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Coen, S.J. (1998). Response by Stanley J. Coen. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 46(2):656-657.

(1998). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 46(2):656-657

Response by Stanley J. Coen

Stanley J. Coen

I am delighted that my JAPA review of Goldhagen's book has led to controversy and disagree with Barbara Stimmel that such reviews don't belong in a psychoanalytic journal. I disagree also about the possibility of providing a psychological perspective on anti-Semitism, on the Holocaust, and on Goldhagen's project. However, a number of psychoanalytic colleagues, including my editors, shared Stimmel's objection that it is unfair to ask an historian to account for his motivations and perspectives vis-à-vis his work. In my review I referred to Joan Scott's critique of seemingly naive historiography, which assumes it can provide objective readings free of the author's own attitudes. Scott and our own Peter Loewenberg (historian and psychoanalyst), among others, advise historians and other scholars to show their readers something about their approach toward their topic in order to orient readers. Indeed, JAPA's committee on applied psychoanalysis, chaired by Bennett Simon, has provided similar suggestions for authors. Nor do I agree that my critique detracts from Goldhagen's accomplishment regarding the Holocaust and Anti-Semitism. On the contrary, I want us to use all of our resources to indict anti-Semitism. Attempts at psychological understanding should not be construed as an exercise in apologetics.

As for Stanley Grand's letter, although I wondered how psychoanalytic colleagues would respond to my review, I certainly did not expect to be accused of “diluting” German anti-Semitism through a “psychoanalytic myopia” that gives up “the leverage of personal responsibility.

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