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Monday, February 15, 2016

Carl Jung on: “The Post-War Psychic Problems of the Germans




Introduction: Four days after the unconditional surrender of the German Army at Rheims, this interview by Peter Schmid was published in Die Weltwoche (Zurich) for May ii, 1945, under the title "Werden die Seelen Frieden finden?" (Will the Souls Find Peace?).

The interview probably took place somewhat earlier.

A partial translation was published by the newspaper PM (New York), May to, 1945.

Peter Schmid: Do you not think that the end of the war will bring about great changes in the psyche of Europeans, particularly the Germans, who are now awakening as though from a long and terrible dream?

Carl Jung: Indeed I do.

As to the Germans, we have a psychic problem ahead of us the magnitude of which cannot yet be foreseen, though its outlines can already be discerned in the cases I am treating.

For the psychologist one thing is clear, and that is that he ought not to make the popular sentimental distinction between Nazis and opponents of the regime.

Two cases I am now treating are both outspoken anti-Nazis, and yet their dreams show that behind all the decency the most pronounced Nazi psychology is still alive with all its violence and savagery.

When Field Marshal von Kiichler,' questioned by a Swiss reporter about the German atrocities in Poland, exclaimed indignantly: "Excuse me, that wasn't the Wehrmacht, it was the Party!" this proved that a division into decent and indecent Germans is thoroughly naïve.

All of them, whether consciously or unconsciously, actively or passively, have their share in the horrors; they knew nothing of what was going on and yet they did know, as though party to a secret contract genial.

For the psychologist the question of collective guilt, which worries politicians so much and will go on worrying them, is a fact, and it will be one of the most important tasks of therapy to get the Germans to admit this guilt.

Even now I am receiving many applications from Germans who want to be treated by me.

If they come from those "decent Germans" who want to foist the guilt onto a couple of men in the Gestapo, I regard the case as hopeless.

I shall have no alternative ,but to answer the applications with a questionnaire asking certain crucial questions, like "What do you think about Buchenwald?"

Only when a patient sees and admits his own responsibility can individual treatment be considered.

But how was it possible that the Germans, of all people, got themselves into this hopeless psychic mess?

Could it have happened to any other nation?

Here you must allow me to go back a bit and to recapitulate my theory as to the general psychic antecedents of this National Socialist war.

Let us take a small practical example as a starting point.

One day a woman comes to me and breaks out into the wildest accusations against her husband: he is a veritable devil who torments and persecutes her, and so on and so forth.

In reality the good man is a perfectly respectable citizen, quite innocent of any such demonic intentions.

Where does this crazy idea come from in this woman?

It is the devil in her own soul that she is projecting; she has transferred her own wishes and her own rages to her husband.

I make this clear to her; she admits it and becomes a contrite little lamb.

Everything seems to be in order.

And yet that is just the thing I find most disquieting, because I don't know where the devil, who had previously attached himself to the image of the husband, has gone to.

Exactly the same thing happened on a large scale in the history of Europe.

For primitive man the world is full of demons and mysterious powers which he fears; the whole of Nature is animated by these forces, which are nothing but man's own inner powers projected into the outside world.

Christianity and modern science have de-demonized Nature, which means that the European has consistently taken back the demonic powers out of the world into himself, and has steadily loaded his unconscious with them.

Out of man himself the demonic powers rise up in revolt against the supposed spiritual constraints of Christianity.

The demons begin to break out in Baroque art: the columns writhe, the furniture sprouts satyr's feet.

Man is slowly transformed into a uroboros, the "tail-eater" who devours himself, from ancient times a symbol of the demon-ridden man.

The first perfect example of this species was Napoleon.

The Germans display a specific weakness in the face of these demons because of their incredible suggestibility.

This shows itself in their love of obedience, their supine submission to commands, which are only another form of suggestion.

This hangs together with the general psychic inferiority of the Germans, the result of their precarious position between East and West.

Of all the Western peoples, they were the ones who, at the general exodus from the Eastern womb of the nations, remained too long with their mother.

Finally they did get out, but arrived too late, while the mujik never broke loose at all.

Hence the Germans are profoundly troubled with a national inferiority complex, which they try to compensate by megalomania: "Am deutschen Wesen soli die Welt genesen" —though they are none
too comfy in their own skins!

It is a typical adolescent psychology, apparent not only in the extraordinary prevalence of homosexuality but in the absence of an anima figure in German literature (the great exception here is Goethe).

It is also apparent in German sentimentality and "Gemiitlichkeit," which is really nothing but hardness of heart, unfeelingness, and soullessness.

