The Truth Will Set You Free by Alice Miller: I described ******’s childhood in my book For Your Own Good, and many of my readers were aghast. One woman wrote: “If ****** had had five sons he could have vented his revenge on for the tortures he was subjected to in his childhood, then he would probably never have victimized the Jewish people. You can take everything you’ve suffered out on your own children and never get punished because murdering the soul of your own child can always be passed off as parenting, child-raising, upbringing.”
Not all my readers were able to accept this view of ****** and concede that his terrifying example demonstrates how evil comes about, how tiny, innocent children can turn into ravening beasts threatening not only their own families but the whole world. I was reminded that many children get beaten and otherwise abused in childhood, but they do not all turn into mass murderers. I took these arguments seriously and investigated the question of how children can survive brutal treatment without becoming criminals later in life. From a close study of many biographies, I established that in those cases where the victim did not turn into a victimizer, there was invariably some figure that had shown the child affection, the person I call the helping witness. Children with helping witnesses to turn to were able to gain awareness of the evil that had been done to them while at the same time identifying with the person who had shown them kindness.
For Your Own Good by Alice Miller:
******’s Father: HIS HISTORY AND HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS SON
In his biography of Adolf ******, Joachim Fest has this to say about Alois ******’s background and his life before Adolf was born:
At House No. 13 in Strones, the home of Johann Trummelschlager, an unmarried servant girl by the name of Maria Anna Schicklgruber gave birth to a child on June 7, 1837. That same day the child was baptized Alois. In the registry of births in Dollersheim parish the space for the name of the child’s father was left blank. Nor was this changed five years later when the mother married the unemployed journeyman miller Johann Georg Hiedler. That same year she turned her son over to her husband’s brother, Johann Nepomuk Huttler, a farmer in Spital—presumably because she thought she could not raise the child properly. At any rate the Hiedlers, the story has it, were so impoverished that “ultimately they did not even have a bed left and slept in a cattle trough.”
These two brothers are two of the presumptive fathers of Alois Schicklgruber. The third possibility, according to a rather wild story that nevertheless comes from one of ******’s closer associates, is a Graz Jew named Frankenberger in whose household Maria Anna Schicklgruber is said to have been working when she became pregnant. Such, at any rate, is the testimony of Hans Frank, for many years ******’s lawyer, later Governor General of Poland. In the course of his trial at Nuremberg, Frank reported that in 1930 ****** had received a letter from a son of his half-brother Alois. Possibly the intention of the letter was blackmail. It indulged in dark hints about “very odd circumstances in our family history.” Frank was assigned to look into the matter confidentially. He found some indications to support the idea that Frankenberger had been ******’s grandfather. The lack of hard evidence, however, makes this thesis appear exceedingly dubious—for all that, we may also wonder what had prompted Frank at Nuremberg to ascribe a Jewish ancestor to ******. Recent researches have further shaken the credibility of his statement, so that the whole notion can scarcely bear close scrutiny. In any case, its real significance is independent of its being true or false. What is psychologically of crucial importance is the fact that Frank’s findings forced ****** to doubt his own descent. A renewed investigation undertaken in August 1942 by the Gestapo, on orders from Heinrich Himmler, produced no tangible results. All the other theories about ******’s grandfather are also full of holes, although some ambitious combinational ingenuity has gone into the version that traces Alois Schicklgruber’s paternity “with a degree of probability bordering on absolute certainty” to Johann Nepomuk Huttler. Both arguments peter out in the obscurity of confused relationships marked by meanness, dullness, and rustic bigotry. The long and short of it is that Adolf ****** did not know who his grandfather was.
Twenty-nine years after Maria Anna Schicklgruber’s death from “consumption in consequence of thoracic dropsy” in Klein-Motten near Strones, and nineteen years after the death of her husband, the brother Johann Nepomuk Huttler appeared before parish priest Zahnschirm in Dollersheim, accompanied by three acquaintances. He asked for the legitimation of his “foster son,” the customs official Alois Schicklgruber, now nearly forty years of age. Not he himself but his deceased brother Johann Georg was the father, he said; Johann had avowed this, and his companions could witness the facts.
The parish priest allowed himself to be deceived or persuaded. In the old registry, under the entry of June 7, 1837, he altered the item “illegitimate” to “legitimate,” filled in the space for the name of the father as requested, and inserted a false marginal note: “The undersigned confirm that Georg ******, registered as the father, who is well known to the undersigned witnesses, admits to being the father of the child Alois as stated by the child’s mother, Anna Schicklgruber, and has requested the entry of his name in the present baptismal register...” Since the three witnesses could not write, they signed with three crosses, and the priest put in their names. But he neglected to insert the date. His own signature was also missing, as well as that of the (long-since-deceased) parents. Though scarcely legal, the legitimation took effect: from January 1877 on, Alois Schicklgruber called himself Alois ******.
This rustic intrigue was without a doubt set in motion by Johann Nepomuk Huttler, for he had raised Alois and was understandably proud of him. Alois had just received another promotion, he had married, and had accomplished more than any Huttler or Hiedler before him: it was only natural that Johann Nepomuk felt a desire to give his own name to his foster son. But Alois may also have had an interest in a change of name, for he was an enterprising man who in the interval had made quite a career for himself. He may therefore have felt the need to provide himself with security and a firm footing by obtaining an “honorable” name. At the age of thirteen he had been apprenticed to a shoemaker in Vienna. But, by and by, he decided against being an artisan and instead entered the Austrian Finance Office. He advanced rapidly as a customs official and was ultimately promoted to the highest civil service rank open to a man of his education. He was fond of appearing as the representative of constituted authority on public occasions and made a point of being addressed by his correct title. One of his associates in the customs office called him “strict, precise, even pedantic,” and he himself told a relation who asked his advice about a son’s choice of occupation that working for the treasury demanded absolute obedience and sense of duty, and that it was not for “drinkers, borrowers, card players, and other people who go in for immoral conduct.”
