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November-December 2011

EVIL Unethical Behaviour in the Financial Industry - Ischa van Straaten Reviving Death in American Culture - Rose Nerges Defining Evil - Michael Welner & Theresa Mastellon Debate - Hannah Arendt: Rabid Anti-Semite or Brilliant Political Thinker?

Book & Author - Eva Braun - Heike B. Gรถrtemaker

CREDITS Editor-in-Chief: Elke Weesjes Executive Editor: Mark Fonseca Rendeiro Design : Michelle Halcomb Editorial Board : Mark Fonseca Rendeiro, Anouk Vleugels, Ruth Charnock, Danielle Wiersema Daphne Wiersema Questions and Suggestions: Send an e-mail to Advertisement : Send an e-mail to advertising@ Address : Oudezijds Voorburgwal 274, 1021 GL Amsterdam



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ARTICLE ONE Twilight Zone: Determinants in the Financial Industry By: Ischa van Straaten


Unethical Behavior


Executives 7


Reviving Death in American Culture By: Rose Nerges


ARTICLE THREE Defining Evil Through The Depravity Standard the Everyday Extreme & Outrageous By: Michael Welner & Theresa Mastellon


Clinician’s Inventory



DEBATE Debate: Hannah Arendt: Rabid Anti-Semite By: Elke Weesjes


Brilliant Political Thinker? 51

BOOK & AUTHOR Eva Braun: A Life With Hitler - Heike B. Görtemaker By: Daphne Wiersema





FOCUS &SCOPE The United Academics Journal of Social Sciences is interdisciplinary, peer reviewed and interactive. We provide immediate Open Access to its content on the principle that making research freely available to the public supports a greater global exchange of knowledge. In doing so, this journal underlines its publisher’s ethos, which is to ‘Connect Science & Society’. United Academics is an independent platform where academics can connect, share, publish and discuss academic research. Furthermore it facilitates online publications while respecting the author’s copyrights. We will publish themed issues bimonthly, each consisting of a collection of articles, workin-progress pieces and book reviews showcasing the broadest range of new (interdisciplinary) research in Social Sciences from both established academics as well as students. While many academic journals are online and a growing number are available in openly accessible venues, the internet has not been utilized to its full extent. Therefore we have created a journal which truly does tap the power of the web for interactivity. To begin with research papers and other contributions published in this journal, contain interactive media such as videos maps and charts in order to make research more accessible and engaging. Secondly, in order to extent the peer review system, which is currently still limited with only a few colleagues reviewing papers, we want to invite the United Academics community to submit commentaries. By opening up the commenting and feedback process we will foster better critique of work. We want to encourage researchers to interact with the research, provide feedback and collaborate with authors.

November/December EDITORIAL Evil


ow do we define evil? What makes people do evil? According to the famous 18th century philosopher Immanual Kant “A man does evil, when he consciously subordinates the moral law to the interest of self-love.” He called this kind of evil -radical evil, because it corrupts the basis of moral law, its autonomy and sovereignty. In an attempt to address the above questions in relation to the crimes committed during the Second World War, the political theorist Hannah Arendt coined the provocative notion ‘the banality of evil’. In 1961, Arendt, whose work is mainly concerned with the nature of power, politics, authority and totalitarianism, reported on the Eichmann trial for The New Yorker. During the trial Arendt observed the following: “The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal. From the viewpoint of our legal institutions and of our moral standards of judgment, this normality was much more terrifying than all the atrocities put together.” She consequently raised the question whether evil is radical, like Kant argued, or simply a function of thoughtlessness - the tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without thinking critically about the results of their action or inaction. Drawing upon Arendt, Zygmunt Bauman wondered what makes good or normal people do evil? He found plausible answers to this question in the very nature of the Holocaust which, in his opinion, could not have happened without two of modernity’s most characteristic achievements; technology and bureaucracy. These ‘achievements’ contributed to the fact that people have lost sight of the overall bigger picture. A single signature can affect and even destroy thousands of people’s lives. Bauman and Arendt are painfully relevant today. Auschwitz was in many ways an example of modernity

cannibalizing itself. The same can be said about modern finance and the succession of financial crises that have consumed the financial markets over the past two decades. Since 2008 it has become especially clear that financial technology itself became the tool that almost destroyed the very system it was designed to protect from risk. In the past few years it has become evident that many people, in particular in the financial sector, are still just following orders. In many ways modernity, particularly bureaucracy, has caused a certain emotional sterility, which creates an environment where evil can prosper. In this issue, contributors discuss this lack of emotional empathy. They explore the roots of evil, the continuity between evil in the 20th century and 21st century, its different definitions, but also hopeful developments for the future.







n September of 2008, the world witnessed the collapse of one of the US’s largest financial institutions, Lehman Brothers. Without precedent, several other big corporations related to the financial industry, snapped like twigs. The Dow Jones Index lost a stunning 50 percent of its value within five months, because traders feared an economic meltdown. Mistrust froze Western economies for some time, leading to the bankruptcy of many corporations in other industries. US and European banks

are said to have lost trillions of dollars. Unemployment rose quickly and consumption levels plummeted: a recession set in. At the time of writing, the summer of 2011, economists speculate that there will be a ‘double dip’ as several European countries may face bankruptcy, because they are unable to pay off the interest on their national debts, which skyrocketed in the process of trying to save the national economy. In short, the financial industry brought the world to an enormous crisis.


Unethical Behavior by Executives in the done by executives working in the banking Financial Industry and financial industries. The mainstream explanation of this crisis describes three important factors: the housing bubble (housing prices were too high compared to real economic value), coupled with so-called subprime mortgages (money that was lent to borrowers with a low credit rating) and derivatives (highly complex financial products that let companies outsource their risks on other financial products). The latter two in particular seemed to be factors that the financial industry could have prevented, since it concerns products they invented. It seems that financial institutions had the policy of making profits while putting their customers, their business partners and the financial system at risk. Without being accusative, the behavior of the executives in the financial institutions seems to be contrary to western liberal ethics, which dictates that one’s behavior should not harm others. Such unethical behavior is probably present to some degree in all industries, but seems relatively frequent or at least more harmful when

Three Types of Factors So what is it that makes executives inclined to behave in a fashion that is so harmful to other human beings? In this article I will focus on three types of factors in order to answer this question: motivational, product-related and interpersonal factors. Before elaborating on these factors, there is one important notion to take into account: unethical behavior is not a phenomenon limited to the boardrooms of major financial companies. In theory, these types of behaviors are something all humans are capable of. The infamous Stanford Prison Experiment is an example that confronted us with the reality of what people are capable of. In this experiment a group of innocent participants entered a prison simulation study, in which half were assigned the role of prisoners and the other half the role of guards.1 After a few 1 Haney, C., Banks, W., & Zimbardo, P. (1973). Interpersonal dynamics in a simulated prison. International Journal of Criminology and Penology, 1, 69-97.


days the experiment was aborted, because the prison guards displayed authoritarian behavior that resembled some of the worst jail movies ever. Torture, sadistic behaviors and mental abuse were carried out by the experimental guards, who were regular, social people when they entered the simulation. How was all this awful behavior possible? In the second half of the 20th century, social science dug deeper into this so-called darker side of human nature and documented many situational, developmental, biological, socio-cultural and individual factors that determine unethical behavior. This article will reflect on the socio-psychological consequences of some industry-specific factors in order to understand how the financial industry was able to self-destruct, taking with it the fortune, literally and figuratively speaking, of millions of people around the globe. It uses a narrow definition of unethical (or immoral) behavior, namely behavior that (potentially) harms others or corrupts a shared system, while bringing advantages to the actor or organization it represents.

