A precedent for the Holocaust: The Armenian genocide and The Promise

 

As Peter Balakian points out in the Preface of his book, The Burning Tigris: The Armenian genocide and America’s response (New York: Harper Perennial, 2004), the Holocaust had a significant historical precedent: one which, unfortunately, is all too often ignored. The Armenian genocide, he states, “has often been referred to as ‘the forgotten genocide,’ ‘the unremembered genocide,’ ‘the hidden holocaust,’ or ‘the secret genocide’” (xvii). He adds that many historians—including Yehuda Bauer, Robert Melson, Howard M. Sachar and Samantha Power–rightfully consider the Armenian genocide to be “the template for most of the genocide that followed in the twentieth century” (xviii).

Over a century later, Turkey still refuses to acknowledge the systematic and premeditated mass killings of the Armenian population by the Ottoman Turks, even though this genocide, officially recognized as such by 29 countries, is well documented: “In the past two decades, scholars have unearthed and translated a large quantity of official state records documenting the Committee of Union and Progress’s (Ottoman Turkey’s governing political party) finely organized and Implemented plan to exterminate the Armenians” (xxi). Balakian himself studied “hundreds of U.S. State Department documents (there are some four thousand documents totaling about thirty-seven thousand pages in the National Archives) written by American diplomats that report in-depth the process and devastation of the Armenian Genocide. The extermination of the Armenians is also illuminated in British Foreign Office records, and in official records from the state archives of Germany and Austria-Hungary, Ottoman Turkey’s World War I allies. The foremost scholar of the Armenian Genocide, Professor Vahakn Dadrian, has made available in translation the body of Turkish sources both primary and secondary” (xxi).

The genocide involved the systematic mass murder and ethnic cleansing of approximately 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during WWI. The extermination started on April 24, 1915 with the deportation and execution of a few hundred Armenian intellectuals from Constantinople. It progressed to the forced conscription, imprisonment in labor camps and murder of able-bodied males. Soon thereafter, it led to the mass murder of women, the elderly and children, who were herded by Turkish military escorts for hundreds of miles across the Syrian desert, without sufficient food, water, medical care or sanitary facilities. The Turks butchered entire villages and communities mercilessly driven on these death marches. Women and young girls were often subjected to rape and torture before being killed. Sometimes the victims were loaded on cattle trains for days, without any provisions, in a manner similar to the Nazi transportation of Jews to concentration camps almost three decades later.

Similarly to the Jewish Holocaust, the Armenian Holocaust didn’t happen out of the blue. Like the Jews in many European countries, the Armenians were considered second-class citizens in the Ottoman Empire. Even during relatively Enlightened times, when the Ottoman rulers granted the Christian and Jewish minorities some autonomy and minority rights, non-Muslims were still considered to be “gavours”: meaning “infidels” or “unbelievers”. In the Eastern provinces, Armenian villages found themselves subject to higher taxation and often invaded by their Turkish and Kurdish neighbors. Moreover, like the Jews in the Pale of Settlement region, the Armenians fell victim to periodic pogroms.

However, discrimination and subjugation don’t necessarily lead to wide-scale genocide. Consequently, just as the Jews couldn’t have anticipated the extermination of their people by the Nazis, nothing prepared the Armenian communities living under Ottoman rule for their ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Turks. In both cases, world wars were used as an excuse—and incitement–for genocide. The Ottoman Empire entered WWI on August 2, 1914, when it signed a secret treaty with Germany to fight on the side of the Axis powers. The Turkish leadership wanted the local Armenian population to act on their behalf, demanding their insurrection against the Russian Army. The Minister of War, Enver Pasha, launched an attack on the Russians. He attempted to encircle and destroy the Russian army at Sarikamish in order to reclaim the Turkish territories occupied by the Russians since 1877. However, his plan failed and his troops were defeated. The Turks blamed their loss on the local Armenian population, viewing them as traitors who helped the Russians. Subsequently, able-bodied Armenian men living in the Ottoman Empire were discharged from active military service, disarmed, and sent to forced labor battalions, where many were executed by the Turks.