It should be added that, after the birth of her son, Maria Schicklgruber received child support for fourteen years from the Jewish businessman referred to by Fest. Fest does not quote verbatim the account of Hans Frank, ******’s lawyer for many years, in the ****** biography of 1973, but he does in his earlier book, The Face of the Third Reich, which first appeared in 1963:
******’s father was the illegitimate child of a cook named Schicklgruber from Leonding, near Linz, employed in a household in Graz...The cook, Adolf ******’s grandmother, was working for a Jewish family named Frankenberger when she became pregnant. At that time—this happened in the 1830s—Frankenberger paid Schicklgruber on behalf of his son [who presumably had made the cook pregnant—A.M.], then about nineteen, a paternity allowance from the time of her child’s birth up to his fourteenth year. There was also a correspondence over the years between the Frankenbergers and ******’s grandmother, the general tenor of which was the unexpressed common knowledge of the correspondents that Schickelgruber’s child had been conceived in circumstances which rendered the Frankenbergers liable to pay a paternity allowance.
If these facts were so well known in the village that they were still being mentioned a hundred years later, it is inconceivable that Alois knew nothing of it. It is also scarcely conceivable that the villagers would believe such generosity was unmotivated. Whatever the truth actually was, a fourfold disgrace weighed upon Alois: being poor, being illegitimate, being separated from his real mother at the age of five, and having Jewish blood. There was certainty about the first three points; even if the fourth was nothing but a rumor, this did not make matters any easier. How is someone to defend himself against a rumor that is not acknowledged openly but only whispered behind his back? It is easier to live with certainties, no matter how negative their nature. One can, for example, climb so high up the professional ladder that not a trace of poverty remains; this, Alois managed to do. He also managed to make his second and third wives pregnant before he married them, replicating for his children his own fate as an illegitimate son and unconsciously avenging himself. But the question concerning his ethnic origins remained unanswered all his life.
If not consciously acknowledged and mourned, uncertainty about one’s descent can cause great anxiety and unrest, all the more so if, as in Alois’s case, it is linked with an ominous rumor that can neither be proven nor completely refuted...
[It is often very] crucial...for a person to clear up the unsolved question of his descent and to meet the unknown parent. It is unlikely that Alois ****** could have experienced these needs consciously; besides, it was not possible for him to idealize his unknown father in view of the rumor that he was a Jew, which in Alois’s surroundings meant disgrace and isolation. The fact that Alois’s name was changed when he was forty—with all the highly significant “slips” described by Fest—shows how important but also how fraught with conflict the question of descent was for him.
Emotional conflict cannot be eliminated by means of official documents, however. Alois’s children were to bear the brunt of his anxiety, which he tried to ward off with achievements, with a career as a civil servant, a uniform, and a pompous manner.
John Toland writes:
He became quarrelsome and irritable. His main target was Alois Jr. For some time the father, who demanded absolute obedience, had been at odds with the son, who refused to give it. Later, Alois Jr. complained bitterly that his father frequently beat him “unmercifully with a hippopotamus whip,” but in the Austria of those days severe beatings of children were not uncommon, being considered good for the soul. Once the boy skipped school for three days to finish building a toy boat. The father, who had encouraged such hobbies, whipped young Alois, then held him “against a tree by the back of his neck” until he lost consciousness. There were also stories that Adolf was whipped, if not so often, and that the master of the house “often beat the dog until the dog would cringe and wet the floor.” The violence, according to Alois Jr., extended even to the docile Klara and, if true, must have made an indelible impression on Adolf.
Interestingly enough, Toland says “if true,” even though he had corroborative information from Adolf’s sister Paula that he did not include in his book. But Helm Stierlin, in his monograph Adolf ******: A Family Perspective, cites material from the Toland Collection. Paula told Toland in an interview:
It was my brother Adolf who especially provoked my father to extreme harshness and who got his due measure of beatings every day. He was rather a nasty little fellow, and all his father’s attempts to beat the impudence out of him and make him choose the career of a civil servant were in vain.
If Paula personally told John Toland that her brother Adolf was given “his due measure of beatings” every day, there is no reason to doubt her word. It is characteristic of biographers that they have difficulty identifying with the child and quite unconsciously minimize mistreatment by the parents. The following passage from Franz Jetzinger’s book ******s Jugend (******’s Youth) is very indicative:
It has been claimed that the boy was badly beaten by his father, using as a source something Angela is supposed to have said to her half brother: “Adolf, remember how Mother and I used to hold Father back by the coattails of his uniform when he was going to beat you?” This statement is highly suspect. The father had not worn a uniform since the Hafeld days; the last year he still wore it he wasn’t living with the family. The beatings would have had to occur between 1892 and 1894 when Adolf was only four and Angela twelve. She would never have dared to hold such a strict father back by the coattails. That was fabricated by someone whose chronology was way off.
The “Fuhrer” himself told his secretaries, whom he liked to hoodwink anyway, that his father had once given him thirty lashes on the back, but the Fuhrer told them many things that are demonstrably untrue. This remark in particular does not deserve credence because he made it in connection with stories about cowboys and Indians, boasting that he, in true Indian fashion, did not utter a sound during the beating. It may well be that the willful and recalcitrant boy was given an occasional thrashing—he richly deserved it—but he certainly could not be called a “battered child”; his father was a man of thoroughly progressive convictions. Such a contrived theory does nothing to solve the mystery of what made ****** the way he was, indeed only complicates it!
It seems much more likely instead that Father ******, who after all was already over sixty when they lived in Leonding, closed an eye to the boy’s behavior and did not take much interest in his upbringing.