‘Give it to me Baby’ - The Need For Money, Risk Taking and Competition The first category of factors concerns the motivation to gain money and become rich. Sure, earning money is the basic activity in our modern, money-based, economy. However, desiring more money than necessary to survive may lead to risky and anti-social behavior. One important ultimate reason for this desire is reproduction. When human life is perceived as an evolutionary state in which reproduction is the main goal, huge piles of money seem helpful, since they provide all the necessities to survive and more. Also, the amassing of wealth also relates to gaining power. As often is the perception, it seems that money can buy you anything. From a purely biological perspective, women are attracted to potential partners who show off their ability to provide their spouse and future offspring with all they need and protect them from possible harm from others.2 And men are 2 Buss, D. M., and Schmitt, D. P. (1993). Sexual Strategies Theory: An evolutionary perspective on human mating. Psychological Review, 100, 204-232.


competing in many ways to prove this to the opposite sex. In line with this reasoning, one might see shiny sports cars as the modern human equivalent of the feathers of a peacock: it is meant to indicate that one is able to safeguard basic amenities and spend resources on items that are in fact quite useless or even risky in terms of survival or reproduction.

Lack of Empathy In this sense, it comes as no surprise that banks and financial institutions attract male executives, like sirens seducing sailors in Greek myths. In 2009, 83% of executive officers in US financial sector were men, including a stunning 97% of chief executives. Financial institutions provide their


executives with high salaries and bonuses. By this means, the alpha males are able to show the women of the world that they have survived in the corporate jungle. However, the testosterone necessary to reach the top has one drawback: it reduces empathic capacity. It does so by blocking the action of the hormone oxytocin, which stimulates the experience of empathic feelings and, ultimately, generosity.3 Empathy is said to be predictive of morality.4 Ironically, Adam Smith, whose theories inspired history’s and today’s free market disciples, also defined morality as stemming from something we now label as empathy. To oversimplify it, the executives in the financial sector run the risk of losing their morality because of their instinct to attract the best and most attractive sexual partner.

be sensation seeking, also known as “Type A” personalities. People scoring high for this trait are more likely to engage in risky trading behavior,5 but also in criminal behavior or social violations,6 behaviors that may be unethical in nature. Recently, it was shown that CEO’s who fly their own airplane, a characteristic shared by high sensation seekers, were more likely to execute plans that involve higher corporate risk (mergers, acquisitions, higher debt).7 In order to create high profits, companies need to take such actions. This risky behavior creates high profits in a competitive context such as financial institutions (as front runners in a capitalist society), but as history has shown, at a great cost. Other selection principles in organizations may also increase the chance that immoral behavior emerges in Sensation Seeking & Psychopaths the boardroom. For example, charismatic people, who have a high chance of being Besides this biological approach, looking chosen as leaders, have a high sense of at personality traits also sheds light on self-worth, self-esteem, self-consistency what happens in the boardroom. One predictive trait for unethical behavior may 5 Grinblatt, M., and Keloharju, M. (2009). Sensation 3 Zak, P.J., Stanton, A.A., Ahmadi, S. (2007). Oxytocin increases generosity in humans. PLoS ONE, 2: e1128. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0001128 4 See also: Prinz, J. J. (in press). Is empathy necessary for morality? In P. Goldie & A. Coplan (Eds.), Empathy: Philosophical and psychological perspectives. Oxford: University Press.

seeking, overconfidence, and trading activity, Journal of Finance, 64, 549-578. 6 Horvath, P., & Zuckerman, M. (1993). Sensation seeking, risk appraisal, and risky behavior. Personality and Individual Differences, 14,, 41-52. 7 Cain, M.D., McKeon, S.B. (2011). Cleared for takeoff? CEO personal risk-taking and corporate policies. Retrieved 9/11/2011 from http://papers.ssrn. com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1785413

14 PRISONERS DILEMMA is used in psychology and economics to study cooperative behavior. The traditional dilemma involves a simple story. Two suspects of a crime are arrested. They did the crime together, but there is no evidence. So the officer needs their testimony. He asks each of them to rat out the other person. If both remain silent, they are let off with a small fine because of the lack of evidence; if one betrays the other and the other remains silent the one who remains silent gets a ten year sentence and the other is set free’; if both rat each other out, they will get a five year sentence. For each individual, betraying the other is preferable over being silent (he will be set free instead of getting a fine or he will get 5 years in prison instead of 10 years). The group outcome, however, would be low (one or both of them will be in prison for a while). Both remaining silent would lead to the best results (two people pay a small fine).


and self-efficacy.. Interestingly, psychopaths also have these characteristics.8 This makes you wonder whether such characteristics make leaders vulnerable to selfish and dangerous anti-social behavior. Whatever personally traits are more likely in CEO’s, male dominance in the sector itself is a risky characteristic. Studies suggest that the dominance in the number of men in the financial sector as a whole and on the executive level in particular, leads to more competition and more harmful behavior. Homogeneous groups are more likely to behave non-cooperatively in The Prisoners Dilemma, a game in which non-cooperation maximizes an individual’s outcome, except when all or most individuals behave non-

cooperatively.9 In other words, behaving selfishly is rewarding as long as not all the actors in the system are doing so. It is exactly this selfish behavior that acted as an accelerator for the financial crisis: huge numbers of institutions acting in a highly selfish fashion in an attempt to maximize personal, corporate and shareholder short-term profits. Yet, this collective immoral behavior broke down what turned out to be a fragile financial system. Additionally, male dominance may have been an important group characteristic leading to this behavior. Not because the executives were men per se, but because they were all men. Group diversity, including a mixed gender composition of executives in finance, seems highly important for a cooperative system.

8 Hillon, M.E., & Tullis, K.J. (2007). Selecting for adverse characteristics. Proceedings of Decision Sciences Institute, Southwest Region, pp. 71-75.

9 National Research Council (2002). The Drama of the Commons. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.


Virtual Insanity: The Abstractness of the concept of money a strong motivator. Money and Large Numbers The slightest chance of winning a multimillion dollar jackpot from the lottery makes So far, the discussion has focused on how people spend money and spend precious the presence and over-representation of time queuing in front of a ticket booth. The men in the boardroom makes unethical power of money is also literal: subliminally behavior more likely. Interestingly, Lehman priming (unconsciously activating) the Brothers’ last chief financial officer was, in concept of money, makes humans exert fact, a woman. So let us stop this sexist more physical effort while performing an exercise and see what else is going on! irrelevant task.11 This psychological power A different cause of unethical behavior has some unwanted consequences: it in the financial industry may lie in the sparks an egotistic mindset. It turns out that characteristics of the traded goods itself: merely activating the concept of money money. Money itself is worthless: a 1$ bill makes people more ‘self-sufficient’: they has no physical function. Neither does a request less help from others and become bank statement that shows your savings. less helpful toward others.12 Is this a bad However, its symbolic value, its potential thing? Well, self-sufficiency has some pros: function for acquiring other functional goods it provides the opportunity to attain personal (forget the sports car and Rolex watch for goals without having to rely on others. But a while), gives money it’s mythical status. at the same time a self-sufficient orientation Money is such a desirable construct; it causes ‘…. people to become detached even activates neurological structures from one another and from the web of constituting a human reward.10 This makes 11 Pessiglione, M., Schmidt, L., Draganski, B., Kalisch, 10 Spreckelmeyer, K.N., Krach, S., Gregor Kohls, G., R., Lau, H., Dolan, R.J., & Frith, C.D. (2007). How Rademacher, L., Irmak, A., Konrad, K., Kircher, T., and the brain translates money into force: A neuroimaging Gründer, G. (2009). Anticipation of monetary and social study of subliminal motivation. Science, 316, 904-906. reward differently activates mesolimbic brain structures 12 Vohs , K. D., Mead, N. L., and Goode, M. R. (2006). in men and women. Social Cognitive and Affective The psychological consequences of money. Science, Neuroscience, 4, 158-165. 314, 1154-1156.



