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Wangh, M. (1994). Journal of Social Work and Policy in Israel. V-Vi (Special Issue), 1992: Discussion. H. Shmuel Erlich. Pp. 33-41.. Psychoanal Q., 63:609.
Psychoanalytic Electronic Publishing: Journal of Social Work and Policy in Israel. V-Vi (Special Issue), 1992: Discussion. H. Shmuel Erlich. Pp. 33-41.

(1994). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 63:609

Journal of Social Work and Policy in Israel. V-Vi (Special Issue), 1992: Discussion. H. Shmuel Erlich. Pp. 33-41.

Martin Wangh

Erlich agrees that the Shoah was pure madness. We are all still traumatized by it. It is the analyst's obligation to render this madness rationally understandable. While Chasseguet-Smirgel's "psychoanalytic approach" has immediate appeal, it is simplistic. Fantasy and acting out are not necessarily synergic. Often the opposite is true: fantasy functions as a defense against the impulse to act. Schizophrenics and other psychotics do not necessarily act out. What made the Nazis act in given place, time, and manner is the question.

In contrast to finding an impoverishment in symbolic representability, Erlich finds in Nazi rhetoric an overflow of symbolic thought, images, allusions, and metaphors. The wish to unite with nature can be found in all romantic movements. Thoreau and Rousseau are prime representatives. And regression to degrading representation of enemies is widespread (consider the speech of many Jews about Arabs). The claim that the Nazis sought union only with their mother symbol, the German soil, is contradicted by the German word "Vaterland" and the passionate adoration of the "Führer." Erlich thinks that Chasseguet-Smirgel leaves out the investigation of ambivalence against both parental figures.

The meeting of ideology and symbolization had explosive force, particularly in German adolescents' search for identity and individuation-separation. The search ended, however, in the impulse to merge: fusion with the masses was sought. Finally, according to Erlich, Germans and Jews had, like Cain and Abel, a close affinity to each other which was finally solved by fratricide. Projective identification was a major mechanism in this hatred.

While Erlich's objection to Chasseguet-Smirgel's reductionism is valid, he himself bypasses the question of what made the Hitler Youth of the thirties stay fixed at an adolescent level, even regress to cannibalistic, thanatophilic action at this given time in the history of the Western world.

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Article Citation

Wangh, M. (1994). Journal of Social Work and Policy in Israel. V-Vi (Special Issue), 1992. Psychoanal. Q., 63:609

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