Eva Fogelman was featured in an article on CNN.com about rape during the Holocaust. The article can be found at: http://edition.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/europe/06/24/holocaust.rape/index.html
published in Clio's Psyche: Symposium and Special Issue on the Psychology of the Changing American Family, Volume 17, Number 4, March 2011. To order a copy, contact the Psychohistory Forum (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Volume 17 Number 3, December 2010
Historian Victor Tcherikover used to say that there are very few things in human history that have a history of 2,000 years. Antisemitism is one of them. Historians, sociologists, psychologists have been scratching their heads for centuries in an effort to get at why this is so. The classic Jewish Rabbinic formulation, going back close to two millennia, has it that “Eisav sonei et Yaakov”—“Esau hates Jacob”—Esau, the antisemitic ancestor of Edom, Babylonia, Rome, Christendom: antisemitism incarnate, antisemitism universal, above all antisemitism eternal.
Is this indeed the case? What is the psychology of hatred? How can we shed light on the dynamic of bigotry and hatred in order to understand the history of antisemitism?
First, what is antisemitism? To this deceptively simple question there is no immediately apparent answer. Approaches to this question range from the one-liner “An antisemite is someone who hates Jews more than is absolutely necessary”—even this tired old joke tells us something about the irrationality of antisemitism—to Justice Potter Stewart’s declaration in Jacobellis v. Ohio—originally referring to pornography—“I know it when I see it.” Perhaps the best definition is a workmanlike one: Antisemitism is expressed hatred of Jews, without sufficient cause or warrant.
Before progressing to psychology, we need to clarify a bit of history. For the purpose of our discussion, we telescope the many different varieties and eras of antisemitism into three periods: ancient antisemitism, which was primarily cultural; Christian antisemitism, which was religious; and modern antisemitism, which was (and is) primarily racial.
Whilst we do not know the ultimate etiology of antisemitism, we do know something about the human dynamics that express themselves in anti-Jewish animus—in a word, in psychology. But even here there is no clarity. There are a dozen theories in psychology as to what makes an individual an antisemite. A dozen theories? This tells us that there is no satisfactory explanation.
Having said this, we can suggest a number of constructs that inform a psychology of antisemitism.
And what about philosemitism? Unlike antisemitism, philosemitism has not been studied as extensively, but we can bring some clarity with respect to the psychological makeup of the philosemite from this author who studied the social psychology of rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust, and a sub-set of the rescuers were found to be “Judeo-philes,” synonymous with philosemites.
A comprehensive understanding of antisemitism is the interaction between socialization in childhood, personality factors, and how situational factors come into play for an individual to act out one’s ”dislike of the unlike,” as historian Salo Baron cannily characterized antisemitism. Social psychologist Gordon Allport in his seminal work The Nature of Prejudice adds, “attitudes are not prejudices unless they serve a private, self-gratifying purpose for the person who has them.” (p.12)
Despite rampant antisemitism in Europe before World War II—antisemitism was embedded in the institutions of power—the early psychoanalysts did not inquire into the phenomenon. A notable exception was Freud. In 1900, in The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud wrote about his reaction to antisemitism in two dreams, “My Uncle with the Yellow Beard” and “My Son the Myops.” In 1909, in the Little Hans case, Freud writes that “the deepest unconscious root of antisemitism is the castration complex.” This idea is further elaborated in his 1919 essay on Leonardo da Vinci, where Freud linked circumcision and castration. A few years later, in 1921, Freud used the example of the Aryan’s repugnance for the Semite when distinct groups of people have ongoing intimate relations. He later said, in Civilization and Its Discontents (1930), that such contact becomes an outlet for aggression, and facilitates cohesion among group members. Thus, the psychoanalyst Mortimer Ostow, who led a study group on antisemitism on which he reported in Myth and Madness: The Psychodynamics of Antisemitism (1996), concludes that “the dream of Germanic world dominion called for antisemitism as its complement.“ In Freud’s last major work, Moses and Monotheism (1939), he explored those factors required for antisemitism, and elaborated on the unconscious motivations of antisemitism. These include the fact that the Jews are different; that there is jealousy of the Jews, the “Chosen People; that Jews are aliens and therefore a convenient target for hostility; and that Jews are successful despite a history of being persecuted.
Beginning with Erik Erickson in 1942, Jews who escaped Nazi-occupied Europe started to think about the tragic fate of the Jews. In 1946 George Simmel espoused theories that blamed the Jews for provoking antisemitic attitudes towards them. Simmel also added that some antisemites may be latent homosexuals who then use hate as a defense.
In the late 1940s there was major fear in the United States that the Jewish condition would become just as fragile as in Europe, with similar dire consequences. In order to understand this threat, John Slawson of the American Jewish Committee commissioned a number of the social psychologists who escaped Nazi Germany in the 1930s—T. W. Adorno, Else Frankel-Brunswik, and Daniel J. Levinson and R. Nevitt Sanford—to study the authoritarian personality in order to understand the potential for serious threats to Jewish security in the United States. The landmark study, The Authoritarian Personality, was published in 1950. The study found that those who score high on antisemitism are also prejudiced towards other minority groups. The socialization and personality traits of these individuals have common characteristics. These include: rigid personality exemplified by “there is only one way to do anything” which stemmed from harsh, unjustly and threatening discipline as children; strictness; glorification of the parents accompanied by unconscious cynicism; aggression and lack of affection; lack of independence; and submission to authority The major flaw with the research was that the subjects who were tested with questionnaires, interviews, and projective tests were not individuals who had acted out their hatred of other groups at the time of the study, nor were they avowed fascists.