social obligation that counteracts crime’.13 Other people’s interests and social norms and regulations become of less and less important once money is at stake. Objectivation of People On top of the abstractness of the traded asset (money) and what it does to empathic behaviors, the huge distance between executives or managers and customers may also present an additional risk factor: a phenomenon called objectification or depersonification. The term objectification is usually used in studies of psychopathic behaviors. Simon Baron-Cohen describes several cruel examples of the role of objectification in his book ‘The Science of Evil.’14 Though immoral behavior in the boardroom should not normally be compared to psychopathic behavior or war crimes, the process by which a manager may execute immoral behavior may be similar. A customer or employee who is separated from a CEO by, say, ten relational steps (because only the employee at the bank’s branch actually interacts with the customer), runs the risk of not being viewed

as an individual human being with a family, personal needs, a history, or even a future. Instead, customers become numbers in a management information tool and employees become instruments to create profits. Objectification, in this sense, may be regarded as the opposite of empathizing. In general, interpersonal contact leads to more empathy. The ability to take into account someone else’s perspective seems to mediate this effect. That is, perspective taking leads to less egocentric behavior (for example in bargaining situations15). Considering someone’s perspective immediately de-objectifies that person. The fact that those in the boardroom generally have little contact with customers, may be one of the reasons they did not prevent (or worse, even promoted) obscure, complex, financial products from taking over the financial system; products that in the end put the moral hazard on their own customers. ‘You can’t touch this’ - Lack of Negative Social and Financial Consequences The issue of moral hazard brings us to the last category of determinants of immoral executive behavior. When people do not

13 Engdahl (2008). The Role of Money in Economic Crime. The British Journal of Criminology , 48, 154-170 14 Baron-Cohen, S. (2011). The science of evil: On 15 Babcock, L., & Loewenstein, G. (1997). Explaining empathy and the origins of cruelty. New York: Basic bargaining impasse: The role of self-serving biases. Books. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 11, 109–126.


receive negative feedback on self-sufficient behavior that harms others, there is no reason for them to end it. Besides social learning (following a good example), punishment and reward dictate what behavior is appreciated and what behavior is not. It is this concept of socialization that changes annoying, selfish toddlers into amiable, socially attuned, grown-ups.16 However, a healthy conscience or morality requires behavioral approval and disapproval, even after childhood. In the financial industry this corrective mechanism is, to some extent, absent Already in 2005, a few years after the Enron scandal challenged the common belief in capitalism, John C. Bogle, publicist and founder of one of the largest investment funds -The Vanguard Group- noted: “Corporate America went astray largely because the power of managers went virtually unchecked by our gatekeepers for far too long…. They failed to keep an eye on these geniuses to whom they had entrusted the responsibility of the management of America’s great corporations.”17 This pertains to the financial 16 Kochanska, G., & Thompson, R. A. (1997). The emergence and development of conscience in toddlerhood and early childhood. In J. E. Grusec, & L. Kuczynski (Eds.), Parenting and children’s internalization of values: A handbook of contemporary theory (53-77). New York: Wiley. 17 Bogle, J. C. (2005). The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism. New Haven: Yale University Press

industry in the 1990’s and 2000’s as well. One main reason this is the case, has to do with the fact that board members as well as policy makers and directors of national supervisory institutions share the same background and are part of the same small group of people who dominate the sector. Because there is quite some personal mobility between the different circles, objective supervision is difficult to maintain. For example, the former secretary of the U.S. Treasury (whose function is to maintain a healthy financial system), Hank Paulson, was also a CEO of Goldman Sachs in the period that derivatives and subprime mortgages were running rampant. There has been quite some critique that in his function as secretary he proposed the 2008 bailout of the same financial industry he helped ruin. The Bailout & Diffusion of Responsibility The bailout in 2008 confirmed the widely known phrase that some banks are ‘too big to fail’. Because a bankruptcy of one or more big financial corporations would have too great an impact on the financial industry as whole, as well as many public institutions and citizens. This impact was seen as so potentially detrimental that the government would do all in its power to keep


this from happening. Although there may be good sense in doing so, it also rewards the immoral behaviors we have been discussing earlier. So, the big companies run no big risks when their CEO’s misbehave.18 How about the executives themselves? Here’s a piece of the answer: Gary Crittenden, Citigroup’s former CFO, received a penalty of $100,000 in a settlement that concerned misleading his investors. His annual salary during the years he is said to have performed his ‘crimes’ was around 100 times this amount. Ouch, that must have hurt. Of course, the main reason no former bankers have been punished is because their immoral behavior was (on the whole) not illegal. There was, strictly speaking, no fraud. The financial crisis of the 2000’s was caused by a systemic failure, namely the widespread, legal trade in complex financial products that no one really understood and the high mortgages provided to people who could not afford should economic times go bad or housing prices fall. The use of the term systemic

failure has similarities to what psychologists call the diffusion of responsibility. It refers to the universal tendency to refrain from helping someone when other people are around.19 When everyone has their share of responsibility, chances are high that no one will take action first. And because the group as a whole can be accounted for not doing anything, no individual person can either. Lastly, having an in-crowd in the boardroom, which is a characteristic of some industries, including the financial industry, heightens the chance of tunnel vision. For example, boards that consist largely of inside directors, lead to higher premiums paid for acquisitions.20 In particular narcissistic CEO’s get to act more carelessly. At the same time, these hazardous behaviors may spread through imitation by peers, inside and outside the boardroom.21 Conclusions In






19 Meyers, D. G. (2010). Social Psychology (10th Ed). New York: McGraw-Hill. 18 Some say the same is true for other big 20 Hayward, M. L. A., & Hambrick, D. C. (1997). corporations. Microsoft received a fine of € 500 million Explaining the premiums for large acquisitions: by the European Commission for abuse of its dominant Evidence of CEO hybris. Administrative Science position in the market. With annual profits around Quarterly, 42, 103-127. hundred times this amount, chances are small that 21 Horvath, P., & Zuckerman, M. (1993). Sensation such a fine has significant impact on corporate policy. seeking, risk appraisal, and risky behavior. Personality The same seems true for fines for cartels. and Individual Differences, 14, 41-52.


psychological antecedents of immoral behavior by CEO’s in the financial industry. Some described phenomena may be universal and wired in our socio-cognitive or biological systems. Reproductive strategies in humans are quite robust and money will never become a non-abstract object. However, knowledge about how such factors affect decision making in people, can direct the necessary measures, whether on a national, global, sector-wide or corporate level. Time will tell whether Western society has learned from its mistakes and whether a healthy financial industry has developed that facilitates the economy instead of dictating it. Up to now, it seemed like we would have to wait for quite some time before the first radical measure could be expected. But perhaps the current occupation of Wall Street and other financial centers of global importance, can provide the necessary force to reach this end. Hopefully they will succeed in creating a new moral focus for executives or, if needed, for policy makers and gatekeepers. .

