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Did Hitler Have RAD?

How do human monsters get that way? Most of us can't imagine how anyone could create the evil and pain that Adolph Hitler did.

We like to think of Hitler and others like him as aberrations of nature, pure evil somehow come into human form. But monsters like Hitler are created by other humans; most often, they're made by their parents.

Alice Miller

In an article about Hitler reprinted on, she writes,

In order not to die, all mistreated children must totally repress the mistreatment, deprivation, and bewilderment they have undergone because otherwise the child's organism wouldn't be able to cope with the magnitude of the pain suffered. Only as adults do they have other possibilities for dealing with their feelings. If they don't make use of these possibilities, then what was once the life-saving function of repression can be transformed Into a dangerous destructive, and self-destructive force.

Hitler was beaten severely and regularly by his father; to protect himself, he learned to repress all feeling. But, Miller writes, his rage and pain remained. Her book, "For Your Own Good," explains how his childhood experiences caused him to become the man he was, as well as how German society created a generation with many people who were ready to follow him. The book is a polemic against the cruelty we inflict on children in the name of discipline and socialization.

Reactive attachment disorder, or RAD, is a diagnosis given to people -- most often children -- who are unable to bond with others. They show little or no empathy, they are often violent and destructive, and they can be very cruel. It's very likely that today, Adolf Hitler would be diagnosed with RAD.

Miller is very clear that Hitler is still responsible for his actions, as we all are. And she is NOT justifying what he did in any way. She says,

What point is there for us today in learning about Hitler and his history? For me, the main point is this: our knowledge will serve as a warning against our blindness and encourage us to give it up once and for all and to struggle against collective repression. This is what I do consistently in all my books in order to help people understand the psychodynamics of the mistreatment of children and its immeasurable danger for society, as demonstrated by Hitler's case. My explanations are by no means intended to suggest pity for a man as merciless as Hitler.

For other psychologically oriented analyses of Hitler, see posts in this forum: