Notes on “The Psychological Analysis of Adolf Hitler”

In 1943/44, the Office of Strategic Services (the predecessor the CIA) completed a study called “A Psychological Analysis of Adolf Hitler” It was approved for release into public records in 1999. Here are some points I gleaned from reading the first 2/3 of the manuscript. I bring this up here because I’ve long maintained that history is this-story:

  • Adolf Hitler believed Germany to be the greatest nation in history
  • that no on in history was as equipped as he was to bring Germans to a state of supremacy
  • believed himself to not only be the greatest leader but the greatest wartime leader and had stated on numerous occasions that he was unsurpassed in the fields of economics, education, foreign affairs, architecture/real estate and women’s interests.
  • believed that those who contradicted him were not simply attacking him but the Reich itself
  • believed that he alone was equipped to pull Germany out of its economic crisis
  • neither confirmed nor denied conspiracy theories about his pre-ordained destiny (astrological cults at the time) but actively appealed to the conspiracist followers
  • was deeply suspicious of intellectuals and book-learning; much preferring to be guided by instincts
  • started to refer to himself as the “voice in the wilderness” (an allusion to John the Baptist) but after his imprisonment began to call himself the “fuehrer” (an allusion to the Messiah/Jesus)
  • He directly compares himself with Jesus in ‘draining’ the Reichstag of its “money changers” (i.e., Jews)
  • In private however, he deplored the compassionate Christ as being infected with “effeminate, pity-ethics”
  • was determined to build a large public infrastructure to immortalize his reign (i.e., “Hitler Highways”)
  • was very conscious of having small legs and feet and often hid them by wearing heavy boots
  • he was a tireless speaker and could speak for several hours every day
  • his speeches very long, repetitious but seemed to have a hypnotic effect on his audience
  • his primary talent resided in arousing the emotions of the crowd by acting “as a loudspeaker proclaiming their most secret desires, the least permissible instincts, the sufferings and personal revolts…”
  • Before coming to power, almost all of his speeches focused on 3 themes: 1) the treason of the November criminals 2) the rule of Marxists must be broken 3) the world domination of the Jews
  • From Mein Kampf: “The psyche of the masses does not respond to anything weak of half-way…”
  • Hitler goaded his audiences into believing that they had been acting too ‘feminine’ and cowardly by not standing up for what they believed—he wanted to incite his crowds to reclaim what they secretly believed should have been theirs alone
  • As Hitler believed that crowds were moved by passion rather than logic—and were therefore feminine—he sought to employ a number of women in public speaking roles in his press
  • his followers say him as a tireless worker who had sacrificed his own pleasures to the task of restoring glory to the Reich
  • His #1 value in others was loyalty
  • Once elected, his propaganda team made it known that he was a promise keeper: “The face of Germany was being lifted at an incredible speed. Hitler was keeping his promises; he was accomplishing the impossible. Every success in diplomacy, every social reform was heralded as world-shaking in importance. And for each success, Hitler modestly accepted all the credit…”
  • Hitler’s rally’s began to resemble religious services with cathedral architecture, music, imagery and a ‘sermon’
  • believed that people would eventually tire of his message unless he continued to make them feel that their spiritual/moral values were always at stake
  • “a keen appreciation of the value of slogans, catchwords and dramatic phrases…”
  • “realization of a fundamental loneliness and feeling of isolation in people…and a craving to “belong” to an active group which carries a certain status, provides cohesiveness and gives the individual a feeling of personal worth and belongingness”
  • His speeches almost invariably contain humor and “give the impression of considerable wit” although he “seems to lack any real sense of humor. He can never take a joke on himself.”
  • His forms of humor seem limited to teasing and mimicking
  • “Hitler’s strongest point is, perhaps, his firm belief in his mission and, in public, the complete dedication of his life to its fulfillment”
  • Hitler was often compared to a storm in his intensity and commitment to overturn the ‘establishment’
  • has the ability to appeal to and arouse the sympathy of the masses and represent himself as a bearer of their burdens—he fights so they do not have to; the result is that he often becomes a personal concern to many individuals
  • he offers people the opportunity to relieve themselves of the burden of conscience with the assurance that he will now take on that burden for everyone
  • “his primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it”
  • Goebbels: “the Fuehrer does not change. He is the same now as when he was a boy.”
  • He would spend a lot of time in leisure and had very odd waking hours; often going to be with in the early hours of morning and waking in the afternoon
  • he disliked desk work and seldom glances at reports on his desk despite how important these may be, unless they happen to personally interest him
  • in general, Hitler “never studies to learn but only to justify what he feels”
  • he had a passion for the latest news and photographs of himself
  • he had a tendency to flee the public for periods of time
  • he was infamous amongst his staff for having private rages when things did not go his way
  • among his staff, there was a tacit understanding: “For God’s sake don’t excite the Fuehrer—which means do not tell him bad news—do not mention things which are not as he conceives them to be.”
  • Hitler had a tendency to appear submissive in the company of accepted authority figures such as Prince George and the Grand Duchess of Sachsen-Weimar: “When leading Queen Helene in Rome, he was like a fish out of water. He didn’t know what to do with his hands.”
  • He was not really on intimate terms with any of his associates
  • Hitler had great difficulty having conversations with those around him; preferring to lapse into monologues and speeches as if addressing a great crowd
  • As a result, he continuously repeated the same stories again and again; never going beyond the most superficial details
  • Consistently appropriated the ideas of staffers while taking sole credit
  • Had a recurring tendency to contradict himself and fly into rages when his contradictions were pointed out

The manuscript is well worth reading in its entirety and can be found here. The final section is more of a psychoanalytic interpretation of his character and is probably too dated and jargon-filled to be of significant value today. But the rest of the document appears to be a masterclass character-study which incorporates multiple sources, history, rich vivid descriptions and compelling, narrative writing. It is simply amazing that American psychoanalysts were engaged in this type of work—in another 30 years, 1973, this practice of studying and diagnosing public figures would be strictly outlawed under the auspices of protecting the profession from legal liability.

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