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Bromberg, N. (1974). Hitler's Childhood. Int. R. Psycho-Anal., 1:227-244.

(1974). International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 1:227-244

Hitler's Childhood

Norbert Bromberg


On the basis of data from Hitler's adolescence and adulthood, the diagnosis of narcissistic personality with paranoid features, functioning on a borderline personality organization level was offered in another communication (Bromberg, 1971). The concept of the diagnosis follows the formulations of Kernberg, who refined it in a series of excellent papers (1966), (1967), (1970). While we cannot yet speak with certainty about the origins of these personality disorders, the data and the inferences based on them here cited are certainly not improbable roots. They include a very early disturbed mother-infant relationship to which both participants contributed. On the fertile soil which this provided fell the seeds of a traumatic phenomenon, monorchism, and the consequences of apparently lifelong beating fantasies. Many features which followed from his genital defect appeared in Adolf typically after puberty. But even before that period he revealed a degree of hyperactivity frequently observed in little boys anxiously preoccupied with their genitals; also temper tantrums, negativism, obstinacy, sadistic behaviour, poor object relationships, and possibly impaired reality testing.

These do not of themselves establish the childhood diagnosis mentioned above. Nevertheless, from the point of view of development, they do suggest that Adolf manifested excessive aggression and deficient development of libidinal drives, defence organization and moral functions. His conflicts included all of the three types familiar to analysts: conflict with the environment, intersystemic conflict, and most ominously, intrasystemic conflict within the id between opposing drives such as activity–passivity, masculinityfemininity and love–hate. If more childhood data were available, it is possible that additional specific symptoms might have been found among them to establish the diagnosis offered. But we know that even when actual symptoms during childhood are minimal, conflicts originating at this time will often form the bases for later serious disorders. In Hitler's case serious disturbances began to appear not very much later: in early adolescence, in fact. But that brings us to another chapter in his life.

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