By Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge M.D.
The Nazi movement which did horrifying atrocities to the people was based on racial superiority. Adolf Hitler who was the main architect of the Nazi organization was supported by many intellectuals. Many leaders of the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (Nazi) had many things in common. They all believed in destructive Nazi nightmare of racial hearted and ethnic cleansing. What was the psychology behind such a fascist movement which violated basic human rights? Were they psychologically deviated?
Psychologist Gustave Gilbert analyzed many Nazi leaders like Herman Goering, Albert Speer, von Ribbentrop Rudolf Hob (the commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp) etc during the Nuremberg trials and revealed the inner nature of the Nazis. He found that Nazis lacked empathy. In their personal lives they were good husbands and fathers. They loved their children. But when the dark side of their nature came in to action they could kill tens of thousands of men, women and children in the gas chambers. After committing these crimes their conscience were not shattered. They had no guilty feelings.
Nazi leaders conspired to wage war committed crimes against humanity and felt that they are doing it for the betterment of the German people. They saw other races especially Jews as sub humans. There are many theories beneath Hitler’s anti Semitism. Some Germans believed that they lost the WW1 as a result of the betrayal by the Jewish businessmen who did not support the war efforts. But the truth was there were many Jewish officers who fought for Germany during the Great War. Hitler had personal experience which led to deep mistrust and hatred against Jews.
Hitler’s mother was suffering from a breast cancer and she was dying. When her Jewish doctor broke the bad news to young Hitler he thought that the physician was responsible for her death. Hence hefty anger and prejudice was building inside his mind from young days. He was capable of generalizing this anger and prejudice against the Jewish people. When he came to power Hitler’s leadership caused the Holocaust or the genocide of approximately six million European Jews during the WW2.
Nazis committed atrocities in the occupied territories. In the Eastern Europe especially in the USSR they unleashed horrible aggression. Women were raped in front of their husbands and children, men were killed in masses, and some were driven to forced labor. In all these events their lack of empathy and lack of remorse were pronounced greatly. According to Gustave Gilbert Nazis leaders had a dual nature. Above all they believed that they were doing the right thing.
Based on the interviews of the Nazi leaders Gustave Gilbert published a book called Nuremberg Diary in 1947. These documents disclose the psyche of the Nazi leaders. When the Nazi leader Herman Goering was interviewed by Gustav Gilbert, Goering said: “Of course the people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. . . . But after all it is the leaders of the country that determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along.”
People can always be brought to the will of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”
Goering was obsessed by Hitler’s personality. On one occasion Goering said my conscious is Führer’s (Hitler’s) conscious. They were ready to follow Hitler under any circumstances. Therefore many Nazis leaders shared a common mental structure.
Nazis were able to create a mass hysteria and mass conditioning of the German people. Millions of people believed in Nazi propaganda and adored Hitler. No doubt that Hitler was a charismatic leader and an excellent orator. Gilbert studied the inner nature of Adolf Hitler. In 1950; Gilbert published The Psychology of Dictatorship. In this book, Gilbert made an attempt to portray a profile of the psychological behavior of Adolf Hitler.
Why Hitler preached racial superiority? Has he had any doubts about his origin? Hitler’s grandmother Anna Maria Schicklgruber became pregnant while working as a servant in a Jewish household. Hitler made daring attempts to conceal this factor and had fears that his pure Aryan blood was contaminated. When he was about to be the absolute leader of the Germany one newspaper published an article stating that the shape of Hitler’s nose is more Hungarian than German. Hitler was furious about this article and eventually he hunted the journalist who wrote it. Hitler admired the music of Wagner. Wagner was an anti-Semite.
As a boy Hitler was tormented, humiliated and mocked by his father. Hitler’s father punished him for a slightest mistake he made. When he became an adult leader he ruled the Germany with an iron fist. His aunt Johanna was a schizophrenic patient and little Hitler was terrified by his aunt’s psychotic behavior. In the later years Hitler ordered to terminate every psychiatric person in Germany. He could not stand them.