In a move that would prefigure the Jewish genocide in the Eastern Territories during WWII, on May 29, 2015, the Turkish Central Committee passed a law of deportation (called the “Tehcir Law”) that gave the Ottoman Empire the right to deport anyone they considered a threat to “national security,” which, in their estimation, included women and children. The mass deportation—in grueling death marches–of the elderly, women and children soon followed. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians died from starvation, disease, and mass shootings. To carry out the genocide, the Turks formed a paramilitary organization that has been compared by historians to the Nazi Einsatzgruppen. The Turkish Committee of Union and Progress founded a “Special Organization”, comprised mostly of Turkish criminals released from prisons, who were put in charge of the deportations and massacres of the Armenians. They killed countless helpless civilians, decimating their numbers through forced marches, shootings, mass burning, drowning and even poisoning. Like the Nazis, the Turks experimented with toxic gases and biological warfare (by inoculating healthy Armenians with the blood of typhoid patients). After the Allies defeated the Axis powers, on November 3, 1918 Sultan Mehmet VI was ordered by the Allied administration to hold war trials for the Turkish leaders of the Armenian genocide, which included Mehmed Talaat Pasha, Enver Pasha and about 130 high officials of the Ottoman Empire.

The film The Promise (2016), directed by Terry George, captures the trauma of the Armenian genocide in an epic drama reminiscent of War and Peace. The movie traces a love triangle between Mikael, an Armenian medical student, and Ana, an Armenian tutor educated in France, who is in turn engaged to Chris, an American journalist covering the war for the Associated Press. A small town boy from a poor family, before meeting Ana, Mikael himself becomes engaged to a wealthier neighbor, whose family gives him a dowry (400 gold coins) to cover his expenses for medical school in Constantinople. At a party held by his wealthy uncle, Mikael is introduced to Ana, his nieces’ tutor, as well as Emre, the son of a Turkish official, whom he befriends. He’s smitten with Ana as soon as he meets her. The young woman captivates him with her beauty, culture and sophistication. But the beginning of WWI nips their romance in the bud. Mikael is sent to a labor camp, from which he manages to escape.

In one of the most harrowing scenes of the film, Mikael rides on top of a cattle train, hoping to elude the Turkish army and make it back to his native village to help his family. Suddenly it starts to rain. He hears strange sounds: terrible moaning and cries. Hands emerge between the grates of the train, trying in vain to cup the drops of water. To his shock, Mikael discovers that hundreds of Armenian civilians are trapped inside, dying of thirst and hunger. Before jumping off the train, the young man manages to pry open the lock to one of the doors and save the trapped prisoners. He finally makes it to his parents’ house, where the family has an emotional reunion. However, realizing that it would be too dangerous to stay with his parents, Mikael and his fiancée get married in great haste and move to a remote location, where they live together in a rustic cabin. A few months later, his wife becomes pregnant and experiences health complications.

Meanwhile, his friends, Ana and Chris, visit Mikael’s parents trying to locate him. They are helping a group of orphans escape from the murderous Turkish troops. As Mikael joins them on the back roads to lead the orphans to a safer area, he watches helplessly as a group of Turkish soldiers carry off his own family and other inhabitants of his little village, Sirun. He runs to their aid but arrives too late: most of his family and neighbors lie murdered in a ditch. Only his young niece and mother have (barely) survived, left for dead by the Turks. The rest of the beleaguered Armenian community decides that it’s better to fight to the death rather than be butchered like sheep by the Turks. Armed with rudimentary tools and a lot of courage, the refugees fight valiantly and manage to hold off the Turkish onslaught until a French ship, le Guichen, comes to their rescue. As Mikael takes a lifeboat of orphans to safety, Ana drowns when her boat is capsized by the Turkish artillery. Despite their rivalry for her love, both Mikael and Chris mourn her death together. This tragedy resolves the tension of the love triangle that had divided them.

