The Psychology of Evil
Schindler’s List (Academy Award Winner, written by Thomas Keneally) is the story of the lengths a people will go to create self-esteem where none exists. Groupthink, a single minded thought process empowered a band of low-minded German bullies to create a stereotype, a one-dimensional image of a minority group to blame for their lack of national self-esteem. They chose the Jews, who they blamed for their humiliating loss of WWI and for being rejected by the world community.
The “List” evolved when the narcissistic, womanizing profiteer Schindler saw the error of his party’s ways through the moralistic eyes of his Jewish accountant, Stern.
Hope and horror walked hand in hand through this unimaginable experience. Underneath it all lies a victim’s capacity for resilience fueled by hope.
These war survivors, nor any survivor of repeated violence -- be it overt, as bullying, or covert as domestic violence -- should not allow the violation or adversity to define them. The victims in the story moved forward toward a goal beyond themselves, transcending pain and grief by perceiving bad times as being temporary.
"The disappearance of a sense
of responsibility is the most
far-reaching consequence of submission to authority.”
- Stanley Milgram, Social Psychologist
Propagandists' came up with a promotional campaign designed to establish a superiority complex called the master race.
They accomplished this at the expense of their scapegoat. The idea was powerful and the timing exact.
Embracing it offered no resistance as it relieved a nation of their emotional pain. Denial allowed an entire nation to turn a blind eye to man’s inhumanity to man.
They condoned the destruction of the Jewish self-identity by dehumanizing them as subhuman.
This contrived depiction justified carrying out their inhumane evil actions for the good of all.
There is a lesson in this for all victims of violence. Seek comfort in each other, see beyond your circumstances and reestablish healthy emotions that create a sense personal well-being. If denial and justification are used, faulty thinking exists. It is a victim’s responsibility to escape. The Nazis used electrified fences to contain victims. In situations of domestic abuse, finances, children and emotional dependency deceptively contain victims. If the abuser is blind to how they are affecting others they need to seek professional therapeutic help on their own without their victim. Remaining with an abuser only perpetuates the cycle of violence. Leaving sets you free.
What emerged from the master race concept was an authoritarian government's officially imposed narcissism; a self-serving mindset fueled by acts of unpunished violence sustained through the reinforcement benefits of operant conditioning as demonstrated by sadistic behaviors inside concentration camps.
Systematic desensitization, a form of emotional numbness washed over the abusers and victims after prolonged exposure to repeated acts of violence. Logic and ethics begging the question “How can this happen?” vanishing for the sake of erasing the inferiority complex for the German nation.
Schindler’s self-centered motives fade into the realization that the people under him in his factory have suffered dehumanization through a cycle of physical and verbal abuse by the Nazis. Unbeknownst to Schindler, such prolonged exposures facilitated ongoing emotional disorders such as: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depression and survivor’s guilt.
What emerges from Schindler’s self-realization, as seen through his narcissistic lens, is a new-found need to be a “hero” by saving lives, thereby approving the creation of “His List.”
Amidst all the hate and blind brutality, a contradiction appears. A moment of humanity emerges, transcending the walls of denial imprisoning the sadistic camp commander Goeth. He reveals his vulnerability by reaching out to a young Jewish woman "touching her in her loneliness", which proves an analogy for his own self-imposed condition, a price he pays for his transparent superiority complex. The girl's fearful trembling is interpreted as a rejection, exposing his momentary weakness. The sadist quickly dons the mask of personal evil, beating her half to death as justification for her indiscretion.