ISCHA VAN STRAATEN received his PhD in Social Psychology at the Radboud University Nijmegen (2008). His thesis is titled ‘The Look of Love: Interpersonal Responses to Physically Attractive Opposite-sex Others’. He currently works as an applied researcher in the Dutch public sector on topics such as social security and civic society. He is also involved in an independent thinktank on solutions for the financial crisis.

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We eat of the Earth. Then the Earth eats us - Nahua poem



ot far from where I grew up in New Jersey, I discovered a place where the past and present meet in an awkward confrontation. During a visit to the Route 1 Flea Market in New Brunswick, NJ, I noticed an isolated grave in the middle of the parking lot. To the contemporary eye, the grave eerily exists outside the modern concept the death setting, in a sea of parked cars and asphalt. The tombstone marks the death of Mary Ellis (1750-1827). According to legend, she came to New Brunswick in the 1790s. Mary met and fell in love with a sea captain, a former Revolutionary War officer. Promising to return to Mary, he sailed down the Raritan River to the Atlantic Ocean. She kept watch from the banks of the river, hoping he would return. In 1813, she purchased a piece of farmland along the river. The years rolled by, but no captain. Mary died in 1827 and was buried on her land. Her family plot was surrounded by an iron fence in the midst of the woods. In the 1960s, the trees were cut down and the land was sold and made into a parking lot for the Great Eastern Department store, which became the Route 1 Flea Market in the 1970s. Years later the flea market was demolished to make way for a Movie complex and a steakhouse. Over the years, the fence around the grave has changed and the parking has

been reconfigured. But the tombstone remains as a mute reminder that in our past we had very different burial customs. Whereas death was once part of our lives, with the dead buried among us on family owned property, it has silently disappeared from public life since Mary’s death. Then in the 1960’s, the absence of death in American culture was noticed and discussed in academic thought. In many ways, the awareness of an absence helped to bring the subject back to life. Much of the study on death in historical thought is attributed to what Philippe Aries argues is the cultural banishment of death from America. However, since the 1980’s, death has made a gradual reintroduction into American culture. It is my intention to explore this metamorphosis by providing a brief history of its disappearance. I intend to argue that there has been a subsequent gradual revival of death in American culture at the end of the 20th century and the early 21st century that needs to be discussed. Death – A Difficult Subject of Study The topic of death is a difficult subject to study, because of it having been removed from everyday life; it has become socially off limits. It is difficult to escape the notion that there is something morbid about study-


ing death. Scholars who specialize in this field feel the need to justify their motivations. Jay Ruby, for example, wrote in Secure the Shadow: Death and Photography in America that “scholars interested in pictorial representation of death and the social customs surrounding it find their work regarded as morbid or strange. Expressions of grief have been considered embarrassing, even in bad taste, for many decades”.1 While the topic of death may be considered taboo, there are always those who are fascinated with the unknown.

that would be considered creepy by today’s standards. In Lewis Saum’s Death in the Popular Mind of Pre-Civil War America, a plethora of primary source excerpts were taken from the private spheres of life from 18401860, all of which express a familiarity with death. In a letter from a school teacher Sophronia Beebe to a friend, she depicted a “grim messenger” that has “been at work all over the land calling for thousands. The lovely child has been taken from its sports; the youth has been taken from its circle of loved ones; the teacher from his arduous A Portrait of Death Alive in America duties, the lawyer from the bar, the doctor from his office.”2 In her depiction, death was a well known identifiable character Drawing from existing 19th century sourcat work calling its victims. Other excerpts es of literature, diaries, funeral practices, from this period express an overall uncerobituaries, sympathy cards, epitaphs, tainty that one could be taken at any mokeepsakes and fashion rituals of mourning ment. The young man Walter Forster for dresses, it becomes clear that there was a example wrote in his diary: “Tomorrow I’m time in American culture when death was twenty-three if I live.”3 From these individudiscussed openly and considered a natural al portraits of the 19th century, we see that consequence of life. American historians death was not far from people’s minds, have found a wealth of 19th century death they expressed awareness with the natural references embedded in early American fact of life as it visited all layers of society, culture. The Victorian era in America has and they were sure it would return again. left behind mourning artifacts and death rituals such as post-mortem photography 2 Lewis O. Saum, ‘Death in the Popular Mind of Pre1Jay Ruby, Secure the Shadow: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, (1995: 2

Civil War America’ American Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 5 Special Issue: Death in America, Dec. 1974 , p 480 3 Ibid.


The 1970’s Mortality Revolution

community of family and friends was gradually being supplanted by a gaping social Works like those of Lewis Saum’s that divide.’5 Historians have identified the turn were written in the 1970’s are a reflecof the 20th century as a “morality revolution of a larger academic movement that tion”, a turning point which contributed to brought awareness to the social changes the gradual disappearance of the corpse of death in American culture, and a need from the lives of Americans. This divide to revisit a time in American History when was produced by the following social facdeath was alive.4 Gary Laderman in his tors: changes in demographic patterns, the book Rest in Peace; a Cultural History of removal of death from the public sphere, Death and the Funeral Home in the Twen- the rise of cemeteries, the rise of hospitals tieth Century discusses this paradigm shift: and nursing homes as places of dying, and ‘by the beginning of the 20th century this the growth of modern funeral homes. relationship had begun to change dramatically.’ In line with Philippe Aries he argues Changes in Demographics ‘that in many ways, the intimacy that had connected the physical remains with a Contributing factors to a removal of death was partly due to massive immigration in the 4 Philippe Aries’ The Reversal of Death: Changes in th th Attitudes Toward Death in Western Societies provides 19 and early 20 centuries. These immigration movements introduced problems of a brief synopsis of the awareness of the removal of death discussing the works that brought attention accommodation. Both the living, as well as to a removal of death: Alberto Tenenti’s two books, the dead needed accomodation. Legitimate La vie et la mort a travers ‘art du XVesiecle, which appeared in 1952, one year after Edgar Morin’s essay, concerns were raised as to what should be and II senso delta morte e l’amore delta vita net Rinadone with the dead. Prior to 1840, there scimento.3 A sociology of death was begun in 1955 were a handful of cemeteries in the United with Geoffrey Gorer’s comprehensive article, “The States. As we have seen in the parking lot Pornography of Death.”4 Next came the collection of grave phenomenon, one’s personal propinterdisciplinary studies (anthropology, art, literature, medicine, philosophy, psychiatry, religion, etc.), edited erty and final resting place could easily be by Herman Feifel under the title The Meaning of Death, which had been presented at a colloquium organized by the American Psychological Association in 1956. 5 Laderman, Gary. Rest in Peace: A Cultural History The mere idea of a colloquium on death testifies to the of Death and the Funeral Home. Cambridge: Oxford awakening interest in this hitherto forbidden topic. University Press, 2005, p. 4.


