already was speaking of mala sangre in the 15th century). Throughout, Fischer uses the more clinical word “Judeophobia” and the descriptive “Jew-hatred” rather than the more common —anti-Semitism,— thus “shifting the onus of responsibility to where it really belongs . . . removing doubts as to its destructive potential.” Equally central to his argument is that the ideological motivation for the Holocaust can be found in “human delusion” and the demons it inspires, such as “fear, paranoia, projection, scapegoating, and aggression.” As to the question of how many Germans shared the Nazis— murderous impulses, Fischer concludes that this cannot be conclusively answered, but in describing the Holocaust as the “harvest of Judeophobic hatred,” he is clearly drawing the many strands of German anti-Semitism together in a final conflagration. An important contributon, sure to fan the flames of controversy.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-8264-1089-8
Page count: 544pp
Publisher: Continuum
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1998