Carl Jung Psychoanalyzes Hitler: “He’s the Unconscious of 78 Million Germans.” “Without the German People He’d Be Nothing” (1938)

Were you to google “Carl Jung and Nazism”—and I’m not suggesting that you do—you would find yourself hip-deep in the charges that Jung was an anti-Semite and a Nazi sympathizer. Many sites condemn or exonerate him; many others celebrate him as a blood and soil Aryan hero. It can be nauseatingly difficult at times to tell these accounts apart. What to make of this controversy? What is the evidence brought against the famed Swiss psychiatrist and onetime close friend, student, and colleague of Sigmund Freud?

Truth be told, it does not look good for Jung. Unlike Nietzsche, whose work was deliberately bastardized by Nazis, beginning with his own sister, Jung need not be taken out of context to be read as anti-Semitic. There is no irony at work in his 1934 paper The State of Psychotherapy Today, in which he marvels at National Socialism as a “formidable phenomenon,” and writes, “the ‘Aryan’ unconscious has a higher potential than the Jewish.” This is only one of the least objectionable of such statements, as historian Andrew Samuels demonstrates.

One Jungian defender admits in an essay collection called Lingering Shadows that Jung had been “unconsciously infected by Nazi ideas.” In response, psychologist John Conger asks, “Why not then say that he was unconsciously infected by anti-Semitic ideas as well?”—well before the Nazis came to power. He had expressed such thoughts as far back as 1918. Like the philosopher Martin Heidegger, Jung was accused of trading on his professional associations during the 30s to maintain his status, and turning on his Jewish colleagues while they were purged.

Yet his biographer Deirdre Bair claims Jung’s name was used to endorse persecution without his consent. Jung was incensed, “not least,” Mark Vernon writes at The Guardian, “because he was actually fighting to keep German psychotherapy open to Jewish individuals.” Bair also reveals that Jung was “involved in two plots to oust Hitler, essentially by having a leading physician declare the Führer mad. Both came to nothing.” And unlike Heidegger, Jung strongly denounced anti-Semitic views during the war. He “protected Jewish analysts,” writes Conger, “and helped refugees.” He also worked for the OSS, precursor to the CIA, during the war.

His recruiter Allen Dulles wrote of Jung’s “deep antipathy to what Nazism and Fascism stood for.” Dulles also cryptically remarked, “Nobody will probably ever know how much Prof. Jung contributed to the allied cause during the war.” These contradictions in Jung’s words, character, and actions are puzzling, to say the least. I would not presume to draw any hard and fast conclusions from them. They do, however, serve as the necessary context for Jung’s observations of Adolph Hitler. Nazis of today who praise Jung most often do so for his supposed characterization of Hitler as “Wotan,” or Odin, a comparison that thrills neo-pagans who, like the Germans did, use ancient European belief systems as clothes hangers for modern racist nationalism.

In his 1936 essay, “Wotan,” Jung describes the old god as a force all its own, a “personification of psychic forces” that moved through the German people “towards the end of the Weimar Republic”—through the “thousands of unemployed,” who by 1933 “marched in their hundreds of thousands.” Wotan, Jung writes, “is the god of storm and frenzy, the unleasher of passions and the lust of battle; moreover he is a superlative magician and artist in illusion who is versed in all secrets of an occult nature.” In personifying the “German psyche” as a furious god, Jung goes so far as to write, “We who stand outside judge the Germans far too much as if they were responsible agents, but perhaps it would be nearer the truth to regard them also as victims.”

“One hopes,” writes Per Brask, “evidently against hope, that Jung did not intend” his statements “as an argument of redemption for the Germans.” Whatever his intentions, his mystical racialization of the unconscious in “Wotan” accorded perfectly well with the theories of Alfred Rosenberg, “Hitler’s chief ideologist.” Like everything about Jung, the situation is complicated. In a 1938 interview, published by Omnibook Magazine in 1942, Jung repeated many of these disturbing ideas, comparing the German worship of Hitler to the Jewish desire for a Messiah, a “characteristic of people with an inferiority complex.” He describes Hitler’s power as a form of “magic.” But that power only exists, he says, because “Hitler listens and obeys….”

