UC Santa Barbara > History Department > Prof. Marcuse > Courses > Hist 133B Homepage > 133B Book Essays Index page > Student essay
The Pathology of Hitler
on: George Victor,
by Brian Thomson
for Prof. Marcuse's lecture course
About Brian Thomson
As a junior who is studying in both psychology and history, I am very interested in the psychosis behind some of the most well known military leaders and wars of the twentieth century. This is why I choose to write about Victor's book; I was very interested in getting a better understanding of the pathology of Hitler to better understand the origins of his vast hatred towards Jews.
Abstract (back to top)
Victor's book Hitler: The Pathology of Evil uses an immense amount of records and documents from Hitler himself, and many of his closest contacts. Through much analyzing of these, Victor suggests that Hitler's hatred towards Jews came from his resentment towards his father, who he believed to be poisoned by Jewish blood, and that Hitler's main goal during WWII was not the triumph of Europe, but of the extermination of the entire Jewish race. Victor does an excellent job of retrieving evidence that shows that Hitler did believe his Grandmother had had sexual relations with a Jewish man, which would lead him to observe his father as poisoned by Jewish blood. Victor also uses many documents and conversations to show that Hitler was intentionally prolonging the war with the intent of destroying the Jewish race before the wars end. While at first I was hesitant to consider some of Victor's theories, he provides a great amount of support towards them and has convinced me of their possibility.
Essay (back to top)
In the book, Hitler: the Pathology of Evil, George Victor goes into great depth about the many events that occurred over Hitler’s life that led him to become the infamous leader he is known as today. This book evaluates the possible psychology of Hitler that led him to make the decisions that he did as leader of Germany. A few of the main questions addressed by Victor include: Why Hitler came to hate the Jews so much? What were some of the possible psychological disabilities Hitler may have had, and why did he have them? And why did Hitler make so many terrible decisions during WWII that led to Germany’s defeat? Victor argues two crucial theories about why Hitler created one of the worst genocides in history. The first portion of Victor’s book argues that the source of Hitler’s intense hatred toward Jews occurred because of his abusive father. Victor claims that the constant abuse towards him and his mother led Hitler to perceive his father as complete evil, and his belief that his father had Jewish blood running through him was the source of this evil. As a result Hitler was willing to stop at nothing to prevent this ‘evil’ from spreading, and according to Victor’s second theory, this was the main goal behind WWII. Victor claims that Hitler was unwilling to end the war before the Holocaust was over, so he intentionally strayed away from major decisive conquests that could have ended the war. As I read this book, Victor gave many excellent quotations and examples that portrayed Hitler’s hatred of Jews as a result of how he perceived his father and himself. Although as I began reading Victor’s second theory I was hesitant to believe that Hitler was willing to sacrifice Germany and the war to kill off the Jewish race. But after reading I feel that Victor has done a very thorough job explaining his theory and has persuaded me that it is a very plausible explanation to Hitler’s many baffling decisions during the war. Victor uses sources to prove his theories from some of Hitler’s closest associates, relatives, and Hitler himself. These describe in detail what Hitler was doing and likely thinking during some of the most critical moments in his life. Through this documentation Victor does a tremendous job answering many of the questions his theories address.
The Origins of Hitler’s Family
To understand Adolf Hitler’s hatred towards his father, one must first understand his family’s background and Hitler’s immeasurable love for his mother. Victor begins the book with a thorough description of how Hitler’s family came to be. He discusses the rumored employment of Hitler’s grandma being the maid of a Jewish family, and that it was likely she had sexual relations with her superior, as was common for times back then. Then in 1837, Adolf’s father, Alois Hitler was born, but from who is unsure. Alois was raised with no real father which is likely the reason why he acted out against his family. Alois Hitler would come to have children with Klara Hitler, his cousin, who eventually, after a few lost children, would give birth to Adolf Hitler in 1889, and would become obsessed with him.
Victor argues that Adolf Hitler was born at a critical time for his mother. She had recently lost multiple children and was willing to give anything to keep Adolf alive and healthy. Victor writes that “reportedly Klara caressed him often and breast-fed him longer than other children and, when Alois was away, took Adolf into her bed.” Many people noticed their unusual attraction including Klara’s doctor, Mr. Bloch, who stated, “I have never witnessed a closer attachment” (24). This closeness between them would have clearly created some egocentric and powerful feelings in Adolf, Victor states, which would later lead him to believe he was above everyone else.
