Posted By matt on October 19, 2016
I’ve often wondered how the Germans in WWII could have done what they did. I mean, sure, the Nazis were behind it but how, as a society, do you get on board with genocide? In the US, at least, we generally just kind of shrug and say they fell under Hitler’s “spell”; into his cult of personality, as it were.
This book, as its title suggests, attributes the cause of war to child abuse. How does this figure in to WWII? Well, according to the book, in that era in general, and, in Germany in specific:
- Corporeal punishment was common and encouraged.
- In that time, this was particularly brutal, well surpassing modern discussions of spanking (which, data suggests, is pretty harmful). We’re talking beating with implements, breaking bones, and loss of consciousness.
- Neglect was common. Again, specifically:
- Doctors of the time recommended not feeding babies more than three times per day, lest they become “petty tyrants”.
- Tight swaddling for long periods of time, to the point of immobility, was the norm, lest they “crawl about like beasts”.
- When not being fed, the swaddled babies were placed in a bag or carrier, which was often hung on a hook or placed on a table or floor while the caregiver went about her business.
- Note that I said “caregiver”, because, especially amongst the wealthier classes, sending the child to a wet nurse for the first several years of life was common.
- This was before widespread contraception. The pill had not been invented, and condoms were available, but it was only in 1936 that the AMA had reversed their position against contraception. So, how was family planning accomplished?
- Infanticide. Largely supported by out of current norms sex ratios (up to 60% male), the theory is that unwanted children were either strangled or left somewhere (“exposed”).
- Some of the wet nurses mentioned above were known as “killing nurses”. You send the children you want to keep to one nurse, and the ones you don’t to a different nurse, with an intentionally poor survival rate.
- Sexual abuse. When Freud was seeing patients, he basically uncovered widespread instances of molestation and repeated sexual abuse and trauma. He later revised these theories, calling them fantasies. There is speculation, however, that this was due to fear of reprisals..
So if all of the above is true, taking into account what we now know about how to mess up children, the above reads like a virtual checklist on how to make a messed up kid – one who is nervous, violent, desperately seeking approval, and therefore easily manipulated.
Now, multiply that by a whole generation, and things start to make a lot more sense.