The Promise follows in the footsteps of War and Peace in depicting war on an epic scale through the optic of a personalized family drama and love story. While viewers seem to rate the film highly, its critical reception has been mixed. Rotten Tomatoes, the review aggregator website, reports that, so far, The Promise received an average rating of 5.7/10. Benjamin Lee, the film critic for The Guardian, found the film “soapy” but well intentioned. Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times concurred, calling it “corny” and “a derivative of better war romances”. The Nation’s film critic, Pietro A. Shakarian, rated it more highly, claiming, “The Promise captures the magnitude of this history (of the Armenian genocide) that no prior film on the genocide has done before.”

I agree in part with both perspectives. Like Shakarian, I find The Promise to be a moving epic drama that tackles an important and often overlooked subject. At the same time, I feel that the film sometimes privileges the love triangle at the expense of offering viewers more necessary background about the Armenian genocide. For instance, when depicting the friendship between Mikael and Emre (the son of the Turkish official, who is eventually killed because he didn’t turn against his Armenian friend), the movie may give viewers the false impression that Turks and Armenians peacefully coexisted before the beginning of the war. But, as I previously indicated, the status of the Armenians living under Ottoman rule was similar to that of the Jews in many European countries: they were considered (at best) second-class citizens and (at worst) enemies to be wiped out in pogroms. In both cases, the sociopolitical conditions were ripe for mass extermination. World wars were a catalyst for rather than the cause of genocide.

 

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Holocaust Memories: A Survey of Holocaust Memoirs, Histories, Novels and Films

 

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 

Holocaust Memories Advance Praise

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Advance Praise for Claudia Moscovici’s

Holocaust Memories: A Survey of Holocaust Memoirs, Histories, Novels and Films

 

The screen that portrays the horrors of the twentieth Century is fading more rapidly than its audience can bear. Claudia Moscovici’s book will go far to help keep it lit longer.

 

Rabbi Joseph Polak, Author of After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring, Winner of the 2015 National Jewish Book Award

 

This book fills a present and mounting need for all readers interested in the Holocaust, including scholars and teachers.  With the literature about that unprecedented crime becoming steadily more extensive, Claudia Moscovici’s work offers a valuable and well-written guide to key works on various aspects of the Holocaust or on its entire history.

 

Guy Stern, ​Distinguished Professor Emeritus Wayne State University; Director, International Institute of the Righteous Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Center, Farmington Hills, MI

 

Holocaust Memories is a morally urgent book, an encyclopedia of mourning, remembrance, and compassion, an invitation and a behest to keep memory alive and to resist unwaveringly any form of authoritarian temptation. It is particularly recommended to high school and college students, but also to a general audience. I learned a lot from it and I am convinced that many others will share my superlative endorsement.

 

Vladimir Tismaneanu, Professor of Politics, University of Maryland (College Park), author of The Devil in History: Communism, Fascism, and Some Lessons of the Twentieth Century

 

A well-written series of book reviews that can be used as a solid tool for those who want to study the Holocaust.

 

Radu Ioanid, Author of The Holocaust in Romania and The Ransom of the Jews

 

Intended for a wide public and a new generation of readers, this bold and ambitious book forms an overview of the Holocaust from a myriad of sources – historical, philosophical, or literary works and films. More than sixty lucid and concise essays (usually two or three pages long) introduce various circumstances of human cruelty in Germany, Hungary, Romania, and Soviet Russia, but also in Cambodia and Rwanda. These focused readings comprise an invaluable source book for anyone seeking to understand the horrors of totalitarian regimes, constantly reminding us that moral courage must prevail over politics.

 

Edward K. Kaplan, Kaiserman Professor in the Humanities Emeritus, Brandeis University, author a two-volume biography of Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972)

 

Holocaust Memories provides a wealth of reviews and summaries of major memoirs, histories, biographies, novels and films related to the Holocaust. In the breadth of its coverage it provides an important and much-needed resource for teachers and students of all ages who are exploring the record of a tragedy so extensive and horrific it defies understanding. In bringing together testimonials and perspectives from many different voices and a range of genres, Moscovici provides a nuanced and multi-faceted approach that will allow readers to begin to register the unfathomable pain and loss brought about by the Nazis’ decimation of Jews, Gypsies, Poles and other groups. The clarity and vividness of the writing make the reviews intense, each capturing a sense of the impact of the source being described. And since the book also covers works about other genocides, such as those in China, Cambodia, and Rwanda, it underscores that genocide is not just a matter of history; it is sadly also a matter of the present.

