Journey to the centre of a tyrannical maniac
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.
Mummy’s boy: Psychologists correctly forecast Adolf Hitler’s suicide