Jour­ney to the cen­tre of a tyran­ni­cal ma­niac

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

In­side the Mind of Adolf Hitler 8.30pm, SBS

ADOLF Hitler was a mummy’s boy. Not only that, but the so­ciopath who brought Europe to its knees, wiped out six mil­lion Jews and at­tempted to es­tab­lish a 1000- year Re­ich may have done so be­cause of prob­lems with his toi­let train­ing.

So said a group of em­i­nent Har­vard Uni­ver­sity psy­chol­o­gists given the task of com­pil­ing of the world’s first po­lit­i­cal pro­file in 1943.

The OSS, the fore­run­ner to the CIA, had called in the shrinks be­cause it des­per­ately wanted some inkling of what the seem­ingly un­beat­able Hitler would do next. At that time, the Ger­man dic­ta­tor had con­quered Europe and had yet to suf­fer the crush­ing de­feats that would un­ravel his em­pire in just two short years.

Get­ting in­side Hitler’s mind was seen as cru­cial to the war ef­fort.

The psy­chol­o­gists, headed by Wal­ter Langer, used the Freudian psy­cho­anal­y­sis pop­u­lar at the time to make their as­sess­ment but were well aware of the pit­falls of what they had been asked to do.

There was ob­vi­ously no chance of talk­ing to Hitler and they had to glean what they could from the lit­er­a­ture and their sub­ject’s per­sonal con­tacts, such as his child­hood doc­tor.

But they were aware they could not com­pletely trust the in­for­ma­tion they gleaned, even from those who knew the tyrant per­son­ally.

A clas­sic ex­am­ple of this was an in­ter­view with for­mer Nazi Party mem­ber Otto Strasser, who claimed the dic­ta­tor used to force his niece, who later com­mit­ted sui­cide, to strip naked and uri­nate on him.

De­spite th­ese con­straints, and the pres­sure to com­plete the project as quickly as pos­si­ble, they were able to make some star­tlingly ac­cu­rate pre­dic­tions. They cor­rectly tipped that Hitler would re­treat from pub­lic ap­pear­ances as the tide turned against him and that his no­to­ri­ous rages would be­come more fre­quent. They also fore­cast he would kill him­self.

The BBC’s Time­watch se­ries, which made this pro­gram, has wisely avoided what could have eas­ily been a tabloid ex­cur­sion into pop psy­chol­ogy to shine an en­gross­ing light on a lit­tle­known as­pect of World War II.

It uses drama­ti­sa­tion and ex­ten­sive his­tor­i­cal footage to bring to life Langer’s re­port and bal­ances it with ob­ser­va­tions by mod­ern ex­perts.

This in­cludes Jer­rold Post, who worked as CIA po­lit­i­cal pro­filer for two decades and is widely sought for his per­cep­tive analy­ses of ter­ror­ist.

His­tory pro­fes­sor Richard Overy dis­cusses the strengths and weak­nesses of the re­port Langer and his team pro­duced. Both re­alise the lim­i­ta­tions of the work but also re­spect its ground­break­ing na­ture.

In­side the Mind of Adolf Hitler makes ab­sorb­ing view­ing.

Steve Creedy

Mummy’s boy: Psy­chol­o­gists cor­rectly fore­cast Adolf Hitler’s sui­cide

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