Life Unworthy of Life: Racial Phobia and Mass Murder in Hitler's Germany

By James M. Glass | Go to book overview

TEN
PSYCHOSIS AND THE MORAL POSITION OF ENTHUSIASM

Compelling historical evidence suggests a group psychological dimension exercising a powerful dynamic in constructing the ideological percepts that allowed the Final Solution to happen. Evil, rather than being banal, exhibited hideous, rage-filled properties impelled by a vicious phobia and sacrificial fantasy demanding the extinction of millions. As Kaplan puts it: "[T]he Jews were the recipients of a hatred that would accept nothing less than murder for gratification."1Arendt's argument does not minimize the horror of the regime, but by shifting the focus away from ideology, belief, and value, it threatens to water down the evil of the Final Solution and see it as a technology employed by passionless, functional bureaucrats. Friedländer criticizes the bureaucratic/functionalist interpretation for refusing to examine "an independent psychological residue. . . . The psychological dimension, whenever recognized, is usually reduced to a vague reference to the 'banality of evil.'"2Friedländer raises an important issue: Too much emphasis is placed on the "how" of the Final Solution; more needs to be given to the "why," including consideration of moral and psychological questions raised by mass murder and genocide.

Friedländer argues: "[T]he exterminations perpetrated by the Nazis . . . represent an amorality beyond all categories of evil. Human beings are no longer instruments; they have entirely lost their humanness.''3 Jews had taken from them social, economic, political, and

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