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Chapter VII: The Psychological Interpretation of Culture and History

Disease within the Body Politic
Richard A. Koenigsberg
Hitler's Ideology: A Study in Psychoanalytic Sociology

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“The best critical analysis in English of Hitler’s thought.” —Colin Day
Hitler’s Ideology is a study of how Hitler projected his phantasies into his ideology. I identified Hitler’s phantasies by observing how specific images and metaphors were bound to central elements of his ideology.

In Chapter VI, I presented Table 1 of Hitler’s Ideology, “The Country is a Living Organism.” Hitler stated that Nazism alone was capable of creating a “national organism,” that the German nation was a “substance of flesh and blood,” and that economics is a “living process”—one of the “functions of that body which is the people.” He noted that the German people had become a “body corporate pulsing through and through with a vital inner life.”

At the core of Hitler’s ideology, then, was this metaphor or phantasy of Germany as a living organism. Nearly everything Hitler said and did can be traced to his conception—or experience—of German as an actual body.

Directly below, I’ve presented a second Table featured in Hitler’s Ideology. Table 6 presents 43 statements summarized with the title, “The National Body is Diseased.” In these statements—39.5% from Mein Kampf and 61% from his speeches—Hitler states that the German nation is suffering from:

  • Malignant tumors
  • A deadly cancerous ulcer
  • A plague
  • A bacillus
  • A poisonous infection
  • A world sickness
  • An alien virus

Hitler noted that “forces of decay” in terrifying numbers were “brushing up and down the body politic.” As a result of the disease from which Germany was suffering, the nation “did not grow inwardly healthier,” but “languished more and more.”

The “cure of a sickness,” Hitler declared, can only be achieved if its “cause is known,” and the same was true of “curing political evils.” Hitler stated that if one wanted to “cure this era which is inwardly sick and rotten,” one had to summon the courage to “make clear the causes” of the disease. The only way to cure diseased conditions was to “disclose their causes.”

Hitler’s project was to wage a battle against the nation’s disease, lest Germany decay and “sink to ruin like a rotting corpse.” He would fight the “international carrier of the bacillus.” He gave the order to “burn out down to the raw flesh the ulcers.” He would see to it that the “Bolshevik plague” did not spread over Europe.

Hitler would act to “lance the cancerous ulcer”—to remove the “Jewish bacillus infecting the life of peoples.” As a result of his efforts, the German people—and Reich—would become “immune from a Bolshevik infection.”

So there it is—the core of Hitler’s ideology—his idea that Germany was suffering from a potentially fatal disease, the continuing presence of which within the body politic would lead to the death of the nation.

The passages below make it clear that Hitler passionately experienced Germany’s disease. It was as if the disease within the body politic—the nation’s illness—was occurring within Hitler’s body.

At the time I wrote Hitler’s Ideology, I had scant knowledge of the history of Nazism. Building upon my training as an experimental psychologist, my book was an empirical study focusing upon identifying recurring images and metaphors bound to the central elements of Hitler’s ideology.

My only theoretical assumption was that recurring images and metaphors in Hitler’s writings and speeches revealed the phantasies that were the source of Hitler’s attraction to his ideology. Hitler projected certain phantasies into his ideology. These phantasies were the source of the nature and shape of Hitler’s ideology—of his perception of reality.

