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Greenson, R.R. (1949). Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry. LIX, 1948: Sociopsychologic Structure of the S.S.: Psychiatric Report of the Nürnberg Trials for War Crimes. Leo Alexander. Pp. 622–634.. Psychoanal Q., 18:268.

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Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry. LIX, 1948: Sociopsychologic Structure of the S.S.: Psychiatric Report of the Nürnberg Trials for War Crimes. Leo Alexander. Pp. 622–634.

(1949). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 18:268

Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry. LIX, 1948: Sociopsychologic Structure of the S.S.: Psychiatric Report of the Nürnberg Trials for War Crimes. Leo Alexander. Pp. 622–634.

Ralph R. Greenson

In this paper Alexander describes first some of the characteristics of the Nazi S.S. organization and then attempts to formulate the dynamic basis of its strength. The members of this group were strongly bound together by the guilt feelings stirred up by their criminal acts. If a member did anything which put his loyalty to the organization in question, he was killed or had to undertake an act of violence which would re-establish him in the group. Instances are cited where men of science who at one time questioned the barbarous experiments on living prisoners became the most fanatic experimenters themselves. Originally they committed these acts ostensibly to avoid ostracism, but soon the sadistic gratification overcame any demonstrable evidence of superego function. The destructive urges also spread to the group membership and there are many examples of fratricide within the organization.

In order to prepare the Nazi youth for a world where murder and torture were approved methods of conduct, it was exposed to a systematic campaign of propaganda. In a high-school textbook on mathematics, for example, the problems would be formulated in terms of 'How much phosgene would be needed to poison a city of a certain area and specified population?'

There are many more illustrations in Alexander's paper which show how the Nazis painstakingly exploited their knowledge of the unconscious and of mass psychology in their attempt to currupt their countrymen. The material is fascinating but the formulations lack clarity and depth.


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Article Citation

Greenson, R.R. (1949). Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry. LIX, 1948. Psychoanal. Q., 18:268

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WARNING! This text is printed for the personal use of the subscriber to PEP Web and is copyright to the Journal in which it originally appeared. It is illegal to copy, distribute or circulate it in any form whatsoever.