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Pick, D. (2009). ‘In Pursuit of the Nazi Mind?’ the Deployment of Psychoanalysis in the Allied Struggle Against Germany. Psychoanal. Hist., 11(2):137-157.

(2009). Psychoanalysis and History, 11(2):137-157


‘In Pursuit of the Nazi Mind?’ the Deployment of Psychoanalysis in the Allied Struggle Against Germany

Daniel Pick


This paper focuses on the history of the encounter between psychoanalysis and Fascism, and especially on investigations of the Nazi leadership during the Second World War. It serves here to provide one significant historical context for the other contributions to the special issue, which focus more specifically upon contemporary problems. Its final section offers an example of wartime discussion, drawn from observations of Rudolf Hess, deputy Führer of the Nazi Party. Hess fell into the hands of the British authorities in 1941. He was soon perceived to be mentally ill and his treatment was written up by his doctors (Rees et al. 1947). They sought to make sense of his private, even unconscious, system of beliefs, and to analyse the subliminal attractions of Hitler. This was an inquiry based, to some degree, on clinical contact rather than, as in a number of other studies (not least those of Hitler himself), distant speculations upon a Nazi's ‘internal world’.

There are various ways to date Fascism, but I have in mind here the period from 1919 to 1946 - that is, from the rise of the organized movement in Italy to the conclusion of the main Nuremberg Trial. The 1920s and 1930s also


1 This account was presented in abbreviated form at the Conference on Psychoanalysis, Fascism and Fundamentalism organized by the Freud Museum in November 2008. Full references to sources referred to here will be given in my forthcoming book In Pursuit of the Nazi Mind (Oxford University Press).

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