Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society

, Volume 23, Issue 1, pp 97–114 | Cite as

‘Screen confessions’: A fresh analysis of Nazi perpetrators’ ‘newspeak’

  • Dana Amir


Through a close reading of Jonathan Littell’s The Kindly Ones (HarperCollins, New York, 2009) – a fictional autobiography describing the life of a former officer in the SS who, decades later, tells the story of a crucial part of his life when he was an active member of the security forces of the Third Reich, as well as perpetrators’ testimonies from World War II – this paper focuses on five forms of linguistic attack on linking, by means of which the perpetrator turns his/her allegedly testimonial text into a false representation of a coherent discourse that in fact undermines its own validity. This is achieved by the creation of a double language that dissociates between explicit and implicit meaning, actually rewriting factual and emotional history alike.


trauma testimony perpetrator’s language confession attacks on linking screen memories 


  1. Adorno, T. (1951) Freudian theory and the pattern of fascist propaganda. In: A. Arato and E. Gebhardt (eds.) The Essential Frankfurt School Reader, pp. 118–137.Google Scholar
  2. Amir, D. (2012) The inner witness. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 93(4): 879–896.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Amir, D. (2014) Cleft Tongue: The Language of Psychic Structures. London: Karnac Books.Google Scholar
  4. Arendt, H. (1963) A Report on the Banality of Evil. New York: The Viking Press.Google Scholar
  5. Aulagnier, P. (2001) The Violence of Interpretation. Translated by A. Sheridan. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Bataille, G. (1957/1986) Eroticism: Death and Sensuality. Translated by M. Dalwood. San Francisco, City Lights.Google Scholar
  7. Bion, W.R. (1959) Attacks on linking. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 40: 308–15.Google Scholar
  8. Bion, W.R. (1962) A theory of thinking. In: Second Thoughts. London and New York: Karnac, pp. 110–119.Google Scholar
  9. Bollas, C. (1992) The fascist state of mind. In: Being a Character: Psychoanalysis and Self Experience. New York: Routledge, pp: 193–217.Google Scholar
  10. Bollas, C. (1995) The structure of evil. In: Cracking Up: The Work of Unconscious Experience. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 180–220.Google Scholar
  11. Caruth, C. (1996) Unclaimed Experience: Trauma Narrative and History. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Dilmon, R. (2004) Linguistic Differences Between Lie and Truth in Spoken Hebrew. PhD Thesis. Ramat Gan, Israel: Bar-Ilan University.Google Scholar
  13. Dilmon, R. (2007) Fiction or fact? Comparing true and untrue anecdotes. Hebrew Linguistics 59: 23–42.Google Scholar
  14. Durkin, K. (2014) The Radical Humanism of Erich Fromm. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Even-Tzur, E. and Hadar, U. (2017) Agents of the Father’s law in a society of brothers: A philosophic and psychoanalytic perspective on legitimate use of violence. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 51 (March–April): 22–32.Google Scholar
  16. Felman, S. and Laub, D. (1992) Testimony: Crises of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History. New York and London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Freud, S. (1899/1962) Screen memories. Standard Edition 3. London: Hogarth Press, pp. 299–322.Google Scholar
  18. Freud, S. (1921/1955) Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego. Standard Edition 18. London: Hogarth Press, pp. 65–144.Google Scholar
  19. Freud, S. (1923/1961) The Ego and the Id. Standard Edition 19. London: Hogarth Press, pp. 1–66.Google Scholar
  20. Freud, S. (1924/1957) The dissolution of the Oedipus complex. Standard Edition 14. London: Hogarth Press, pp. 171–180.Google Scholar
  21. Fromm, E. (1941/1994) Escape From Freedom. Henry Holt and Company, New York: Owl Books Edition.Google Scholar
  22. Gampel, Y. (1999) Between the background of safety and the background of uncanny in the context of social violence. In: E. Bott Spillius (ed. in chief) Psychoanalysis on the Move. London: Routledge, pp. 59–74.Google Scholar
  23. Gampel, Y. (2017) Evil. In: R. Lazar (ed.) Talking about Evil. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 1–16.Google Scholar
  24. Goldhagen, D. (1996) Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust. New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  25. Lacan, J. (1959/2006) On a question prior to any possible treatment of psychosis. In: Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English. Translated by B. Fink. New York: W.W. Norton, pp. 445–488.Google Scholar
  26. Lacan, J. (1960/2006) The subversion of the subject and the dialectic of desire in the Freudian unconscious. In Écrits: The First Complete Edition in English. Translated by B. Fink. New York: W.W. Norton, pp. 671–702.Google Scholar
  27. Littell, J. (2009) The Kindly Ones. Translated by C. Mandell. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  28. Lyotard, J.-F. (1989) The Differend: Phrases in Dispute. (Theory and History of Literature, Vol. 46). Translated by G. Van Den Abbeele. University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  29. Milgram, S. (1974) Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View. New York, NY: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  30. Orwell. G. (1949) 1984. London: Secker and Warburg.Google Scholar
  31. Roth, M. (2016) The restorative power of reading literature: from evil to dialectics. In: R. Lazer (ed.) Talking About Evil. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 181–199.Google Scholar
  32. Waintrater, R. (2015) Body image and identity in victims of extreme violence. In: E. Sukhanova and H.-O. Tomashoff (eds.) Body Image and Identity in Contemporary Society: Psychoanalytic, Social, Cultural and Aesthetic Perspectives. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 49–55.Google Scholar
  33. Žižek, S. (1994) The Metastases of Enjoyment: Six Essays on Women and Causality. London and New York: Verso.Google Scholar
  34. Žižek, S. (1999) The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology. London and New York: Verso.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.HaifaIsrael

Personalised recommendations