tampered with after an estate was sold. In places like New York City, cemeteries were at maximum capacity. Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery, a book by Jeffrey Richman, explains that there were as many as 100,000 buried at Trinity Church. By 1822 there were 22 Burial grounds south of city hall after cholera and yellow fever epidemics the churchyards were removed to make way for streets.6 Consequently people were dug up and, some were reburied in potter’s fields on the outskirts of the city. One man expressed his concerns regarding his final rest being disturbed:

cal separation, it should be noted that unlike today where cemeteries are rarely visited, during the 19th century cemeteries were like parks. One example is Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, which gained recognition as “the best kept park in the United States”, and by 1860 it attracted 500,000 visitors a year, until it became the nation’s second most visited tourist attraction following Niagara Falls.8 Decline in Mortality

Why should we deposit the remains of our friends in loathsome vaults or beneath the gloomy crypts and cells of our churches, where the human foot is never heard… should we expose the burying-grounds to the road glare of day, to the unfeeling gaze of the idler, to the noisy press of business, the discordant shouts of merriment…7 As a practical solution to urbanization, rural cemeteries were established. This move contributed to a physical separation between the living and the land of the dead. While this marks the beginning of a physi-

Another major shift that led to changes of death in American culture is the fact that people live longer in the 20th century. In his article Dying and the Meanings of Death: Sociological Inquiries John W. Riley observed that the remarkable decline in mortality is one of the most striking features of the social history of the 20th century. Considering a ‘drastic postponement of death has come upon us with such rapidity, it is not surprising that social norms and social institutions have lagged behind’.9 During this time, mortality rates in the US decreased significantly. Life expectancy began to improve radically and consequently families were less often struck by the death

6 Jeffrey Richman, Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery: New York,1998, p. 19 7 Ibid.

8 Ibid. 9 John, W. Riley, Dying and the Meanings of Death: Sociological Inquiries: 1983.


of family members or relatives. As Samuel Preston has shown in his 1976 study Mortality Patters in National Populations, over two thirds of the improvement in longevity from prehistoric times to the present has occurred in the very brief period since 1900.10 In the first few decades of the century infant mortality dropped from a rate of over 125 deaths per 1000 live births at the end of the 19th century to a rate of less than 50 by 1940.11 Death today has become a phenomenon that is associated with the elderly. In contrast, during the Victorian era, there was an awareness of child and infant mortality. Even the youngest members of society were aware of their own transience. An eight year old recorded in his diary that “Death takes the young as well as the old… Remember this life is not long…or simply remember you must die.”12 Parents were conscious that their children could be taken from them at any time. Shadows of pessimism would be revealed on days of birth: “congratulations and the hope that the child would be a great blessing. But don’t set too much by it…but how long we shall be 10 S. H. Preston, Mortality Patterns in National Populations, New York: Academic, 1976. 11 Ibid. 12 Lewis O. Saum, ‘Death in the Popular Mind of PreCivil War America’. American Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 5 Special Issue: Death in America (Dec., 1974) p. 478.

allowed to keep him is unknown to us.” 13 Based on census files, Lewis Saum discovered that parents would hold off on naming their children for up to a year. Records reflect incomplete lists of living family members labeled, “anonymous”, “not named”, or “unnamed”.14 The fears of parents and children demonstrate that infant and child mortality was a common fact of life and that death was not reserved for the elderly. Changes in Causes of Death In earlier periods, death was very hard to ignore as it was a part of public life. Besides wars, there were public executions, plagues and epidemics. Fatal destroyers included measles, rubella, whooping cough, tuberculosis, dysentery and typhoid. Immigrants carried pathogens to America. Resistant survivors of these epidemics reproduced, thus their children and grandchildren were less susceptible to these diseases. As a result of genetic resistance and breakthroughs in medical sciences and technologies, improvements in sanitation and hygiene, as well as public health reforms, these epidemics and dis13 Jeffrey Richman, Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery, p. 4 14 Lewis O. Saum, Death in the Popular Mind of PreCivil War America. American Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 5 Special Issue: Death in America (Dec., 1974) p. 476


eases occurred less and less. As a result, death became less of a public phenomenon. A shift in the leading causes of death went from contagious and more public diseases to more private diseases, like cancer, heart disease and strokes. 15 15 See: Paul E. Zopt’s Mortality Patterns and Trends in the United States, Greenwood, 1992; ‘Long term trends in cause of death reflect the nation’s movement through the epidemiological transition, from the early 1900s when infectious and parasitic illnesses claimed many lives, to the present when the degenerative diseases take a heavy toll’

Passing: From the Home to the Hospital A wealth of 19th century records illustrate the passing from life to death as a natural rite of passage that commonly took place in American homes. Pre-Civil war accounts depict the ritual of witnessing the passing of loved ones to be a great honor and milestone in one’s life. The ritual of passing was marked by loved ones and close friends who accompanied the dying in their last moments. Some expressed a sense of honor to be


there in the final moments. Mark Twain described a death watch ritual as “a privilege”. Similar words were echoed by a wife having witnessed the passing of her husband, “not only my duty but my great privilege.”16 These records of goodbye show how these last moments were spent. A son described his mother’s passing in a letter to someone who could not witness the event: “I feel gratified to inform you that she left the world in the triumphs of faith, in her dying moments Jesse and myself sung a couple of favorite hymns and she clapped her hands and shouted ‘give glory to God’ and retained her senses while she had breath which gave us all a great deal of satisfaction to see her happy. Such a great witness that she went happy out of the world.”17 These bon voyages are described as intimate family moments, and for the most part were done in the privacy of the home.

came to patients, but by the 1920s patients increasingly went to doctors. In the latter half of the 20th century and early part of the 21st century, the majority of the American population died in hospitals. In their 1989 research Where People Die in America Andrea Gruneir and Vincent Mor show that hospitals are the number one site of death in America for people with chronic illnesses; 62% of deaths take place in hospitals.18 It is evident that the American outsourcing of dying has had a profound impact and change on the way that people die.

16 Lewis O. Saum, Death in the Popular Mind of PreCivil War America. American Quarterly, Vol. 26, No. 5 Special Issue: Death in America (Dec., 1974) p. 485 17 Ibid.

18 Andrea Gunier and Vincent Mor et. al. “Where People Die: A Multi Level Approach to Understanding Influences on Site of Death in America” in: Medical Care and Research Review 2007: 351-275.