His Voice is nothing other than his own unconscious, into which the German people have projected their own selves; that is, the unconscious of seventy-eight million Germans. That is what makes him powerful. Without the German people he would be nothing.

Jung’s observations are bombastic, but they are not flattering. The people may be possessed, but it is their will, he says, that the Nazi leader enacts, not his own. “The true leader,” says Jung, “is always led.” He goes on to paint an even darker picture, having closely observed Hitler and Mussolini together in Berlin:

In comparison with Mussolini, Hitler made upon me the impression of a sort of scaffolding of wood covered with cloth, an automaton with a mask, like a robot or a mask of a robot. During the whole performance he never laughed; it was as though he were in a bad humor, sulking. He showed no human sign.

His expression was that of an inhumanly single-minded purposiveness, with no sense of humor. He seemed as if he might be a double of a real person, and that Hitler the man might perhaps be hiding inside like an appendix, and deliberately so hiding in order not to disturb the mechanism.

With Hitler you do not feel that you are with a man. You are with a medicine man, a form of spiritual vessel, a demi-deity, or even better, a myth. With Hitler you are scared. You know you would never be able to talk to that man; because there is nobody there. He is not a man, but a collective. He is not an individual, but a whole nation. I take it to be literally true that he has no personal friend. How can you talk intimately with a nation?

Read the full interview here. Jung goes on to further discuss the German resurgence of the cult of Wotan, the “parallel between the Biblical triad… and the Third Reich,” and other peculiarly Jungian formulations. Of Jung’s analysis, interviewer H.R. Knickerbocker concludes, “this psychiatric explanation of the Nazi names and symbols may sound to a layman fantastic, but can anything be as fantastic as the bare facts about the Nazi Party and its Fuehrer? Be sure there is much more to be explained in them than can be explained by merely calling them gangsters.”

Related Content:

Carl Jung Explains Why His Famous Friendship with Sigmund Freud Fell Apart in Rare 1959 Audio

Carl Jung Explains His Groundbreaking Theories About Psychology in a Rare Interview (1957)

Carl Jung: Tarot Cards Provide Doorways to the Unconscious, and Maybe a Way to Predict the Future

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Comments (24)
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  • Declan finn says:

    Hitler was a drug addict.He could not get out of bed in the morning without a hit.If you know any addicts of any type you,ll know how unreliable and manipulating they are.Hitler was a fake and a junkie.

  • Maxim says:

    Too often the layman outside of psychology interprets analyses of personal & group behavior as excusing aberrant behavior, when they are no more than mechanistic explanations for unhealthy actions. The therapist is not the patient’s advocate, rather its geographer, teaching him to navigate the shoals.
    Further, since the theories of Freud have been relegated to obsolescence, his apologists have redoubled attacks on Jung & contemporaries, misrepresenting their concepts. Jung is a theoretician of depth & subtlety, often challenging to understand (even in good translations), & in this era of cultural hypersensitivity & anti-Europeanism, a facile target for philosophical vitriol. A mindset of disciplined inquiry is required. M.C.Gurnemanz, PhD

  • Andy Dutton says:

    Do you have any evidence to support that assertion about Hitler in 1938, as opposed to the man in 1945 when the crushing pressure of total defeat had to be faced?

  • Victor Rivas says:

    Fantastically put. Couldn’t agree more.

  • john barr says:

    I guess it could be argued that Jung’s analysis of Hitler acting out the unconscious of the German people is based on their common culture and is not just a race theory. What would a similar analysis imply about Donald Trump acting out the subconscious desires of the American people.

  • James says:

    Every nation gets the leader they deserve

  • Kevin M. says:

    This is unfair to the German people, as Hitler was promoted by big US money, and British planning.

  • Werner says:

    Es increíble como se empeñan en tergiversar las observaciones, el sentido y la lucidez de Jung.
    No hay que eliminar las publicaciones de la web, eso no les asigna la razón.
    Ratifican la mitomanía del judio con sus actos ..
    De verdad dan asco. ..

