Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Jewish Kapos and the Tragic Manifestation of Trans-Generational Introjection

Victor Frankl
The famous psychiatrist of the 60s, Victor Frankl, was a Holocaust survivor. In his book, Man's Search for Meaning, he devoted the entire first section to describing life in the concentration camps from a personal psychological perspective.  The thing he most noted was how human personalities were driven to extremes.  Some became altruistic, some became sadistic. The camps brought out one's deepest fears, anger, hatred, love, gentleness, kindness, compassion, sharing, duplicity, thievery, surrender or hope of survival.  But despite the brutality in the external world, Frankl recognized that the mind was free to transcend the suffering through the discovery of personally significant meaning.



A Kapo brutally managing fellow prisoners*


Introjection at the pathological level is described by psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists as a psychological defense-mechanism formed as a reaction to extreme external threat by hostile individuals in one's environment.  It's most notable presentation occurs in the prison system or in prisoner of war camps. Introjection is a phenomenon of the psyche wherein the ego takes on the persona, values and behaviors of the oppressor through identification, thus mirroring the personalities of the perpetrators in an attempt to "belong" and so escape from or reduce the anxiety produced by the threat.  It is a survival mechanism. Unfortunately, in such traumatic settings as the Nazi work camps, its unconscious force drives a person to treat others as their perpetrators would treat them. In many cases, extreme fear and anxiety expressed in the staged process of introjection can propel an individual into realms of brutality beyond that of their perpetrators.

The Jewish "kapos" of World War II Nazi concentration camps are an extreme example of the tragic manifestation of introjection. The most brutal among their peers and obsequious to their captors, they were selected by their Nazi overseers to serve as guards over the camp work-crews and to enforce docility and absolute compliance upon their fellow prisoners.   

In a narrative illustration of the absoluteness of  poverty in the camps, Frankl wrote that as their cigarettes ran out, many of the men would save the last one and keep it hidden for weeks. It represented the sole luxury left to them. One could tell when a man had given up when he smoked that cigarette. Death soon followed from disease and starvation.

Some survivors, though deeply wounded spiritually and psychologically, went on to make the best of their lives, deepened with compassion. Others later dealt with their suffering by becoming vengeful and bitter.

70-years later, the scars of suffering are carried into their children's and grandchildren's generation.  One can see it nakedly expressed in the Zionist Movement and in the treatment of Palestinians where sadistic brutalities are acted-out -- racism, murder; ethnic cleansing of the land, the stealing of Palestinian water, systematic destruction of their homes, illegal acquisition of their farmland and possessions; the concentration, isolation and containment of the Palestinian people; collective punishment -- much of it acts of revenge as much as war crimes committed by wounded souls who have no conscious awareness of the racism they have introjected and externalized from previous generations who suffered the inhumane trauma of genocide which they now project onto others.  It is a sickness that Frankl might describe as the national neurosis of Israel.  What now seems to be the majority population of Israel is composed by Ashkenazim, many of whom have inherited an identity of victimhood, a people that cannot really be described as survivors; but rather, as a people unconsciously living as angered and pathologically cruel victims of history, acting-out the traumatic anxieties or their ancestors. No one can describe their condition as "free."

But there are others who find identification with the suffering of their neighbors and can see in the treatment of Palestinians the violence and evil perpetrated by a new generation of fascists, a generation of Jewish Nazis who now hold in their hearts the power of displaced anger through a false revenge, the vile and vicious power to dominate, the raw power of violence formerly inflicted upon their grandparent's generation by an oppressive WWII racist Aryan generation of sociopathic authoritarian leaders and their right-wing authoritarian followers.  These with hearts of compassion can see the incongruity between the myth of The Promise to those made righteous by The Law and the reality of fascist nationalism.

The pathological introjections of their grandparents have continued inexorably, exploiting the Jewish motto, "Never Again," in order to prosecute a campaign of ethnic cleansing.  Tragically ironic, the crimes against humanity now perpetrated by Zionists in the name of Der Judenstaat not only cast a pall of shame on Jews throughout the world; but far worse in proportion, they are being suffered by a generation of Palestinians who will communicate their victimization and anxieties to their own children for generations to come.  It is the karma of generational suffering, a momentum of ignorance and lost innocence.

Yet, we must remember that not all Jews are Zionists and not all Zionists are Jews.  The authoritarian mindset of the current Israeli government can not survive history because it is unjust.  As Martin Luther King put it, "The moral arc of the universe bends at the elbow of justice."

The therapeutic remedies of Victor Frankl involve the transformation of this traumatic existential suffering into constructs of meaning and release. Israel certainly is blessed with such compassionate ones of the priesthood of transcendence.  One can only guess that their absence from the public life is the result of social oppression by the cruel zeitgeist of Zionism.


*Image supplied from a Facebook collection by Patrick Mac Manus


Work Camp Survivor Victor Frankl Explains Logo-Therapy:

1 comment:

Tea Break said...

Very insightful piece. I have often wondered why a certain segment of the Israeli Jews seem so ruthless against their Muslim neighbors. (Not that the Palestinians are all pacifists, but still...) Over bearing, illogical aggression meted out by the Israeli Defense Forces, over and over.

Why? I think it is displaced aggression. The Germans are off the hook (because of reparations or becacuse Germany is too strong or...?)