 

Natalie McKnight, Dean and Professor of Humanities, The College of General Studies, Boston University

 

The Holocaust is much more than a historical event; it is a continuing story playing out in the lives of survivors, their descendants, their communities and entire societies. It is a seminal presence that provokes reflection and alerts us to the risks of falling into the abyss of inhuman depravity – of what could happen because it did happen. In Holocaust Memories, Moscovici has given us a panoramic view of the Shoah and framed it with other modern genocides. This book is at once much broader than virtually any other work I know, deeper than most in its gentle insistence that we persist in wrestling with the most fundamental moral questions. Those questions are as pertinent today as they were in 1945. Holocaust Memories will be an invaluable resource as I write my own memoirs as a survivor.

 

Martin Heisler, Professor Emeritus of Government and Politics, University of Maryland, College Park

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Holocaust Memories: A Survey of Holocaust Memoirs, Histories, Novels and Films

 

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

 

 

Holocaust Memories Table of Contents

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Table of Contents

Holocaust Memories

To write Holocaust Memories, I have read nearly 500 memoirs, novels and films about the Holocaust and other genocides in recent history and reviewed 70 of them. The process of choosing among these sources was difficult. Ultimately, it was based on a desire to cover all of Europe, personal interests and preferences, and the notability of many of the sources. Please find below the book’s Table of Contents, which lists the books and films I reviewed in my book.

 

Foreword by Rabbi Joseph Polak

 

Introduction

 

A precedent for the Holocaust: The Armenian Genocide and The Promise

 

  1. Between Fanaticism and Terror: Hitler, Stalin and The Noise of Time 11

                                                                                            

  1. Elie Wiesel’s Night: Shedding Light Upon the Darkness 15

 

  1. Bergen-Belsen and Four Perfect Pebbles 18

 

  1. The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank by Willy Lindwer 21

 

  1. Hazy Hints of Memory: After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring 24

 

  1. Survivors Club: A Family’s Legendary Tale 29

 

  1. Levi’s Reflection on Humanity in Crisis: Survival in Auschwitz 32

 

  1. Sarah’s Key and the Holocaust in France 35

 

  1. The Holocaust in Hungary: Leni Yahil’s The Holocaust 37

 

  1. A Holocaust Hero in Hungary: Wallenberg by Kati Marton 41

 

  1. Imre Kertesz’s Fatelessness 43

 

  1. Anti-Semitism in Hungary Today 45

 

  1. Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism: Why the Jews? 47

 

  1. The Role of the Masses in The Origins of Totalitarianism 51

 

  1. Beyond the Jewish Genocide: Inferno by Max Hastings 54

 

  1. Hitler’s Ban on Modern Art: The “Degenerate Art” Exhibit 56

 

  1. Saving European Art from the Nazis: The Monuments Men 59

 

  1. The Holocaust in Austria and The Woman in Red 61

 

 

  1. On the Anschluss: Becoming Alice 64

 

  1. The Gypsy Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution of the Gypsies 66

 

  1. Eichmann in Jerusalem: What is the Banality of Evil? 69

 

  1. The Real Banality of Evil: Ordinary Men 75

 

  1. Eichmann’s Extraordinary Evil: Eichmann Before Jerusalem 77

 

  1. The Concentration Camp Commandants: Soldiers of Evil 80

                                                                                            

  1. The Auschwitz Kommandant: Arthur Wilhelm Liebehenschel 84

 

  1. The Real Story of the Terezin Jewish Ghetto: I am a Star 88

 

  1. The Wannsee Conference: Planning the Final Solution 90

 

  1. America First 92

 

  1. Quiet Neighbors by Allan A. Ryan 96

 

  1. Action T 4: From “Euthanasia” to the Final Solution 98

 

  1. Hitler’s Niece and Historical Fiction 100

 

  1. An Unlikely Hero: Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally 105

 

  1. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: An Instructive Fable 108

 

  1. Unbroken: Forgiven but Never Forgotten 110

 

