In the pages that follow, I (Medusa) quote passages from the knightly Hitler’s writing that suggest a pattern of blended phobia, hysteria, paranoia, and time-tested conservative reform, explained through analysis of double binds and patterns of the switch. (Add umlaut to Bocklin, over the “o”.) Note Hitler’s unmistakable anticommunism, yet many persons today present him as a man of the Left!
[Hitler:] “These men [his fellow construction workers in Vienna] rejected everything: the nation as an invention of the “capitalistic” (how often I was forced to hear this single word!) classes; the fatherland as an instrument of the bourgeoisie for the exploitation of the working class; the authority of the law as a means for oppressing the proletariat; the school as an institution for breeding slaves and slaveholders; religion as a means for stultifying the people and making them easier to exploit; morality as a symptom of stupid, sheep-like patience, etc. There was absolutely nothing which was not drawn through the mud of a terrifying depth. (Mein Kampf, Chapter 2, 40, Manheim transl.).”
[Hitler:] “Millions of workers were surely inwardly hostile to the Social Democratic Party at first, but their resistance was overcome by the manner, often quite insane, in which the bourgeois parties opposed any demand of a social nature. The simply hidebound obstruction of all attempts to improve working conditions, of safety devices on machines, of prevention of child labor and of protection for women at least during the months when she carries the future comrade of the people beneath her heart–all this helped to drive the masses into the nets of Social Democracy, which gratefully seized upon every case of similar contemptible sentiments. Our political citizenry, our bourgeoisie, can never make good such past sins. For by resisting all attempts to cure social ills, it sowed hatred, and apparently justified the claim of the deadly enemies of the whole people that the Social Democratic party alone represented the interests of the working people (MK, 56-57).”
[Hitler suggests a standard for good trade unions:] “If union activity envisages and attains the goal of improving the position of a class that belongs to the pillars of the nation, its effect not only is not hostile to state or fatherland, but is “national” in the truest sense of the word. It is helping after all, to lay the social groundwork without which no generally national education is thinkable. It deserves the highest credit for destroying social cancers by attacking both intellectual and physical bacilli, and thus contributing to the general health of the body of the people (MK, 57).”
[Hitler appeals to workers and peasants:] “Our present struggle is merely a continuation, on the international level, of the struggle we waged on the national level. Let everyone, in his own field, take care to do his best, with the knowledge that on every occasion we were pushing the best of us forward; that’s how a people surpasses itself and surpasses others. Nothing can happen to us if we remain faithful to these principles, but one must know how to advance, step by step, how to reconnoitre the ground and remove, one after another, the obstacles one finds there.
If one neglected to appeal to the masses, one’s choice would be rather too confined to intellectuals. We would lack brute strength. Brute strength consists of the peasant and worker, for the insecurity of their daily life keeps them close to the state of nature. Give them brains into the bargain, and you turn them into incomparable men of action.
Above all, we must not allow our élite to become an exclusive society.
The son of an official, at the fifth or sixth generation, is doomed to become a lawyer…So what kind of role can a nation play when it’s governed by people of that sort–people who weigh and analyse everything? One couldn’t make history with people like that…The bourgeois with whom we flirted at the time of our struggle were simply aesthetes. (Table Talk, Nov. 1-2, 1941, 108).
[Hitler warns about German craze for objectivity:] “It was a fundamental error to discuss guilt from the standpoint that Germany could not be made solely responsible for the outbreak of the catastrophe; the right way was to load the guilt solely upon the enemy, even if this had not corresponded to the actual situation, which in this case it really did. What was the result of this half-measure? The great masses of a people do not consist of diplomats or even of teachers of international law, in fact not even of people capable of a reasoned judgment; they are human beings, wavering, inclined to doubt and uncertainty. The moment their own propaganda concedes so much as the faintest glimmer of justice to the other side, the seeds for doubt of their own cause have been sown. The masses are in no position to tell where the enemy’s misdeeds end and their own begin. In such cases they become uncertain and suspicious, particularly if the enemy is not guilty of the same foolishness, but puts the guilt lock, stock and barrel upon his adversary. What’s more natural than for one’s own people at last to believe the hostile propaganda, more concerted and single-minded [geschlossener, einheitlicher] as it is, rather than one’s own. This is most easily proved to be true with a people who suffers from the objectivity craze [deutsche Objektivitätsfimmel] as severely as the Germans do! For here everyone will strive to do no injustice to the enemy, even at the risk of accusing, nay destroying, his own people and State. The masses never become conscious that it is not thus intended in high quarters. The overwhelming majority of the people is so feminine in tendency and attitude that emotion and feelings [gefühlsmassige Empfindung] rather than sober consideration determine its thought and action.
