Jung and the Nazis
by Mark Medweth
It is difficult to deny that Carl Jung’s theories are largely overlooked in comparison to Freudian and other schools of thought. There are numerous possible reasons for such an occurrence but the most intriguing of all are accusations of anti-Semitism and National-Socialist support in the 1930’s. Having been accused of such, and facing the associated stigma of scandalous behavior and beliefs may very well be the reason behind Jung’s unpopularity. His relationship with Sigmund Freud, his written work on Jewry, his fascination with the Nazi movement, and the allegation of Nazi sympathy in general, seem damaging to say the least. An examination of Jung and his work during the period leading up to and through World War Two sheds greater light on such long-standing accusations and goes a long way toward dispelling these claims.
Like many others, Jung initially welcomed the focus of unity that swept across the German land as the National-Socialist «revolution» took hold (Stern, 1976). Though as time went on and Jung grew increasingly cautious in his views, accusations of being a «Nazi sympathizer» emerged; accusations which, in some respects, seems justified as we will see.
In 1928, Carl Gustav Jung became a member of the International General Medical Society for Psychotherapy (Gallard, 1994). This society, which began two years earlier, was founded on the desire to develop a psychotherapeutic science with a spiritual, rather than widely popular material, emphasis. In the same year that Jung joined the society, so too did Matthias Heinrich Goring, the cousin of the now infamous Marshall, Herman Goring. Jung was elected vice president in 1930 and was asked to assume the presidency in 1933 due to the deteriorating political climate. It was believed that Jung, being a Swiss National and thus neutral, would be in a better political position to handle the role (Gallard, 1994).
Later that year, there was a reorganization of Zentralblatt fur Psychotherapie, the society’s publication journal. The decision was made that two separate but aligned editions of the journal would be published: an international edition edited by Jung, and a German edition under the control of Goring for the purpose of ensuring that all material conformed to Nazi ideology (Sherry, 1986). It was soon after recommended by Goring that every practicing psychotherapist adopt Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf as a basic reference. This written appeal was slated for publication in the German edition of the journal but somehow ended up in the international journal above Carl Jung’s signature (Gallard, 1994; Sherry, 1986). Though the society’s headquarters were located in Switzerland and he was certainly far removed from this «Nazi deception,» it was a commonly held belief that Jung accepted the presidency of a Nazified German organization; thus he must be a sympathizer.
His decision to accept such a position was heavily criticized by many. Perhaps the fact that Jung fantasized of national glory, was purportedly not immune to the lure of power, and felt neglected and misunderstood, played a role in his acceptance of the presidency for a society in which some members were almost certainly familiar with Mein Kampf and Nazi ideology (Stern, 1976). Jung, however, offered the excuse that he simply followed the wishes of his German (and Jewish) colleagues; his true aim was to save psychotherapy which could easily disappear, as he had put it, with a single stroke of the pen by higher authorities (Gallard, 1994). He did initially doubt his decision from a moral standpoint but the desire to preserve the interests of science made the risky effort worthwhile (Gallard, 1994). In the end, Jung’s professional reputation was certainly affected by these events, though he seemed to have a blind spot to these ramifications. However, this blind spot, some have suggested, also allowed Jung to see and clarify elements which went previously undetected, out of which his fascination with events in Germany grew.
Part of Jung’s fascination with the Nazi movement was due to his belief that his archetype theory was best able to explain the «rumblings» of pre-World War Two Germany. He saw the Nazi movement as an enormous eruption of the collective unconscious he had previously postulated as far back as 1918 (Stern, 1976). Jung believed the archetype «Wotan,» which represented the German state of mind in the 1930’s, was the return of the collective repressed, and constituted a great event in light of the belief that the Germans were experiencing a reintegration of archaic elements into their psyche (elements that had been, over past centuries, suppressed by various cultural movements).
By 1936, Jung’s excitement waned as he recognized (and clearly stated) the demonic aspect of Hitler and the Nazi movement (Gallard, 1994). However, according to his theories, there is an inherent duality of the archetype, leading Jung to the expectation that the evil side would turn into its opposite, allowing these forces to humanize. Thus, Jung believed a new and positive cultural form would emerge and remained hopeful (Gallard, 1994). Such hopefulness was frowned upon by those opposed to the Nazis but, as we will later see, his medical profession may have accounted for his unpopular views. Despite these events there were other damaging accusations. His relationship with Freud, it has been suggested, represented a darker side to Jung’s Jewish attitudes.
