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Adolph Hitler was a tyrant, Leader and Reich Chancellor of Germany and slaughterer of millions. He was an Austrian born painter, soldier and politician who, in 1933 became President of Germany. During his presidency Hitler exploited his position of power to act upon his own anti-Semitic beliefs and dogmas and in doing so dragged the German nation into the depths of World War II. Throughout his reign Hitler believed his actions to be sanctimonious and he justified the killing of millions of innocent Jews as being in Germany's best interests. He is a psychological enigma and to assess his mental state and motives isn't an easy task; it is something which requires an in-depth analysis of his childhood and development in order to fully comprehend his behaviours and actions. I intend to examine Adolf Hitler's behaviour as an adult in relation to his development as an infant; this is best explained by utilising the psychosexual development theory of theorist Sigmund Freud.
Born on the 20th of April 1889 to Clara and Alois Hitler, Adolph grew up in a modest Austrian town near to the German border. As was typical of this time his father Alois took no interest in the rearing of Adolph, this was left to his mother Clara who doted on her son "Adi". It has been well documented that young Adolph and his father did not see eye to eye and this is something which he discusses at great length within his book Mein Kampf (1923); stating:-
"... my father was a civil servant, my mother gave all to the household, and devoted above all to us children in eternal, loving care" (Hitler, 1923)
Note the cold tone he uses to discuss his father and contrast this to the loving description he provides of his mother. It is clear from this that there are some definite tensions between Hitler and his father even at such a young age. This acts as a clear indicator of the Oedipus complex which was suffered by young Adolph which will be elaborated upon later in this paper however to fully analyse Hitler's personality care must be taken to discuss the earlier stages of his psychosexual development. It has been well documented that Hitler's mother Clara was very domesticated and she took a great deal of pride in her home and children. Her cleanliness and tidiness was, at times, extreme. This is something which is believed to have been mirrored in Hitler's toilet training and was successful in creating a great amount of tension in this area.
Sigmund Freud claimed that severe conflicts during this secondary stage of infantile development can cause life-long fixations such as the constant desire and compulsion to be clean, a need for order and an irrational fear of dirt and bacteria. This fixation left Hitler ill-equipped to deal with this trauma as it is something which plays a vital role in the development of all children. To look at Hitler as an adult, it was apparent that he was unable to deal with testing and adult situations in a mature and responsible way. This tension manifested itself within the extensive use of dung and dirt comparisons and imagery he uses within his speeches and his writing. At one point he even compared the German people to cow dung and likened the idea of charitable giving to that of manure.
He wrote that Vienna, his country's capital, was a place:-
"Where flourished the dissolving bacilli of humanity, the Jews." (Hitler, 1923)
Hitler was scared of dirt and bacteria and believed that it represented a weakness both within the individual body and within society as a whole. From this is can be seen that he developed syphiliphobia; a phobia of contracting the sexually transmitted disease syphilis. He regularly compared it to the plague and featured heavily in his writing having devoted nearly an entire section of Mein Kampf to its atrocities. It is clear that Adolph was afraid of impurity and all that it represented. Ironically this was something which stems from his own family life as his family was in-bred; his mother was the half niece of his father. It can be said that this, to some extent spurred Hitler into believing that he had impure, dirty blood as it has been reported that he would regularly put leeches onto his body to purify himself.
His fear of disease and bacteria even saturated itself into his appreciation and views of art and culture: he believed that pure and proper art was that of a healthy, German born artist and he strived and promoted all native German art, literature and music. Whilst doing this he termed all other progressive and modern forms of art as degenerate and he attempted to purge Germany of it stating it was nothing more than a disease which compromised and threatened what he called the "healthy Aryan Germanic nation".
To refer back to Freud's psychosexual development theory it is apparent that the anal stage (the second stage in his theory) is one which can cause a crippling fear of dirt, bacteria and lack of order. In Hitler's case it caused a great fear of disease and infection which he used as a basis and justification of his hatred towards the Jewish community. Anti-Semitic views were rife amongst German nationalist however they did not permeate the consciousness of the normal German on the street. By comparing Jews to a bacterium and by stating that they are a threat to Germany and its national security Hitler's aim was to recruit the nation to his way of thinking. His ultimate aim was to "cleanse" Germany of the Jews.
Moreover, it is apparent that young Adolph progressed to the phallic stage of Freud's model of psychosexual development. This stage is when the child's libido is moved from their anus and becomes centred on their genitals. It is at this point in the child's development that conflicts such as Oedipus and Electra complexes may develop. The strong libidinal attachment between Hitler and his mother gives rise to the idea that in his father's absence she frequently allowed young Adolph to practice certain behaviours which his father would have disapproved of. From this it is safe to presume that this period of his life was one of extreme joy and happiness with his mother except for the occasions where his father would disturb this pleasure. Additionally, Hitler's father Alois was known to be a very aggressive and violent man who struck him and his mother regularly. This would no doubt have had a big impact on Hitler and his opinions of both of his parents and would have fuelled the hatred which he already had of his father. Even on the rare occasion when his father did not act aggressively or lift his whip to anyone the fact that he would take attention and focus off Adolph was enough to instill in him the unconscious beginnings of an Oedipus complex.