But this feeling is not complicated; it is simple and firm [einfach und geschlossen]. There are not many shadings [Differenzierungen], but a positive or a negative, love or hate, right or wrong, truth or lie, but never half this or half that, or partly, etc.
All these things English propaganda in particular realized–and took account of with positive genius. Here were no half-measures which might have raised doubts. (Mein Kampf,Part One, Chapter 6, “War Propaganda”).
[Medusa/Clare comments:] The Ludwig Lore translation of these passages misleadingly renders einfach as “simple,” geschlossen as “firm,” gefühlsmassige Empfindung as “emotion and feelings.” Other translations add the theme of coherence, but neither singleness nor closure.
[footnote:] See for instance Hideya Kumata and Wilbur Schramm, “Propaganda Theory of the German Nazis,” Psychological Warfare Casebook, 1958, p. 49. The authors translate the sentence as “This sentiment, however, is not complicated but very simple and complete.” The “Nazi socialists” oppose “objectivity” (48). The article was originally prepared for the USIA by the University of Illinois, Urbana, Jan. 1955, and part of Four Working Papers on Propaganda Theory. (It would have been more correct to say that all propagandists desire closure and hence oppose ambiguity and mixed-messages.) A few pages later, the authors quote Goebbels as he established the Propaganda Ministry, “…Monopoly control of all media of mass communication within the movement’s zone of influence must be accomplished. These include music, art, theater, architecture, books, tourist trade, fairs, exhibitions and schools, as well as the usual channels. If possible, however, control of communications will be exercised in such a way as not to give an impression of direct manipulation (52).” See Ernest K. Bramsted, Goebbels and National Socialist Propaganda 1925-1945 (Michigan State University Press, 1965): 26. Bramsted accurately transmits Hitler’s notion of simplicity but ignores the point about the general German craze for objectivity, maintaining that Hitler looked down upon the masses. “As we have seen, it was the success of Allied propaganda which made Hitler realize that propaganda had to be primitive and to be attuned to the very limited understanding of the masses. It had to be confined to a few points and to be carried out with persistency. Hitler was convinced that the Allies had looked at the masses with the same contempt that he himself felt for them. In Mein Kampf Hitler made made much of the subjective character of the people, who, he declared, are “so feminine in their nature and attitude that their activities and thought are motivated less by sober consideration than by feeling and sentiment.” Their sentiment was uncomplicated, and very simple. It did not allow for differentiation; it was positive or negative, based on love and hatred, it only knew right or wrong, truth or lie, but no shades, no ability to see two sides of a question. English propaganda had “understood and considered all this in the most ingenious manner.” From these observations Hitler arrived at a basic tenet of all propaganda, “it has to confine itself to little and to repeat this eternally.” (He cites pp. 240, 237, 238, 239 of the 1939 translation.)
[Medusa, cont.] I am not arguing that the Nazis were not advocating the most rigid control of culture to propagate their ideology; rather that they would never have boasted about a Big Lie, and moreover, they believed in the correctness and goodness of their Weltanschauung as they skillfully mobilized the Germans for war and sacrifice. I have written this essay to alert liberals that what has passed for “the Left” bears a striking resemblance to the racialist thinking of the Third Reich; that they have a common origin in German Romanticism, and that this lineage must not be discounted in reassessments of policy choices.