If Jetzinger’s facts are correct, and there is no reason to doubt they are, then his “evidence” corroborates my firm conviction that Adolf’s father did not wait until his son was older to start beating him but began when the child was still very young, i.e., “only four.” ...It is significant that Jetzinger uses the word hoodwink when ****** is telling the bitter truth. He claims that ****** “certainly” was not “a battered child” and that “the willful and recalcitrant boy” “richly deserved” his occasional thrashings. For “his father was a man of thoroughly progressive convictions.” There is certainly room for argument about Jetzinger’s concept of progressive convictions, but aside from this, there are fathers who do indeed think in progressive terms on the surface, repeating the history of their own childhood only when it comes to their children or even just one of them targeted for this purpose.
B. F. Smith even reports that Alois had “genuine respect for other people’s rights and real concern for their welfare.”
What appears as a “rough exterior” in someone held in high regard can be pure hell for one’s own child. Toland gives an example of this:
In a show of rebellion, Adolf decided to run away from home. Somehow Alois learned of these plans and locked the boy upstairs. During the night Adolf tried to squeeze through the barred window. He couldn’t quite make it, so took off his clothes. As he was wriggling his way to freedom, he heard his father’s footsteps on the stairs and hastily withdrew, draping his nakedness with a tablecloth. This time Alois did not punish with a whipping. Instead, he burst into laughter and shouted to Klara to come up and look at the “toga boy.” The ridicule hurt Adolf more than any switch and it took him, he confided to Frau Hanfstaengl, “a long time to get over the episode.”
Years later he told one of his secretaries that he had read in an adventure novel that it was a proof of courage to show no pain. And so “I resolved not to make a sound the next time my father whipped me. And when the time came—I still can remember my frightened mother standing outside the door—I silently counted the blows. My mother thought I had gone crazy when I beamed proudly and said, ‘Father hit me thirty-two times!’”
These and similar passages give us the impression that Alois was expressing his blind rage at the debasement he suffered in his own childhood by repeatedly beating his son. Apparently he had a compulsion to inflict his debasement and sufferings on this particular child.
. . . What irrepressible unconscious envy the little boy, by his mere existence, must have aroused in Alois! Born in wedlock as a “legitimate” child, in addition as the son of a customs official, with a mother who was not so poverty-stricken that she had to give him up, and with a father whom he knew (one whose presence he was forced to experience physically every day so intensely and with such lasting effect). Weren’t these the very things whose lack had caused Alois so much suffering and which he had been unable to attain, in spite of all his efforts, during his whole life, since we can never alter the facts of our childhood? We can only accept them and learn to live with the reality of our past or totally deny it and make others suffer as a result.
For many people it is very difficult to accept the sad truth that cruelty is usually inflicted upon the innocent. Don’t we learn as small children that all the cruelty shown us in our upbringing is a punishment for our wrongdoing? A teacher told me that several children in her class, after seeing the Holocaust film, said, “But the Jews must have been guilty or they wouldn’t have been punished like that.”
With this in mind, we can understand the attempts of all ******’s biographers to attribute every possible sin, especially laziness, obstinacy, and dishonesty, to little ******. But is a child born a liar? And isn’t lying the only way to survive with such a father and retain a remnant of one’s dignity? Sometimes deception and bad grades in school provide the only means for secretly developing a shred of autonomy for a person so totally at the mercy of another’s whims as was Adolf ****** (and not he alone!). We can assume on this basis that ******’s later descriptions of an open battle with his father over a choice of career were doctored versions, not because the son was a coward “by nature,” but because his father was unable to permit any discussion. It is more likely that the following passage from Mein Kampf reflects the true state of affairs:
I had to some extent been able to keep my private opinions to myself; I did not always have to contradict him immediately. My own firm determination never to become a civil servant sufficed to give me complete inner peace.
It is significant that when Konrad Heiden quotes this passage in his ****** biography he remarks at the end, “In other words, a little sneak.” We expect a child in a totalitarian setting to be open and honest but at the same time to obey implicitly, bring good grades home from school, not contradict his father, and always fulfill his duty.
Another biographer, Rudolf Olden, writing about ******’s problems at school, says:
Apathy and poor performance soon became more pronounced. With the loss of a stern guiding hand upon the sudden death of his father, a crucial stimulus disappears.
The beatings are here considered a “stimulus” to learning. This is written by the very same biographer who has just presented this picture of Alois:
Even after he retired, he retained the typical pride of a bureaucrat and insisted on being addressed as “Herr,” followed by his title, whereas the farmers and laborers used the informal form of address [“Du”] with one another. By showing him the respect he demanded, the local people were really making fun of this outsider. He was never on good terms with the people he knew. To make up for it he had established a nice little dictatorship in his own home. His wife looked up to him, and he treated the children with a hard hand. Adolf in particular he had no understanding for. He tyrannized him. If he wanted the boy to come to him, the former noncommissioned officer would whistle on two fingers.
This description, written in 1935 when many Braunau acquaintances of the ****** family were still living and it was not yet so difficult to gather information of this sort, is not repeated, to my knowledge, in the postwar biographies. The image of a man who calls his child to him by whistling as though he were a dog is so strongly reminiscent of reports of the concentration camps that it is not surprising if present-day biographers have been reluctant to make the connection. In addition, all the biographies share the tendency to play down the father’s brutality with the observation that beatings were quite normal in those days or even with complicated arguments against “vilifying” the father, such as those presented by Jetzinger.
