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Tausk, V. (1969). On the Psychology of the War Deserter. Psychoanal Q., 38:354-381.

(1969). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 38:354-381

On the Psychology of the War Deserter

Victor Tausk, M.D.


What I have to say on this subject is bound to be restricted in some respects by the circumstance that this is not a suitable time for discussing military institutions or political conditions. The military view of the deserter differs from the psychologist's, who is not concerned with whether or not the consequences that follow from his investigations harmonize with the requirements of the army, or the political situation.

As I know from fristhand experience, the attitude of patriotism in arms to the crime of desertion is pretty candidly based on the theory of deterrence. It follows from this practical principle that when deserters are tried in court psychological considerations will be taken into account only in exceptional cases, that is, when the judge has an overwhelming impression that the accused is mentally ill. The extent to which this impression will depend on the personal qualities of the judge, who will rarely have had psychiatric training, is easy to foresee. For the same reason it is impossible to count on al the mentally ill and only these being sent for psychiatric examination. Also I found plenty of confirmation for my supposition that men not submitted for psychiatric examination were sentenced after being declared fit to stand trial on the same shaky grounds as those on which others were sent to the psychiatrist as being mentally ill, or suspected of being mentally ill.

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