Although these last paragraphs are usually excerpted (briefly) by rival propagandists to prove that Hitler preached the necessity for the constantly reiterated Big Lie directed on behalf of his own power lust and against the interests of the masses, there is no support for such a reading; indeed he would have been crazy to have made such a statement in a book heavily promoted during the Third Reich and intended to win over farmers, workers, and small businessmen to the Nazi program. Rather, to evade “the objectivity craze” (Stackpole ed. 1939) or “the mania for objectivity” of “the German people” (Houghton Mifflin, 1939), Hitler copies the British by stressing the necessity for simple/single, clear, conclusive propaganda images to match the single intuitive emotion (gefühlsmassige Empfindung) of the masses that determines their thoughts and actions (Diese Empfindung aber ist nicht kompliziert, sondern sehr einfach und geschlossen). Hitler is not only protecting the people from the indecision that leads to defeat, he nervously seeks and roots himself in one monocausal, internally consistent historical explanation/image with no moral mix-up, no refusal of closure, no “frightful daubs.” Unlike “Hitler”–the lover of Romantic fogs and mists/ruins and rubble of the long Marxist night transmitted by the moderates–Hitler is a neo-classical morning man like themselves. Weighing and analysing everything, however, immobilizes him; close to “nature”–the idealized rustic or small-town family, the good labor union–his capacity for effective action (briefly?) returns.
Later chapters of Mein Kampf bear out my argument (see MK Part Two, Chapters 6, 10, and 11).
[footnote:] It is customary for scholars to cite Chapter 10 as source of the Big Lie strategy, but here as elsewhere, Hitler is not bragging about swindling the masses. Rather he is describing long-term [Jewish] “ethical and moral poisoning” of the German people, then castigating the Jews as liars who deny their racial nature, instead claiming to be a religion. The complete quote (Manheim translation): “It required the whole bottomless falsehood of the Jews and their Marxist fighting organization to lay the blame for the collapse [of Germany at the end of the war] on that very man who alone, with superhuman energy and will power, tried to prevent the catastrophe he foresaw and save the nation from its time of deepest humiliation and disgrace. By branding Ludendorff as guilty for the loss of the World War, they took the weapon of moral right from the one dangerous accuser who could have risen against the traitors to the fatherland. In this they proceeded on the sound principle that the magnitude of a lie always contains a certain factor of credibility, since the great masses of the people in the very bottom of their hearts tend to be corrupted rather than consciously and purposely evil, and that, therefore, in view of the primitive simplicity of their minds, they more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a little one, since they themselves lie in little things, but would be ashamed of lies that were too big. Such a falsehood will never enter their heads, and they will not be able to believe in the possibility of such monstrous effrontery and infamous representation in others; yes, even when enlightened on the subject, they will long doubt and waver, and continue to accept at least one of these causes as true. Therefore, something of even the most insolent lie will always remain and stick—a fact which all the great lie-virtuosi and lying-clubs in this world know only too well and also make the most treacherous use of.
[Hitler, cont.:] “The foremost connoisseurs of this truth regarding the possibilities in the use of falsehood and slander have always been the Jews; for after all, their whole existence is based on one single great lie, to wit, that they are a religious community while actually they are a race—and what a race! One of the greatest minds of humanity has nailed them forever as such in an eternally correct phrase of fundamental truth: he called them ‘the great masters of the lie.’ And anyone who does not recognize this will never in this world be able to help the truth to victory.” (231-232, Houghton Mifflin edition, 1999).
[Medusa links Hitler readings to typical readings by antisemites:] Sentences from Chapter 6 are frequently taken out of context to confirm Hitler’s cynicism, irrationalism, protean character, and power-hunger; i.e., Hitler is read as an archetypal Jew. But in Hitler’s text, mass suggestion is deployed solely to build community, to fortify the isolated, meek individual in his adherence to a new, more historically truthful idea, to help the worker switch more comfortably away from the ruin of Marxist internationalism/war guilt which, thanks to Jewish orators/agitators, has captured the irrational, emotionally resistant portion of his psyche: the heart. Crucially, the focus of Hitler’s discussion of propaganda is the question of the war guilt or innocence of the German people, a matter obviously intertwined with Hitler’s inhibitions about criticism of authority within the family, but also a genuine confusion given the secrecy and duplicity of the ruling class of Germany.
[footnote:] See Fritz Fischer, Germany’s Aims in the First World War, 1961. Fischer had access to archives not opened until after the war; he argued that the German people had no evidence to contradict the apparent responsibility of Russia, France and England in starting the war. His revisionist account remains controversial and is opposed by scholars who take the view that Germany stumbled into war.
[Medusa, cont.] There is a tortuous line from doubt to parricide, a pattern possibly related to his father Alois’ cosmopolitanism, perceived by Hitler as contradicting “pronounced national sentiments” and described without apparent rancor by Hitler: “…he had arrived at more or less cosmopolitan views, which, despite his pronounced national sentiments, not only remained intact, but also affected me to some extent. [M.K., 51, Manheim trans.].”
