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Return to the Mother Country: Hitler's Dream of Uniting Austria and Germany—that Miraculously Came True!
Richard A. Koenigsberg
"Austria must return to the great German mother country. This desire has nothing to do with economic considerations. This union has to take place because one blood demands one Reich. Only one who has felt in his own skin what it means to be German, can measure the deep longing that burns at all times in the heart of children separated from their mother-country." —Adolf Hitler

Nazi German—Anschluss
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"A very thoughtful and perceptive analysis of the interplay of unconscious phantasy and cultural phenomena." —Thomas Ogden, M.D., author of The Matrix of the Mind

Union of Austria and Germany

Hitler was born in Austria near the border with Germany. One of his earliest political aspirations was to re-unite the two separate nations—to create a "greater German Reich." He passionately wished to break down the boundaries separating Austria and Germany—so that they could merge into a single nation. As one historian put it, "Hitler became obsessed that there should be no border between these two German-speaking people."

In the first pages of Mein Kampf (1923), Hitler set forth his project for uniting Austria and Germany. It was providential, Hitler said, that "Fate should have chosen Braunau on the Inn" as his birthplace, for this town lies on the border between "two German states which we of the younger generation at least have made it our life work to reunite by every means at our disposal." Austria, Hitler declared, must "return to the great German mother country." This desire for union, Hitler explained, had nothing to do with economic considerations. The union had to take place because "one blood demands one Reich."

Austria's destiny was so bound up with the life and development of all Germans, Hitler wrote, that a separation of history into Germany and Austria "does not seem conceivable." The desire for political reunification represented the "elemental cry of the German-Austrian people for union with the German mother country." This desire was the result of a "longing that slumbered in the heart of the entire people" to "return to the never-forgotten ancestral home."

Hitler identified with his country of birth—Austria. His deeper identification, however, was with Germany. Hitler sought to bring into being a more inclusive political unit—the "Greater German Reich"—that would encompass both Austria and the mother country, Germany. He dreamt of breaking down the boundaries separating Austria and Germany so that the two nations could fuse into a single entity.

Symbiotic Fantasy

Margaret Mahler defines symbiosis (2000) as the state of "undifferentiation, of fusion with mother" in which the 'I' is "not yet differentiated from the 'not I'." The essential feature of symbiosis is "hallucinatory or delusional, somatopsychic omnipotent fusion with the representation of the mother" and, in particular, the delusion of a "common boundary of the two actually and physically separate individuals."

The psychic state of symbiosis revolves around the longing for "oneness" (Kaplan, 1998). Under the spell of symbiotic fantasy, distinctions between self and Other blur. Norman O. Brown states (1985) that the primal act of the human ego is a negative one—"not to accept reality, specifically the separation of the child's body from the mother's body." Symbiotic fantasy functions to deny separateness. Instead of conceiving oneself as a singularity, one imagines that one is contained within an "omnipotent system—a dual unity within one common boundary."

Hitler projected his own symbiotic fantasy into political units. Austria symbolized Hitler's body, and Germany the body of his mother. Hitler's political ideology aimed to destroy the boundaries separating Austria and Germany—so that two separate bodies politic could fuse into one. Actualizing this fantasy would mean that henceforth the "twofold destinies of Austria and Germany" would be "eternally one." If Hitler fulfilled his dream, there would be "no separation of history into Germany and Austria."

Return to the Mother (Country)

Metaphors in Hitler's writings and speeches reveal a regressive desire for union with the mother as the source of his ideology. Through the vehicle of his ideology, Hitler played out fantasies and conflicts surrounding union and separateness. Projecting the trauma of separation into political units, he insisted that Austria "did not want to be separated from the Reich." Only one who had felt in his own skin what it meant to be German, Hitler said, could measure the "deep longing that burns at all times in the heart of children separated from their mother-country."

The pain of separation elicited within Hitler the desire to abolish this pain—by returning to that from which he had been separated. Hitler transferred his fantasy of reunion—the restoration of narcissistic omnipotence—into his political ideology. He projected the drama of union and separation—of separation and reunion—into the symbolic domain of politics, and—miraculously—enacted this drama on the stage of history.

Although Germany had been defeated in the First World War in 1918 and was in a sorry state, Austria nevertheless desired to "return to the Reich forthwith." Hitler addressed himself to those who—detached from their mother country—"now, with poignant emotion, long for the hour which will permit them to return to the heart of their faithful mother."

Hitler sought to annul the trauma of separation by enacting the fantasy of symbiotic union in relationship to political entities. Austria—once part of Germany—subsequently had separated from her. Hitler declared that separation was intolerable: Austria and Germany could not remain separate: Austria must return to the mother (country).

It would appear that the ideology espoused by Hitler—revolving around the union of Austria and Germany—derived from the fantasy contained within it. This fantasy contained the fuel or psychic energy driving Hitler's political agenda. Hitler's ideology allowed him to share his fantasies with others and became the modus operandi for political action and the creation of history.

Ideology and Transference

People assume that political ideas or calls to action stem from conditions or situations in the external world. This case study suggests that one cannot separate political aspirations from unconscious desires or fantasies. If Hitler had not externalized his symbiotic fantasy into politics, the idea of uniting Austria and Germany would have been of no interest to him. Hitler's attachment to his political ideology derived from the fantasy that was contained within it.

When Hitler writes of his desire to reunite Austria and Germany as a longing that "burns in the hearts of children separated from their mother country" and speaks of the wish of Austrians to "return to the heart of their faithful mother," we witness the astonishing directness with which he projects fantasies into his ideology. We see how primal fantasies are woven deeply into Hitler's political ideology.

Rudolf Hess often introduced Hitler at mass rallies declaring, "Hitler is Germany, just as Germany is Hitler." The fantasy of symbiotic union or identification with an omnipotent object was transferred into external reality. The dream of dual-unity was replicated or recreated in relation to a cultural object. In Hitler's fantasy, his own body was co-extensive with the German body politic.

Making Conscious the Unconscious

The project of studying ideology as a container for shared fantasy is both theoretical and clinical. In the 20th century, more than 200 million people were killed as a result of violent political conflicts initiated by societies. Most of this violence was generated by ideologies embraced as absolutes and defended fanatically. Why do human beings attach to ideologies so passionately? What is the relationship between passionate attachment to an ideology and societal violence?

A character in James Joyce's novel, Ulysses, said that, "History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." The history of the 20th century with its horrendous episodes of brutality and mass slaughter resembles a waking nightmare—a bad dream that many people have at once. By becoming conscious of the unconscious fantasies that generate collective violence, is it possible to "awaken from the nightmare of history"?


Brown, N. (1985). Life against death : the psychoanalytical meaning of history. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.

Hitler, A. (2003). Mein Kampf. Newport Beach, CA: The Noontide Press. Retrieved from: http://www.angelfire.com/folk/bigbaldbob88/MeinKampf.pdf

Kaplan, L. (1978). Oneness and separateness : from infant to individual. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.

Mahler, M., Pine, F. & Bergman, A. (2000). The psychological birth of the human infant : symbiosis and individuation. New York, NY: Basic Books.