The way ****** unconsciously took on his father’s behavior and displayed it on the stage of world history is indicative of how the child must really have seen his father: the snappy, uniformed, somewhat ridiculous dictator, as Charlie Chaplin portrayed him in his film and as ******’s enemies saw him, is the way Alois appeared in the eyes of his critical son. The heroic Fuhrer, loved and admired by the German people, was the other Alois, the husband loved and admired by his subservient wife, Klara, whose awe and admiration Adolf no doubt shared when he was still very little. These two internalized aspects of his father can be identified in so many of Adolf’s later enactments (in connection with the “heroic” aspect, we need only think of the greeting “Heil ******,” of the adoration of the masses, etc.) that we receive the impression that throughout his later life his considerable artistic talents impelled him to reproduce his earliest—deeply imprinted, though unconscious—memories of a tyrannical father. His portrayal is unforgettable for everyone who was alive at the time; some of his contemporaries experienced the dictator from the perspective of the horror felt by a mistreated child, and others from the perspective of an innocent child’s complete devotion and acceptance. Every great artist draws on the unconscious contents of childhood, and ******’s energies could have gone into creating works of art instead of destroying the lives of millions of people, who would then not have had to bear the brunt of this unresolved suffering, which he warded off in grandiosity...A child whose father does not call to him by name but by whistling to him as though the child were a dog has the same disenfranchised and nameless status in the family as did “the Jew” in the Third Reich.
Since there were no bonds of affection between Adolf and his father (it is significant that in Mein Kampf he refers to Alois as “Herr Vater”), his burgeoning hatred was constant and unequivocal. It is different for children whose fathers have outbursts of rage and can then, in between times, play good naturedly with their children. In this case the child’s hatred cannot be cultivated in such a pure form . . .
Little Adolf could be certain of receiving constant beatings; he knew that nothing he did would have any effect on the daily thrashings he was given. All he could do was deny the pain, in other words, deny himself and identify with the aggressor. No one could help him, not even his mother, for this would spell danger for her too, because she was also battered.
This state of constant jeopardy is reflected very clearly in the fate of the Jews in the Third Reich . . .
I derive my suspicion that the question of descent was made taboo in Adolf’s family from the great importance he later placed on the subject. His reaction to the report Frank gave him in 1930 only confirms my suspicion, for it reveals the combination of knowing and not knowing, so typical for a child, and reflects the family’s confusion about the subject. Adolf ******, wrote Frank,
"knew that his father was not the child of [Maria Anna] Schicklgruber by the Graz Jew; he knew it from what his father and his grandmother had told him. He knew that his father was the offspring of the premarital relations between his grandmother and the man whom she later married. But they were both poor and the support money which the Jew paid over a number of years was an extremely desirable supplement to the poverty-stricken household. He was well able to pay and for that reason he was claimed to be the father, and the Jew paid, without going to court, probably because he could not face the publicity that a legal settlement would have entailed."
Jetzinger has this to say about ******’s reaction:
This paragraph obviously reproduced what ****** said to Frank’s revelation. Naturally he must have been terribly upset but of course did not permit himself to let on in front of Frank but acted as though the contents of the report were not entirely new to him; he said he knew on the basis of what he had been told by his father and his grandmother that his father was not the child of the Jew from Graz. But here ******, in his momentary confusion, really went too far! His grandmother had been dead for over forty years when he was born; she can’t have told him anything! And his father? He would have had to tell him before Adolf turned fourteen because that is when the father died. Such things are not said to a boy that age, and especially not: “Your grandfather was not a Jew,” if there was no question of there being a Jewish grandfather anyway! ****** further responded that he knew his father was the result of the premarital relations between his grandmother and the man she later married. Then why had he written in his book several years earlier that his father was the son of a poor little farm laborer? The miller, who was the only one the grandmother could have had premarital relations with—but only after she was living in Dollersheim again—was never a farm laborer in his life! And to accuse the grandmother, whether this was done by ****** or Frank, of such underhandedness as to claim someone with the ability to pay as the father of her child betrays a mentality that is common among immoral people but proves nothing in regard to parentage! Adolf ****** knew absolutely nothing about his descent! Children are usually not told about such things.
Such intolerable confusion about a child’s family background can be the cause of learning problems in school (because knowledge is forbidden and thus is threatening and dangerous.) In any case, ****** later wanted to know from every citizen with great accuracy whether a Jew was hiding in the family tree, back to the third generation.
Fest has several things to say about Adolf’s poor showing in school; he states, for example, that his work did not improve after his father’s death and cites this as proof that his poor performance had nothing to do with his father. The following points refute Fest’s contention.
1. The passages from Schwarze Padagogik show very clearly that teachers are only too happy to take over for the father when it comes to disciplining the pupil and that they have much to gain from it in the way of their own narcissistic stabilization.
2. When Adolf’s father died, he had already long since been internalized by the son, and the teachers now provided father substitutes against whom he could try to defend himself somewhat more successfully. Doing poorly in school is one of the few ways a child has to punish the teacher-father.
3. When he was eleven, Adolf was nearly beaten to death when he tried to free himself from an intolerable situation by running away. His brother Edmund did die around this time; although we have no information about this, it may have been that Adolf had a certain amount of power over his weaker brother. In any event, it is during this period that he began to do poorly in school, in contrast to the good grades he had earlier. Who knows, perhaps this bright and gifted child might have found a different, more humane way of dealing with his pent-up hatred if his curiosity and vitality had been given more nourishment in school. But even an appreciation of intellectual values was made impossible for him by his early, deeply problematical relationship with his father, which was then transferred to his teachers and school.
This child, who is subject to rages like those of his father, grows up to order the burning of books by freethinking authors. They are books that ****** hated but had never read. Perhaps he could have read and understood them if he had been allowed from the beginning to develop his potential. The burning of books and the condemnation of artists are acts of revenge because this gifted child was prevented from enjoying school . . .