Calm will switch to hysteria for the tension between cosmopolitanism and nationalism is loaded for Hitler, though apparently invisible to some Freudians.
[footnote:] I could not find the sentence regarding the tension between cosmopolitanism and nationalism in Saul Friedländer, Nazis et l’antisémitisme, 1971; nor in his Introduction to Gerald Fleming, Hitler and the Final Solution (Berkeley: UC Press, 1984): 3. Fleming is describing the debate regarding the exact period when Hitler became antisemitic. He quotes (but does not footnote) Mein Kampf, Chapter 2: “It is difficult if not impossible for me to say today when the word ‘Jew’ first gave me pause for serious reflection. I cannot recall ever having even heard the word in my father’s house while he was still alive. I believe that the old gentleman would have regarded as entirely backward a particular emphasis given to this word….At school I found no reason to question the picture I received from home, either [what picture?!!]….It was not until I was fourteen or fifteen that I came across the word ‘Jew’ more frequently, possibly in connection with political discussions.” This lapse of course supports the author’s thesis that Hitler was a frustrated artist losing himself in Wagner, hewing to racial theories that placed Jews “at the bottom end of the scale,” the “anti-race” representing “worthless life (8).” In this context, “anti-race” could mean pollutant to pure races, not cosmopolitanism as hostile to the politics of national identity.
[fn.cont.:] See also Rudolf Binion, HitlerAmong the Germans (N.Y.: Elsevier, 1976). Binion obliterates the father’s opposition to Hitler’s artistic ambitions and blames mother: “The Oedipal-minded will ask where Hitler’s father came into his politics. The answer is: in a by-motive. His pampering at the breast left him especially vulnerable to the classic moment of untruth when, in coming to fear castration by the father, a boy will remember his weaning, construed as a warning. Little Adolf saw his father, then, as the culprit behind his weaning–as liable for the mother’s breast having been removed. Bloch (the Jewish doctor who treated Klara Hitler’s breast cancer) threw back to the father once the mother had committed herself to his close care and to the castrating father when he ordered the mother’s breast removed, especially as the mother too was thereby castrated after a fashion…” But Hitler’s style is both Jewish and American: “Now for the touchiest riddle left. Hitler’s image of “the Jew” was a self-image over and beyond its distorted reference to Bloch in 1907. More exactly, one part of it was a self-reflection and he aped the other part…He styled himself like a Jewish prophet…[Hitler took the theme of racism and extermination from] the American heritage–by way of cowboys-and-Indian stories in the first instance.”
[fn.cont.:] The absence of the theme of filial criticism as parricide in the psychoanalytic scholarship on Hitler is not noted by Wolfgang Benz, “Warding Off The Past,” op.cit., even though he describes the outrage in Germany following an attempt by Niklas Frank “to engage in memory work in public, merciless toward both his own person and his father, Hitler’s infamous governor-general in occupied Poland….” (211). This incident confirms my impression that “the Jews” represent the critical spirit (objectivity) that spares no one in the search for an accurate history. It is curious and disturbing that the late Tim Mason, an historical materialist, claiming that there was no immediate revolutionary threat after 1930, found theories of the authoritarian family unhelpful in his attempt to grasp Nazi brutality; see “Open Questions on Nazism,” op.cit., 209. [end footnote]
[Medusa:] Compare several parallel passages from Mein Kampf (publ. 1925-1927) and the Secret Book (written 1928). Here is an increasingly vertiginous Hitler at wits end. Hitler wants his antisemitism to be understood as rational: grounded in fact, in study and personal experience. At first he was a cosmopolitan like his father, opposed to “organized hostility” against the Jews. But in Vienna, Hitler meets an “apparition” (an orthodox Jew with black caftan and black hair locks), becomes disillusioned with the Jewish “world press,” and feels the need to separate Germans from liberal Jews and liberal Jews from Zionists. Now he will unmask the hidden Jewishness (Zionism) of the liberal Jew, then the secret Jewish control of both white slavery and Social Democracy.
[Hitler, from “Learning and Suffering in Vienna”:] “If one knows this people, the veil of misconception about aim and meaning of the party fall from his eyes, and the ape-like meaning of Marxism rises grinning from the fog and mist of social talk (MK, 62).”