  1. The 1936 Berlin Olympics: The Boys in the Boat 113

 

  1. Manufacturing Death: Hell’s Cartel 116

 

  1. Prosecuting War Crimes: The Nuremberg Trial 119

 

  1. Kamikaze Warfare: Inferno 123

 

  1. Hateful Words: Nazi Propaganda 125

 

  1. A Cowardly Success: Bloodlands 128

 

  1. Planning a Soviet Holocaust: Stalin’s Last Crime 130

 

  1. Lebensraum: The Second World War 134

 

  1. The Siege of Leningrad and Genocide by Starvation 136

 

  1. The Murderous Einsatzgruppen (Task Forces) 138

 

  1. Poland’s Plight: Gustaw Herling’s A World Apart 141

 

  1. Children of the War Years: Witnesses of War 145

 

  1. Sophie’s Choice: Holocaust Literature as Psychological Fiction 146

 

  1. An Incredible Tale of Survival: Alicia, My Story 149

 

  1. Revealing the Ugly Truth: The Holocaust in Romania 151

 

  1. A Romanian Hero: The Memoirs of Wilhelm Filderman 154

 

  1. Ion Antonescu: Hitler’s Forgotten Ally 156

 

  1. Anti-Semitism in Romania: The Journal of Mihai Sebastian 160

 

  1. Heroism in Hell: Resistance, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 164

 

  1. Privilege and Persecution: The Diary of Mary Berg 167

 

  1. Janusz Korczak: The King of the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto 171

 

  1. The Pianist: The Extraordinary Story of Survival in Warsaw 172

 

  1. Trapped in the Lodz Ghetto: The Cage 175

 

  1. The Book Thief: Holocaust Literature as Best Seller 178

 

  1. The Forgotten Holocaust: The Rape of Nanking 181

 

  1. A Cataclismic War: Postwar, a History of Europe since 1945 184

 

  1. The Cultural Revolution and The Great Leap Forward 187

 

  1. The Killing Fields: Genocide in Cambodia 190

 

  1. Genocide in Rwanda: Me Against My Brother 193

 

  1. North Korea’s State of Terror: Nothing to Envy 196

 

  1. Yad Vashem: “A Place and a Name” of Remembrance 199

 

  1. An Impossible Conflict in Gaza: Rock the Casbah 201

 

  1. Anti-Semitism Today and the Assault on Democratic Values 205

 

  1. Would you Forgive the Nazi Perpetrator? The Sunflower 208

 

  1. Could the Holocaust Happen Again? Nazi Hunter 211

 

  1. Ethics Above Politics 214

 

Conclusion: Judaic Studies and the Holocaust via Reviews               217

 

Bibliography                                                                            220

 

About the Author       

 

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Holocaust Memories: A Survey of Holocaust Memoirs, Histories, Novels and Films

 

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

                                                                    

 

Foreword by Joseph Polak for Holocaust Memories

Foreword for Holocaust Memories

 

This book, full of considerations of the unbearable, is haunted by a question posed, but never fully articulated by the author, along the following lines: How is it that I am so drawn to the Holocaust and its ensuing literature, especially as I was born so many years after 1945? Why am I somehow so intuitively familiar with it, with its darkness and its cold, its choiceless choices, its helplessness?

 

It is an amazing work not just for its considerable breadth and scholarship, but because in the enormity of its range, in its drive, in the unyielding brutality of its subject matter, the author never fails to write her essays with anything but the highest discipline and deepest scholarly calm. The book’s moral outrage, manifest on every page, is delivered between the lines, perhaps by its very thoroughness. Yet it also provokes a second disturbing question –what part of her soul seeks satisfaction, needs answers, from all this?

 

It has to do, it seems to me, with being raised in Romania, behind the iron curtain, in the shadow of what Stalin had wrought, his murders more numerous than Hitler’s, and from the helplessness that comes from living in a regime where your activities are not constrained by your own values but by those of Big Brother. There is humiliation that comes from having lived in, and thereby unwillingly acceded to, a morally-compromised society, and this humiliation, far from going away as the years move on, begs for resolution.