Acknowledging How We Die

In many ways, an acknowledgement of a removal of death in American culture has sparked research and reform on the subject in the health care industry since the 1980s. There has been a great share of research and education devoted to the subject to end-of-life care, and those who question The Rise of the Hospital hospitals as appropriate facilities to accommodate the ritual of dying. The question has In the 20th century there was a dramatic inbeen raised as to ‘when did dying become crease in the number of hospitals across a medical event controlled by doctors in a the country and their growing control over hospital, instead of a life passage at home the health of the nation. In the past, doctors


central to the family and community?’19 Reforms have been made in medical education devoted to specialized care for dying patients. New methods of treatment and medical organizations such as (ELNEC) the End of Life Nursing Education Consortium and (EPEC) the Education for Physicians on End of Life Care are devoted to caring for the dying. Similarly, research has been funded to examine this new American way of dying. In 1989 the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation invested $26 million to research how death is addressed in five hospitals: Beth Israel Hospital in Boston, Cleveland Metro Health Medical Center, Duke University Medical Center, Marshfield Medical Center, and UCLA School of Medicine.20 Similarly, George Soros invested more than $200 million in the Project on Death in America. The goal of P.D.I.A. was to “understand and transform the culture and experience of dying through initiatives in research and scholarship, the arts and humanities, through innovations in provision of care, as well as through public and professional education.”21 After extensive investment and re-

search, George Soros published his reflections and criticisms of dying in a hospital: Hospitals are set up to take care of acute illnesses, and dying is not an illness. It doesn’t belong to an official medical category, it has no billing code that would permit reimbursement for the hospital and the physician. If you go to a hospital to die, the doctors have to find something wrong with you, something to treat, like pneumonia or dehydration, or they cannot admit you. They hook you up to tubes and machines and try to fix a condition that isn’t fixable. The need to arrive at a reimbursable diagnosis changes the reality. The doctors and nurses are working to prolong life, instead of preparing a patient for death.22 Even doctor’s attitudes towards death in confronting their dying patients have changed. In the annals of the Journal of the American Medical Association, a 1961 study of doctors with terminally ill cancer patients showed that more than 90% preferred not to confront such patients with the facts, but by 1979, 98% of doctors said it was generally their policy to tell cancer patients the truth about their condition. At some point

19 Life Tree: Life A Basic Human Right. N.p.Web. 18 Nov 2011. <> 20 Ibid. 21 Felicity Aulino, et. al. Journal of the Royal Society of 22 George Soros, “Project on Death in America.” Open Medicine: The Project on Death in America, 2001: 493 Societies Institutes. Report of Iniatiaves .2003


during those 18 years, there was a shift from states of reluctance to a responsibility to confront terminally ill patients with the truth about their imminent deaths.23 Bringing Death Back Into the Home & The Rise of Hospice Care As dying in hospitals has become a questionable social problem, a social movement of bringing traditional practices of dying back into the home has become increasingly popular.. In many ways the removal of death from the home to hospitals, provided a contrasting environment that made hospice a successful alternative. In contrast to hospitals, the mission of hospice is devoted to acknowledging and confronting death as an act of life through their mission of “caring not curing”, devoted to making the patient and families as comfortable as possible through pain management and assisting them through the difficult transition from life to death. Recent statistics show that despite the hospitals being the number one place to die, hospital deaths have gradually decreased over the years, while hospice services have steadily increased. As mentioned earlier, since 1989 when 62% of Americans died 23

in hospitals, this number has decreased to about 50% in 2001.24 A decline in hospital deaths coincides with an increase of choosing hospice care. In Where People Die, deaths at home are shown increasing from 16% to 23%.25. A report from National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization shows a steady increase in hospice care from 1.2 million in 2005, to 1.3 million in 2006, to 1.4 million in 2007, to 1.45 million to 2005, to 1.56 million in 2009.26 Of all the hospice services offered in hospitals, nursing homes, acute care and Inpatient Facilities, nearly 70% of these hospice deaths have taken place in the patient’s home.27 In addition, the utilization of hospice care services has been a matter of government reform. In 1986 Congress ruled in favor of making hospice a permanent benefit of Medicare. The hospice health care benefit is not only a matter of law but it is also a matter of government funding. A 2010 report by Hospice Care in America shows that in 2008 and in 2009 roughly 84% of 24 Andrea Grunier and Vincent Mor et. al. “Where People Die A Multilevel Approach to Understanding Influences on Site of Death in America.” in: Medical Care and Research Review, 2007: 351-375 25 Ibid. 26“NHPCO Facts and Figures: Hospice Care in America” National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. 2010 Edition: 2-15 27 Ibid.



hospice was paid for by the Medicare hospice benefit.28 As we have seen dying has become a matter addressed in law, government and health care reform. For whatever reason, the government has acknowledged the traditional right to die at home. The growing phenomenon of hospice care is indicative of a larger phenomenon of Americans who are increasingly becoming active players in deciding how they would like to die. As cited in Where Americans Die, in 1989 Dunlop, Davies and Hockley’s survey of the general population found that most people would prefer to die at home. This opinion is dually noted by Higginson who reports that preference for home death ranged from 59% to 81% in the general population and from 49% to 90% among cancer patients.29 Of all the people who find dying at home to be favorable, there is a striking discrepancy between public opinion and those who actually die at home. Nevertheless, it is evidence of the appeal to return to traditional means of dying by bringing it back into the home. When asked about it, most Americans would prefer to die at home, rather than in the hospital. Since the outsourcing of dying to hospitals, there has been a growing need to protect patient’s rights. In 1967, the first liv-

ing will was introduced in Florida, and by 1992 all 50 states had passed living will legislation that allowed patients the right to declare whether they would like to be resuscitated or if they wanted be kept alive using life-sustaining medical measures. By 2004, 41% of all Americans made a living will.30 The adoption from one state to every state, demonstrates a legal need and a national desire to protect patient’s wishes in becoming active participants in their own deaths, in the event that the patient is unable to state their last wishes. A significant part of the population does not plan for their deaths, which leaves them in a state of vulnerability since it allows others to decide for them. In 2005, this issue was highlighted by the Terry Schiavo case. This case wasa prime example of what can happen while dying in a hospital. Despite dying and full cardiac arrest, Terry’s body was revived to a brain-damaged state. Her life was sustained by external machines with feeding tubes for a period of 15 years, while her husband and family argued over her vegetative body and battled each other as if her death was a legal playground. While death used to have the last say of how and when people died, institutionalized dying has raised new moral questions and legal issues.

28 Ibid. 29 Ibid.

30 American Bar Association. Patient SelfDetermination Act: State Law Guide.


In the last 150 years, the process of dying has changed drastically. A person’s journey which used to take a few painful days at home can now be drawn out for years through artificial means. Today, whether dying at home or in a hospital, dying is much less painful as death’s approach can be numbed. Finally, as we’ve seen in the case of Terry Schiavo, one’s death in a hospital can be delayed by external machines that can do the work of failing organs. Only a small albeit growing percentage of Americans will die at home facing death instead of fighting it, while a greater percentage of Americans die in institutionalized settings of nursing homes and in hospitals. The Final Removal – The Rise of the Funeral Home The final removal of death from American culture was in preparing the body for the funeral, a practice traditionally done at home has now been outsourced to funeral directors. In the 19th century, when a family member or friend died, their loved ones washed their bodies and prepared them for burial. A diary excerpt from Archibald B. Knode reveals a moment of passing and preparing for burial: ‘The end came at 11:40 at night “I then shaved and washed him…and Mark assisted me in dressing

him.”31 Until the end of the 20th century, the bodies were prepared for burial by family members. Before the Civil War, Americans were not embalmed, the ritual of using flowers helped mask the smell. While the body was prepared, a wooden coffin was either bought or made by a family member or friend. Margaret Coffin provides an invitation that illustrates how the funeral began at the home of the departed: “Yourself and family are respectfully invited to attend the funeral of Mr. James Hathaway at his late residence, 62 Bloom Street, Cherry Valley, on Monday, November 10, at 3 o’clock to proceed to Prospect Hill cemetery.”32 These practices changed in the second part of the 19th century. By then most communities had undertakers who would take care of the body and make all the arrangements. The rise of funeral homes and the increase in the number of undertakers was intrinsically linked to the widespread introduction of embalming. This practice was first used during the Civil War when there was a need to preserve bodies and return them to the deceased’s families who wanted control over the final burial. Embalmers worked on the battlefield and manufactured their own fluids. After the war it took a while 31 Margaret Coffin, Death in Early America. Nashville, 1976, p. 71 32 Ibid.


