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Ackerman, N.W. (1947). Antisemitic Motivation in a Psychopathic Personality: A Case Study. Psychoanal. Rev., 34(1):76-101.

(1947). Psychoanalytic Review, 34(1):76-101

Antisemitic Motivation in a Psychopathic Personality: A Case Study

Nathan W. Ackerman, M.D.

Mass antisemitism is one of the acute ills of our current world. It has broken out with a violence unparalleled in modern civilization. In some respects the mass antisemitism of our day has a different significance from that of the past. Currently, it is a reflection of the warp of our social order. The system of capitalist economy has broken down in many countries and is seriously threatened in our own; a diffuse process of social disorganization is taking place, which is unleashing powerful destructive forces. Antisemitism is one outstanding expression, among others, of this process of social disintegration. It is linked with war, with economic revolution and counter-revolution. It is one by-product of the fight between the old and the new; between the enlightened forces of progressive change and the reactionary powers of industrial, land owning and fascist groups, seeking desperately to preserve and fortify ruling privileges in a failing economic system. With this vast upheaval, there is a breakdown in dominant social and moral values, and this adds much to the virulence of modern antisemitism. In the main, antisemitism, particularly its violent forms, must be considered to represent irrational behavior, whether in isolated individuals or in groups.

Antisemitism, unfortunately, has a long tradition. Christianity was born of Judaism, but was a protest against the parent dogma. With the spread of the Christian faith, the Jews continued to maintain their exclusive identity. Traditionally, they depicted their group as the “elect of God”. There is the fact that through the ages the Jew has been the convenient scapegoat for the masses, embittered as they were through centuries of exploitation and oppression from the ruling classes. The wrath of the masses seized on the Jew as a ready victim, forcing him to pay a heavy price for their suffering. History records the eruption of a number of acute outbreaks of Jewish persecution in close association with national or international crises.

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