Monday, Oct. 22, 2012
The Pursuit of the Nazi Mind: Hitler, Hess, and the Analysts (Oxford University Press), by Daniel Pick
Daniel Pick’s apologetic tone is a measure of how far Freud has fallen. The University of London history professor has written a fascinating account of psychoanalysts who joined the war effort in the United Kingdom and the United States, studying the tortured psyche of Nazi leader Rudolf Hess, who flew to Scotland on an unauthorized peace mission, and preparing detailed reports on Hitler and other German leaders. Many participants were wary of psychoanalyzing men they had never met, but the interest of their governments in their findings testifies to Freud’s sway over the educated public by mid-century. Pick plays agnostic on the veracity of Freudian analysis. “Whether psychoanalysis is now admired or reviled, it is evident that historically it has mattered,” he writes. But the questions raised have relevance today. Is there a “mass psychology of fascism” or an “authoritarian personality type”? The psychiatrists who analyzed Hess and Hitler answered with certainty.