What didn’t the son do to forget the trauma of the beatings his father gave him: he subjugated Germany’s ruling class, won over the masses, and bent the governments of Europe to his will. He possessed nearly limitless power. At night, however, in his sleep, when the unconscious lets us know about our early childhood experiences, there was no escape: then his father came back to frighten him, and his terror was boundless. Rauschning writes:
******, however, has states that approach persecution mania and a dual personality. His sleeplessness is more than the mere result of excessive nervous strain. He often wakes up in the middle of the night and wanders restlessly to and fro. Then he must have light everywhere. Lately he has sent at these times for young men who have to keep him company during his hours of manifest anguish. At times his condition must have been dreadful. A man in the closest daily association with him gave me this account: ****** wakes at night with convulsive shrieks. He shouts for help. He sits on the edge of his bed, unable to stir. He shakes with fear, making the whole bed vibrate. He mutters confused, totally unintelligible phrases. He gasps, as if imagining himself to be suffocating.
My informant described to me in full detail a remarkable scene—I should not have credited the story if it had not come from such a reliable source. ****** stood swaying in his room, looking wildly about him. “It was he! It was he! He’s been here!” he gasped. His lips were blue. Sweat streamed down his face. Suddenly he began to reel off figures, and odd words and broken phrases, entirely devoid of sense. It sounded horrible. He used strangely constructed and entirely un-German word formations. Then he stood quite still, only his lips moving. He was massaged and offered something to drink. Then he suddenly burst out—
“There, there! In the corner! Who’s that?”
He stamped and shrieked in the familiar way. He was shown that there was nothing out of the ordinary in the room, and then he gradually grew calm. After that he lay asleep for many hours, and then for some time things were endurable again.
Although (or because) most of the people surrounding ****** had once been battered children themselves, no one grasped the connection between his panic and the “unintelligible” numbers. The feelings of fear he had repressed in his childhood when counting his father’s blows now overtook the adult at the peak of his success in the form of nightmares, sudden and inescapable, in the loneliness of the night.
Had he made the entire world his victim, he still would not have been able to banish his introjected father from his bedroom, for one’s own unconscious cannot be destroyed by destroying the world. Yet, in spite of this fact, the world would still have had to pay dearly if ****** had lived any longer, for the springs of his hatred flowed unceasingly—even in his sleep.
******’s French and German teacher, Dr. Huemer, reports that during puberty ****** “reacted with ill-concealed hostility to advice or reproof; at the same time, he demanded of his fellow pupils their unqualified subservience”. As a result of his early identification with a tyrannical father, Adolf—according to a witness from Braunau—would stand on a hill when still very little and “deliver long and passionate speeches.” Since ****** spent only the first three years of his life in Braunau, this indicates how early his career as Fuhrer began. In these speeches the child was imitating the way he had seen his imposing father hold forth and at the same time was also seeing himself, the awestruck admiring child of those first three years, as the audience.
The same situation was repeated in his appearances at organized mass rallies, those later reenactments of the Fuhrer’s childish self. The narcissistic, symbiotic unity between Fuhrer and Volk is shown very clearly in the words of his boyhood friend August Kubizek, “for whose benefit alone” ****** gave many speeches. Toland writes:
These orations, usually delivered when they were walking through the fields or on some deserted woodland path, reminded Kubizek of an erupting volcano. It was like a scene on the stage. “I could only stand gaping and passive, forgetting to applaud.” It took some time before Kubizek realized his friend was not acting but was “in dead earnest.” He also discovered that ****** expected only one thing of him: approval; and Kubizek, enthralled more by Adolf’s oratory than by what he said, readily gave it . . . Adolf seemed to know exactly how Kubizek felt. “He always sensed my reactions as intensely as if they were his. Sometimes I had the feeling that he was living my life as well as his own.”
. . . I could imagine that even those who do know something about the unconscious might look with misgivings or indignation upon my attempt to try to understand ******’s actions on the basis of his childhood experiences, because they would rather not be forced to think about the whole “inhuman story.” Yet can we really assume that the dear Lord suddenly conceived the idea of sending down to earth a “necrophilic beast,” as ****** is described by Erich Fromm, who wrote:
How can we explain that these two well-meaning, stable, very normal, and certainly not destructive people gave birth to the future “monster,” Adolf ******? [The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness]
. . . The persecution of people of Jewish background, the necessity of proving “racial purity” as far back as one’s grandparents, the tailoring of prohibitions to the degree of an individual’s demonstrable “racial purity”—all this is grotesque only at first glance. For its significance becomes plain once we realize that in terms of ******’s unconscious fantasies it is an intensified expression of two very powerful tendencies. On the one hand, his father was the hated Jew whom he could despise and persecute, frighten and threaten with regulations, because his father would also have been affected by the racial laws if he had still been alive. At the same time—and this is the other tendency—the racial laws were meant to mark Adolf’s final break with his father and his background. In addition to revenge, the tormenting uncertainty about the ****** family was an important motive for the racial laws: the whole nation had to trace its “purity” back to the third generation because Adolf ****** would have liked to know with certainty who his grandfather was. Above all, the Jew became the bearer of all the evil and despicable traits the child had ever observed in his father. In ******’s view, the Jews were characterized by a specific mixture of Lucifer-like grandeur and superiority (world Jewry and its readiness to destroy the entire world) on the one hand and ugliness and ludicrous weakness and infirmity on the other. This view reflects the omnipotence even the weakest father exercises over his child, seen in ******’s case in the wild rages of the insecure customs official who succeeded in destroying his son’s world.
It is common in analysis for the first breakthrough in criticizing the father to be signaled by the surfacing of some insignificant and ludicrous trait of his that the patient’s memory has repressed. For example, the father—big out of all proportion in the child’s eyes—may have looked very funny in his short nightshirt. The child had never been close to his father, had been in constant fear of him, but with this memory of the skimpy nightshirt, the child’s imagination provides a weapon, now that ambivalence has broken through in the analysis, which enables him to take revenge on a small scale against the godlike, monumental paternal figure. In similar fashion, ****** disseminates his hatred and disgust for the “stinking” Jew in the pages of the Nazi periodical Der Sturmer in order to incite people to burn books by Freud, Einstein, and innumerable other Jewish intellectuals of great stature.