[Medusa:] Personal contact has brought demystification; Hitler switches from confusion to clarity and (temporary) peace: “When I recognized the Jew as the leader of Social Democracy, the scales began to fall from my eyes. With this a long spiritual struggle came to an end (MK, 70).”
No sooner has he seen the light when suddenly Hitler switches to a topic not set up in the immediately preceding paragraphs, moving in and out of hypnotic confusion:
[Hitler:] “Even in daily contact with my fellow-workmen I was struck by the extraordinary chameleon power by which they took several attitudes toward a single question, often within a few days, sometimes even within a few hours. I could scarcely understand how people who, taken singly, still held reasonable views could suddenly lose them the moment they came under the spell of the masses. Often it was enough to drive one to despair. I would argue for hours, and finally believe that this time at last I had broken the ice or cleared away some piece of nonsense, and would be feeling heartily glad of my success; and then I would be grieved to find that I had to begin all over again. It had all been futile. The madness of their opinions seemed always to swing back again like a perpetual pendulum.
“I could understand everything; that they were dissatisfied with their lot, cursed Fate, which often dealt them such hard knocks; hated the business men, who seemed to them the heartless tools of this Fate; railed against government offices, which in their eyes had no feeling for the workers’ situation [they, the workers, are scapegoating? C.S.]; that they demonstrated against food prices, and marched through the streets in support of their demands–all this one could still understand without referring to reason. But what I could not understand was the boundless hatred they felt for their own people, the way they despised its grandeur, defiled its history, and dragged great men in the gutter.
” This struggle against their own kind, their own nest, their own homeland, was as senseless as it was incomprehensible. It was unnatural.
They could be temporarily cured of this vice, but only for days, for weeks at most. If later one met a supposed convert, he had fallen back into his old self. His unnatural tendencies would have him again in their grip. (MK, Ludwig Lore translation, 1939, 70).
Persistently, Hitler tries to disabuse his “own little circle” of their “Marxist madness”:
[Hitler:] “The more disputes I had with them, the better acquainted I became with their dialectics. First they would count on the stupidity of their adversaries, and then, if there was no way out, they pretended stupidity themselves. If all else failed, then they claimed they did not understand correctly, or being challenged, instantly jumped to another subject [!], and talked truisms; but if these were agreed to they at once applied them to entirely different matters, and then in turn, being caught again, they would dodge and have no exact knowledge. No matter where you seized one of these apostles, your hand grasped slimy ooze, which poured in separate streams through the fingers, only to unite again the next moment…I was often simply paralyzed. One did not know which to admire more–their fluency or their artistry in lying…(72).”
[footnote:] In other editions “slimy ooze” is translated as “slimy jelly” (Houghton Mifflin, 1939, ed. John Chamberlain, et al); and “jelly-like slime” (Houghton Mifflin, 1943, 1971, ed. Ralph Manheim).
[Medusa:] Next, Hitler has another (?) odd idea of what constitutes a logical opposition; he seems to be oscillating between class collaboration and antimodernism: “On the one hand it was the duty of every thinking person to force his way into the front ranks of the accursed [the cosmopolitan Social Democratic] movement, thus perhaps to prevent it from going to extremes; on the other hand, however, the actual creators of this national disease must have been true devils. Only in the brain of a monster–not of a human being–could the plan take shape for an organization the eventual result of whose activity must be the collapse of human civilization and the desolation of the world (MK, 73).”
[Hitler:] “ The ultimate expression of this general valuation is the historical, cultural image of a people, which reflects the sum of all the radiations of its blood value or of the race values united in it. Blood mixing and lowering of the race are not seldom introduced through a so-called predilection for things foreign, which in reality is an underestimation of one’s own cultural values as against alien peoples. Once a people no longer appreciates the cultural expression of its own spiritual life conditioned through its blood, or even begins to feel ashamed of it, in order to turn to alien expressions of life, it renounces the strength which lies in the harmony of its blood and the cultural life which has sprung from it. It becomes torn apart, unsure in its judgment of the world picture and its expressions, loses the perception and the feeling for its own purposes, and in place of this sinks into a confusion of international ideas, conceptions, and the cultural hodge-podge springing from them. Then the Jew can make his entry in any form and this master of international poisoning and race corruption will not rest until he has thoroughly uprooted and thereby corrupted such a people. The end is then the loss of a definite unitary race value and as a result, the final decline. [Hitler’s Secret Book,1928, 28-29].”
