Laurence Rickels Online

Nazi Psychoanalysis

Excerpt 4

Within media-war contexts that keep coming complete with their own pop-psychological reception of just how to relate to gadgets (namely by following, from trauma to love, the beat of identification), anti-Semitism makes ghost appearances on the season finales of ancient history by taking a spin around the metabolism of modern psychological warfare, a spin cycle with its own recent and primal history. What the U.S. experts were soon referring to, in short hand, as "psy war" was the group-sized legacy of an internalization, technologization, metabolization of trauma that first stood to analytic attention case by case during the World War One outbreak of war neurosis. Just look at German Expressionist cinema, the sensurround of shell shock and unacknowledgable losses: where there's doubling, monstrosity, and other literal limits of "assimilation," of "becoming image," the Jewish cemetery (in The Student of Prague) or ghetto (in The Golem) can serve as backdrop for the final suicidal showdown.

The Jews were special featured in the Rorschach Blitz of German total wars from the start, but on a continuum with philo-Semitism, which was the look the projection or propaganda had during the First World War. Before General Ludendorff's 1935 secondary elaboration of the German loss of the war as the melting plot of Jews and Catholics, his first second thought, right after the war, was that the British really beat the Germans when they jumped the gun and stole the fire from German propaganda initiatives by authorizing Jewish colonization of Palestine (Lasswell, Propaganda Technique 176). The World War One phase of German propaganda or idealism can be tracked in the work of Hanns Heinz Ewers, whose overlaps with psychoanalysis began in 1913 when he wrote the screenplay for Stellan Rye's The Student of Prague, the cinematic breakthrough of doubling that Freud picked up on in studies of the uncanny and, in the first place, of war neurosis. Ewers's 1920 novel Vampir understands or follows the heart beat of the war, the lust for blood that the philo-Semitic alliance uniting Germans and Jews against the anti-Semitic nations, America and Russia, had brought to consciousness. Under this double cover Vampir also documents Ewers's own propaganda efforts on behalf of the German cause while landlocked inside the United States. The problematic blood bonding with vampirism was the line Ewers gave his public between the wars, which is when the novel appeared. But the portion that belongs to Ewers's stay in the States in 1915 gives evidence for a German propaganda move that protected, I mean projected, the Jews. That Ewers later befriended Hitler, who commissioned Ewers to write the hit novel Horst Wessel, belongs to a metabolism of projection that isn't only historicizable within vaster eras of intolerance. What changes with World War One, with the German defeat in World War One, is a change of art, of the art of war: the German military complex was now convinced that war would henceforward be won or lost only on group-psychological grounds. While observing the German cutting of losses in preparation for the Second Coming of world war Frankfurt School theorists recognized a specular reversal or disconnection between the psychoanalytic discourse and the culture of its resistance. In the German psy war, the live transmissions of psychological warfare were beginning to choose and pick up their frequencies where the more transferential work of propaganda had left off getting us off.


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