IDEOLOGY, PERCEPTION, AND GENOCIDE:
How Fantasy Generates History
by Richard Koenigsberg
By being transformed into a societal discourse, energies and passions bound to shared fantasies are released for action. The ideology transforms latent desires into a collective will to act. The will to act is generated by the wish to actualize or bring into reality the fantasy contained within the ideology. The role of the leader is not only to bring into consciousness fantasies shared by members of society, but also to devise a plan—allowing these fantasies to be enacted.
Click here for information on ordering The Psychoanalysis of Racism, Revolution and Nationalism

A truly bold and provocative treatise. —Political Psychology (Journal)

Click here for information on ordering Hitler's Ideology: A Study in Psychoanalytic Sociology

The best critical analysis in English of Hitler's thought. —Colin Day

Click here for information on ordering Symbiosis and Separation: Towards a Psychology of Culture

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

Click here for information on ordering Nations Have the Right to Kill: Hitler, the Holocaust and War

A psychological inquiry of great depth and tragic urgency. —Walter A. Davis, Professor Emeritus, Ohio State University


I. THE COUNTRY AS A LIVING ORGANISM

At the heart of Hitler's vision lay his conception of the German nation as a living organism. "My Movement," Hitler declared, "Encompasses every aspect of the entire Volk. It conceives of Germany as a corporate body, as a single organism."

According to Hitler, there could be no such thing as "non-responsibility in this organic being," not a single cell which is "not responsible, by its very existence, for the welfare and well-being of the whole." In Hitler's view, there could not be "the least amount of room for apolitical people."

The image of the nation as an organism occurs frequently in the writings of Nazi political theorists. Gottfried Neese stated that in contrast to the state, the people form "a true organism—a being which leads its own life and follows its own laws." The "living unity of the people has cells in its individual members," and just as in every body there are cells to perform certain tasks, this is "likewise the case in the body of the people."

This conception of the nation as an organism—with each individual constituting a cell—lay at the heart of Nazi totalitarianism. For if the nation is a single organism and each individual a cell, then no individual can escape this organism; each individual is responsible for the health of the organism; and the health of each individual (or cell) impacts upon the health of the entire organism.

II. GERMANY IS SUFFERING
FROM A DISEASE

If the first or foundational part of Hitler's ideology was his conception of Germany as an organism, the second part—source of all that followed—was his belief that the nation suffered from a disease that might prove fatal. From the earliest days of the National Socialist movement, Hitler and other Nazis were haunted by the belief that Germany was suffering from a disease within the body politic that could lead to the death and disappearance of the nation. Hitler believed that his role as political leader was first to diagnosis or disclose the cause of Germany's illness; and secondly to act to cure the disease.

In Mein Kampf (1924), Hitler wrote about the ordinary German politician. It would be a mistake to believe, he said, that adherents of various politic tendencies that were "tinkering around on the national body" were bad or malevolent men. Their activity, however, was condemned to sterility because the best of them saw at most the forms of our general disease and tried to combat them, but "blindly ignored the virus."

Ordinary politicians were aware that Germany was ill, but did not dig deeply enough. They were unable or unwilling to comprehend the cause of Germany's disease.
Hitler, by contrast, staked his claim to leadership on his capacity to diagnosis and cure Germany's illness. People would follow a political leader, Hitler believed, who profoundly "recognizes the distress of his people," who works to attain the "ultimate clarity with regard to the nature of the disease," and then "seriously tries to cure it."

III. THE FINAL SOLUTION

Insofar as Jews were imagined to be the source of Germany's disease, therefore the issue of national survival could not be resolved until the source of Germany's disease—the Jew—was removed from within the body politic. The Nazis did not wish to have the specter of the Jewish disease hanging over their heads. Better to devise a solution that would eliminate this threat—once and for all. The development of the killing centers represented a manic, hysterical struggle to kill the source of death.

The Final Solution grew out of a fantasy identifying Jews as bacteria that would continue to multiply and divide lest actions were taken to halt their spread. The image of the Jew as virus or bacteria was present in the minds of leading Nazis as the killing process unfolded in 1942 and 1943.

In February 1942, Hitler proclaimed that the "discovery of the Jewish virus" was one of the "greatest revolutions the world has seen." The struggle in which the Nazis were engaged, was similar to the one "waged by Pasteur and Koch in the last century. How many diseases must owe their origins to the Jewish virus? Only when we have eliminated the Jews will we regain our health."

In a famous speech (October 4, 1943) delivered to SS leaders and army generals, Himmler claimed that Germany had "the moral right, the duty towards our people to destroy this people that wanted to destroy us" We do not want, he said, because we have destroyed a bacillus to be "infected by this bacillus and to die."

Hitler insisted early in his career that it was insufficient for politicians to "doctor around on the circumference of the distress" without acting to "lance the cancerous ulcer." In his "Testament," dictated to Martin Bormann (February-April 1945), Hitler continued to speak in these terms, declaring that National Socialism had tackled the Jewish problem "by action and not by words." This action had been an essential "process of disinfection."

To the very end, Hitler did not alter his thinking. He felt he had remained "true to himself." Though the war had lost, he had achieved his primary objective: "We have lanced the Jewish abscess, and the world of the future will be eternally grateful to us."
Nazism was generated by a fantasy projected into the political arena. This fantasy revolved around the idea of Germany as an enormous body (politic) suffering from a potentially fatal disease. Jews were identified as pathogenic cells. The Final Solution was undertaken to destroy these pathogenic cells.

Nazi political theorist Ernst Rudolf Huber stated that the Führer was the "bearer of the collective will of the people." In the will of the leader, Huber said, the "will of the people is realized." Hitler's will was not the "subjective will of a single man." Rather, the "collective national will" was embodied within the leader.

A people's collective will, Huber explained, is rooted in the "political idea which is given to a people." The political idea is present in the people, but the Führer "raises it to consciousness and discloses it." The role of the leader, in other words, is to "disclose" a people's political idea, bring into consciousness what had been unconscious.

The leader brings forth or makes manifest ideas and desires that had been latent. His ideology reveals and crystallizes a nation's shared fantasies. The leader invents images, metaphors and phrases to convey these fantasies. He processes his own fantasies and those of his people—and "returns" information to his audience—in the form of a societal discourse.

By virtue of being transformed into a societal discourse or ideology, energies and passions bound to shared fantasies are released for action. The ideology transforms latent desires and fantasies into a collective will to act. The will to act is generated by the wish to actualize or bring into reality the fantasy contained within the ideology. The role of the leader is not only to bring into consciousness fantasies shared by members of society, but also to devise a plan or program allowing these fantasies to be enacted.

IV. CONCLUSION

The Final Solution grew out of a fantasy present in the mind of Hitler, Nazi leaders and many other Germans—revolving around the nation confronted with a threat to its existence in the form of a deadly disease, the Jew. The disease within Germany was described concretely—as the invasion of the body politic by bacteria, viruses, and parasites.

The idea that it was necessary to eliminate Jewish bacteria generated a "social construction of reality." The death camps, gas chambers and crematoria were built based on the fantasy that if Germany was to survive, Jewish bacteria had to be destroyed.

The Final Solution followed as a consequence of this perception of reality contained within Nazi ideology. Jews were depicted as bacteria or virus, source of a "disease within the body politic" that needed to be cured if the nation was to survive. Hitler, "Doctor of the people," diagnosed Germany's disease, and prescribed the cure. The cure that Hitler prescribed and carried out was destruction of the Jewish bacteria, i.e. genocide.