Referring back to psychoanalytic theory, Sigmund Freud described the Oedipus complex in his work "The Interpretation of Dreams" as follows :-
"It is as though-to put it bluntly-a sexual preference were making itself felt at an early age: as though boys regarded their fathers and girls their mothers as rivals in love, whose elimination could not fail to be to their advantageâ€¦ it is the fate of all of us, perhaps, to direct our first sexual impulse towards our mother and our first hatred and our first murderous wish against our father." (Freud, 1900)
It is apparent from the above that Freud regarded the existence of oedipal feelings as a normal part of infancy and something which is resolved simply by the child identifying with the parent of the opposite sex. Freud stated that the relationships between mother, father, and child where both loving but were undernoted by a great deal of competition and rivalry. He theorized that throughout his infancy (normally between 3 and 6 years) each young boy displays extreme sexual feelings of love towards his mother and a rivalry with his father. Freud has postulated that castration fear and anxiety is the main reason for the resolution of the Oedipus complex, the young boy surrendering his sexual feelings and intent towards his mother over the loss of the penis. This fear is successful in realigning the infant's personality so that he is able to identify with his father and is able to focus all his sexual thoughts and desires onto other female figures.
Furthermore the application of this theory to Hitler's complex proves difficult. Freud's theory is somewhat simplistic as it makes the assumption that all oedipal feelings are easily resolved through identifying with either the mother or the father and does not entertain the idea that a child may be unable to identify with either parent. In a reversed complex it has been hinted that if a young boy is unable to identify with his father then he will therefore identify with his mother and vice versa for young girls. Freud has stated that if this happens then the young boy is likely to become homosexual or bisexual as, in his view, this does not fully resolve the complex. It was suggested that Hitler was homosexual, this is however unfounded and has been cast off as mere speculation. There is a major incident within the life of young Hitler which demonstrates this and is very telling of his future sexuality and hints towards the idea that he was unable to identify with either paternal figure. At a very young age it has been documented that Hitler walked in on his parents during sexual intercourse which, like any child, caused young Adolph a great deal of confusion. He viewed this as a brutal and violent attack on his mother at the hands of his father and deplored his father for it whilst also deploring the weak, subservient way in which his mother gave in to his father's sexual desires.
Expanding on Freud's theory if a young boy identifies with his father then he is to become heterosexual and, conversely, if a young boy fails to identify with his father and identifies with his mother then he is more likely to be homosexual. Building on this then if the child fails to identify with either parent then can it not be suggested that the child is more likely to be classed as asexual? The notion that Hitler was asexual was a popular theory amongst those within the Third Reich who stated that he found a sick sort of pleasure out of the perversions that his regime imposed over Jews and other groups that he persecuted. Take as an example the opinion of Berlin social reporter Bella Fromm in her diary entitled "Blood and Banquets: A Berlin Social Diary":-
"I have never believed the rumours of homosexuality that have been spread about Hitler. I rather believe, and many people have felt the same way, that he is asexual, or perhaps impotent, finding a sexual sublimation through cruelty. They take private films of an especially gruesome nature in concentration camps. Films that only the Fuehrer sees. These are rushed to him and shown, night after night. (Bromm, 1942)
Fromm has indicated here that instead of expressing sexual enjoyment via a healthy intimate relationship Hitler found sexual enjoyment by creating perverse theatres of cruelty and brutality; finding enjoyment in the suffering of those he hated. With reference to Freudian theory this kind of sublimation is an ego defence mechanism which is designed to protect the self from anxiety, and to provide a refuge from a situation which one cannot currently cope. Hitler was quite clearly unable to cope with his inability to consummate a physical sexual relationship and so he transformed this libidinal urge into something which is more socially useful. In his warped mind he saw the genocide of millions of Jews as socially and morally justified and focussed all his energies on this. Additionally it has been suggested by Erikson that during his speeches he would speak with his hands and sometimes make unconscious sexual gestures towards the audiences. He stated that:-
"After puberty, masturbation represents a regression. The libido inhibited from the heterosexual object regresses to the masturbation's need... Hitler literally spoke with his hands, through which he "made love", to himself... Hitler masturbated in public and the public identified with him. He gave full expression to the most repressed needs of his followers who saw in him their most truthful representative. "
Here Erikson is stating that Adolph is acting out physical Freudian slips and in doing so he is displaying his inner sexual regressions and frustrations; transferring the passion and vigour associated with love- making into his speech. His audience agree with the warped views and thoughts he is expressing, his zeal and aggression increasing their rapturous applause and gratification.
In summary, it is clear that Adolph Hitler's genocidal crusade against the Jewish community was an amalgamation of a lot of childhood neurosis. His inherited anal retentive personality created an inbuilt fear of anything dirty and impure infecting the body which developed into a fear of syphilis and disease. This phobia transpired into a societal fear that the Jewish were not pure and like a disease would weaken and poison the pure Aryan and Germanic nation. Combine this with a crippling Oedipus complex which stunted his sexual maturity and ability to have close relationships and friendships then it is quite clear that Hitler was nothing more than an emotionless dictator bent on his own agenda. He found perverse pleasure and delight in the suffering of his enemy and cared for no one other than his Motherland Germany. Journalists have recently reported that as a young boy Adolph was known to suffer from recurring nightmares and his physician was considering referring him to a psychiatrist in Vienna, a Dr Sigmund Freud to be exact. His father interfered and stated that psychiatry was a load of nonsense, dismissing the idea completely. This is just another contributory factor which undoubtedly added to Hitler's neurosis and therefore allows the conclusion that Hitler was a mere product of his parent's own complexes and inhibitions. His father's arrogance and narrow-mindedness inadvertently sealed the fate of millions of Jews. Freud possessed the knowledge and the skills to rewrite history and to save Judaism from the terrifying dictatorship of the Nazi party; he just wasn't given the chance.