The Clare Spark Blog

August 29, 2009

Managing the little man, Hitler style, at Harvard

Klara Hitler

Here is an excerpt  from my article Clare Spark, “Klara Hitler’s Son: The Langer Report on Hitler’s Mind,” Social Thought and Research, Vol.22, No. 1/2 (1999): 113-37.  The full article is now on the website. I worked long and hard on this research because I honestly could not believe my eyes as I read Murray’s work for FDR on Hitler or Langer’s supposed secret report to the OSS. This blog is the teaser. Go to my blog of Aug. 31, 2009 for the full treatment (pun intended). Or for the background to this appropriation of Nazi techniques, see Four segments pick out highlights of Ladislas Farago’s important book, sponsored by leading progressives, that explains why they must wage “total war” to mobilize American public opinion and squash dissent.

[From the worksheets on “civilian morale”: Henry A. Murray and Gordon Allport, 1941: see] “What are the strengths and weaknesses of Nazi ideology as an instrument for world conquest?”

[Murray to FDR, 1943:] Hitler has a number of unusual abilities of which his opponents should not be ignorant.  Not only is it important to justly appraise the strength of an enemy but it is well to know whether or not he possesses capacities and techniques which can be appropriated to good advantage.  Hitler’s chief abilities, realizations, and principles of action as a political figure, all of which involve an uncanny knowledge of the average man, are briefly these:…. [1]

[Walter Langer:]…It can scarcely be denied that [Hitler] has some extraordinary abilities where the psychology of the average man is concerned.  He has been able, in some manner or other, to unearth and apply successfully many factors pertaining to group psychology, the importance of which has not been generally recognized and some of which we might adopt to good advantage.  [63].

Twenty-seven “factors” follow; those which “we might adopt” are not specified. These passages become even more gripping in light of the Langer report’s conclusions:

“It is Hitler’s ability to play upon the unconscious tendencies of the German people and to act as their spokesman that has enabled him to mobilize their energies and direct them into the same channels through which he believed he had found a solution to his own personal conflicts.  The result has been an extraordinary similarity in thinking, feeling, and acting in the German people.  It is as though Hitler had paralyzed the critical functions of the individual Germans and had assumed the role for himself.  As such he has been incorporated as a part of the personalities of his individual supporters and is able to dominate their mental processes.  This phenomenon lies at the very root of the peculiar bond that exists between Hitler as a person, and the German people and places it beyond the control of any purely rational, logical, or intellectual appeal.  In fighting for Hitler these persons are now unconsciously fighting for what appears to them to be their own psychological integrity (206).”

The Murray-Allport worksheets (1941) had directed a national constituency concerned with “civilian morale” to

” Quote passages from the original unexpurgated edition of Mein Kampf, in which Hitler expresses his cynical contempt of the masses, and the necessity of deceiving them.  Quote him in order to prove that he planned the war and devised the tactics.  Ridicule Mein Kampf as a Bible, contrasting paragraphs from the two sources.” [cf. my blog on Harvard social psychologists and “civilian morale” for other examples.]

Jewish blood was the source of brilliant insights, emotional disturbance, and the Big Lie.[2]  Internalized antisemitic stereotypes of switching Jews subverted Langer’s attempt at “a realistic appraisal of the German situation.”  The witch-hunters, to a man, will extrude the unpredictably dirty materialism of Melville’s character Isabel[3] for the limpid regularity of crystals.  A fragment from the 1930s provides the bridge to the Langer report; it marks Sergei Eisenstein’s flight from romanticism and montage to the cult of personality, from the sensibility associated with popular revolution to neo-classicism, from endless agitation to the final solution….

For a related blog series see

[1] Dr. Henry A. Murray, “Analysis of The Personality of Adolph [sic] Hitler, With Predictions of His Future Behavior and Suggestions for Dealing With Him Now and After Germany’s Surrender,” October 1943, p.211, ff.  Murray’s list of Hitler’s skills are almost identical to those enumerated in the Langer report.  It is curious that Gatzke did not mention this in his refutation of Langer’s claim that Murray’s report was not even read by his team before it was filed with the O.S.S. in 1943!  However, there are important differences in interpretation between the two works; e.g.Murray, while giving credence to the Jewish blood, does not discuss Hitler’s sex life as a central determinant, but attempts a class analysis and gives weight to the Romantic Hitler’s reading and his life experience, the brutal lower-middle class father who opposed his son’s ambitions to become an artist, etc.  The Murray-Allport worksheets for their Harvard seminar on “Civilian Morale” (1941) do contain allusions to a deranged sexuality along with inferences drawn from Hitler’s physiognomy, but “social milieu” is deemed more important (“Hitler The Man…” p.11).

[2] Hitler believed that the masses were feminine and irrational, but he does not present himself as a cynical swindler in Mein Kampf.  He invariably paints himself as the good reliable father, protecting the gulllible people against switching Jews, the Fifth Column.  In both MK and Table Talk, he explains that Nazi propaganda must simplify, not falsify.

[3] Melville’s Dark Lady in Pierre, or the Ambiguities; Isabel is the bearer of a revised family history.

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