The question of Hitler’s sexual perversion is a matter of concern to those interested in his personality. It is also a matter of considerable dispute. Many responsible observers who knew him well are emphatic that there was no perversion: later historians are not at all persuaded either of its existence or its importance.
The first published statement that Hitler may have had a perversion was made in an article appearing in 1971 and drawing on a valuable psychological investigation of Hitler prepared for the OSS in 1943 by Dr. Walter C. Langer and other American psychoanalysts and clinical psychologists. This wartime report, subsequently published in 1972, reached the following conclusion with regard to Hitler’s aberrant sexual activity:
It is an extreme form of masochism in which the individual derives sexual gratification from the act of having a woman urinate or defecate on him.
Historians were not slow in responding. The Regius Professor of History at Oxford University, for example, found the discussion of Hitler’s perversion outrageous, irrelevant, and totally unsubstantiated. He concluded roundly and with conspicuous confidence, “There is not a shred of evidence on any of these matters”.
It is important to emphasize that a historian dealing with an emotionally disturbed subject is obliged to use two quite different types of evidence. There is, of course, the familiar kind of testimony which is often thought of as being “solid”, objective, rational, or factual. This sort of historical fact is important and should be evaluated very carefully. But another category of evidence, psychological data, may prove equally valuable when handled with discernment. Historians who feel professionally ill equipped to interpret such data may find it advisable to consult professional psychologists.
With regard to Hitler’s alleged sexual perversion, the traditional kind of direct evidence is not entirely convincing. It comes largely from a former intimate of Hitler’s, Otto Strasser, who told OSS officials during an interview in Montreal on 13 May 1943 that he had learned about Hitler’s perversion from Geli Raubal herself. He said that “after much urging” concerning the nature of her relationship with her famous uncle, she said:
Hitler made her undress … He would lie down on the floor. Then she would have to squat over his face where he could examine her at close range and this made him very excited. When the excitement reached its peak, he demanded that she urinate on him and that gave him his sexual pleasure. Geli said the whole performance was extremely disgusting to her and … it gave her no gratification.
One might well raise questions about the reliability of Otto Strasser’s testimony on anything. In particular, one might well wonder whether Geli would be likely to confide in him over such intimate matters. Langer and his associates, however, reported that other informants–whose names are not mentioned–gave similar testimony about Hitler’s perversion.
Long before Dr. Langer and his colleagues drew up their report, a Catholic priest provided evidence which tends to support their findings. This priest, Father Bernhard Stempfle, had befriended Hitler and helped edit Mein Kampf for publication. He asserted that in 1929 Hitler had written Geli a shockingly compromising letter which explicitly mentioned his masochistic and coprophilic inclinations. Geli no doubt would have been repelled by the letter, but she never received it. It fell into the hands of Hitler’s landlady’s son, a man named Rudolph. Hitler was saved from embarrassment–and conceivably from political disaster–by a remarkable person, a gnomelike eccentric named J. F. M. Rehse. For years this indefatigable little man, who was a close friend and confidant of Father Stempfle, had collected political memorabilia. His rooms were packed to the ceiling with cartons containing copies of official decrees, pictures, political advertisements, and thousands of newspaper clippings. One day Hitler sent the Party treasurer, Franz X. Schwarz, to Rehse and asked him to buy Hitler’s incriminating letter from Rudolph with the excuse that he needed [it] for his collection. But Rehse, on the advice of Father Stempfle, saw an opportunity to profit from Hitler’s embarrassment. He demanded that the Nazi leader assume financial responsibility for his beloved collection. Hitler yielded to this extortion and found the money to underwrite the Rehse collection, which still may be found in the archives of the Nazi Party, now largely on microfilm in the Hoover Institution and in the National Archives.
At any rate, the compromising letter–which probably never went through Rehse’s hands at all–was delivered by Father Stempfle to Schwarz, who gave it to Hitler. It may well be that this service to Hitler helped make Schwarz one of the more influential though publicly obscure figures within the Nazi Party. Hitler further testified to his confidence in Schwarz when he made him the sole executor of his personal will of 2 May 1938.
There is another bit of evidence that would seem to support Father Stempfle’s story of Hitler’s perversion. In June 1934, during the so-called Blood Purge, when Hitler settled his accounts with people who were in a position to embarrass him politically, Father Stempfle was found dead in the forest of Herlaching near Munich, with three shots through his heart.
The idea that Hitler had a sexual perversion particularly abhorrent to women is further supported by a statistic: of the seven women who, we can be reasonably sure, had intimate relations with Hitler, six committed suicide or seriously attempted to do so. Mimi Reiter tried to hang herself in 1928; Geli Raubal shot herself in 1931; Eva Braun attempted suicide in 1932 and again in 1935; Frau Inge Ley was a successful suicide, as were Renate Mueller and Suzi Liptauer. Unity Mitford’s attempted suicide seems clearly to have been prompted by political reasons.
But these are only shreds of evidence, insufficient in themselves to support a conclusion that Hitler had a masochistic, coprophilic perversion. More important to this conclusion is a different kind of historic fact: he displayed other behavior patterns thoroughly consistent with this kind of perversion, which is quite well reported in the literature.
