Rudolph Binion's work Hitler Among the Germans is a fascinating and frustrating study of the psychological forces at work in the development of the personality and leadership of the Nazi dictator. This study will provide a critical review of Binion's book, including consideration of how the author's arguments draw on the ideas of Sigmund Freud. The argument of the study will be that Binion has written a work which opens up new and interesting avenues of inquiry, but it should be read with a very skeptical eye because of the author's apparent obsessions with certain areas of research which seem questionable.
There is no doubt that the ideas of Freud play a major role in Binion's ideas, although in the only extended section in which Binion openly draws from Freud, the author draws a contrast between Hitler and the subject of Freud's study. However, underlying the entire book is the Freudian concept of oral fixation, the stage of development at which Binion believes Hitler was stalled. Specifically, one area on which Binion spends an inordinate, if not obsessive, amount of time is the role of Hitler's relationship with his mother (and especially breastfeeding and her breast cancer) in Hitler's development as man and leader. Perhaps the reader's resistance to or rejection of some of Binion's arguments is due to the feeling that any "psychological portrait" of Hitler and his Nazi reign of terror is somehow an excuse or alleviating explanation for his behavior. Perhaps Binion is correct in saying that the world "respond[s] defensively as a rule" to the "demand" to "understand" the Nazi leader's "rule of evil" (ix).
Binion's book probably reads somewhat differently today than it did when it was published some two decades ago in 1976. Perhaps our society in the interim has been inundated with such psychological excuses for hideous criminal and evil acts that the reader does immediately react negatively to Binion's work.