In his speech in 1937 April Hitler said,
All that concerns me is never to take a step that I might later have to retrace and never to take a step which could damage us in any way. You must understand that I always go as far as I dare and never further. It is vital to have a sixth sense which tells you broadly what you can and cannot do.
Hence Hitler was determined to continue his destructive efforts despite the protests made by the civilized world. He misinterpreted the religion and used it to justify his atrocities against Jewish people. In his autobiography Mein Kampf (P46) Hitler mentions the following statement.
I believe to-day that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator. In standing guard against the Jew I am defending the handiwork of the Lord.
Henry Murray, a prominent personality specialist at Harvard University hypnotized that Hitler was deeply confused about his sexuality. Analyzing the metaphors in his book Mein Kampf, Murray says that Hitler was unable to come to terms with his complex sexuality. Henry Murray claimed that Hitler was both impotent and a “fully fledged masochist”. His niece Galee became so tormented by his sexual jealousy and committed suicide. Hitler’s sexual inadequacy may have led to exorbitant cravings for superiority. Lothar Machtan has argued in his book The Hidden Hitler that Hitler was homosexual.
Although Hitler proclaimed that the Third Reich was invincible and would last for thousands of years the system was collapsing in front of his eyes. In the verge of the defeat his passion for Germany changed dramatically. Adolf Hitler issued his infamous “Nero Decree,” the order to destroy all German industry and infrastructure. Hitler’s Minister of War Industry Albert Speer sabotaged this auto destructive plan. On 30 April 1945 when the Red Army was advancing Hitler committed suicide with Eva Braun in the Führerbunker.
Psychology of Nazism demonstrates the savage part of the human nature. Leaders can tune the people and make them hate and terminate other ethnic groups without remorse. When the people are being desensitized they follow the leaders blindly. Influential charismatic negative leadership can bring total chaos to the Humankind.
Following poem reveals the life time suffering of a victim of the Auschwitz concentration camp and the magnitude of trauma caused by the Nazi ideology.
Auschwitz (By Ruwan M Jayatunge )
My heart cried
When my feet touched Auschwit
Although many years have passed
It seems like yesterday
I was brought here
Along with my family
We traveled three nights in a cattle train
Fully packed and had no space to move
When my little sister asked for water
I gave my water bottle with a small loaf of bread
Then she slept on my lap
But I was awake all the time
When the train stopped
The Doors were opened
There were no welcome signs
The SS men came with guns and dogs
SS-Totenkopfverbände greeted no one
When I saw Sonder- Commanders
I could read their eyes
They moved like living dead
Gave no word or smile
It was winter and I felt cold
I took a deep breath
My inner mind whispered
You have come to the land of death
When the Commandant came
We were separated
Some went to the labor camp
And the others to the gas chamber
They gased my parents
Along with my little sister
Their ashes were scattered
All over Auschwitz
I lived with the memory of my family
I worked all day long
But we were under fed
Famine and cold
Fear and beatings
Humiliations and torture
Every single day
We experienced death
There was no hope
There was no salvation
Only option left was
The electrified fence
After many years
We heard rumors
The War is going to end
And the Red Army is moving towards Berlin
In the final days of the War
The Nazis were frantic
They might terminate us all
On the 27th January 1945
The Red Army came to Auschwitz
Many of us were walking skeletons
They gave us food
And said soon the War will be over
Many became astonished
But my feelings were numbed
On the day of the liberation
Auschwitz survivors were parted
Many went to their homes
But I had no place to go
Because my family was no more
With Joshua I moved to Santa Barbara
Many years after the war
Again I came to Auschwitz
Not as a prisoner this time
But as a witness
This is the place they eliminated my entire family
I recalled my parents and little sister
They went through the gas chimney
Without telling me good bye
I tightly held Joshua’s hand
When I saw the remnants of the gas chamber
I felt despair
I had no tears to cry
I could hear many voices in this place
Million and half
Men women and children
Who were murdered by the Nazis
Then I clearly heard my little sister saying
Sara thank you for coming to see me
I closed my eyes
I wanted to be alone
Why did they do this to us?
Why Why ?
If I could speak to the whole world
I would say a few words
Please do not let it happen