. . . Yet this ersatz satisfaction merely whets the appetite—nothing illustrates this better than the case of Adolf ******. Although there probably had never before been a person with ******’s power to destroy human life on such a scale with impunity, all this still could not bring him peace. His last will and testament, which calls for the continued persecution of the Jews, is impressive proof of this.
When we read Stierlin’s description of ******’s father, we see how closely the son resembled his father in personality:
It appears, however, that his social rise was not without cost to himself and others. While he was conscientious and hardworking, he was also emotionally unstable, inordinately restless, and perhaps at times mentally disturbed. According to one source, he possibly once entered an asylum. Also, in the opinion of at least one analyst, he combined an overriding determination with a flexible conscience, shown especially in how he manipulated rules and records to his own ends, while maintaining a façade of legitimacy. (For example, in applying for papal approval to marry his legal cousin Klara, he stressed his two small motherless children, needing Klara’s care, but failed to mention her pregnancy.)
Only a child’s unconscious can copy a parent so exactly that every characteristic of the parent can later be found in the child.
******’s Mother: HER POSITION IN THE FAMILY AND HER ROLE IN ADOLF’S LIFE
All the biographers agree that Klara ****** loved her son very much and spoiled him. It must be stated at the outset that this view is a contradiction in terms if we take love to mean that the mother is open and sensitive to her child’s true needs. This is precisely what is lacking if a child is spoiled, i.e., if his every wish is granted and he is showered with things he does not need—all this simply as ersatz for that which parents are unable to give their child because of their own problems. Therefore, if a child is spoiled, this points to a serious deficiency, which is then confirmed in later life. If ****** had really been loved as a child, he would also have been capable of love. His relationships with women, his perversions, and his whole aloof and basically cold relationships with people in general reveal that he never received love from any quarter.
Before Adolf was born, Klara had three children, all of whom died of diphtheria within a month of one another. The first two were perhaps already ill when the third child was born, who then died when he was only three days old. Thirteen months later, Adolf was born . . .
The prettified legend depicts Klara as a loving mother who, after the death of her first three children, showered all her affection on Adolf. It is probably no accident that all the biographers who paint this lovely Madonna-like portrait are men. A candid contemporary woman who is herself a mother will perhaps have a somewhat more realistic picture of the events preceding Adolf’s birth and a more accurate one of the sort of emotional atmosphere surrounding his first year of life, so crucial for a child’s sense of security.
When she is sixteen, Klara Potzl moves into the home of her “Uncle Alois,” where she is to take care of his sick wife and two children. There she is later made pregnant by the master of the house even before his wife is dead, and when she is twenty-four the forty-eight-year-old Alois marries her. Within a period of two and a half years she gives birth to three children and loses all three in the space of four or five weeks. Let us try to imagine what actually happened. The first child, Gustav, comes down with diphtheria in November; Klara can scarcely take care of him because she is about to give birth to her third child, Otto, who probably catches the disease from Gustav and dies after three days. Soon after, before Christmas, Gustav dies and three weeks later the second child, Ida, as well. Thus, within a period of four to five weeks, Klara has lived through the birth of one child and the death of three. A woman need not be especially sensitive for such a shock to make her lose her equilibrium, especially if, like Klara, she is confronted with a domineering and demanding husband while still practically an adolescent. Perhaps as a practicing Catholic she regarded these three deaths as punishment for her adulterous relations with Alois; perhaps she reproached herself because the birth of her third child prevented her from taking good care of Gustav. In any case, a woman would have to be made of stone to remain untouched by these blows of fate, and Klara was not made of stone. But no one could help her to experience her grief; her marital duties toward Alois continued, and in the same year as her daughter Ida’s death Klara became pregnant once again. In April of the following year, she gave birth to Adolf. It was because she could not deal adequately with her grief under these circumstances that the birth of a new child must have reactivated her recent shock, mobilizing her deepest fears and a feeling of insecurity regarding her ability as a mother. What woman with these experiences behind her would not have been fearful during her new pregnancy of a repetition of the past? It is scarcely conceivable that her son, in his early period of symbiosis with his mother, imbibed feelings of peace, contentment, and security along with her milk. It is more likely that his mother’s anxiety, the fresh memories of her three dead children reactivated by Adolf’s birth, and the conscious or unconscious fear that this child would die too were all communicated directly to her baby as if mother and child were one body. It was also of course impossible for Klara to experience her anger toward her self-centered husband, who left her to her anguish. All the more, then, did her baby—who, after all, did not have to be feared like her domineering husband—come to feel the force of these negative emotions.
All this is destiny; it would be futile to try to find the guilty person. Many people have had a similar fate. For example, Novalis, Holderlin, and Kafka were also strongly influenced by the loss of several siblings, but they were all able to express their sorrow. In ******’s case there was an additional factor: he was unable to tell anyone about his feelings or about the deep anxiety stemming from the disturbed early relationship with his mother. He was forced to repress all this in order not to attract his father’s attention and thus provoke fresh beatings. The only remaining possibility was to identify with the aggressor.
Something else resulted from this unusual family constellation: mothers who after losing one child have another often idealize the dead child (the way unhappy people frequently fantasize about the missed opportunities in their lives). The living child then feels impelled to make a special effort and to accomplish something extraordinary in order not to be overshadowed by the dead sibling. But the mother’s real love is usually directed toward the idealized dead child, whom she imagines as possessing every virtue—if only it had lived. The same thing happened to van Gogh, for instance, although only one of his brothers had died.
