YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

February 18, 2010

Nazi sykewar, American style, part four

“Opossum” by Godeleine de Rosamel

Today, the image of the Nazi has become a boring cliché, moreover the label is thrown around to the point of satiety.  Some appealing to “the right” believe that statist progressives are Nazis or Fascists, while the New Left, and the democratic left alike, pin the label on “fascist Republicans,” “the military-industrial complex,” “Wall Street,” various narcissists, and most recently, “tea-baggers.”

This is a terrible development, because we may be so bored by the subject of propaganda and its deployment by rival ideologies that we jeopardize our own sense of reality, and it is that firm grip on the real that constitutes a healthy identity in the individual (I am rejecting “identity” as constituted by ethnicity or by some indeterminate, fluid, interaction with the environment–both definitions dominate the academy today). The point of this series on undeservedly obscure book German Psychological Warfare, now concluding, is to alert my readers to the centrality of military psychiatry for the presumably protofascist masses (“the little man”) from the first world war on through to the present. My research into this subject was a direct result of Major Nidal Hasan’s jihad in Texas. I realized that although I had been studying various types of mental health therapies and their usually invisible ideologies for decades, I knew almost nothing about the U.S. military and its preferred treatment of troubled and traumatized soldiers, sailors, and marines.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered the leadership role of Dr. Roy R. Grinker, Sr. (See https://clarespark.com/2010/02/10/a-brooding-meditation-on-intimacy-and-distance/ for some of psychiatrist Grinker’s chief ideas.)

Grinker, a “functionalist” to the core, was a follower of the literature professors, sociologists and social psychologists who were major figures in transforming Melville’s character Captain Ahab from a romantic artist or tragic hero into a hyper-individualist, a demagogue, a symbol of Amerika, and an “anticipation” of Hitler and Stalin. And this shift in Melville readings from creative individualism to group-thinking, mind-deadening “adjustment” (the latter seen by such as Grinker as the favorable outcome of vanguard “general systems theory” or “interdisciplinary” studies) happened exactly at the same time that leading “progressive” capitalists were adopting Keynesian economics and supporting the mushrooming state of the New Deal. Which is to say, with great dismay, that the dread “right-wing” neoliberals are more plausible than the various factions of “the left” when they call their rivals “fascists” or “Nazis.” (I personally find the comparison ahistoric and damaging to a rational political discourse. I would rather call these particular progressives and their followers in mental health services and education as authoritarian liberals or scientistic conservative enlighteners, which is both accurate and less incendiary.)

The purpose of this particular series was not to write tiresomely on Hitler, Goebbels, and their all too familiar abuse of language in the new mass media (as one Facebook friend assumed), but to demonstrate that the “progressive” American defensive posture as world war once again loomed in the late 1930s was disgracefully contemptuous of ordinary citizens. In its zeal to combat midwestern isolationism or potentially subversive ethnics of German Italian, or Japanese ancestry (as one sociologist has advised me), this cohort was in some ways indistinguishable from mind-managing  Nazis. The idea that Harvard professors could appropriate Nazi methods and defuse their content to make it adaptable to democratic practice was hubris of a kind that has not been widely publicized, though I spelled it out in my book Hunting Captain Ahab: Psychological Warfare and the Melville Revival, and also in an article posted here:  https://clarespark.com/2009/12/13/klara-hitlers-son-and-jewish-blood/.  My published study of the humanities curriculum as managed by “progressives” from the Civil War on (and in their organicism, a.k.a. ‘moderation’, reminiscent of the antebellum South) got many wonderful notices, but no reviewer reported the disturbing content I have just laid out.

I have also made clear in prior blogs that I am not against appropriate regulatory or stimulatory functions of the federal government because of an ideological commitment to root-and-branch “local control” and “laissez-faire economics.” So I am not attacking all forms of statism in this series, just the ones that are crazy-making and authoritarian while pretending to be sane and emancipating from illegitimate authority. Parts one, two, and three should have made the relinquishing of independent critical thought obvious to the reader, for instance in Kimball Young’s concluding remarks (see part three).

