For the second time in three weeks — following the micropenis rumors — the Internet is abuzz with sordid stories about the sex life of Adolf Hitler. And, once again, the “news” cycle has been stirred up by old, and tenuous, news. And this time, it’s both really old and really tenuous.
Sometime in late 1943 or early 1944 (reports vary), American psychoanalyst Dr. Walter C. Langer submitted a report, commissioned by the Office of Strategic Services (essentially, the predecessor of the CIA), on the inner-workings of Hitler’s mind. That report was declassified in 1968, published in 1972, and, now, 44 years later, is making the rounds again for some of its more lurid — and dubious — claims.
The claim making most headlines now is that Hitler enjoyed sex that involved feces, and that he forced his half-niece, Geli Raubal, to engage in such acts with him. While that certainly makes for an eye-catching headline (and while that report also claimed that Hitler was a homosexual masochist), let’s examine the facts behind it:
- 1. On the very first page of the report’s preface, Langer himself wrote the following:
“[This study] represents an attempt to screen the wealth of contradictory, conflicting and unreliable material concerning Hitler into strata which wll be helpful to the policy-makers and those who wish to frame a counter-propaganda.”
“The material available for such an analysis is extremely scant and spotty.”
“It seemed worthwhile to proceed with the study filling in the lacunae with knowledge gained from clinical experience in dealing with individuals of a similar type. This is not an entirely satisfactory procedure, from a scientific point of view, but it is the only feasible method at the present time.”
“It is hoped that the study may…serve as a guide for our propaganda activities.”
- 2. There are several mitigating quotes in that preface (which you can read in full, along with the whole report, here), but if you trace the through-line, what Langer is doing is admitting that they built this report on insufficient information, but that that’s ok because the report is intended to fuel propaganda, and because…
- 3. Langer was an old-school proponent of traditional Freudian psychoanalysis (he even studied with Sigmund Freud’s daughter, Anna, and associated with the man himself). And there’s a reason that, in the grand scheme of things, old-school Freudian psychoanalysis has fallen out of favor: It’s because it was prone to drawing grand conclusions from meager information (particularly when it comes to matters of sex), instead of working from cold, hard evidence.
- 4. And, once again, Langer didn’t have much in the way of cold, hard evidence — let alone any direct contact with Hitler himself. What Langer did have was admittedly large quantities of interviews with several people who knew Hitler well, including his nephew, his family physician, and former confidante turned enemy of the party Ernst Hanfstaengl.
What should be immediately obvious is that any sound report would have to acknowledge the biases of informants such as these. In other words, if the people supplying the information are either defectors or tangential characters, wouldn’t you question their stories?
- 5. And the report has indeed been questioned, since the very beginning. First, some noted that Langer’s report plagiarized from an earlier report by Harvard psychologist Dr. Henry A. Murray. Second, historian Bradley Smith, among others, have claimed that Langer’s report was a “spiced-up” report and a “wild scheme” of “little consequence” dreamed up by the branch of the OSS specifically tasked with psychological warfare and counter-propaganda.
Since then, several other historians and psychologists (including the Yale, Harvard, and Johns Hopkins-affiliated historian Hans Gatzke and Martin Waugh, writing in the esteemed Psychoanalytic Quarterly) have gone on record stating that the report is merely a historical curiosity.
This assessment of the original report is likely accurate, but that won’t, of course, stop the material on Hitler’s sexual fetishes from making headlines (even though there are other sources that actually provide better evidence for Hitler’s sexual proclivities).
Obliquely connected to this whole mess, though, is one of the more awful stories in Hitler’s entire tale, and one that is based on something closer to fact.
Hitler may or may not have engaged in strange sexual acts with that half-niece of his, Geli Raubal, but it is verifiably true that they were close for many years. She was 17 when she became his housekeeper in 1925 (Hitler, at the time, was in his late thirties). She moved into his house in 1929, although he had already been keeping a tight leash on her, not allowing her to go anywhere alone, nor to finish her medical studies, nor to date whom she pleased.
She nevertheless planned to marry a man and move away to Vienna. On September 18, 1931, she and Hitler argued. The next day, she was found dead in Hitler’s apartment, shot through the lungs with one of his pistols. Incredibly, the police ruled it a suicide.
If you want to delve deeper — into the claims that Raubal was pregnant with Hitler’s child, for example, or the fact that a journalist who dug into the story had his manuscript stolen and was sent to a concentration camp — there are mountains of stories and evidence (not all reliable, to be sure), which is more than we can say for Langer’s once again “newsworthy” report.