. . . time and again I heard of the cult connected with the graves of dead children, a cult that is often practiced for decades. The more precarious the mother’s narcissistic equilibrium, the more glowing the picture she paints of the rich promise that died with her child. This child would have made up for all her deprivation, for any pain caused her by her husband, and for all her troubles with her difficult living children. It would have been the ideal “mother” protecting her from all harm—if only it had not died.
Since Adolf was the first child born after three other children had died, I cannot imagine how his mother’s feeling toward him can be interpreted solely as one of “devoted love,” as described by his biographers. They all claim that ****** received too much love from his mother (they see being spoiled or, as they put it, “oral spoiling,” as the result of an excess of love), and that is supposed to be why he was so avid for admiration and recognition. Because he is thought to have had such a good and long symbiosis with his mother, he is supposed to have sought it again and again in his narcissistic merging with the masses. Statements such as these are sometimes found even in psychoanalytic case histories.
It seems to me that a pedagogical principle deeply rooted in all of us is at work in these interpretations. Child-rearing manuals often contain the advice not to “spoil” children by giving them too much love and consideration (which is called “doting” or “pampering”), but to steel them for real life right from the beginning. Psychoanalysts express themselves differently here; they say, for example, that “one must prepare the child to bear frustration,” as if a child could not learn that on his or her own in life. In fact, exactly the reverse is true: a child who has been given genuine affection can get along without it as an adult better than someone who has never had it. Therefore, if a person craves or “is greedy for” affection, this is always a sign that he is looking for something he never had and not that he doesn’t want to give up something because he had too much of it in childhood.
It can appear from the outside that someone’s every wish is being granted without this being the case. Thus, a child can be spoiled with food, toys, and excessive concern without ever being seen or heeded for what he or she really is. If we take ****** as an example, it is easy to imagine that he would never have been loved by his mother if he had appeared to hate his father, which in fact he did. His mother was not capable of love but only of meticulously fulfilling her duties. The condition she must have imposed on her son was that he be a good boy and “forgive and forget” his father’s cruelty toward him. An instructive detail pointed out by B. F. Smith shows how little able Adolf’s mother would have been to give him her support in his problems with his father:
The old man’s dominance made him a permanent object of respect, if not of awe, to his wife and children. Even after his death his pipes still stood in a rack on the kitchen shelf, and when his widow wished to make a particularly important point she would gesture toward the pipes as if to invoke the authority of the master.
Since Klara extended her “reverence” for her husband, even after his death, to his pipes, we can scarcely imagine that her son would ever have been allowed to confide his true feelings to her, especially since his three dead siblings had surely “always been good” in his mother’s mind, and now that they were in heaven were unable to do anything bad anyway.
Thus, Adolf could receive affection from his parents only at the expense of completely disguising and denying his true feelings. This gave rise to a whole mental outlook that Fest discovers to be a continuous pattern in ******’s life. Fest’s biography begins with the following sentences, which underscore this relevant and central point:
All through his life he made the strongest efforts to conceal as well as to glorify his own personality. Hardly any other prominent figure in history covered his tracks so well as far as his personal life was concerned. He stylized his persona with forceful and pedantic consistency. The image he had of himself was more that of a monument than of a man. From the start he endeavored to hide behind it.
Helm Stierlin’s interesting study of ****** proceeds from the premise that Adolf’s mother unconsciously “delegated” him to come to her rescue. According to this view, oppressed Germany would then be a symbol for the mother. This may be correct, but there can be no doubt that deep-seated, intensely personal, and unconscious problems also find expression in the savage fanaticism of ******’s later actions, which represent a gigantic struggle to purge his self—for which Germany is a symbol—of all traces of his boundless degradation.
One interpretation does not exclude the other, however: rescuing the mother also implies a struggle for the child’s own existence. To put it another way: if Adolf’s mother had been a strong woman, she would not—in the child’s mind—have allowed him to be exposed to these torments and to constant fear and dread. But because she herself had been degraded and was a total slave to her husband, she was not able to shield her child. Now he had to save his mother (Germany) from the enemy in order to have the kind of good, pure, strong mother, free of Jewish contamination, who could have given him security. Children very often fantasize that they must save or rescue their mother so that she can finally be the mother to them whom they needed from the beginning. This can become a full-time occupation in later life. But since it is not possible for children to save their mothers, the compulsion to repeat this situation of powerlessness inevitably leads to failure or even to catastrophe if its underlying roots are not recognized and experienced. Stierlin’s ideas could be carried even further along these lines and, put in symbolic terms, might lead to the following horrendous conclusion: the liberation of Germany and the destruction of the Jewish people down to the last Jew, i.e., the complete removal of the bad father, would have provided ****** with the conditions that could have made him a happy child growing up in a calm and peaceful situation with a beloved mother.
This unconscious symbolic goal is of course a delusion, for the past can never be changed; yet every delusion has its own meaning, which is very easy to understand once the childhood situation is known. This meaning is frequently distorted by case histories and by information given us by biographers, who overlook precisely the most essential data because defense mechanisms are involved. For example, a great deal of research and writing has been done on the question of whether Alois ******’s father was really Jewish and whether Alois could be called an alcoholic.
Often, however, the child’s psychic reality has very little to do with what the biographers later “prove” to be facts. The mere suspicion of Jewish blood in the family is much more difficult for a child to bear than the certainty. Alois himself must have suffered from this uncertainty, and there can be little doubt that Adolf knew of the rumors even though no one wanted to speak openly about the matter. The very thing that parents try to hide is what will preoccupy a child the most, especially if a major parental trauma is involved.
The persecution of the Jews “made it possible” for ****** to “correct” his past on the level of fantasy. It permitted him:
1. To take revenge on his father, who was suspected of being half Jewish
2. To liberate his mother (Germany) from her persecutor
3. To attain his mother’s love with fewer moral sanctions, with more true self-expression (the German people loved ****** for being a shrieking Jew-hater, not for being the well-behaved Catholic boy he had to be for his mother)
4. To reverse roles—he has now become the dictator, he must now be obeyed and submitted to as his father once was; he organizes concentration camps in which people are treated the way he was as a child. (A person is not likely to conceive something monstrous if he does not know it somehow or other from experience. We simply tend to refuse to take a child’s suffering seriously enough.)
