The Third Reich’s Mental Illness

“Joseph Winter” uploaded by Frizztext

Reading about the “THE THIRD REICH’S MYTH-MAKING MACHINERY”, lost in the details of 22 shocking photos of the TIME / LIFE magazine, I realized again, that it was not a single person (the devil Hitler) on a wrong path, it seemed to be a complete nation infected by a kind of mental illness. Our friend Joe Winter escaped from Germany 1940 – and soon came back as a soldier of the US army. Crossing the battle lines daily as a spy he said, the dangerous thing was: “not to be killed by friendly fire”: trying to explain the American friends, that he, dressed in German uniform, was an US citizen, though talking a bad English with a big German accent. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) said, like looking into the future of his own Germany: “Mental illness seldom is the problem of a single person, but much more the problem of whole nations…”
ritchie boys: Joe was the most important person I met in my life, (most important book: Adorno, minima moralia): both individual thinkers inspired me not to stop to analyze Third Reich structures – and the continuing strategies in parts of Germany after 1945. I resisted (and suffered) vs. similar structures in military, theology, schools, jobs. Actually there is a new discussion about education styles (corporal punishment) 1945-1975 – 30 years I had to suffer (in orphanage, under people who adopted me, in schools) also; it took all my energy to resist vs. the cruel tactics – every decade they became more hidden and complicated …

About frizztext

writer, photographer, guitarist

20 responses to “The Third Reich’s Mental Illness

  1. Thank you for sharing. Much here to ponder.tonight


  2. Your courage is amazing, in that you attempted to tackle this subject. It seems to me, so difficult and so deep… even now, after a lifetime has gone by since that madness. I would like to comment, and yet find that I am unable to. But I do wish to add, that the madness didn’t start with Hitler, but was already showing in the very ‘free’ culture and its accompanying decadence that preceded the Nazi rise to power. And that it is very difficult to understand the depths without an appreciation of the rich cultural accomplishments of the society before it descended to madness. Perhaps I am overly pessimistic, but it seems to me that the western world has yet to learn the lesson of this great tragedy.


    • “…the western world has yet to learn the lesson of this great tragedy…” – and looking back: yes, it started long before, maybe with nationalism, colonialism? and maybe certain structures of religions were used as well?


  3. I had an uncle who fled Europe and joined the U.S. army. It’s not quite so dramatic since he was from Hungary. Most of his family died in the camps, but his sister is still alive and lives in New York City.

    There’s a lot of fascinating stories. In Quebec I knew a young woman. The other Quebecois told me one day she wasn’t a “real” Quebecoise – her parents were from France. I asked her about why her parents moved to Canada. She said that they had been in the Resistance. They must have been quite young because she was my age. She said that one day they were told that the Germans had been asking about them and that they should leave town. They went home to pack some bags and saw that their place was being searched, so they left with what they had on their backs. Eventually, they made their way to Canada. It’s melodramatic enough that I almost feel suspicious of the details, but in either case, her parents had to flee France due to anti-occupation activities.

    It also reminds me of the grandfather of a high school boyfriend who was a German POW in the United States. After the war, he said he felt that he didn’t want to be German anymore, so he moved here. Nowadays, this story saddens me because of Guantanamo. I can’t imagine that the people being held there because of the “war on terror” would come to admire and respect the United States because of their humane treatment the way my boyfriend’s German grandfather did.

    There was an article in the New York Times Magazine in or about the year 2000. Oddly, I cannot find the article on their website (which has the world’s worst search function after WordPress’) but I can see the issue in my mind and it was the cover story. Consequently, I’ll have to rely on my memory. It talked about how Germans didn’t like (like might not be the right word, but didn’t frequently repeat) stories of other Germans who made some attempt to resist the Nazis and that there were more of them then people liked to believe.

    It does take an entire country going crazy. Once, I watched Triumph of the Will, the film by Leni Riefenstahl. It’s a bit long and gets boring after a while. However, if you have no knowledge of the context, it all looks very nice. Hitler enters Nuremberg (if I remember correctly) and it looks like such a lovely town. I found myself thinking, “What a nice place for a holiday. I’ll have to keep it in mind.” All the young men look very handsome and the streets are lined with crowds to greet the important visitor. Pretty women are holding plump young children. If you didn’t know. . . . It’s actually a little disorienting because it does all look so lovely. And you’re very right. That can’t all be done by one person no matter how charismatic.