At the same time as the authoritarian study was published, a more direct study of antisemites was done by psychoanalysts Nathan Ackerman and Maria Jahoda, who treated forty antisemites, including eight Jews in psychoanalysis. The transference was facilitated by the fact that the analysts were Jews. Ackerman and Jahoda concluded that antisemitic patients tended towards psychopathic and paranoid personalities, exaggerated vulnerabilities and identity diffusion which manifested itself in inferiority, homosexual tendencies derived from passivity, poor interpersonal relations, and a need to conform. The sense of weakness the antisemites feel is defended against by attacking Jews, who are perceived as a weak group. As for their socialization, Ackerman and Jahoda discovered that these antisemitic patients grew up with parents who had poor marital relations, and who felt rejected or narcissistically exploited by the parents.
More than two generations later, the psychoanalyst Martin Bergmann, in an essay on “Antisemitism and the Psychology of Prejudice” noted that “prejudice is always based on unconscious needs.” Bergmann referred to Freud’s idea that “when there is hostility toward a person upon whom one is dependent or whom one loves, it is psychologically important to deflect hostility outside the family.” At bottom, Bergmann adds, “prejudice implies that we do not see the person as an individual but only as a member of a group. Ego boundary is relatively weak and requires the protection of prejudice in order to maintain it. What is projected are unacceptable and repudiated parts of the self. “ (p.110-113).
Given the right circumstances to act out ones prejudices, motivations will vary, but there is a consensus that has developed around the notion that there is a proclivity toward becoming an antisemite if one has experienced certain socialization, and a particular kind of personality—rigid, authority-fearing, dogmatic, insecure.
The same might be said of philosemites. Fogelman had an opportunity to interview non-Jews who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust. One group of rescuers was motivated because of love for individual Jews or of the Jewish people, a relationship which brought happiness and meaning in their lives. In Conscience and Courage: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust, Fogelman writes that the affinity toward Jews could come from many sources. Some Christians had childhood friends who were Jewish. Others remembered being “shabbos goyim,” non-Jews who helped observant Jews by turning on lights, lighting ovens, and performing other household chores in order that the Jews might be able to observe the Sabbath. This helped establish a close relationship with Jews. A case in point is Oskar Schindler, who lived next door to a rabbi and his family. Children were often given sweet treats for performing these simple tasks. Another dynamic: some non-Jews suspect that they had Jewish blood. Raoul Wallenberg, for example, was known to have a great-great grandfather and another relative on his mother’s side who were Jews. Other Judeophiles developed close ties to Jews more as adults in an intimate love relationship, a professional bond, or an economic dependence. Of course, there are unconscious affinities to Jews, such as feeling that by associating with Jews one’s status will be enhanced. Some felt a closeness to the Jewish people that came from reading and understanding the Hebrew Bible from early childhood. Some of these Judeophiles had never met a Jew, but given the opportunity to rescue one during the Holocaust, they were more than willing.
Despite different relationship to Jews, there are commonalities in the childhoods and personalities of these Judeophiles. They grew up with loving parents who resorted to explanations for misbehavior rather than a rigid punitive response. The parents taught by word and behavior a tolerance and acceptance of people who are different, and encouraged independence. Parents or other role models were involved in altruistic behavior, and where possible involved the children as well. In early childhood many of the rescuers experienced a loss, and were given empathy and support, which was reflected in the person’s subsequent behavior. The personality that developed from such an upbringing led to an independent individual who did not fear authority, had the ability to withstand anxiety, and was competent.
Ultimately, Judeophiles during the Holocaust did not fear authority and were able to transcend German propaganda that Jews were unworthy of life, because they were able to see the Jew as a human being just like themselves. The antisemites, in contrast, feared authority and collaborated passively or actively in the destruction of European Jewry.
Eva Fogelman, PhD, is a licensed psychologist in private practice in New York City. She is the author of the Pulitzer-nominated Conscience and Courage: Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust, and writer and co-producer of Breaking the Silence: The Generation After the Holocaust. Dr. Fogelman is co-director of Child Development Research and Psychotherapy with Generations of the Holocaust and Related Traumas.
Jerome A. Chanes, who writes extensively on Jewish public affairs, is the author of three books on antisemitism, including the award-winning A Dark Side of History: Antisemitism through the Ages and Antisemitism: A Reference Handbook; and is editor of the forthcoming The Future of American Judaism, a volume in the series “The Future of American Religion” (Trinity/Columbia University Press).
Dr. Fogelman will be the keynote speaker at a conference and to the broader community in Shanghai, China on September 15-17, 2011 with Manli Ho, daughter of Feng Shan Ho, a Chinese diplomat who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, and Professor Xu Xin of Nanjing University, an expert on the Jewish experience throughout Chinese History.
Dr. Eva Fogelman is a pioneer in the field of group therapy for multi-generational Holocaust survivors. She is a psychologist in private practice in New York City who specializes in treating generations of the Holocaust and related historical traumas. She also treats families with various problems including infertility, multi-generational family businesses, and grief.
Dr. Fogelman is also a social psychologist and has done research on post-traumatic stress disorder and other psychological impacts of the Holocaust on survivors, child survivors, second and third generation descendants of survivors; her research has also focused on morality, altruism, persecution, and coping with extreme conditions of terror including sexual abuse.
Her current project, which she is writing with Peace Sullivan, is a book devoted to impossible relationships.