Walter C. Langer was a psychoanalyst at Harvard University, who was assigned a very particular task by the US Office of Strategic Services in 1943: he was to prepare a psychological analysis of Adolf Hitler. That work would reveal profound aspects of the psychology of the Fuehrer, anticipating, in addition, some events that would later be fulfilled.
This fact is well known within the world of psychology. Moreover, Langer himself decided to complete that report of the 40s with a book entitled The Mind of Adolf Hitler: a secret report on the war, which would be published in 1972. Later, other works would come in his hand such as A psychological analysis of Adolf Hitler and Dissection of the mind of Hitler.
All these books and the detailed reports that Walter C. Langer gave us over almost three decades, laid the foundations for the creation of a new scientific discipline: the development of psychological profiles of modern politicians. The horror associated with the ideology of the Nazi leader, encouraged the need to continue working in that area to prevent similar scenarios in the future.
Now, it is worth pointing out something interesting. Before the intelligence services asked Langer to prepare the famous psychological analysis, British and American analysts had already made other reports beforehand. However, the work that this Freudian psychoanalyst gave them was much more complete and, above all, useful.
What Dr. Walter C. Langer did was not just to describe a personality profile. He tried to predict how a man might react to Hitler’s psychological traits in certain circumstances, especially those in which events could go against him. These ‘predictions’ turned out to be very accurate.
“Langer’s work is important not only for its value to any historian; but also because it was the first time that a psychoanalyst worked for the intelligence services.”
Walter C. Langer, the psychoanalyst who helped Freud during the exile
The first question that can come to mind in the first place is why him. Why is the US Office of Strategic Services UU chose Dr. Walter C. Langer to perform the psychological profile of Adolf Hitler? The explanation lies in the striking and committed personality of that young psychoanalyst, the son of German immigrants who stood out at Harvard University at that time.
Despite his humble roots, Langer managed to enter the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at an early age. Later, he served in the army to serve in the First World War. After that experience, he chose what would be his definitive path: studying psychology at Harvard.
Once he got the degree, he decided to train as a psychoanalyst. For this, he did not hesitate to move to Germany, specifically to Vienna, where he had Sigmund Freud himself as his mentor.
Those years were as intense as decisive in his career and, above all, in his personal life. He witnessed the rise of Nazism, that atmosphere of violence and injustice and it was he who helped Freud to exile in 1938, along with a large group of Jewish scientists and activists opposed to Nazism.
The man who made the psychological profile of Adolf Hitler
Walter C. Langer helped many Jewish psychoanalysts, scientists and intellectuals for several years. It provided them with visas and organized small groups so that they could arrive as refugees to the Swiss border. He also had direct experience of what the German army was causing to a large number of civilians.
I did not want to remain impassive. Langer was a scientist, one of the brightest minds at Harvard University, but what he saw on a regular basis in Germany encouraged him to want to collaborate with the Office of Strategic Services in the United States. Thus, when Wild Bill Donovan, the director of this organization, proposed to create the psychological profile of Hitler, he accepted the conscious challenge of the limitations, but being very clear how he was going to collect the information.
How Walter C. Langer elaborated Hitler’s profile?
As we can well imagine, Walter C. Langer could not psychoanalyze Adolf Hitler in person. For this, he spent several months analyzing his public appearances, his speeches, films, books, newspaper articles, magazines, as well as personal interviews with a large number of people who had had contact with the German leader.
Among the most outstanding figures he interviewed were the following:
- William Patrick Hitler, Hitler’s nephew.
- Family doctor.
- Eduard Bloch.
- Ernst Hanfstaengl.
- Hermann Rauschning.
- The princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe.
- Otto Strasser
- Friedlinde Wagner.
- Kurt Ludecke.
Langer knew very well how to discriminate useful information from which he was unreliable. He was very skilled, observant, meticulous and a great personality analyst.
What did the psychological report on Adolf Hitler say?
The report that Langer produced had more than 1000 pages. It should be noted that he had the help of another psychologist from Harvard University, Dr. Henry Murray, and also his own brother, William Langer, historian and head of research and analysis in strategic services in the United States.
What did this work say? What main points did he articulate about the personality of Adolf Hitler? These were the most basic ideas.
Conclusions of the report
- Hitler was according to Walter C. Langer, a neurotic psychopath, someone who skirted schizophrenia.
- He liked pornography, masochistic sex with violent tendencies.
- Hitler had had homosexual relationships.
- He was hypersensitive and suffered from panic attacks.
- He was an extremely jealous man, had fantasies of omnipotence and delusions of grandeur.
- Also, he had the firm belief that I was in this world to fulfill a messianic end.
- Now, the most outstanding thing about the German leader is that he controlled his pathological tendencies very well. Moreover, he channeled his delusions to awaken in the population nationalist feelings and a firm hatred against the Jews.
- On the other hand, something suggested by Walter C. Langer is that Hitler’s character would deteriorate over time. Something like this would make some part of his army aware of his mental state and think that the best option would be to eliminate him (something that would be evidenced later in the failed Operation Valkyrie).
- Langer concluded that in case everything could go against Hitler, knowing the features of his personality, the most plausible option is for the German leader to choose to take his own life.
As we well know (despite the fact that some people defend other ideas) Adolf Hitler shot himself in his Berlin bunker in April 1945 when Stalin’s Soviet forces seized the city. Langer was right and his report was very useful for the secret services.
The work of this psychoanalyst remained in strict secrecy for three decades, until in the 70s the book The Mind of Adolf Hitler was published, in which these points are pointed out. An interesting reading to understand from another point of view, one of the darkest parts of our history.