The Nation as an Immortal Organism
by Richard Koenigsberg
“The historical drama of Nazism and the Holocaust constituted the enactment of a fantasy. The Nazis sought to forge Germany as a body politic not subject to death and decay. If Jews could be removed from within the nation, Hitler hypothesized—then the body politic could live forever. In spite of Hitler’s prodigious efforts, however, he could not escape the feeling that Germany was disintegrating.”

Nationalism represents a collective fantasy about masses of people contained within a specific geographic space. Hitler and the Nazis took the ideology of nationalism more seriously than it had ever been taken before. The Nazis acted as if nations were real things. Treating the metaphor as reality, they conceived of Germany as an actual body politic.

The Nazis imagined that Germany was suffering from a disease that had to be eliminated if the nation was to survive. The Jew was the source of this disease. The historical drama of Hitler, Nazism and the Holocaust was the enactment of a fantasy: eliminate or destroy Jews so that Germany would not succumb to the Jewish disease.

All organisms die. Hitler aspired to fashion Germany as a different, unique kind of organism: one not subject to decay and death. He embraced the idea of Germany as an immortal organism that could “live on.”

According to Nazi ideology, one’s body belonged to the state. The German citizen was conceived as a cell within the national organism. Naturally, there is no possibility that a cell can exist separate from the organism of which it is part. Thus, the body of the individual was imagined to be inextricably bound to the body politic. Hitler believed that all bodies within Germany fused to create an enormous national organism. The bodies of individuals could not exist—or survive—separate from the body politic.

The nationalist dreams that his own body is bound to an omnipotent body, which constitutes an extension of his ego. To identify with one’s nation is to imagine one's own body as a body politic: fused with a gigantic national organism. By virtue of identifying with one’s nation, one is no longer a small, insignificant individual. Rather, one’s own body becomes co-extensive with a gigantic, omnipotent body.

What’s more, the bodies of one’s fellow citizens fuse with this same gigantic body with which one’s own body is fused. The fantasy of the nation is that of many bodies bound together to create a single, enormous body politic.

Hitler embraced the idea of nations as immortal entities not subject to death and decay. If Jews could be removed from within the body politic, Hitler hypothesized— then the German body politic could live forever. In spite of Hitler’s prodigious efforts, however, he could not convince himself that he had destroyed death; could not escape the feeling that Germany was disintegrating.

Abstract concepts cannot be separated from their source within the organism. Bodies politic cannot be detached from actual bodies. Hitler realized that his own body—like all human bodies—contained death within it. Hitler projected his sense of a disease operating within his own body into the outer world—and imagined that Germany was diseased. The Nazi movement revolved around an endless—futile—struggle to destroy a disease believed to be present within the German body politic; to eliminate death.

Nazism was a spiritual movement seeking eternal life through identification with Germany. The German nation represented the idea of an immortal body that would never die. The Jew, on the other hand, was the principle of materialism, or "world affirmation" as Hitler's mentor Dietrich Eckhart put it. The Nazis refused to affirm the world as it was. They sought to destroy the concrete material world in the name of their devotion to a transcendent object, Germany—that might live forever.

The nationalist splits off a part of him--or herself—and projects this part into the idea of “the country.” “Hitler is Germany, just as Germany is Hitler:” The body politic—Germany—becomes co-extensive with Hitler’s own body. Hitler exists as a symbol of himself. He imagines that he is fused with a gigantic, massive object. The massive body politic fuses with Hitler’s actual body.

Identification with a body politic implies escape from one’s own body. In nationalism, the self is relocated into a place outside the self. One’s actual body is denied in the name of devotion to a body politic. This second body sequesters peoples’ energies: the individual must die so that the nation might live.

In the Nazi fantasy, the individual was conceived as a cell within a gigantic body; as a leaf upon a tree. According to this conception, one cannot exist under conditions of separateness. A cell cannot exist separately from the body of which it is a part; a leaf cannot survive separately from the tree to which it is attached. Thus, in Nazi ideology, the separate individual had no standing.

Hitler’s ideology of totalitarianism insisted that that everyone identify with the Volk. There could be only one Reich, one Fuehrer and one people. Everything and everybody that existed had to be contained within or encompassed by a single, omnipotent body called “Germany.” Hitler could not conceive of the possibility—refused to imagine—that anything or anyone could exist in a condition of separation from the body politic.