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Grand, S. (1998). Response. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(2):654-655.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(2):654-655


Stanley Grand

Stanley Coen's review and critique of Daniel Goldhagen's Hitler's Willing Executioners (JAPA 44/3) provides an excellent overview and psychoanalytic perspective on the genocidal catastrophe euphemistically termed “Hitler's final solution” to the “Jewish problem” in Germany—a problem which “ordinary Germans” experienced as the underlying cause for all of Germany's pre- and post-World War II difficulties, and the solution to which an overwhelmingly large number of German people subscribed for at least the duration of the war, if not longer. Coen highlights major aspects of Goldhagen's relentless documentation of the sadistic German atrocities against the Jewish people, both before and during the barbarous period of the Third Reich, and opens for discussion a number of complex dilemmas facing all of us who try to understand the hideous nature of the particular form that anti-Semitism was to take within the German populace under that government.

As psychoanalysts we are, by training and disposition, oriented to probe human nature to its depths. And as psychoanalysts we cannot help but agree with Coen's view that Goldhagen's cognitive perspective on the German “mind set” that permitted the genocide is limited and incomplete. A psychoanalyst would certainly want to integrate cognition with the “enormous appeal of sadism, domination, omnipotence, destructiveness of all kinds, which the Nazis encouraged ‘ordinary Germans’ to enjoy.

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