  • Tim says:

    What the average person fails to understand about men like Jung and psychoanalysis in general is this – in order to produce a technically and functionally accurate profile of an individual, one must explore the psyche and the behaviors of that individual – WITHOUT JUDGMENTS. Without interjecting his own beliefs or views or feelings into the observation or analysis. Its not an easy thing to do for most, especially when you are observing or learning of genuinely abhorrent inhuman behavior. You can’t view the behaviors as abhorrent or inhuman in the clinical setting. They are JUST BEHAVIORS. They are the clues that help you solve the puzzle. And the clearer you can view them, the more precise and accurate your solution is capable of being.

    You have to remember – not condemning someone is not the same as defending or justifying or agreeing with them. Our society has enough judges to go round, some of us understand the utility in at the very least temporarily suspending judgment, in the pursuit of genuine, non-corrupted, unbiased information and knowledge. If I interject my belief or emotion in to the data, its corrupted and virtually useless. Its a scientific mindset. We can all go back later and judge them til the cows come home. But suspending judgment in the moment is one of the most valuable tools a human can possess.

  • Neil says:

    Well every politician is nothing without their folk. Hitler was 100% right!
    Just look at your wonderful world now!

  • Andrew Clapham says:

    In Triumph of the Will author David Lewis, relates how Hitler was hypnotised to believe he had a divine mission – to make Germany great again,and that every step he took was dictated by a divine power- in an effort to cure his hysterical blindness. The doctor forgot to remove the conditioning and subsequently committed suicide, when he saw what Hitler had become.
    In 1931 Eric Jan Hanussen taught Hitler elements of stage magic – how to hypnotise the masses – there are videos online of him practising gestures he used in his speeches.
    How far any of this, might explain Hitler’s hold over the German people, does not appear to have been considered.


  • Bill Russell says:


  • Kent says:

    Your comment adds nothing to the conversation.

  • Kent says:

    You think stage magic caused the Holocaust? Good grief.

  • Mai A. says:

    Reading what Jung says about Nazism and Hitler, I didn’t see any kind of praise in the text (or subtext). He was just stating his observations, obviously ornate as some psychoanalysts might do, but still just observations. Reading comprehension is a rare commodity apparently.

  • Kate says:

    First of all I don’t see anywhere that Jung praised or sided with hitler and nazis. It is lack of background knowledge of the author to come with such a nonsense. I also don’t like to read articles on jung when there is almost the whole story on freud. Freud is very overglorified, as he wasn’t really man of insight and knowledge. Jung on the other had is very underappreciated, maybe because of his genius. It is easy to understand rubish written by freud and not to understand what jung wrote.

  • Ana says:

    Brilliant! People will only repeat the story they want to tell us but truly observing it’s everything. There are videos based on true revisionism that you can’t just get anywhere of course where they prove all the lies about WW2 and so Hitler wasn’t that wrong

  • Jóhann Leplat says:

    The problem with that is that Trump has a good sense of humor, he listens and has a human even sometimes childish side to him. That is good, because he is much more genuine than Hitler in that regard. Trump is also much older than Hitler was.
    I can see why people like to compare the two, but the USA had a much better and more benevolent political leader with Trump. A world leader that pushed hard on the breaks to prevent many wars, while Hitler stepped hard on the acceleration pedal.

    Trump laughs at himself, he is a trickster figure, Victor David Hanson puts it beautifully when he defined Trump as the Tragic hero,

    Trump is portrayted in the media as a childish fool, but he is much more complicated than that.

    Very different and even the opposite of Hitler in that regard who is the tragic supervillain

  • Daniel says:

    And yet Hitler knew precisely what the German people expected to hear and provided all of that in the right tone.

  • Verhofstadt Natasja says:

    So original!!!

  • Empressa says:

    Lol no, he tried to start many wars or at least attack other countries unprovoked as well as tried to pull all US troops from atound the glibe back stateside on short notice to try and sabotage others. He is not benevolent at all. Any benevolence is performance as it has been calculated to provide him with a benefit.

  • kalle says:

    Yes, the author of this text is very confused (and probably woke).

  • kalle says:

    What a load of inane rubbish. Trump has no sense of humor, and he certainly is unable to laugh at himself. He is no Hitler either, he is too stupid and undisciplined for that. Besides, he’s not very ideological, he’s mainly a malignant narcisist.

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