before embalming became a common practice. With the introduction of a new death ritual, the appearance of the body in an open casket, embalming became more popular. Laderman notes that embalming was the lifeblood of the American funeral industry from the beginning of the twentieth century; ‘without this procedure, funeral directors would have had a difficult time claiming that they were part of a professional guild and therefore justified as the primary mediators between the living and the dead from the moment of death to the final disposition’.33 He argues that funeral director’s increasing authority over the corpse and the rise to dominance of the funeral home, forever changed the social and cultural landscape of death in the United States. At the turn of the century embalming and the funeral itself would take place at home. Undertakers were used to making house calls when the news of a death reached them. In the early 20th century undertakers began to offer the use of their own “parlor” when the family of the deceased could not provide a space for preparing the body and hosting the funeral. By the 1920s funeral homes became the primary location for carrying out these responsibilities. More and more

people became convinced that the home, which was reserved for family life, should not be contaminated with death. People also started to find it unsuitable for children to be confronted with the deceased. As such morticians and funeral directors provided families the psychological and physical distance of preparing bodies for burial behind closed doors. These changes caused a explosive growth in funeral homes. In 1890 there were 9891 funeral homes in the United States. This number had increased to 24469 in 1920.34 Today there are 20,951 funeral homes in the country and the revenue of funeral homes combined with crematoriums is a whopping $12 billion.35 Significant changes are currently taking place in the funeral business. Whereas people used to rely solely on undertakers and funeral homes to dispose of their dead, recent developments reveal new trends. The US National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA) observed an explosion of unique services that reflect the hobbies, passions and interests of the deceased. The NFDA calls this trend the personalization of funerals, which is characterized as positive since it makes services more meaningful. Therefore the NFDA ‘encourages all funer-

33 Gary Laderman, Rest in Peace: A Cultural History of Death and the Funeral Home in Twentieth-Century America, New York: Oxford University Press USA, 2005, p.12.

34 Gary Laderman, Rest in Peace, pp. 15-19 35 html


al consumers to discuss their ideas with the funeral director to ensure an individualized ceremony fitting of the person who died. An even more interesting trend which really shows that death is being reintroduced into society, is the increasing number of people who opt for a home funeral. Lisa Carlson, author of Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love views home funerals as an extension of the natural childbirth and hospice movements.36 Carlson, who is also the executive director of the Funeral Ethics Organisation which is a non-profit organisation that examines ethical issues facing the funeral industry, noticed an increase in inquiries about home funerals. Other developments point into the same direction. The People’s Memorial Association in Seattle for example began this year with offering members the option of choosing a home funeral coordinated by Char Barett’s A Sacred Moment. Whereas the average cost of a funeral was $6560 in 2009, according to statistics provided by the NFDA, a home funeral and cremation can cost less than $1000 if the family makes all the arrangements including transporting the body to the crematory. Financial advantages aside, Barrett notes that the real value of a home funeral is in taking control over and slowing down the process, which allows the family

to have more time with the deceased.37



Conclusion In the 1970’s scholars discovered that people lived longer, and that death was no where to be found in American culture. So they searched for a time when they could find death. Many of the factors that contributed to the removal of death emerged as a natural evolution to growing populations, technological innovations and changes in diseases. From the 1980’s and onward; new American methods of approaching death and dying sparked an end-of-life health care revolution. Simultaneously, a growing movement of traditional practices is being revived in America including hospice, home funerals, and eco cemeteries- all growing trends based on American traditions. Since the time of Mary Ellis’ death, the age old face of death has worn a new mask. There was a time in American history when death was something that confronted Americans publicly and privately in their homes, and was something they had to directly confront. For centuries, Americans died at home and were more in touch with death. They prepared the bodies for burials themselves, and buried them at home. A boundary has been drawn between the


land of the living, and the land of the dead. This removal served as a physical and an emotional separation. Instead of caring for our dying relatives at home, we have shipped them off to a hospital for doctors to save them from an incurable fate. Instead of preparing them for burial as people have for thousands of years, the bodies of our loved ones are shipped off to a third party, a funeral home where artificial practices are carried out behind closed doors to preserve and make the corpses appear more life-like. It is important to ask what are the psychological consequences and repercussions in outsourcing such intimate moments in our lives. Maryâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s tombstone is an allegorical symbol of a confrontation between the past and present to remind us of death. Despite life changing practices, America cannot escape death. In the near future death will become public again on an enormous level as America prepares to bury her largest generation of 80 million; the baby boomers. America will have no choice but to discover or revive what it has long tried to bury.

ROSE NERGES honed her artistic talents as a comedienne for ten years before returning to school to finish her Associates degree. After graduating from Kingsborough Community College with honors, she was accepted to Columbia Universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s School of General Studies. At Columbia, she obtained a Liberal Arts education with academic interests that include; Biodiversity, Hebrew, Nahuatl, Classical Art, Literature, Philosophy, and Colonial History. She majored in European History, and obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree, and graduated with the latin honors, Magna cum laude in May of 2011.

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merican courts acknowledge the presence of evil and account for it in criminal and civil matters. More severe sentencing may result from crimes classified as “heinous,” or “depraved.” In intentional infliction of emotional distress cases, more severe financial penalties may be assigned to those cases indentified as “extreme and outrageous.” Despite this well established engagement of evil in courts, and the impact that evil has in cases, the terminology is criticized as ambiguous and unfair. Welner in this study has pioneered a multi-phased effort to create an evidence-based protocol for operationalizing a distinction of depravity in crime; based upon its intent, actions, and attitudes. In order to address the everyday evil of personal injury litigation, Welner has adapted a similar approach. Attention to everyday evil, in which crime is not the focus and death not a consequence, underscores the importance of early identification of extreme and outrageous behaviours at home, in parenting, at the workplace, in communities, such that their morbidity can be contained and the behaviours eliminated before they result in crime or civil lawsuit. The clinical goals of this aspect of the project are inspired by early intervention for child abuse and suicide.