    Well, I could go on. This post does leave quite a bit to think about.

    Before I depart I’d just like to remember my university French professor, Justus, who led people over the Pyrenees when he was just a teenager.


    • thank you for your long reply!
      * yes many escaped via the Pyrenees during WW II, kindly supported by the people there
      * yes, Germans didn’t like stories of other Germans who made some attempt to resist the Nazis; famous examples: Marlene Dietrich (stayed in USA); Willy Brandt (fled to Sweden); actually: the brother of Göring, who supported Jews:
      * recently we could watch in the cinemas The Glorious Basterds (with Christoph Walz, Oscar Winner): but the script was only a dream: never there was such a glorious resistance …


      • sent to the THE SPIEGEL magazine by me:
        “Germans (and others?) didn’t (don’t?) like stories of other Germans who made some attempt to resist the Nazis; famous examples: Marlene Dietrich (stayed in USA); Willy Brandt (fled to Sweden); actually: the brother of Göring…”


      • That’s a fascinating article about Albert Göring. Perhaps it’s my own bias as someone who is adopted, but the legend that he was really Jewish sounds fictional. The notion that he saved people because he was secretly Jewish trivializes what he did. Many people don’t agree with their family about important issues. Usually, they’re not life and death issues. My brother-in-law is an outspoken atheist and he comes from a very devout family and his brother was a Lutheran Minister. He and his brother get along well; they just don’t discuss religion any more.

        Anything is possible – a surprisingly large number of people are wrong about who their father is. That’s in addition to people like me who don’t know.


        • you wrote: “…Perhaps it’s my own bias as someone who is adopted,…” – me too, and maybe then someone makes more reflections about the fate or active making of an identity; important for me: the writer Erik Erikson, I wrote a book review at



          • I took a university course with Betty Jean Lifton who was the wife of Robert Jay Lifton. Both were close to Erik Erikson. You’ve probably heard of Robert Jay Lifton, but if you haven’t you might find his work highly interesting.

            An interesting detail: The Wikipedia article says
            “During the 1960s, Robert Jay Lifton, together with his mentor Erik Erikson and MIT historian Bruce Mazlish, formed a group to apply psychology and psychoanalysis to the study of history. Meetings were held at Lifton’s home in Wellfleet, Massachusetts.”
            I had an uncle who had a house in Wellfleet and my family spent every summer there during the 1960s and 70s. It’s a pretty little town that has always symbolized “the Cape” for me.


  4. Frizz you are a remarkable man and I’m so sorry for your bad experiences.


  5. I recall your previous post on the Richie Boys that you put the url for. Your life beginnings were very traumatic. They are scares that stay with us and are part of who we are. You have a lot of strength in you to be able to write and express your thoughts on it. Many do not know so many things about the true things that were happening to people. This post requires a lot of courage. Thank you for posting it.


  6. Wish I knew German so I could have understood your videos but we do have an uncle who resembles the character exactly both in body language and looks! Coming from a family that is “split” between a north-american and european heritage we have many stories from this period of time, some heartbreaking and incredible, some that restore our faith – they all need to be shared so that they are not lost. As far as a country suffering from mental illness, one only has to look at the state of (large 1st world supposed superpower remaining unnamed) some countries to wonder whether they are afflicted with attention deficit disorder or worse. The reason that we need to effect change on even the smallest level is so that we will not look back in 100 years and wonder whether our governments were the instruments of our demise…


  7. Dear Frizz,
    Thank you for sharing this post. I know your childhood was difficult, and it is something one always struggles to overcome or compensate for on some level, even if it is a steadfast determination to ensure your children a happier childhood than you endured.

    It is terrifying and inconceivable that Hitler could have taken power in a modern first world country, and gone on to wreak such horrific damage. There were many heroes, both celebrated and unsung, but generations after the last shot was fired, the damage done goes on in ways many people cannot know or understand. It is good to study this and try to understand what happened and how, so that we can try to prevent this atrocity from ever happening again.


    • dear Naomi, you wrote “…generations after the last shot was fired, the damage done goes on…” – yes, but not only in Germany, actually much more in Africa, Arabia etc.: the damage done goes on…


  8. Pingback: German Biography | Flickr Comments

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