In this final blog on the content of German Psychological Warfare, edited by Ladislas Farago, and published in several editions by the prestigious Committee For National Morale in 1940, I will quote a sampling of the bibliography that suggests convergence between the statism of the Nazis in inculcating the “organic” society and the brand of “democratic traditions” perpetrated by leading social scientists who continue to dominate the mental health profession (though there may be resistance of which I am not aware). As advised by a German author (quoted below), their common aim was to tame the overly curious, overly skeptical, modern urban masses, who had sufficient education to question policies over which they had had no oversight or input.  Just as Grinker stigmatized as deviant the pushy and childish flier who criticized the suicide missions ordered by his superior officer (see https://clarespark.com/2009/12/09/strategic-regression-in-the-greatest-generation/), the social scientists associated with the Committee For National Morale quietly erased the dissenting individual and called such practices appropriate adaptation to democracy in the interest of national defense. But we were definitely not fascists.

The remainder of this blog lists some of the prominent members of the Committee For National Morale, and copies some of the bibliographic entries that support my argument as laid out above, but mostly in my book:  the little men would be merged emotionally with their comrades and “stable” leaders, leaders who were protecting them from their boastfulness in thinking Everyman should know the truth, and stuffing cotton in their collective (upper-class) ears to shut out her/his hypercritical kibbitzing.



The book was edited by Ladislas Farago “with the cooperation of” Harvard professors Gordon W. Allport and Edwin G. Boring, along with other figures associated with Harvard University: Dr. John G. Beebe-Center and Dr.  Stanley S. Stevens;  also Dr. Floyd L. Ruch of USC. “Interpretative Summary” by Prof. Kimball Young of Queens College.  Others prominent in the Committee and quoted in my book Hunting Captain Ahab are Arthur Upham Pope, Gregory Bateson, Gardner Murphy, Henry A. Murray, Goodwin B. Watson, Geoffrey Gorer, and Horace Kallen. Members either of the executive- or of sub-committees whose names will be familiar to many students of the period include Gifford Pinchot, Dr. Frank Kingdon, Herbert Bayard Swope, Dr. David M. Levy, George Gallup, Frank M. Stanton, Walter Wanger, Louis Adamic, Eliot Janeway, Margaret Mead, Elmer Davis, Owen Lattimore, Edgar A. Mowrer, and A. Philip Randolph.  The page that lists their membership also lays out the purpose of the Committee: (besides research and “the formulation of controlling principles of Morale)…3. The planning and promotion of practical measures to protect and enhance the country’s Morale in all groups and in every typical activity.”



“43. Spengler, O.  Preussentum und Sozialismus. Muenchen: Beck, 1920.

PRUSSIANISM  AND SOCIALISM. Spengler, a philosopher turned political prophet, ‘discovered’ during the war years the close identity of Prussianism to Socialism. Prussianism and “genuine Socialism”—not of Marx, but of Friedrich Wilhelm I, which was authoritarian, anti-democratic and anti-revolutionary—are consolidated in the old Prussian spirit and are equal to each other because both mean power. This thesis was taken up by the Nazis in what was called ‘Socialism of action.’ Socialism meaning comradeship, service, and duty, not class struggle.” [And what “moderate” would not find this appealing? CS]

“85. Vershofen, W.  Fuerung im Arbeitsleben. Ber. Kongr.dtsch.Ges. Psychol., 1935.

LEADERSHIP IN INDUSTRY AND LABOR: Moral and mental qualities are considered more indispensable for factory management than technical skill. The author deals with his subject from the Nazi leader-principle angle. An extreme interpretation of this principle, as presented in this paper, leads Vershofen to describe the producer as a leader and the consumer as a follower. All conflicts of leadership in industry and labor must be settled by the state.” [So the Americans will find a moderate statism to harmonize conflicts? CS]

“192. Hesse, K. Wandlung des Soldaten. Berlin: Mittler, 1930.

TRANSFORMATION OF THE SOLDIER: Hesse considers the officer a pedagogue as well as a leader. His relationship with his subordinates should be that of a teacher to his students. He must set himself up as a model soldier and awaken military virtues, spirit of comradeship and a consciousness of ‘military socialism’ in his charges. The training of the professional ‘leader-soldier’ should include motor mechanics, electricity, photography, architecture, gliding, stenography, military geography, a knowledge of foreign languages (French, English, Polish, and Russian), theatrical arts, and singing.”

“249. Bircher, E.  Militaerpsychologie. Schweiz.Milit.Blaetter, 1919….

