Tuesday, September 23, 2003


Prof. Steve Dutch of the University of Wisconsin writes:

You mentioned in your post of 12th. Alice Miller's book, For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelties in Childhood and the Roots of Violence. One of Miller's claims is that Adolf Hitler was a victim of child abuse. In support, she cites John Toland's biography. Now it so happens I looked into this because I have a course on technology in socio-historical context, and I once did lectures on Nazi Germany and how an advanced society could engage in genocide and use all the instruments of an industrial society to carry it out. I specifically researched whether Hitler had been abused and found no evidence at all, including in Toland's book.

Also I looked at Mein Kampf to see if Hitler provided any clues - if anything he was a bit affectionate and condescending about his father. Of course Miller would equate any slap on the butt with "abuse," so by her definition Hitler was almost certainly abused. But so were all the victims of the Holocaust and all the people who risked their lives opposing it. People like Miller end up trivializing abuse.

It is simply not true that abuse cuts across all socio-economic lines. If you look at the really egregious cases of kids being killed, seriously injured, or chained for years on end, they are heavily concentrated in underclass settings.

And reporting is biased. If a middle class kid tells his teacher he was slapped, there's a good chance the police or social workers will get involved. If a cop finds an abuse victim in the inner city, the social workers will tell him they're too overworked already. Middle class people are easy to regulate. If a parent is cited for child abuse and ignores the summons, he has a job and home he can lose. If an inner city parent ignores a summons, the police and courts have bigger fish to fry. So trivial abuse gets reported in the suburbs and only the most flagrant cases in inner cities.

Now for a real heresy: The single strongest clue I got from Mein Kampf about what made Hitler tick was in his discussion of his years in Vienna and his disgust at the intellectual dishonesty he found among leftists. Now I think Hitler was probably terribly naive and simplistic at the time, and probably engaged in what is called "naive disconfirmation," in which someone will come up with a simplistic counterargument and assume he has settled the issue when anyone with more information can see he hasn't. But he probably had plenty of real cause for disgust as well.

And, to support another post on your blog, the Ba'ath Party IS classic fascism. It has all the attributes: the ethnocentrism, the denial of the concept of individual rights, and the notion that the only right is membership in the group. And Iraq had a pro-Nazi government until the Brits toppled it in 1941.

I guess Steve must have tenure.


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