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Ostow, M. (1986). The Psychodynamics of Apocalyptic: Discussion of Papers on Identification and the Nazi Phenomenon. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 67:277-285.

(1986). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 67:277-285

The Psychodynamics of Apocalyptic: Discussion of Papers on Identification and the Nazi Phenomenon

Mortimer Ostow


The classical pattern of apocalypse, comprising in its active form, an initial phase of savage destruction followed by a phase of messianic rebirth, can be recognized in individual psychosis and in the Nazi type of destruction, persecution and virtual suicide. It can be clearly discerned also in Hitler's thinking and in the thinking of Eickhoff's Nazi-minded patient. The apocalyptic mood of Nazi society attracted this patient, for by identifying with it, she was able to overcome the isolation that her psychosis imposed upon her. The Holocaust, the other side of the Nazi apocalypse, evoked classical methods of mutual identification among the victims, but apocalyptic and messianic views became evident only after the immediate crisis had passed.

The attempt to solve urgent problems by resort to apocalyptic campaigns has resulted in the murder of large numbers of Jews throughout history, and of others where there were no Jews. The international psychoanalytic community can take upon itself the task of detecting and unmasking such tendencies when and where they appear, in an effort to arrest the evolution of yet another apocalypse.

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