MILITARY PSYCHOLOGY: Dr. Bircher is a prominent Swiss physician, now serving as a military commander in Switzerland’s citizen army. …He maintains that, regardless of new weapons in the technological sense, the balance between victory and defeat depends on the solution of individual and mass morale problems.”

“329. Pinschovius, K. Die seelische Widerstandskraft im modernen Krieg. Oldenburg: Stalling, 1936.

THE POWER OF MENTAL RESISTANCE IN MODERN WAR: The author, an army psychologist of great reputation and a poet in his own right, states that mechanized wars present new and dangerous psychological problems which “superficial remedies like propaganda” are unable to solve. His book, a courageous and original critique of the mass-psychological approach to these problems, demands the recognition of the ‘rational qualities of modern man whom life in the city and technological skill have accustomed to asking questions before making up his mind.’ The book is a veritable mine of interesting conclusions especially valuable for a democracy where a rational approach to problems raised by mechanized war is still permissible.” [Cf. part one of this series. So did the Committee believe that their approach to Morale was not irrational and propagandistic? What would their psychologists mean by “balance” and “adjustment” and how would that be achieved in the patient/client?]

“446. Schoenemann, F.  Die Kunst der Massenbeeinflussung in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika. Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlagsanst, 1924.

THE ART OF INFLUENCING THE MASSES IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The author, a prominent professor at the Berlin University and the Propaganda Ministry’s own Hochschule fuer Politik, is recognized as the Nazi’s foremost expert on the United States. In this book he analyzes the factors and forces influencing public opinion in the United States. In another lecture, he distinctly warned against the prevalent German tendency of underestimating America as a potential world power when he said: ‘America is much more important for us and it has much greater influence on the development of European politics than most of us realize. It would be wrong either to underrate and slight or fail to study the United States just as thoroughly and systematically as other great powers in the world. Such past short-sightedness caused us to make a serious blunder and we simply cannot afford to repeat it.’”

[Schoenemann directed the first German Melville dissertation, by one Karl Sundermann, filed in 1937. Did he think that Herman Melville had revealed the essential (“fissured”) American character? National character was a preoccupation of many of the Germans or Nazis cited. CS]



  1. […] Party (Nationalist Socialist Workers Party). (For what “Socialist” meant to Nazis see https://clarespark.com/2010/02/18/nazi-sykewar-american-style-part-four/,)This misconstrues what socialism meant to Hitler and his associates. “Socialist” referred to […]

    Pingback by Fascism: what it is, what it is not | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — March 11, 2014 @ 11:28 pm | Reply

  2. If you are interested in Schoenemann’s career (also after 1945) cf.: Christian H. Freitag: Die Entwicklung derAmerikastudien in Berlin bis 1945 unter Berücksichtigung der Amerikaarbeit staatlicher und privater Organisationen. Berlin 1977

    Comment by Piontek — December 29, 2011 @ 12:19 pm | Reply

  3. Can you direct me to any information on Dr. Schoenemann after WWII? Did he have any writings? Do you have any information on his family? I believe he settled near Husum Germany after WWII.
    Thank you

    Comment by Tom Glenn — August 20, 2010 @ 6:57 pm | Reply

    • Dear Tom Glenn, My knowledge of the very influential Schoenmann is limited to scraps I picked up in my research on the reception of Melville in Germany. He was a major figure and a Nazi supporter. What happened to him after the war is indeed an excellent project, but for a researcher who is well versed in the German language and in postwar German politics.
      I believe that his publications were listed in Max Weinreich’s book on Hitler’s Professors. If he continued to publish, that would be most fascinating. Please keep me posted if you find anything.

      Comment by clarespark — August 20, 2010 @ 7:17 pm | Reply

    • re: Schoenemann’s publications see detailed bibliography in: Christian H. Freitag: Die Entwicklung der Amerikastudien in Berlin bis 1945 unter Berücksichtigung der Amerikaarbeit staatlicher und privater Organisationen. Berlin 1977

      Comment by Piontek — December 8, 2016 @ 4:33 pm | Reply

  4. […] Links to Nazi sykewar, American style Filed under: 1 — clarespark @ 1:06 am Tags: Committee for National Morale, Ladislas Farago, progressives https://clarespark.com/2010/02/18/nazi-sykewar-american-style-part-four/ […]

    Pingback by Links to Nazi sykewar, American style « YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — April 18, 2010 @ 1:06 am | Reply

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