Terrorists and Nazis as “Devoted Actors” who Kill for Sacred Values
Richard A. Koenigsberg
Hitler on "Sacrifice"
1) The preservation of the existence of a species presuppose a spirit of sacrifice.
2) The state-forming forces are the ability and will of the individual to sacrifice himself for the totality.
3) The young regiments had not gone to their death crying "Long live universal suffrage and the secret ballot," but crying "Deutschland uber Alles in der Welt."
4) The most precious blood sacrificed itself joyfully, in the faith that it was preserving the freedom of the fatherland.
5) In the sacred ground the best comrades slumbered, still almost children, who had run to their death with gleaming eyes for the one true fatherland.
6) When in the long war years Death snatched so many a dear comrade and friend from our ranks, it would have seemed to me almost a sin to complain-after all, were, they not dying for Germany?
7) The Aryan willingly subordinates his own ego to the life of the community and, if the hour demands, even sacrifices it.
8) In giving one's life for the existence of the community lies the crown of all sacrifice.
9) Any man who loves his people proves it solely by the sacrifices which he is prepared to make for it.
10) What made men die was not concern for their daily bread, but love of the fatherland.
11) The idea of military service dawned on my lads in terms of the duty to sacrifice the life of the individual, always and forever, at all times and places.
12) Thousands of young Germans stepped forward to sacrifice their young lives freely and joyfully on the altar of the beloved fatherland.
13) To be "social" means that every individual is so convinced of the goodness of this community as to be ready to die for it.
14) To be “national" means to act with a boundless and all-embracing love for the people and, if necessary, even to die for it.
15) The National Socialist Party looked to those idealists who are ready to sacrifice their own existence to the eternal life of people and of Reich.
16) Life for you German boys and girls must mean sacrifice.
17) Nobody can do more than sacrifice himself for his people, and to that sacrifice we must ever pledge ourselves.
After rigorous training in experimental psychology, I turned to analyze historical documents in the spirit of the rigor with which I had been trained.

Hitler was my first case study. I looked for central themes in his writings and speeches—and decided to organize my research in tabular form. My book Hitler’s Ideology—was based on the methodology I call “analysis of metaphor.”

I discovered that a central theme of Hitler’s ideology was the idea of sacrifice (see data reproduced to the right). This empirical evidence constituted the foundation of my subsequent writings and lectures.

Please examine these statements carefully. One quickly realizes there is nothing unconventional here. Hitler’s rhetoric and ideology were entirely in the tradition of nationalism.

Hitler declared: “Our love towards our people will never falter, and our faith in this German of ours is imperishable.” Nazism begins with love of country, faith in Germany—and willingness to die and kill.

John F. Kennedy (on January 20, 1961) said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Subsequently—particularly after the Vietnam War—the sacrificial imperative in the United States began to fade.

During the period 1990-2000, American military thinking revolved around the idea of “casualty aversion.” The American public too seemed to embrace John Lennon’s proposition that there was nothing worth killing and dying for.

The suicide attacks of September 11, 2001 revived the idea of dying for a cause. Post-modernists had declared the “Death of grand narratives,” but apparently Islamic jihadists had not been persuaded by their texts.

Sacrificial death made a comeback. Bin Laden asserted, “We love death the way you Americans love life.” Not to be outdone, George Bush affirmed that we too possess sacred values: “As you die and kill for Allah, so we die and kill for freedom and democracy.”

Scott Atran is a public figure who was once an evolutionary psychologist. An avid reader of the Library of Social Science Newsletter, Atran now writes about terrorism from the perspective of “devoted actors” who are “unconditionally committed to their sacred cause”—and willingly make “costly sacrifices, including fighting and dying.”

Having refocused on sacrificial death, we return to conceptualize the history of the 20th Century. World War I may be understood as a monumental episode undertaken by “devoted actors” who died and killed for sacred values.

Nazism also was a case study in “sacrificial devotion” (Michael Roberts). Hitler declared, “We may be inhumane, but if we rescue Germany we have achieved the greatest deed in the world.” As radical Islamists seek to rescue the ideal of Allah by killing infidels, so did Hitler seek to destroy “non-believers” who did not acknowledge the omnipotence of Germany.

The sources of the passages above are:

Baynes, Norman H. (1942). The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922–August 1939. Two Volumes. New York: Oxford University Press.

Hitler, Adolf (1962). Mein Kampf. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

For precise references, go to Table 18 of Hitler’s Ideology. The code MK refers to Mein Kampf. The code S-I refers to Volume I of Norman Baynes, The Speeches of Adolf Hitler.

Richard A. Koenigsberg, PhD: (718) 393-1081
Orion Anderson: (718) 393-1104