What will Norman Mailer make of "Hitler's Chappaquiddick"?

Scrutinizing culture.
March 6 2007 3:52 PM

The Last Temptation of Norman Mailer

What will he make of "Hitler's Chappaquiddick"?

(Continued from Page 4)

This stew of misinformation and sexual innuendo by a reputable Freudian alone should warn Mailer away from trying to make the Geli Raubal episode the decisive one in the history of Hitler and the Holocaust.

Wouldn't it be more daring of Mailer if he attempted to create a relationship between Hitler and Raubal that wasn't either sexual or decisive in shaping his subsequent political career?

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One of the few historians to entertain the possibility that sex has been overemphasized in Hitler explanation is John Lukacs, who has argued (in The Hitler of History) that Hitler wasn't that interested in sex. And there is just no reliable evidence of any of the outré perversions attributed to Hitler and Geli.

But one thing I've learned about Hitler explanation: The shakier the evidence, the more hidden from view, the more attractive an explanation becomes as a secret key to Hitler's psyche.

What does it all matter in the scheme of things? The trouble with the sexual explanation of Hitler, with almost all sexual explanations, is that they are reductionist: They leave out the political dimension, the cultural and ideological dimension of causation. They leave out 19 centuries of European religious anti-Semitism that laid the groundwork for Hitler; they leave out the proliferation of 19th-century German "racial science" that propagated the notion, indeed virtually invented the notion—of "racial," biological, anti-Semitism—of Judaism as a genetic disease that couldn't be cured by mere conversion as in the past. Because it was "in the blood," it could be cured only by extermination.

It exculpates German culture that was so receptive to the murderous hate-filled rants of Hitler. It exculpates powerful influences on Hitler such as our own Henry Ford, whose book The International Jew shaped his thought and served as a template for Mein Kampf.

If only it were that easy, explaining Hitler's political pathology as the product of sexual pathology.

I hope Norman Mailer won't take the easy way out.

Correction, March 9, 2007: The original version of this piece misspelled Obersalzberg. (Return  to the corrected sentence.) It also stated incorrectly that Angela Raubal was born in Linz, Germany. She was born in Linz, Austria. (Return  to the corrected sentence.)