[Medusa:] Is Hitler re-experiencing the suspended contradiction which did, in imagination, shatter the “intact” father? Is father the hypercritical devil whose excesses, treachery and ambiguity empty the world of meaning, demanding obedience without a clear set of rules? Had the desire to escape such confusion turned the adolescent boy into a murderer? These passages may take our understanding of Hitler’s psyche beyond the suggestions of Erich Fromm, Wilhelm Reich, Adorno and Horkheimer, and other Freudians that Hitler, with other authoritarian personalities, possesses a sadistic-anal social character, is constantly callous and over-armored, is torn between defiance and submission, and perceives Jews as sexual aggressors and castrating fathers.
Such psychoanalytic explanations are too abstract and ahistoric, unrooted in Hitler’s subjective experience of his life, his self-understanding. By following his psychodynamics as Hitler himself defined them, we glimpsed a man with no boundaries and terrified that he may lose his balance: open the door even a crack to the German craze for objectivity and Hitler (unlike Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener”) literally does not know where he is standing, where he begins and others leave off, who is a Jew and who is not. There is no “I” there, no safe prospect, no cognition, no “bourgeois subjectivity,” therefore no observing ego, no possibility of a relatively complete history, no sublimity.
[footnote:] Cf. E. Jäckel’s very different observation of Hitler’s “panic fear of changing his mind,” not the same as being caught in double-binds and switched no matter what he does.
[Medusa:] When Hitler says “they” to whom is he referring? Workers, Jewish whoremasters, Social Democratic pamphleteers and the masses have run together like “slimy ooze.” Is this an image of the dissolution of his class seeping through the crystal clean facade, a quicksand so powerfully dragging him to hell that Hitler, even armed with “exact knowledge” and “racial value,” may not enter the movement to moderate it? Like any gentle chivalrous knight he steels himself only to destroy the monster; in this mood he is turning away from class collaboration and its intolerable suspension of cosmopolitanism and nationalism. If the Jew perishes, Hitler saves himself from father, and father from himself: thus he has reconstructed the lovely family with no double-binds; is this the flight to romantic authoritarianism that some of “the children” of multiculturalism have taken since the 1960s? Obviously, Hitler’s panic in the Gorgon face of ambiguity could have been transferred to the perception of interpenetration of categories and points of view expressed in cubism and other forms of aesthetic modernism (Hinz: “problematic or unfinished work”) proscribed by the Nazis. From Mein Kampf to the Table Talk, then, Hitler constantly returns to the theme of his painful confusion when asked to understand modern (abstract, constantly revised, internally contradictory) analyses of society; indeed he will directly associate to talk of exterminating or otherwise removing the Jews.
[footnote:] It need not be the Jew, it may be a modern woman who switches Hitler into panic. See Table Talk entry for Feb.5, 1942 on Baroness Abegg, in Dietrich Eckart’s opinion, “the most intelligent he’d ever known”: “I’d have been willing to accept the intelligence if it hadn’t been accompanied by the most spiteful tongue imaginable. The woman was a real scorpion. She was as blonde as flax, with blue eyes and excessively long canine teeth, like an Englishwoman. I admit she was remarkably intelligent…She had travelled a lot, all over the world. She was always in one or other of two extreme states. The first kept her at home in a state of almost complete collapse. She would sprawl on her veranda, like a run-down battery, whilst everybody around her was kept busy attending to her. The second state was one of incredible petulance–she’d fly into a rage, sweep out like a whirlwind, climb up somewhere and come rushing torrentially down again.” See his earlier remarks against feminism in a speech to the National Socialist Women’s Organization, Sept. 1934: “…It is not true, as Jewish intellectuals assert, that respect depends on the overlapping of spheres of activities of the sexes; this respect [Nazi] demands that neither sex should try to do that which belongs to the sphere of the other. It lies in the last resort in the fact that each knows that the other is doing everything necessary to maintain the whole community….” quoted Documents on Nazis, 1919-1945, introduced and edited Jeremy Noakes and Geoffrey Pridham (London: Jonathan Cape): 364.