Behind Hitler’s Hatred of Jews
For the beginning of much of Adolf Hitler’s life, his father was off on trips doing business or leisure work. But this changed when Adolf was six, when Alois retired from his job as a civil service employee and spent much of his time at home. At this time is where Victor believes Hitler draws much of his hatred of Jews. Alois was an abusive father and husband, at first Adolf’s older brother got the majority of the beatings, but when he ran away from home, “Adolf became the target of his father’s hostility, which was more intense then ever… [and] for the first time, Adolf’s omnipotence was challenged seriously and his weakness exposed” (28-29). Victor argues that these beatings of Adolf Hitler and his mother are what sparked his hatred toward the Jewish race. Hitler could not stand to see his mother, who he cared for deeply, be beaten by this wild man, and no other person had ever challenged him in this way before, which likely caused Hitler to feel useless.
At one point Hitler decided he could no longer take the abuse. Victor writes that according to Hitler’s sister Paula, Alois "beat Adolf daily and severely.” Hitler at this point planned to run away but when his father found out he “beat him so badly [Adolf] went into a coma. For days the family did not know whether he would live” (29). The importance of this is crucial in Hitler’s life because according to Victor, the effect this kind of beating often has on a child’s psychosis is to cause them to feel as if they are evil and unworthy to live. This analogy gives a great explanation to why Hitler may have been so depressed in life and that if he did see his father as a ‘poisoned’ Jew, why he would have resented him his entire life.
Many historians’ counterevidence to Victor’s theory is that Hitler did not perceive his father or himself as Jewish, and his hatred of Jews came from his experiences in Vienna as stated in Mein Kampf. To prove that Hitler thought of himself and his father as having Jewish blood, Victor uses a memoir from, Hans Frank, who was asked to investigate a blackmail letter Hitler had received in 1930 stating that his father was Jewish. Frank states that Hitler never stated aloud that he believed his grandfather to be Jewish, but did believe that there were sexual relations between his grandmother and her Jewish superior (17). The effect this would have had on Hitler is explained later in the book, where Victor states that because Hitler was a great believer in the volkisch movement, a German nationalism movement that believed the Aryan race was the only true noble race, Hitler would have believed that whether this Jewish man “had impregnated Hitler’s grandmother made no difference. Simply by having had intercourse with her once, the Jew had polluted Maria forever. Even if Alois had been fathered by an Aryan, he was a ‘hybrid Jew.’ And so was Hitler” (139-140). Because of this, Victor concludes Hitler hated himself as well as his father, and would do everything in his power to prevent any hybrid Jews, as himself, from ever being born again.
To explain the significance this had on Hitler, Victor looks at one of the very first Nuremberg laws that is often seen as unimportant, “the obscure prohibition against Jews employing Aryan maids during their childbearing years covered the exact situation in which his father had been conceived, as Hitler understood it.” (18). This is a very important prohibition because it proves that Hitler believed his grandmother had been poisoned with ‘evil’ blood. Victor claims that Hitler would have believed that this ‘evil’ blood was in his father, and that his father’s evil came from this mixed ancestry. Hitler created these Nuremberg laws to prevent any more evil souls such as his father from being born, and as his power grew, he would do everything in his power to prevent any more offspring of Jewish blood.
WWII’s Main Purpose - The Holocaust
Victor claims throughout his book that Hitler loathed himself his entire life because of the way his father had treated him, and because of this was set on destroying himself, and everything he felt that resembled him. Hitler wanted to be sure that no creation such as himself or his father could ever happen again, and the only way to be sure of this was to rid the world of all Jews. Victor claims this is why Hitler created the Nuremberg laws, and why they begin with no marriage or sexual intercourse to be allowed between Jews and Aryans. This was the beginning of Hitler’s plan to purify Aryans and dispose of Jewish blood in Germany and eventually all of Europe.
Hitler was quick to bring Germany to war for multiple reasons, but Victor believes his biggest was to begin the Holocaust. Victor writes that Hitler had “believed correctly that, if he died before launching it, there would be no Holocaust. The men Hitler had designated to be his successors - Hess and Goring - did not share his genocidal intentions” and because of this “Hitler was determined to complete it during his lifetime” (187). This demonstrates that even with no support, Hitler was determined to complete his goal of exterminating Jews from Europe.