Specialists in these matters have shown, first, that sadomasochistic traits are a prerequisite for such a perversion. Indeed Phyliis Greenacre has concluded that they “are characteristic of all perversions”. Hitler’s sadism scarcely requires further documentation. What is less widely recognized is that from adolescence he displayed moods of deep depression and self-loathing which indicate masochistic feelings. As his worried friend August Kubizek noted, he would “torment himself” and wallow “deeper and deeper in self-criticism … and self-accusation”, until finally, after his mother’s funeral, he lacerated himself with the most awful punishment he could devise: he said that he would “give up Stefanie!”–that is, he would give up his fantasies about her.
As we noted in discussing his latent homosexuality, Hitler showed a tendency to stereotype male and female traits which is a complement of sadomasochistic impulses. In private conversation and public speeches he revealed how constantly his mind swung between masochism (weakness, submission) and sadism (brutality, strength, mastery). He would speak, typically, of the necessity to exalt “the victory of the better and stronger and to demand submission of the worse and weaker“.
When told of Hitler’s infatuation with the movie King Kong, an experienced analyst found the fact to be a revealing expression of Hitler’s sadomasochism: “The image for me that is the most startling is King Kong. It’s easy to read Hitler as the huge gorilla–but he was only that in part. He was also, at the same time, the helpless, sweet little blonde. He was so infatuated with the image because he yearned to be helpless (masochistic), to be overwhelmed by the powerful (sadistic) ape who at the same time sought to protect him. King Kong is thus a very effective expression of his sadomasochism”.
Hitler’s childlike game of having his valet tie his tie for him and tighten it while he counted to ten is, psychologically, a rather complex phenomenon. It speaks of many things. One of them is revealed in the research of psychoanalysts who have discovered that playing games involving ropes around the neck–or, presumably, neckties–is a form of eroticism and masturbation. As noted earlier, the game is also a way of acting out, and thus rendering more innocuous, fears of death by strangulation or suffocation. Often in these games patients reveal incestuous desires and Oedipal guilt, which are “assauged through the masochistic brush with death”. But for present purposes let us emphasize that one of Hitler’s favorite games was a kind of substitute suicide, the ultimate masochistic resolution.
Hitler’s generalized sadomasochistic impulses were carried over directly to his conduct with women. The whip that he habitually carried for many years is, of course, a traditional symbol of sadomasochism. Hitler’s whips were associated with mother substitute figures; his three favorite ones were all given to him by motherly women. We also know that he used whips violently in scenes involving women who were about as young as Klara had been when she married Alois. Heinrich Hoffmann’s daughter, for example, remembered clearly that when she was a 15-year-old in pigtails and flannel nightgown, Hitler, who was visiting their home, asked for a good-night kiss. When she refused, he beat his hand viciously with his whip. In 1926, apparently in order to impress Mimi Reiter, a 16-year-old girl, he whipped his dog so savagely that she was shocked by his brutality.
Another curious epidsode took place in June 1923 in Berchtesgaden, where he was staying at the Pension Moritz. Frau Büchner, the wife of the proprietor, was a striking, six-foot-tall, blond Brünnehilde who towered over Hitler and inflamed him sexually. He tried repeatedly to attract her attention by striding up and down in front of her as he swung his whip and beat it against his thigh. The more she ignored him, the more agitated he became. Almost beside himself, he spoke loudly about an experience he had had in Berlin which showed, he said, the decadence and moral depravity of the Jews. As he lashed about him with his whip, he cried, “I nearly imagined myself to be Jesus Christ when He came to His Father’s temple and found it taken it over by the moneychangers. I can well imagine how He felt when He seized a whip and scourged them out”. This story was told by Dietrich Eckart, the close friend and admirer of Hitler.
Thus, while Hitler used his whip in lashing out at others, he also–according to this testimony and that of his private pilot–whipped himself, beating his boots or thighs in moments of excitement. Even after he stopped carrying it, he told his valet that he considered the whip to be his personal symbol.
There is other evidence of Hitler’s masochistic impulses. He liked to talk about physical punishments and he liked to act them out. The German film star Renate Mueller reported that when she was invited to spend the night with Hitler in the Chancellery, he first described in great detail the medieval and Gestapo techniques of torturing victims. Then, after they were undressed, Hitler “lay on the floor … condemned himself as unworthy, heaped all kinds of accusations on his own head, and just groveled around in an agonizing manner. The scene became intolerable to her, and she finally acceded to his wishes to kick him. This excited him greatly; he became more and more excited.”
Hitler’s sadomasochistic tendencies, we are suggesting, are consistent with a coprophilic perversion, for in it masochism and sadism are united. By having young ladies defecate or urinate on his head, Hitler degraded both himself and others. In this act he could unite with his victims, “who became the personification of [his own] depraved self, as the persecutor who attacks a part of himself in his victims”.
