Anti Semitism and involvement with the Nazis

Jung's relationship to National Socialism in Germany in the 1930s is a source of considerable embarrassment to contemporary Jungian analysts. Andrew Samuels, a British Jungian, reported in 1998 that informal interviews with British university students indicated that they associated Jung's name with "Hitler," "Nazis," or "anti-Semites" far more often than with any other word except "Freud." On the one hand, Jung's acceptance of the presidency of a professional group associated with Nazi sympathizers, and his clear fascination with events in Germany in the early 1930s—which he interpreted as the activation of the Wotan archetype—have been attributed to his political naivete, his misplaced optimism, and his training as a physician to adopt a wait-and-see attitude. Other writers have regarded Jung's failure to perceive what was really happening in Germany as a side-effect of his lingering bitterness toward Freud, combined with his tendency to construe contemporary events in mythic rather than in political or social terms.

On the other hand, other critics have noted that Jung never issued any clear public statement of opposition to Nazi anti-Semitism or Nazi atrocities. Although some of Jung's close friends and colleagues maintained that he disagreed with the position of the Party, all of his objections were made in private. Austrian Otto Rank, another psychoanalyst and a contemporary of Jung's, pointed to Jung's fascination with the Wotan archetype—Jung described it in 1936 as "the god of storm and frenzy, the unleasher of passions and the lust of battle . . . a superlative magician and artist in illusion who is versed in all secrets of an occult nature"—as the outcome of his early work with psychotics, who withdraw from the real world to create their own parallel universes. Rank regarded Jung's fundamental error as undervaluing the healing potential of the patient's return to reality and overvaluing the workings of the patient's unconscious. Jung's 1936 description of the Germans as possessed by "a fundamental attribute of the German psyche" assumes that there is little the individual can do when a nation is gripped by mass hysteria. "We who stand outside judge the Germans far too much as if they were responsible agents, but perhaps it would be nearer the truth to regard them also as victims [of Wotan]." An essay that Jung published in 1946, after the defeat of Germany in World War II, is as disturbing as the 1936 essay. Here he discusses the need for "collective guilt" in a way that also absolves individuals of moral responsibility. At the very least, it is ironic that a psychologist who centered his approach to treatment around the concept of individuation never questioned the appropriateness of submission to group madness.

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