 

Claudia Moscovici is not the first scholar to face this challenge. Hannah Arendt left Europe when the maelstrom had already begun, surely offended, and ultimately deeply humiliated by her relationship not just with her teacher Heidegger, but with the intellectual heights of German culture that had so finely nurtured her, and that had in the end, so unforgivingly betrayed her.

 

Arendt, the subject of more essays here than anyone else, is omnipresent in this book. Moscovici is talking about her when she is ostensibly talking about Eichmann, she is talking about her when she speaks of Stagneth; in fact, I suspect that she is talking about Arendt whenever she introduces concepts of evil in every one of these essays, asking, without always articulating it –“Banality? –is this what characterizes evil? Really?”

 

Arendt attended a limited number of the sessions of Eichmann’s trial, and was always in the press room and never in the court room when she did, so it is not clear that she actually saw the man falsely claiming to be just following orders, nor certainly that she had the opportunity to study Eichmann long enough, like an artist gazing at his model, to judge him banal. Arendt, in a tasteless moment, chose to blame the victims (“sheep to slaughter”) of the Holocaust, rather than to excoriate the behavior of its key perpetrator (Eichmann). This is Arendt, I believe, coping badly with her own humiliation by the Third Reich and its intellectuals.

 

Not so our author, who it seems, has heard other, more mature voices. She manages to find in Arendt the closest understanding yet about how Auschwitz and the Gulag mirror each other, and learned from Arendt’s writing, if not from her example, how to talk about the two in the same breath without compromising and without diminishing either one.

 

The screen that portrays the horrors of the twentieth Century is fading more rapidly than its audience can bear. Claudia Moscovici’s book will go far to help keep it lit longer.

 

Rabbi Joseph Polak,

Author of After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring,

Winner of the 2015 National Jewish Book Award

Boston, December, 2016

 

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Holocaust Memories: A Survey of Holocaust Memoirs, Histories, Novels and Films

 

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Psychopathy in history: Holocaust Memories

About my new research and book on psychopathy in history: Holocaust Memories

It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted on this blog. I began writing it about nine years ago, in 2010, to share information about psychopaths and other types of pathological individuals and help others heal from toxic relationships. I wanted to offer useful information to others because reading books and blogs on the subject had helped me escape and recover from a dangerous relationship in 2007. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to specialists in the field, particularly Robert D. Hare, Martha Stout, Sandra L. Brown, Steven Becker and especially Donna Andersen and her blog lovefraud.com, where I first discovered lifesaving information about psychopathy in 2007. This blog, as well as my two books on psychopathy, the nonfiction Dangerous Liaisons and the novel The Seducer, are the product of years of research on the subject of personality disorders and victims of pathological relationships.

By 2012, however, I decided that dwelling on psychopathy for over five years kept me focused on a subject that was still painful to me and my family. I feared that maintaining this focus indefinitely, even if mainly for therapeutic and other-regarding reasons, prevented old wounds from healing. After awhile, the boundaries between therapeutic understanding and painful rumination become blurred. So I decided to take a long hiatus from this topic. This is why for the past seven years I have been posting on this psychopathy blog very sporadically, basically only interviews I’ve given from time to time on the subject rather than writing new articles.

As it turns out, however, the subject of psychopathy was still on my mind, only with a different and less personal focus. Rather than using my own experience with a psychopath as a point of departure for my writing, I began to look back in the pages of history. There’s no doubt that “ordinary” psychopaths–meaning those who have little political power, influence or fame–can cause unbelievable harm to countless people today. But when such dangerous individuals–who lack a conscience, are manipulative and duplicitous, enjoy hurting others, and have a need to control–acquire great power, the devastation they cause reaches tens of millions of victims. Hitler, Stalin and Mao were such highly influential pathological individuals.