Jung and Freud
The anti-Semitism charges in the 1930’s were dismissed as having been started by a vengeful Sigmund Freud in order to discredit Jung’s work (Sherry, 1986). These accusations, however, were continually repeated by Freudians and stuck with Jung wherever he went. It is true that a superficial glance of Jung’s attitude concerning Freudian psychology seems frighteningly similar to Nazi phraseology. Jung referred to the Freudian school of thought as subversive, depreciatory, undermining, obscene, and smutty-minded, while the Nazis described Jews as alien, subversive, lascivious, and parasitic (Stern, 1976). His statements may have sounded anti-Semitic but Stern (1976) proposes they were more correctly attributable to the resentment that periodically overcame him; he may have overshot his initial target, which was undoubtedly Sigmund Freud (Stern, 1976). These anti-Semitic accusations by Freudians, Jung warned, were a confirmation that psychoanalysis was a Jewish psychology (Sherry, 1986). It seemed that no one, without facing charges of anti-Semitism, could criticize Freud’s work. Did Jung’s resentment of Freud arise because he was anti-Semitic? It is more likely that this tension between the two grew out of their necessary separation as coworkers and colleagues.
It is true that Jung had a conflictual relationship with a prominent Jew – Sigmund Freud. It was Freud, however, who first emphasized cultural and religious differences between the two (Gallard, 1994). What originally brought Freud and Jung together was their common belief that the unconscious was a reality. In the end, however, the separation of the two collaborators was necessary because of different fundamental views that could not be reconciled: Freud concentrated on the physical and biological background of the unconscious, while Jung conceptualized the psyche in terms of polarities (Franz, 1975).
Jung believed that both the biological as well as the spiritual aspects belonged to the very nature of the unconscious. In later years, Jung explained the separation as a typological difference in temperament (Franz, 1975). Freud’s work corresponded to an extroverted approach to science while Jung’s methods were more of an introverted concern. It is clear that differences between the two were at a fundamental, structural level rather than racially or religiously based. In a 1929 text, Jung contrasted their two theories and no mention was ever made of Freud’s religious origins (Gallard, 1994). In 1939, Jung spoke about Freud after the eminent thinkers death and again made no mention of religious or racial differences, though the time in history would have been an opportune moment to do so, considering the rise of the Nazi movement and the general feeling of dislike toward the Jews in Germany. In Jung’s own words, «I am absolutely not an opponent of the Jews, even though I am an opponent of Freud’s. I criticize him because of his materialistic and intellectualistic – last but not least – irreligious attitude and not because he is Jewish» (Jung, 1934b, as cited in Gallard, 1994, p. 218).
To this day, the two schools of thought are opposed to each other. This opposition probably resides in the typological differences alluded to by Jung. The Freudian outlook is much closer to the extroverted orientation of our Natural Sciences while Jung’s approach is of a more subjective nature (Franz, 1975). Whether one is satisfied that he was an opponent of Freud because of professional and not religious differences, Jung was also accused of writing, throughout the 1930’s, what some consider to be anti-Semitic statements about Jews in general.
Jung and Jewish Psychology
In the very first issue of the Zentralblatt fur Psychotherapie, with Jung as editor, he wrote that the universal aspect of the psyche should not be allowed to hide the particular characteristics that are evident from belonging to any given cultural or religious group. In fact, Jung touched on this topic – differences between Jewish and Germanic psychology – on many occasions which highlights his «concern to give voice to those viewpoints which report on the ‘imponderable differences’ between men, and by exposing them, to reach a synthesis» (Gallard, 1994, p. 209). Such may be the case, but Jung’s emphasis on religious and cultural differences of the psyche was a serious breach of ethics in consideration of the time in history (Gallard, 1994). To accentuate such differences between Jewish psychology and other schools of thought fed into Nazi propaganda.
Furthermore, Jung continually failed to explain exactly what he meant by his oftentimes paradoxical writing, thus leaving him open to criticism. In light of this, the accusations of ant-Semitism seem hardly surprising. As an example of paradoxical writing, Jung, at one point, likened Jewish psychology to Chinese psychology. At that time in history however, the Chinese culture was not well known; they were a remote people, not valued by others, and were of an entirely different cultural realm (Gallard, 1994). It is not surprising that such an idea could be taken as a further attack on Jews. Yet unknown to most, Jung had spent years immersing himself in Far Eastern culture and found somewhat of an authentication of his ideas. His great respect for the Chinese culture implies that he was complimenting Jewish psychology. In fact, at one point, he stated that Jews were more vastly conscious than the barbaric Germanic people and had a higher degree of civilization and adaptability (McGuire, & Hull, 1977).
In relation to such differences that Jung so eagerly emphasized, it was his belief that the cultural specificities were the universal heritage of humankind which can be found in all people (Gallard, 1994). However, an effort must first be made to recognize these particulars which usually show themselves as differences. This notion would explain why Jung was so intent on highlighting differences between Jewish and Germanic psychology: he simply wished to initiate discussion on, what many considered, sensitive matters (Sherry, 1986). Though some would later suggest that through addressing Jewish psychological differences, he was really unconsciously addressing Freud, it is clear that he failed to understand the possibility of misinterpretation and the dangerous misuse of what he wrote. If Jung could be accused of anything, it would be his poor timing in light of the events unfolding around him in pre-war Europe.