Victor’s evidence upholding his theory that Hitler’s main goal in WWII was the Holocaust is supported by the many unexplainable decisions Hitler made during the war. These unexplainable decisions that prevented Germany’s chances at a quick finish to the war are: Why did Hitler allow the British to escape at Dunkirk? Why did he not invade England? Why did he invade the Soviet Union instead? And why did he prevent the capture of Moscow? While counterevidence would try to explain these decisions by military grounds, Victor proposes that the opposite goal, prolonging the war, makes much more sense. Victor puts in his book that while ordering “a reluctant Himmler to proceed with gassing on a mass scale, Hitler said, ‘ The war will soon be over, and I have given the world my word that at the end of this [war] there will not be one Jew left on earth. We must move quickly and vigorously'” (197). Hitler was set from the beginning of his political career to kill all the Jews he could. His dedication to destroying the Jewish race is seen in even more detail as the war continues.
As the war in the eastern front began to turn bad for Germany, and the United States had joined the war on the western front, Hitler’s need to destroy Jews over a victory for Germany is portrayed on a larger scale. As Hitler began losing men at a tremendous rate, and looking to the boys of Germany to fight his war, the death camps, death squads, and liquidation of the ghettos,
Hitler was unwilling to let up on his concentration camps, and he would continue this for the rest of the war.
For Hitler as the war extended into 1944, it became apparent to his officers that he was procrastinating more, and working to make the job of the officers more difficult. He would schedule meetings at midnight or later and continued to increase the concentration of SS guards at death camps with the war front’s becoming severely undermanned. Victor writes that it had become apparent that what Hitler said to Himmler was true, “to him it was literally worth the sacrifice of millions of Germany’s soldiers, loss of war, and destruction of Germany in order to exterminate Jews” (212). Hitler had attempted at all efforts to exterminate as many Jews as possible, and he concluded his reign of terror by doing what he had wanted for the majority of his years, taking his own life.
Victor gives a substantial amount of evidence to support his theories that Hitler’s hatred of Jews came from his abusive father that he saw as complete evil, and that Hitler’s ultimate purpose of WWII was to finish his Holocaust. Hitler’s pathology had led him to see Jewish blood as the source of evil and that anyone tainted by it would be poisoned for ever, including himself. This is why Hitler would stop at nothing at missing his dream of destroying all Jews in Europe.
I was very surprised by what I got out of this book. When I began reading the book I did not think I would agree with Victor’s theory that Hitler’s first priority during WWII was the Holocaust, but Victor does an excellent job bringing sources to his book that describe in detail Hitler’s main purpose to be the destruction of the Jewish race. I feel this book is incredibly significant for anyone who wishes to understand the psychology behind Hitler’s terror, and what brought him to think and act the way he did.
Bibliography and Links (back to top)(links last checked 3/26/09)
Stuttaford, Genevieve. Review of Hitler: The Pathology of Evil, by Victor
George. Publishers Weekly (December 1997), Vol. 244 Issue 49, p38
Puffer, Raymond. Review of Hitler: The Pathology of Evil, by Victor
George. Library Journal (January 1998), Vol. 123 Issue 1, p118 (ebsco
Wilson, Neil. Review of Hitler: The Pathology of Evil, by Victor George.
The Journal of Psychohistory (Winter 1999) http://www.geocities.com/kidhistory/ja/book253.htm#Hitler
Hitler Historical Museum http://www.hitler.org/
Web MD, ‘Causes of Mental Illness” (03/01/2007), http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/mental-health-causes-mental-illness
Wikipedia.com, “Adolf Hitler’s Medical Health” (03/03/2009), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler%27s_medical_health
Books and articles
Hitler, Adolf Mein Kampf (Educa Books, 2006): 615. Amazon
Baum, Steven The Psychology of Genocide: Perpetrators, Bystanders,
and Rescuers (Cambridge University Press, 2008): 272 pages Amazon
Rosenbaum, Ron Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His
Evil (Harper Perennial, 1999): 496 pages.
Any student tempted to use this paper for an assignment in another course or school should be aware of the serious consequences for plagiarism. Here is what I write in my syllabi: