For his part, Dr. Redlich does as much to temper what he considers exaggerated interpretations by previous biographers as he does to add his own psychiatric insights. Though his own training is psychoanalytic, Dr. Redlich says he is dubious about how much psychoanalysis can contribute to an understanding of Hitler: there are simply not enough available data. ''I find these psychoanalytic treatises are too simplistic,'' he said. ''To blame the Oedipus complex or the castration complex for Hitler's problems -- these are universal concepts and you need something much more specific.''
Yet unlike some historians, who distrust any application of psychological theory to historical figures, Dr. Redlich believes one cannot adequately assess Hitler's actions without taking into account not only the historical facts, but the Nazi leader's ''psychological reality.'' For example, Hitler believed that his father was half-Jewish and had died of syphilis. These beliefs, the author argues, may have affected the Nazi leader's behavior, whether or not they were true. (There is no clear evidence, Dr. Redlich writes, to support either claim.)
Dr. Redlich theorizes that Hitler may have thought his physical abnormalities -- his hypospadia and spina bifida occulta -- were signs that he had inherited syphilis from his father. And his rage at this may have fueled his anti-Semitism, and his obsession with syphilis as a ''Jewish disease,'' a theme he dwelled upon for 10 pages in ''Mein Kampf.''
One of the most puzzling aspects of Hitler's childhood is that investigators have been able to find little there to foreshadow the adult he would become. He did not torture animals (though there is a single, often repeated, story about a billy goat), and from the little that is known, he seemed a fairly normal child, though sexually shy in adolescence. ''Psychohistorians assume that the child had troublesome, deep conflicts (including ambivalent feelings about his mother and father),'' Dr. Redlich writes. ''I am more impressed with the fact that useful data about eating habits, sleep disorders and toilet training are lacking.''
Indicators of Hitler's peculiarities in later adulthood, of course, are abundant, from his sexual inhibition (he may never have had sexual intercourse with Eva Braun, Dr. Redlich writes) to his phobias of disease, his explosive rages, his delusions and his conviction that he would die at an early age (he died at 56). In his book, Dr. Redlich runs through a list of psychiatric symptoms -- paranoia, narcissism, anxiety, depression, hypochondria, to name a few -- and finds some evidence for every one. Proof that Hitler was overtly self-destructive or sexually perverse is sparser and less compelling, the author says.
Yet Dr. Redlich concludes that attaching a formal psychiatric diagnosis to the Nazi leader is not very useful. When applying such diagnoses, he writes, he often feels ''as if I were in a cheap clothing store: Nothing fits, and everything fits.'' Ultimately, the psychiatrist portrays Hitler as a man who was more than the sum of his pathology, entirely responsible for his actions.
Some have argued that any attempt to explain Hitler is wrong, because understanding inevitably breeds excuse. Dr. Redlich disagrees: ''I tried to put myself as far as I could into Hitler's shoes, to study him as a psychiatrist would study a forensic patient, to understand what makes him tick,'' he said. ''Empathy is not the same as sympathy.'' In fact, there is little possibility that in trying to fathom Hitler's actions this particular author could also forgive him. Dr. Redlich, 88, is himself an Austrian of Jewish descent, who trained in Vienna before the war and fled the Nazis for the United States in 1938. ''This book,'' he said, ''is in a way my answer to Hitler.''
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