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Talk:Heinrich Himmler

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 Definition German Nazi leader, head of the Schutzstaffel (SS) party elite; committed suicide after being captured at the end of World War II [d] [e]


Is this an enlightening sentence?

The psychic process of dehumanization and extermination may be conceptualized as regression to the analsadistic phase of psychic development on the part of both inmates and S.S. guards of the extermination camps.

I think it is better to remove it. Also the "sadistic nature" in the lead. /Pieter Kuiper 18:54, 27 October 2007 (CDT)

this is a paraphrase of the leading historian on the subject writing in the leading history journal. Better keep it in for the readers who like psychohistory--it's hard to think of a better subject for this technique. Richard Jensen 19:19, 27 October 2007 (CDT)
"Sadism" is a specific paraphilia, with the most accepted medical definition being in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed., of the American Psychiatric Association. It has been refined to exclude those who employ erotic pain as part of an otherwise functional sex life; the usual interpretation is that sadism, masochism, or assorted other paraphilias either become an absolute requirement to have sex, or become the entire sex life.
Note, however, that the term specifically relates to the association of the infliction of pain with sexual excitement. The most brutal torturer in history, if his acts triggered no sexual association, would not be, in psychiatric terms, a sadist.
There are a substantial number of reports indicating that Heydrich was a true sadist, such as accounts of his rough treatment of prostitutes at Berlin bordellos. Himmler tended to distance himself bureaucratically from the actual mistreatment; while death is not strictly part of sadism, it is notable that he fainted on viewing a genocidal execution.
Whether someone is a leading historian or not, I don't like to see scholars in one field redefining very specific terms used in another. Heinrich Himmler, I am confident, could be checked off on quite a few DSM-IV diagnostic codes, but I'd like to see specifics that he met the criteria for sadism. Otherwise, I recommend removing it.
For that matter, "analsadistic"? Definition? It paraphrases a developmental concept from Freud, which, to the best of my knowledge, is totally discredited. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:11, 27 June 2008 (CDT)
I don't care what Prof. Jensen says it is: it's the worst (and most ludicrous) type of psychobabble and should be removed instantly. If Prof. Jensen wants to put it into *quotations* and cite the "leading historian" by name and source for such a grotesque statement, then let it be upon his head. If you don't edit this in the next day or so, be assured that I shall. Hayford Peirce 23:03, 27 June 2008 (CDT)
Some people don't like psychohistory, I take it. How they explain the mass murderer of the Holocaust is not clear--what alternative explanations do they offer, and what scholarship do they cite? None at all, it appears. Letting ignorance triumph over scholarship is a bad way to run an encyclopedia. We have of that right now in the US re creationism and intelligent design and that sort of thing. Richard Jensen 00:45, 28 June 2008 (CDT)
When "psychohistory" flies in the face of precise terminology in psychology and psychiatry, presenting no theoretical foundation for its assertions and either neologisms or redefinitions, no, I don't like it.
Let's turn, for the moment, to the question of explaining Hitler. In his collection of essays, Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil, Ron Rosenbaum collected and commented a wide range of explanations for Hitler's motivation, many by reputable scholars, and demonstrated there is no consensus. Langer's attempted psychological analysis, done during the war for the OSS, did make some reasonable predictions about his behavior, not attempting his motivation.
In the hard sciences, there are many times where we say, "we don't know why this happens. At present, we don't have enough statistically significant data to present a valid model." Perhaps not the cosmologists, but many of those scientists are able to try new experiments.
Unless some striking documents are uncovered, we probably have all the data about Hitler that we are going to have. It is not letting ignorance triumph over scholarship to admit a lack of explanation, as opposed to inventing creationism, analsadism, and that sort of thing. Howard C. Berkowitz 01:00, 28 June 2008 (CDT)
We have the situation with Hitler that his leading biography Peter Padfield (a military historian) agrees with the Loewenberg interpretation and uses it. As for the "hard" sciences, they are not at issue here. It's history we are concerned with. The idea that an encyclopedia cannot report one of (perhaps the most) important interpretations of Himmler because the language offends some users who are unfamiliar with the field seems to put us on a par with the creationism debate. Himmler is of course quite different from Hitler because we have the documents: the teenage diaries, while we have no such information on Hitler. I suspect that our critics above have not even read Lowenvberg nor at the diaries for themselves--they are online at JSTOR and I will be happy sto send PDF copies to anyone who asks by email to (see jstor) Loewenberg's work has been favorably reviewed in the Bulletin of the History of Medicine by Edwin R. Wilson (Volume 71, Number 2, Summer 1997, pp. 356-357), the difference being that Wilson actually read Loewenberg before attacking him for the "worst (and most ludicrous) type of psychobabble". I can only imaging what language our critics will use when they actually read Loewenberg. Richard Jensen 01:27, 28 June 2008 (CDT)
It is truth and accuracy that is the issue, and history does not get a free pass because historians agree about something, rather like mice agreeing to bell cats. Now, are Padefield or Lowenberg professionally qualified in mental health? Would they have the credentials to be a CZ editor in health sciences or psychology? Do they have peer-reviewed publications in medical journals -- not history of medicine, but psychiatry, psychopharmacology, or other relevant hard disciplines?
Indeed, some of the mental health people can be rough on their own. Most, I would say, still agree Freud did a service in encouraging investigation of a subject, but his specific interpretations are almost completely discredited. I'm willing to read Lorwenberg, but let me ask a question--who is the source of "analsadistic"? There are times when an academic comes up with an awkward but useful term, for an area where no one else is coming up with descriptive terminology -- "presentism" comes to mind. Why should a "psychohistorian" not be judged first by peer review by psychologists, just as a military historian, who gets into the details of weapons, reasonably be expected to know how they work? Howard C. Berkowitz 10:32, 28 June 2008 (CDT)


I think we must be careful of making judgements, and as far as possible let the facts speak for themselves. I've removed the word sadistic from the lead; I think that is more a moral judgement here than necessarily technically accurate, but actually I don't think it's his sadistic nature that made him a war criminal, rather the acts themselves that he was responsible for. We punish someon for their acts not their inclinations, however vile. I think reporting the psychohistorical view is fine so long as it is confined to a section and clearly is reporting. I too am suspicious of this kind of retrospective interpretation. In this case, the acts are so vile that reporting them coolly is probably best, let the outrage come from the reader not the writer? Gareth Leng 10:50, 28 June 2008 (CDT)


Before I change it, I thought I'd mention my proposed change here. Himmler indeed commanded the SS, but the Gestapo was not the only dreaded organization, and, in fact, was two bureaucratic levels below. It was Amt 4 of the RSHA, and commanded by Heinrich Muller. The RSHA, which did report to Himmler, was headed, successively, by Reinhardt Heydrich and Ernst Kaltenbrunner.

The administrators, guards and executioners at concentration and death camps again were several levels below Himmler, although through a quite different (and sometimes multiple) chain of SS command including the WVHA and Death's Head troops.

It would be as accurate to call Hitler the head of the Gestapo, since Himmler reported to Hitler. Without further clarification, especially in deliberately twisted organizational structures characteristic of totalitarian states, I suggest "head of" be restricted to the executive in charge of a specific organization, not his chain of command. Howard C. Berkowitz 18:52, 29 November 2008 (UTC)