All those charges of soullessness and bestiality which German propaganda levelled at the Russians apply to themselves; Goebbels' speeches are nothing but German psychology projected upon the enemy.

The immaturity of the personality also displayed itself in a terrifying way in the German General Staff, whose lack of character resembled the squashiness of a mollusk inside a panzer.

Germany has always been the land of psychic catastrophes: the Reformation, peasant wars and wars of religion.

Under National Socialism, the pressure of the demons became so great that they got human beings into their power and blew them up into lunatic supermen, first of all Hitler who then infected the rest.

All the Nazi leaders were possessed in the truest sense of the word, and it is assuredly no accident that their propaganda minister was branded with the ancient mark of the demonized man—a clubfoot.

Ten per cent of the German population today are hopeless psychopaths.

Peter Schmid: You have been talking of the psychic inferiority and demonic susceptibility of the Germans, but do you think this also applies to us Swiss, so far as we are Germanic in origin?

Dr. Jung: We are insulated against this susceptibility by the smallness of our country.

If eighty million Swiss were piled together the same thing might happen, for the demons hurl man is rootless and then the demons can get him.

Hence the technique of the Nazis never to form individuals but only huge masses.

Hence, too, the faces of the demonized man of today: lifeless, rigid, blank.

We Swiss are protected against these dangers by our federalism and our individualism.

Such a mass accumulation would not be possible with us as it was in Germany, and in this isolation lies perhaps the therapy with which one can conquer the demons.

Peter Schmid: But what will happen if this therapy is carried out by bombs and guns? Won't military subjection of the demonized nation merely intensify the feeling of inferiority and make the disease worse?

Dr. Jung: The Germans today are like a drunken man who wakes up the next morning with a hangover.

They don't know what they've done and don't want to know.

The only feeling is one of boundless misery.

They will make convulsive efforts to rehabilitate themselves in face of the accusations and hatred of the surrounding world, but that is not the right way.

The only redemption lies, as I have already indicated, in a complete admission of guilt.

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa!

Out of honest contrition for sin comes divine grace.

That is not only a religious but also a psychological truth.

The American treatment of conducting the civilian population through the concentration camps and letting them see all the abominations committed there is therefore quite right.

Only, the object lesson should not be driven home with moral instruction; repentance must come from inside the Germans themselves.

It is possible that positive forces will emerge from the catastrophe, that from this introversion prophets will once again arise, for prophets are as characteristic of this strange people as the demons.

Anyone who falls so low has depth.

In all probability there will be a miraculous haul of souls for the Catholic Church—the Protestant Church is too split up.

There are reports that the general misery has reawakened the religious life in Germany; whole communities fall to their knees in the evenings, beseeching God to deliver them from the Antichrist.

Then one can hope that the demons will be banished and that a new and better world will rise on the ruins?

No, the demons are not banished, that is a difficult task that still lies ahead.

Now that the angel of history has abandoned the Germans, the demons will seek a new victim.

And that won't be difficult.

Every man who loses his shadow, every nation that falls into self-righteousness, is their prey.

We love the criminal and take a burning interest in him because the devil makes us forget the beam in our own eye when observing the mote in our brother's and in that way outwits us.

The Germans will recover when they admit their guilt and accept it; but the others will become victims of possession if, in their horror at the German guilt, they forget their own moral shortcomings.

We should not forget that exactly the same fatal tendency to collectivization is present in the victorious nations as in the Germans, that they can just as suddenly become a victim of the demonic powers.

"General suggestibility" plays a tremendous role in America today, and how much the Russians are already fascinated by the devil of power can easily be seen from the latest events, which must dampen our peace jubilations a bit.

The most sensible in this respect are the English: their individualism saves them from falling for the slogan, and the Swiss share their amazement at the collective unreason.

Then we must anxiously wait and see which way the demons go next?

I have already suggested that the only salvation lies in the piecemeal work of educating the individual.

That is not as hopeless as it may appear.

The power of the demons is immense, and the most modern media of mass suggestion —press, radio, film, etc.—are at their service.

But Christianity, too, was able to hold its own against an overwhelming adversary not by propaganda and mass conversions—that came later and was of little value—but by persuasion from man to man.

And that is the way we also must go if we wish to conquer the demons.

I don't envy you your task in writing about these things.

I hope you will succeed in presenting my ideas in such a way that people won't find them too strange.

Unfortunately it is my fate that other people, especially those who are themselves possessed by demons, think me mad because I believe in these powers.

But that is their affair; I know they exist.

There are demons all right, as sure as there is a Buchenwald. ~Carl Jung, C.G. Jung Speaking: Interviews and Encounters, Pages 149-155

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