5. Moreover, the persecution of the Jews permitted him to persecute the weak child in his own self that was now projected onto the victims. In this way he would not have to experience grief over his past pain, which had been especially hard to bear because his mother had not been able to prevent it. In this, as well as in his unconscious revenge on his early childhood persecutor, ****** resembled a great number of Germans who had grown up in a similar situation.
****** flattered the “German, Germanic” woman because he needed her homage, her vote, and her other services. He had also needed his mother, but he never had a chance to achieve a truly warm, intimate relationship with her. Stierlin writes:
N. Bromberg (1971) has written about ******’s sexual habits: “...the only way in which he could get full sexual satisfaction was to watch a young woman as she squatted over his head and urinated or defecated in his face.” He also reports “...an episode of erotogenic masochism involving a young German actress at whose feet ****** threw himself, asking her to kick him. When she demurred, he pleaded with her to comply with his wish, heaping accusations on himself and groveling at her feet in such an agonizing manner that she finally acceded. When she kicked him, he became excited, and as she continued to kick him at his urging, he became increasingly excited. The difference in age between ****** and the young women with whom he had any sexual involvement was usually close to the twenty-three-year difference between his parents.”
It is totally inconceivable that a man who as a child received love and affection from his mother, which most ****** biographers claim was the case, would have suffered from these sadomasochistic compulsions, which point to a very early childhood disturbance. But our concept of mother love obviously has not yet wholly freed itself from the ideology of “poisonous pedagogy.”
. . . If we stop looking for new facts and focus on the significance within the total picture of what we already know, we will come upon sources of information in our study of ****** that have thus far not been properly evaluated and therefore are not readily or widely accessible. As far as I know, for example, little attention has been paid to the important fact that Klara ******’s hunchbacked and schizophrenic sister, Adolf’s Aunt Johanna, lived with the family throughout his childhood. At least in the biographies I have read, I have never found a connection made between this fact and the Third Reich’s euthanasia law. To find any significance in this connection, a person must be able and willing to comprehend the feelings that arise in a child who is exposed daily to an extremely absurd and frightening form of behavior and yet at the same time is forbidden to articulate his fear and rage or his questions. Even the presence of a schizophrenic aunt can be positively dealt with by a child, but only if he can communicate freely with his parents on the emotional level and can talk with them about his fears.
Franziska Horl, a servant in the ****** household when Adolf was born, told Jetzinger in an interview that she had not been able to put up with this aunt any longer and left the family on her account, stating simply that she refused to be around “that crazy hunchback” any longer.
The child of the family is not allowed to say such a thing. Unable to leave, he must put up with everything; not until he has grown up can he take any action. When ****** was grown and came to power, he was finally able to avenge himself a thousandfold on this unfortunate aunt for his own misfortune. He had all the mentally ill in Germany put to death, because he felt they were “useless” for a “healthy” society (i.e., for him as a child). As an adult, ****** no longer had to put up with anything; he was even able to “liberate” all of Germany from the “plague” of the mentally ill and retarded and was not at a loss to find ideological embellishments for this thoroughly personal act of revenge.
Lloyd deMause: My speech began by giving the massive evidence accumulated by myself and my fellow psychohistorians on child abuse in Germany and Austria during the first half of the 20th century. Parents killed their newborn over a third of the time, so that siblings watched their mothers strangle babies and throw them in latrines. Breastfeeding was infrequent, so infant mortality rates ranged up to 58%. During their first year of life, infants were bound up tight with swaddling bandages and rarely changed, left in their own feces and urine, covered with lice and other vermin and hung on a peg on the wall. Parents routinely called their little children "lice" because they were full of lice and "useless eaters" because they didn't contribute to the family income. Battering was routine from birth, "to stop them from being a 'tyrant,' so that one is master of the child forever." Parents were often described as being in a "righteous rage" while they "hammered obedience" into their children. Painful enemas were routinely used to "remove the impurities" from children. Then, when the children were five or so, they were sent out to be servants, where beating and sexual abuse was the rule. That these children became "time bombs" ready to explode as adults was not surprising.
During the Weimar period, a phobic group-fantasy became so widespread that the population was convinced that their blood was about to be infected by lice, which had to be exterminated in order to save the nation's bloodstream from being poisoned -- re-experiencing the dread of poisonous lice they had as helpless, swaddled infants. Eight hundred thousand children had their blood taken to see if it was "impure." Tens of thousands of homeless children were then exterminated as "useless eaters" in the first gas chambers and crematorium ovens, in the 1920s, before the Holocaust began. Long before ******, biologists and doctors advocated doing away with millions of sick people who lived what they termed "useless lives." Jews were called "tormentive lice that must be exterminated" (Goebbels) and "parasites on the body of other peoples who had to be exterminated to purify Germany" (******). Projecting onto Jews their own memories as babies in their shit-bandages, Austrians and Germans by the millions rounded them up and put them into over ten thousand death camps, subjecting them to "excremental assault" and telling them: "You'll be eaten by lice, you'll rot in your own shit. You are all going to die." Every name their own parents called them as children was repeated with the Jews. Official documents termed them "useless eaters" and "filthy lice who were infecting our pure blood." ****** himself was clinically phobic and sat for hours watching leeches suck his own blood out to get rid of what he termed its "poisons;" he then ordered Jews exterminated as "parasites." As the Nazis locked Jews into death camps, they called them "you filthy shitface"--as their parents had called them--and threw them into latrine pits, forcing feces into their mouths.