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

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Psychopathy and Totalitarianism: A Review of Conquest’s The Great Terror

Psychopathy is usually analyzed as an individual psychological phenomenon. As we’ve seen, the term describes individuals without conscience, with shallow emotions, who are able to impersonate fully developed human beings and mimic feelings of love, caring and other-regarding impulses to fulfill their deviant goals: be that stealing your money,  stealing your heart or both. This phenomenon becomes all the more toxic, and dangerous, when such individuals rise to national power and manage to create totalitarian regimes ruled by mind-control, deception, lack of individual and collective rights and freedoms, and  arbitrary displays of power.

Psychopathic, or at least seriously disordered rulers, such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Ceausescu show what happens when (their) pathology spreads to a whole country. Given that psychopaths are estimated to be, at most, only 4 percent of the population, it’s difficult to imagine how they manage to rise to positions of authority over more or less normal human beings to impose a social pathology in every social sphere: from education, to the police force, to the juridical system, to the media. Few books explain this strange and extremely dangerous political and psychological phenomenon better than Robert Conquest‘s classic, The Great Terror. This book traces both Stalin’s rise to power within the ranks of the Bolsheviks and, concurrently, the spreading of the totalitarian system like a fatal virus throughout Soviet society (and beyond).

The book also exposes the underlying lack of principles even among seemingly ideological rulers like Joseph Stalin. When it suited his purposes, Stalin strategically oscillated siding with the left wing of the communist party (Trotsky, Kamenev and Zimonev) or the right of the Bolshevik party (Bukharin, Rykov and Tomsky), turning each side against the other, to weaken them both and consolidate his own power. He surrounded himself with equally ruthless, unprincipled and sadistic individuals who did his dirty work–Yakov, Yagoda and Beria–placing them in positions of power in the NKVD, or Secret Police.

Stalin engaged in arbitrary displays of power, sending tens of millions of people to their deaths in prison or labor camps. Even his army leaders weren’t spared. In a very poor strategic move that showed he cared more about acquiring total control than about his country’s victory, Stalin decimated the ranks of his army elite right before the war against Hitler, when the Soviet Union would have needed them most. Nobody was safe from the gulag; nobody could maintain ideological purity. Anybody could be accused of deviationism from communist principles at any time.

Totalitarianism is a pathological system imposed upon an entire country or area. Like a disease, it spreads through the healthy aspects of society. It conditions even ordinary human beings, through the inculcation of fear and through brainwashing, to lose their conscience, their empathy and their humanity. Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror is a testament to human corruptibility. This magnificent book will continue to remain historically relevant  for as long as we allow disordered individuals to have power over us, our families and our social institutions.

Claudia Moscovici, psychopathyawareness

Dangerous Liaisons: How to Identify and Escape from Psychopathic Seduction