Table 6. The National Body is Diseased

Statement Number Statement Source
Book Page
1 Brutal determination (is necessary) in breaking down incurable tumors. MK 29
2 The Austrian state('s) weakness in combating even malignant tumors was glaring. MK 29
3 The trade union movement . wins the highest merit be eliminating social cankers, attacking intellectual as well as physical infections, and thus helping to contribute to the general health of the body politic. MK 46
4 It is easily possible that after a certain time ... a search for the alien virus (will be) no longer regarded as necessary. MK 62
5 It is easier to master a disease (of a national body) which is distinctly recognizable, than one which is chronic, which leads to indifference, e.g., plague versus tuberculosis. MK 62
6 The longer the toxins remain in the national body (the more likely they will be) tolerated as a necessary evil. MK 62
7 Here we face ... forces of decay which in terrifying number soon ... began brushing up and down the body politic. MK 154
8 Sometimes (people) tinkered around with the disease, but confused the forms of the phenomenon with the virus that had caused it. MK 156
9 The cure of a sickness can only be achieved if its cause is known, and the same is true of curing political evils. MK 226
10 The starting point of this plague in our country lies in large part in the parliamentary institution. MK 240
11 (Since) the state did not possess the power to master the disease the menacing decay of the Reich was manifest. MK 246
12 The masses ... feel that the mere fact of (the Jew's) existence is as bad as the plague. MK 310
13 (Politicians) tinkering around on the German national body . saw at most the forms of our general disease ... but blindly ignored the virus. MK 328
14 At the time of the unification ... the inner decay was already in full swing ... and ... the general situation was deteriorating from year to year. MK 328
15 The nation ... did not grow inwardly healthier, but obviously languished more and more. MK 328
16 The symptoms of decay of the pre-War period can ... be reduced to racial causes. MK 328
17 Anyone who wants to cure this era, which is inwardly sick and rotten, must first of all summon up the courage to make clear the causes of this disease. MK 435
18 They think that they must demonstrate ... that they are ready for appeasement so as to stay the deadly cancerous ulcer through a policy of moderation. S-I 36
19 The Jew must take care that the plague does not die. S-I 38
20 If this battle should not come ... Germany would decay and at best would sink to ruin like a rotting corpse. S-I 41
21 You can see in the Reich today ... an example of mortal decay. S-I 46
22 The 1st of May can be only ... the liberation of the nation's spirit ... from the infection of internationalism, the restoration to health of peoples. S-I 68
23 Against the infection of materialism, against the Jewish pestilence we must hold aloft a flaming ideal. S-I 108
24 The restoration to health of our people must start from the restoration to health of the body politic. S-I 242
25 I gave the order to burn out down to the raw flesh the ulcers of this poisoning of the wells. S-I 321
26 The only way permanently to cure diseased conditions is to disclose their causes. S-I 463
27 Infections (in countries) lead to a crippling of intelligence and of the force of resistance. S-I 677
28 This is the battle against a veritable world sickness which threatens to infect the peoples, a plague which devastates whole peoples ... , an international pestilence. S-I 691
29 The international carrier of the bacillus must ... be fought. S-I 693
30 If within this community one State is infected that infection is decisive for all alike. S-I 694
31 In Europe no common life of the nations is possible ... when amongst their number there are some who are suffering from a poisonous infection and who openly profess their desire to infect others with the same disease. S-I 694
32 We have a very real interest in seeing to it that this Bolshevist plague shall not spread over Europe. S-I 707
33 National Socialism has made our people and therefore the Reich immune from a Bolshevik infection. S-I 710
34 For hundreds of years Germany was good enough to receive these elements (Jews), although they possessed nothing except infectious political and physical diseases. S-I 738
35 Only when this Jewish bacillus infecting the life of peoples has been removed can one hope to establish a co-operation amongst the nations. S-I 743
36 It is ... not enough ... that I doctor around on the circumference of the distress and try ... to lance the cancerous ulcer: I must penetrate to the seat of the inflammation-to the cause. S-I 801
37 Unless ... this irritating cause ... is removed no cure is possible. S-I 801
38 No merely external remedy ... can remove the malady itself. S-I 802
39 Time and time again ... attempt (& are) made to better an impossible situation ... and ... every such attempt ... leads only to an increase in those symptoms which it is sought to remove. S-I 802
40 Germany (was becoming) a pestiferous bacillus carrier. S-II 1157
41 We should avoid close contact with the carriers of these poisonous bacilli. S-II 1139
42 It is a ridiculous undertaking to try to introduce to Germany ... the disease which we have driven out. S-II 1358
43 State after state will either fall a victim to the Jewish-Bolshevist plague or must take measures for self-protection. S-II 1601
MK: Hitler, A. (1962). Mein Kampf (R. Mannheim trans.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
S-I: Baynes, N. H. (Ed.). (1942). The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, Vol. 1. New York: Oxford University Press.
S-II: Baynes, N. H. (Ed.). (1942). The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, Vol. 2. New York: Oxford University Press.