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Stimmel, B. (1998). Hitler's Willing Executioners. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(2):650-653.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(2):650-653

Hitler's Willing Executioners

Barbara Stimmel

I read with great interest Stanley Coen's review of Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners (JAPA 44/3). Goldhagen's book is provocative and important, yet I was skeptical of its being reviewed in a psychoanalytic journal; after having read Coen's review, I was no longer skeptical but sure. I question the wisdom of applying psychoanalytic thought to extraordinarily complex world events.

Coen unfortunately makes only passing reference to one of the centerpieces of Goldhagen's treatise: “For his data,” writes Coen, Goldhagen “describes such “ordinary Germans,” belonging neither to the Nazis nor the SS, who served in police battalions, ‘work’ camps, and death marches.” These data, the police battalions, work camps, and death marches, constitute three powerful arguments, even proof, of the unusual complicity of the German people in the Holocaust. Any thinking observer must explain the reality of the German police, virtually all of whom had bloody hands, though they were excused from killing Jews; of the work camps, with their dehumanizing and brutal Sisyphean chores, run by ‘ordinary’ Germans and producing death rates almost at the level of the death camps themselves; and finally (if one can use that word) of the unbelievable, pointless death marches after the war was all but lost, marches on which German guards drove, beat, and shot their Jewish victims as they were dragged through countless German villages where no one stood up in protest or defense.

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