Having considered these accusations – of being a Nazi sympathizer and anti-Semite – it is worth considering often overlooked public statements expressed by Jung as the war approached.
Jung’s Own Words
As early as 1918, Jung knew something unfavorable was arising within Germany. His words of the «blond beast stirring in its subterranean prison…threatening us with an outbreak that will have devastating consequences» (Jung, 1947, as cited in Welsh, Hannah, & Briner, 1947) serve as an early warning of what was to come. Just ten years later, he wrote on how each person is unconsciously worse when acting within a crowd rather than individually. Jung warned the world that the larger an organization becomes, the more the people are prone to immorality and blind ignorance (Jung, 1947, as cited in Welsh, Hannah, & Briner, 1947).
In 1933, in a lecture given in Cologne, Germany (at the same period in history when others accused him of Nazi-sympathy), Jung leveled a full blown warning about people as a collective suffocating the individual, leaving those in the crowd anonymous, irresponsible, and dangerous. Jung implied that Hitler (and Nazism) was the inevitable cause of such collectivenes. Four years later, in 1937, Jung spoke at Yale University in the United States, relaying his belief that the movement seen in Germany was explained by a fear of neighboring countries supposedly possessed by devilish leaders. In stating that no one can recognize their own unconscious underpinnings, the possibility that Germany was projecting their own condition upon their International neighbors was evident (Jung, 1947, as cited in Welsh, Hannah, & Briner, 1947). This fear leads to the nationalistic duty to have the biggest guns and the strongest army.
In 1940, most of these words were published in German but were quickly suppressed. As a result of Jung’s views about Germany and particularly Adolf Hitler, he ended up on the Nazi «blacklist» (Jung, 1947, as cited in Welsh, Hannah, & Briner, 1947). When France was later invaded, the Gestapo destroyed Jung’s French translations as well. In no uncertain terms, Jung’s writings and lectures served as a warning for the conflict to come. As well, Jung’s own words opposed the accusations of Nazi sympathy and anti-Semitism. It would seem then, in light of the above, that the answer to the question of Nazi sympathy and anti-Semitism is fairly clear.
Was Jung a Nazi sympathizer and ant-Semite? The answer is most likely no. Jay Sherry (1986) suggests that Jung’s bitterness toward Freud as well as his fascination with his archetype theory coming to life caused him to miss, on a feeling level, what was unfolding in a historical sense. Jung clearly showed the importance he placed on mythical symbols and transformations, and his choice to describe events psychically (in mythological terms) rather than from a psychiatric or sociological standpoint may have obscured his view of his predicament (Gallard, 1994). As well, his initial enthusiasm about the Nazi movement was likely a result of the polarity of his theory. If each archetype contains the seeds of good as well as evil, it is difficult at the start to judge whether a positive or negative resolution will take place. His medical background may have counseled him to a «wait and see» attitude in light of this polarity (Jung, 1947, as cited in Welsh, Hannah, & Briner, 1947). Jung stated that, «a doctor needs a certain optimism in order to save everything that can possibly be saved, even when things look very black. One simply cannot afford to let oneself be too much impressed by the apparent or real hopelessness of a situation, even though this should entail exposing oneself to a certain danger» (Jung, 1947, as cited in Welsh, Hannah, & Briner, 1947). This attitude leaves no room for initial negative judgments, but leads one to proceed cautiously and optimistically. This would account for the numerous accusations that Jung possessed an initial give-them-a-chance attitude toward Hitler and the Nazi movement (Sherry, 1986).
One should also keep in mind that, from Jung’s standpoint, pre-National-Socialist Germany was one of the most differentiated cultural countries in the world, and represented the intellectual background to which the Swiss were tied through language and friendship (Jung, 1947, as cited in Welsh, Hannah, & Briner, 1947). Jung admits that, as Hitler seized power, he consoled himself in the fact that Germany was indeed a civilized European nation with a strong sense of discipline and morality. Thus, to Jung (as well as countless others), the ultimate outcome seemed confusing and uncertain (Jung, 1947, as cited in Welsh, Hannah, & Briner, 1957).
Finally, Marie Louise von Franz (1975) knew Jung up to his death and never perceived the slightest trace, conscious or unconscious, of National-Socialist or anti-Semitic support. To the contrary, she states that Jung frequently spoke against Hitler and the Nazis in distinctly unambiguous terms. The fact that some of his most devoted pupils – Erich Neumann, Gerhard Adler, James Kirsch, and Aniela Jaffe – were Jewish and that racism was quite contrary to Jung’s well known aspirations of universality suggests the accusations are somewhat misguided (Stern, 1976). As a result of these insights, it is best to infer that Jung’s misplaced optimism and the mistake of talking too much proves the truism that «a great scientist is not necessarily a good politician» (Franz, 1975, p. 63).
©1996, Mark Medweth
‘Jung and the Nazis’ was originally published in the online journal Psybernetika at Simon Fraser University. SFU deleted the entire journal. Never leave anything of value on a university site.