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 (25)
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  • Clint Westwood says:

    Great. Now tell us about Hiro­hi­to.

  • 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.

  • TheJungAndTheRestless says:

    Jung’s descrip­tion of Hitler is so vivid I felt like I was there tak­ing to Hitler and notic­ing what Jung did. Chill­ing. And I know exact­ly what he’s talk­ing about. I’ve met peo­ple like that. Thank God almighty they were like­ly all too stu­pid, lack­ing in social finesse and impulse con­trol, and ter­ri­fied of what oth­ers think to be able to rise to pow­er.

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