Hitler’s fixation on the anus, and his special interest in feces, filth and urine coincide with this sexual perversion. Sexual pleasure can be stimulated by the rectal mucous membrane and by the retention or expulsion of the feces. We know that Hitler liked to give himself enemas; it seems quite possible that his sexual behavior was similar to those patients with anal interests who, Otto Fenichel has shown, find it pleasurable “to defecate on another person or to have another person defecate on oneself”. Hitler apparently enjoyed the reaction he got from women when he talked about “sewer water”, which seems to have been his euphemism for urine. His secretaries were appropriately shocked, for example, when he told them that their lipstick was made from Parisian Abwasser. To compensate for this fascination with feces and filth, Hitler practiced, as we have noted, the most punctilious personal cleanliness.
He enjoyed talking about sex in general, but he was particularly interested in deviate sexual behavior. In a private letter, Kubizek reported that his friend chattered “by the hour” about “depraved [sexual] customs”.
He employed the same psychological defenses against perversion that he used against feelings of latent homosexuality and fears of Jewishness: denial, projection, and punishment. Only two examples of projection can be given here. In one particularly revealing turn of phrase, he accused Jewish journalism and literature of “splashing filth in the face of humanity”. And his immediate reaction on seeing photographs depicting gross types of deviate sexual activity is worth remembering. He said that the males involved could not possibly be Germans: they must be of Jewish extraction.
In a table conversation of 22 May 1942, he made a special point of lashing out against sexual deviants, insisting that they were a threat to society and “public decency”. They should all be handed over to the Gestapo and severely punished:
Experience shows that unnatural offenders generally turn into homicidal maniacs; they must be rendered harmless however young they may be. I have therefore always been in favor of the strongest possible punishment of these antisocial elements.
Other aspects of Hitler’s personality also fit what we know to be true about the psychopathology of sexual perversion. The infantilism we have found in him is one necessary ingredient. For as Freud was first to notice, “perverted sexuality is nothing else but infantile sexuality, magnified and separated into its component parts”. Infantilism is clearly marked when, as with Hitler, the perversion involves a reversion to the anal stage. Hitler’s harrowing childhood memories of his primal scene experience and his monorchism clearly qualify as prerequisites for adult perversion, as set forth by the distinguished child psychoanalyst Phyllis Greenacre. “If I were to attempt a formula describing the development of perversion”, she has written, the primary cause would lie in a disturbed mother-child relationship, “especially [one] involving the genitals. This becomes most significant … when castration anxiety is extraordinarily acute”.
Psychoanalysts have shown that the mothers of boys who become sexual perverts often were overly stringent about toilet training. As we have noted, Klara Hitler had a reputation in Leonding and Linz for having had “the cleanest house in town” and keeping her children “absolutely spotless”. It is interesting, and perhaps in this connection suggestive, that in one case of perversion described by an American analyst, the patient showed an identification with his mother: he displayed a desire “to have his sweetheart urinate in his presence while he encouraged her in a friendly way. He was playing the role of his mother who used to put him on the chamberpot when he was a baby”.
In his chapter on perversion in his standard work on psychoanalytic theory, Otto Fenichel lists three basic characteristics: patients with perversions tend to be infantile; they have unreconciled Oedipus complexes; and they all display castration anxiety. Indeed, Fenichel concludes: “Castration anxiety (and guilt feelings which are derivatives of castration anxiety) must be the decisive factor”. Adolf Hitler’s lifelong concern about castration has already been mentioned perhaps too often.
If the clinical literature is correct in concluding that Oedipal problems, sadomasochism, infantilism, and castration anxiety are the marks of perversion, then Hitler certainly had all the chief symptoms. But there is a more specific reason why Adolf’s symptoms were so intense and why a sexual perversion of the kind described was, psychologically, an appropriate response to sexual problems dating from his earlier years. The combination of monorchism and primal scene trauma had given Adolf Hitler a lifelong fear and abhorrence of genital sexual intercourse. He saw it as dangerous, evil, depraved, something that must be avoided. He could avoid genital intercourse by redirecting his sexual energies in deviate ways.
As with other issues raised in this book, we cannot be absolutely certain that Hitler had the perversion described here. It must be admitted that traditional historians who reject this hypothesis are correct in saying that they can find evidence to support their assertions that he was sexually normal. But that conclusion is also based on fragmentary evidence of uncertain reliability. And it simply does not fit the psychological data.
In short, we conclude that Adolf Hitler, upon occasion, had young ladies urinate or defecate on his head. We are persuaded that he had this perversion not because the traditional type of evidence is completely convincing but because it is solidly reinforced by psychological evidence. The perversion fits all that we know about Hitler’s private life and public performance. It was an expression of the fetid underside of his grandiose, moralistic public image; it expressed the degraded, guilt-ridden self which pleaded for punishment and humiliation. This impulse for self-punishment, we shall suggest in the concluding chapter, was to have historic consequences…
~ Robert G.L. Waite, The Psychopathic God: Adolf Hitler, Basic Books, 1977, pp.237–243.
See also : Uncle Adolf : The Incestuous Coprophiliac (September 19, 2006).