Following Freud (see Chapter 2), Fromm examined historical documents in order to sketch a psychological portrait of a prominent person, a technique called psyc-hohis-toiy orpsychobiography The subject of Fromm s most complete psychobiographical study was Freud (Fromm, 1959), but Fromm (1941, 1973, 1986) also wrote at length on the life of Adolf Hitler.
Fromm regarded Hitler as the world s most conspicuous example of a person with the syndrome of decay, possessing a combination of necrophilia, malignant narcissism, and incestuous symbiosis. Hitler displayed all tlnee pathological disorders. He was attracted to death and destruction; narrowly focused on self-interests; and driven by an incestuous devotion to the Germanic "race," being fanatically dedicated to preventing its blood from being polluted by Jews and other "non-Aryans."
Unlike some psychoanalysts who look only to early childhood for clues to adult personality, Fromm believed that each stage of development is important and that nothing in Hitler s early life bent him inevitably toward the syndrome of decay.
As a child, Hitler was somewhat spoiled by his mother, but her indulgence did not cause his later pathology. It did, however, foster narcissistic feelings of self-importance. "Hitler s mother never became to him a person to whom he was lovingly or tenderly attached. She was a symbol of the protecting and admiring goddesses, but also of the goddess of death and chaos" (Fromm, 1973, p. 378).
Hitler was an above-average student in elementary school, but a failure in high school. During adolescence, he experienced some conflict with his father, who wanted him to be more responsible and to take a reliable civil service job. Hitler, on the other hand, somewhat unrealistically desired to be an artist. Also during this time, he began increasingly to lose himself in fantasy. His narcissism ignited a burning passion for greatiiess as an artist or architect, but reality brought him failure after failure in this area. "Each failure caused a graver wound to his narcissism and a deeper humiliation than the previous one (Fromm, 1973, p. 395). As his failures
204 Part II Psychodynamic Theories grew ill number, he became more involved in his fantasy world, more resentful of others, more motivated for revenge, and more necropliilic.
Hitler's terrible realization of his failure as an artist was blunted by the outbreak of World War I. His fierce ambition could now be channeled hito behig a great war hero fighting for his homeland. Although he was no great hero, he was a responsible, disciplined, and dutiful soldier. After the war, however, he experienced more failure. Not only had his beloved nation lost, but revolutionaries within Germany had "attacked everything that was sacred to Hitler's reactionary nationalism, and they won The victory of the revolutionaries gave Hitler's destructiveness its final and ineradicable form" (Fromm, 1973, p. 394).
Necrophilia does not simply refer to behavior; it pervades a person's entire character. And so it was with Hitler. After he came to power, he demanded that his enemies not merely surrender, but that they be annihilated as well. His necrophilia was expressed in his mania for destroyhig buildings and cities, his orders to kill "defective" people, his boredom, and his slaughter of millions of Jews.
Another trait Hitler manifested was malignant narcissism. He was hiterested only in himself, his plans, and his ideology. His conviction that he could build a "Thousand-Year Reich" shows an inflated sense of self-importance. He had no interest in anyone unless that person was of service to him. His relations to women lacked love and tenderness; he seemed to have used them solely for perverted personal pleasure, especially for voyeuristic satisfaction.
According to Fromm's analysis, Hitler also possessed an incestuous symbiosis, manifested by his passionate devotion not to his real mother but to the Germanic "race." Consistent with this trait, he also was sadomasochistic, withdrawn, and lacking in feelings of genuine love or compassion. All these characteristics, Fromm contended, did not make Hitler psychotic. They did, however, make him a sick and dangerous man.
Insisting that people not see Hitler as inhuman, Fromm (1973) concluded his psychohistory with these words: "Any analysis that would distort Hitler's picture by depriving him of his humanity would only intensify the tendency to be blind to the potential Hitlers unless they wear homs" (p. 433).
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