Without Hitler, for instance, anti-Semitism and pogroms against the Jewish people would have no doubt continued to exist. However, most likely, the Holocaust would have never happened. Six million Jews would not have perished had it not been for Hitler’s obsessive hatred of the Jewish people and for his devastating power and success. Over the past six or seven years, my interest in psychopathy expanded to psychopaths in history–and how they shaped the history of totalitarian movements, such as Communism and Fascism, as well as the roles they played in the Holocaust and other genocides–in order to trace the impact of the most dangerous psychopaths: those who acquired the greatest power. Out of this research grew my newest nonfiction book Holocaust Memories (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019), which will form the focus of my upcoming posts on this blog for a period of time. I’m hoping that there are victims of psychopaths who, like me, are interested both in the psychological profile of toxic individuals and their victims and in the way such individuals have shaped some of the worst periods–and genocides–of human history.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Holocaust Memories: A Survey of Holocaust Memoirs, Histories, Novels and Films

 

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction

Therapeutic value or endless rumination?

DangerousLiaisonsCoverCampos

I have spent five years of my life, from December 2007 to January 2012, reading about, researching and writing on the subject of psychopathy. To write my own books about psychopaths, the nonfiction Dangerous Liaisons and the novel The Seducer, I read hundreds of books on the subject: both specialized books by authorities in the field, such as Robert D. Hare’s Without Conscience and Martha Stout’s The sociopath next door, and victim testimonials. I also regularly read blogs about pathological relationships, therapy advice columns and comments by victims. This blog, Psychopathy Awareness, contains articles that reflect these readings as well as my own processing of this information from a personal perspective, as a victim of a psychopath myself.

After five years of intense focus on the subject of psychopathy and toxic relationships, however, I began to feel like I was digging myself into a hole. By this I mean that psychopathy started to color my perspective of the world; it became a filter through which I read pathology in life. It also triggered painful memories and obsessive rumination about my past. It was as if I were seeing the world through a monochromatic optic, which was very dark. Perhaps worse than that, I felt that my thoughts became repetitive and my worldview became narrower. To write about psychopathy, I dug over and over into a well of painful memories that part of me wanted to forget. Because of this, aside from the occasional interviews I have posted here, I have taken a long, seven year, break from writing about psychopathy. I felt like I needed to shift focus to other subjects and to reboot aspects of my life that had been damaged by the toxic relationship.

This made me think about an issue that is relevant to many victims of psychopaths or of any PTSD or serious trauma in life, for that matter. My question was: Is focusing on that painful event or period of your life healthy or does it, at some point, become a form of endless and self-defeating rumination? This question is also relevant for family members who have been traumatized themselves by those who have fallen victim to psychopaths and other dangerous individuals. Often the victims, while under the influence of a psychopath, in turn behaved in a cruel or unethical manner to those around them. For instance, there are hundreds if not thousands of websites dedicated to those who have been cheated on, such as Surviving Infidelity and dozens of relationship comment and advice sites. It is so tempting to dwell on the painful events of our past day after day. It is also possible to relive our pain, hoping that the therapeutic process of accepting and understanding our past will bring us some relief. Part of us seeks illumination: learning about personality disorders certainly explains a lot of the toxic behavior that may have seemed contradictory or incomprehensible at the time. Part of us seeks solace in the comments and advice offered by experts and fellow victims. Perhaps what we seek most, however, is a sense of closure: a way of coming to terms with the painful past and finally putting it behind us so that we can move on with our lives.

And yet, in continuing to dwell on that painful period or event day after day and year after year, closure is precisely what we may never reach. It’s difficult to prescribe to anyone how much focusing on their particular trauma is too much; how long seeking therapy or solace via psychology professionals and fellow victims is too long. The answer is individual. At some point, we may find that we are going round and round in circles over the same traumatic events or problems, without acquiring much further illumination or solace. At that point, even helpful therapeutic information begins to feel like an endless process of rumination. As mentioned, I began to reach that sense five years into my nearly daily focus on the subject of psychopathy. Some people, however, never come to that conclusion. They may, for instance, find new ways of helping others that give them a constant sense of satisfaction and growth. I also found immense personal satisfaction in knowing that my research and painful experience gave me some insight and experience that could help others. But after five years, I felt it was time to take that interest in a new direction, about which I’m going to tell you in my next post.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Holocaust Memories: A Survey of Holocaust Memoirs, Histories, Novels and Films

 

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction