April 6, 2005

C.U. Publishes Hitler Analysis

Print More

“It is necessary for him to commit crimes, more crimes, in order to appease his superego. As soon as successful offensive action becomes impossible, the man will become a victim of a long-repressed superego, a condition which will lead to suicide or mental breakdown.”

Hitler, the man who eventually committed suicide and whose name today is synonymous with evil, is the subject of this 1943 pyschoanalysis that the University’s Law Library has recently put online at http://www.lawschool.cornell.edu/library/don- ovan/hitler/.

In the 277-page study, psychologist Henry Murray presents a detailed analysis of Hitler’s personality, predictions for Hitler’s future behavior and suggestions for dealing with the dictator and Germany before and after his surrender.

Murray, a pre-World War II director of the Harvard Psychological Clinic, wrote the profile during his time at the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the CIA. Intended to aid the Allied Forces in their strategy against the Nazis, the study assessed Hitler’s likely reactions to different defeats and offered the OSS suggestions on waging covert psychological warfare against Hitler that might eventually lead to his breakdown.

Only 30 copies of the study were ever printed, and many of those copies are missing or have been destroyed. Thomas Mills, the international and foreign research attorney at the Law Library in charge of the Donovan collection and other rare books and special collections, said that he only knows of three or four copies in existence today, including the one in the Donovan collection.

The Law Library has contemplated digitizing Murray’s work ever since Henry Korn ’68 donated the entire Donovan Collection to Cornell in July 1998. After obtaining copyright permission from Nina Murray, the author’s wife, the library forged ahead with its project. “Hitler is still a topic of discussion,” Mills said about the library’s decision to put the study online. “There’s a wide interest in who this person was.”

Claire Germain, the Edward Cornell Law Librarian and professor of law, remembers talking about Hitler as a young girl growing up in Europe.

“It’s important to publish and release studies like that because it reminds you of reality,” she said, adding that this is especially true for young people far removed from WW II who sometimes think history has exaggerated Hitler’s atrocities.

In formulating his psychoanalysis, Murray made extensive use of Hitler’s own books, Mein Kampf and My New Order, and also drew upon data from the OSS as well as other studies of Hitler.

One of the interesting things her husband did “was analyzing a person’s mind through his metaphors,” Mrs. Murray told The Sun. She recalled that her husband, with help from several of his Harvard students, found and analyzed every metaphor in Mein Kampf to help reach his analysis of Hitler.

A key contributor to the theory of needs as personality, Murray considered the interplay of needs like achievement, dominance and recognition to determine a person’s psychological makeup and behavior.

According to the study, Hitler has a “counteractive narcism” personality provoked by real or imagined insults. Characteristics include low tolerance for criticism, inability to show gratitude, desire for revenge and persistence in the face of defeat. The study continues that while Hitler exhibited these and other qualities to an extreme degree, he lacked the balancing forces that exist in normal individuals.

Murray portrays his subject as a series of contradictions. Hitler persecuted Jews despite his ties to Judaism through his godfather and other family members; he advocated fertility in spite of his own impotency; and he emphasized masculine strength despite his many feminine qualities.

Since the study became available online a few weeks ago, it has already received 500 hits from around the world, according to Mills.

“It’s become a hot issue again,” Germain said about the document’s content. Murray’s work may interest military and psychology historians, Holocaust and WW II scholars and the general public, she told the Cornell news service.

“I hope we get great research, access of information and sharing of information,” Korn said after learning the study was online. “Once you put stuff out there, it just produces. Everyone is hungry for it.”

It seems that even during the war, others had their eyes on Murray’s work. Walter Langer, a noted psychologist who worked in the OSS with Murray, absorbed many of the study’s key points into his own book, The Mind of Adolph Hitler.

Biographer Forrest Robinson writes in Love’s Story Told: A Life of Henry A. Murray, “Langer had indeed taken the best of his ideas, including the sexual analysis and the prediction of Hitler’s suicide, without a word of acknowledgement.”

Archived article by Xiaowei Cathy Tang
Sun Senior Editor