Evil and depraved crimes have long distinguished themselves to passing observers and seasoned professionals alike. What many are not aware of is that criminal courts denote evil through the characterization of certain crimes as heinous and cruel. These designations impact criminal sentencing in America. Long unresolved, however, has been an objective means to determine what crimes are more fitting of the characterization of ‘evil.’ At the same time, civil courts acknowledge the worst behaviour of one toward another in intentional torts of asserting psychological injury. For evil intent and especially damaging effects characterized in civil law as “extreme and outrageous,” these courts award damages for the worst of actions of

one toward another. Like determinations of depravity and heinousness in criminal courts, decisions about extreme and outrageous behaviour may be arbitrary and ill informed. The Depravity Standard The United States Supreme Court has consistently upheld the constitutionality of distinguishing the level of heinousness of a crime despite appeals challenging the ambiguity of such statutes.1 The Court has 1 Barclay v. Florda, 463 U.S. 939 (1983); Lambrix v. Singletary, 520 U.S. 518 (1997); Proffit v. Florida, 428 U.S. 242 (1976); Walton v. Arizona, 497 U.S. 639 (1990); Eric Moffett v. Mississippi, 477 U.S. 541 (2010); State of Minnesota v. Gari Lamont Stewart, 898 U.S. 1300 (2010); Jonathon Grieshop v. State of Indiana


also acknowledged the inherent difficulty in instructing jurors in handing down sentences for offenders based upon that stateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s criteria2. In Gregg v. Georgia, a recommendation to develop standards reflecting societal attitudes emerged, inspiring The Depravity Standard research. Initiated in 1998 by Welner, The Depravity Standard research has advanced a multifaceted and multi-phased approach to an evidence-based standard for distinguishing the intents, actions, victimology and attitudes that embody evil in crime. The research began with analysis of years of higher court decisions and patterns of judicial decision-making. Over one hundred cases gave rise to numerous qualities of crimes that judges consistently found reflective of heinous or depraved acts. Using these features, Welner fashioned the Depravity Scale, an online research protocol at www.depravityscale.

org, to gauge societal attitudes on which of these features were especially, somewhat, or not at all depraved. Results from over 20,000 participants from all over the world demonstrated a strong consensus on 22 of the 26 items studied. Significantly, this study of thousands of participants from heterogeneous backgrounds and influences demonstrated that whatever our differences and whatever the ambiguity of the notion of evil, we can reach a public consensus on the qualities of the worst crimes3. A second part to the online survey narrowed The Depravity Scale to 25 items. One item had proven to be potentially confusing to jurors and was eliminated from future consideration. The 25 examples of intent, actions, victimology and attitudes were then randomly placed into groups of 5, enabling participants to rate the items against each other, ranking their severity. The online protocol remains in place and has reached 40,000 participants .

106 U.S. 454 (2010); Kendrick Antonio Simpson v. State of Oklahoma 6 U.S. 1055 (2010); State of Kansas v. Billy McCaslin 5 U.S. 628 (2011) 2 Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153 (1976)

3 Michael Welner â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The justice and therapeutic promise of science-based research on criminal evilâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law 37, 4, 2009, pp 442-449


Many of these participants will serve on the juries of tomorrow. Including their input on the shaping and weighting of an evidencebased Depravity Standard, ensures that participants have an active role in shaping one aspect of criminal sentencing that may affect them as jurors, victims, defendants, or family members of someone in a criminal trial. The online survey (www. continues to gather data from participants allowing for changes in social attitudes towards certain aspects of crime. The Depravity Standard will evolve as society evolves. The final phase of research for The Depravity Standard aims to validate its use on a large multi-jurisdictional sample of homicide and sexual assault cases. Using actual investigative documents and catalogued evidence, this phase of research combines the scrutiny of trial team casework with the decision-making necessary in jury deliberations. The case review includes investigative reports and interviews, crime scene and autopsy photos, autopsy reports and

witness/collateral and defendant interviews. Other documents present in some cases include 911 call transcripts, case synopses, laboratory evidence findings and mental health reports. Jurisdictions from several states and one federal government agency are participating, and all are afforded full protection of the confidentiality of their data. Emerging from early analysis of this data is the presence of a distinct subset of killings that separates itself from the remaining crimes charged as murder. The Depravity Standard, while evidence-driven, is not a forensic psychiatry instrument. Indeed the Advisory Board is comprised of sixteen disciplines. The goal is a non-denominational tool respecting the contribution of a range of evidence, useful to both prosecutors and defence attorneys. To date, determinations of a crimeâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s depravity have been presumptuous, visceral, and even more subject to bias. The Depravity Standards builds upon the existing attempts of higher courts to define evil crime with largescale sampling of the general population to inform societal standards. The research


furthermore uses this data along with data from large samples of actual murder and sexual assault cases to refine definitions of each of the 25 items, and to derive statistical weighting to the items. The Depravity Standard forces prosecutors to summon evidence to establish that elements of depravity exist, while enabling the worst of crimes to distinguish themselves as such. Likewise, the Depravity Standard affords carefully defined items that enable defence attorneys to use the absence of such evidence as a means of forcefully advocating for their clients in the face of a rush to judgment. Not only will the trial team be permitted to argue the presence and absence of each Depravity Standard item, but the jurors will be provided with a much more informed case outline, allowing them to deliberate with more understanding of heretofore overlooked qualities of a crime. Clinician’s Inventory for the Everyday Extreme & Outrageous (CIEEO), Everyday evil manifests in relationships at home, in the workplace, between neighbours and individuals, through the conscious choices one makes with their intended effects. Even more than in the criminal realm, the universe of interactions

is so vast that distilling the worst of the worst in a non-criminal context is an enormous challenge. Extending the need for an evidencebased determination of the worst of everyday acts to promote fairness in civil claims, Welner adapted the original research model for the Depravity Standard to review over one hundred higher court decisions in intentional torts contesting the findings of “extreme and outrageous.” Careful study of the rationale behind court decisions yielded fourteen examples of intent with desired effects on victims. This research for an inventory of everyday extreme and outrageous revealed an important consideration - that clinical psychotherapists, social workers, and psychiatrists witness this highly morbid behaviour long before matters ever find their way to criminal court. Because of this proximity, caregivers have the opportunity to intervene and to defuse situations before their damage worsens. This is a primary preventive approach to evil that harnesses the therapeutic and protective roles of many who interact with the perpetrator. For this reason, Welner has released the inventory of items under study as the (CIEEO) Clinician’s Inventory for the Everyday Extreme & Outrageous. In the same way in which education on


child abuse and suicide prevents the perpetuation of these tragedies, the CIEEO provides guidance to clinicians, human resource specialists, social workers, and other responsible parties about problems that should not, and cannot, be ignored. With our project we aim to inspire research that focuses on eliminating these specific manifestations of everyday evil, just as one would target symptoms of an illness. Likewise, the use and availability of the CIEEO promotes early intervention, healthy interpersonal choices and heads off intentional torts before they happen and degenerate into litigation. Research in progress will also draw from the methodology of the Depravity Standard to refine a standard of everyday “extreme and

outrageousness” to inform the civil courts of tomorrow. In everyday life actions and attitudes can distinguish themselves as ‘evil’. Once classified as criminal, courts can determine which of these actions distinguish themselves further as the ‘worst of the worst’. The ultimate goal of the Depravity Standard research and the CIEEO is to provide an objective determination of evil and its manifestations. Both systems address symptoms before the terrible crime ever occurs, saving both perpetrators and victims, benefiting everyone.

The Depravity Standard Items


• Intent to emotionally traumatise the victim, or to maximise terror through humiliation • Intent to maximise damage or destruction, by numbers or amount if more than one person is victimised, or by suffering and degree if only one person is victimised • Intent to cause permanent physical disfigurement • Intent to carry out a crime for excitement of the criminal act alone • Targeting victims who are not merely vulnerable, but helpless • Carrying out a crime in spite of a close and trusting relationship to the victim • Influencing depravity in others in order to destroy more • Escalating the depravity; inspiration for more • Carrying out a crime in order to terrorise others • Carrying out a crime in order to gain social acceptance or attention • Influencing criminality in others to avoid prosecution or penalty • Disregarding the known

• • • • • • • • • •

consequences to the victim Targeting victims based upon prejudice Prolonging the duration of the victim’s suffering Unrelenting physical and emotional attack; amount of attacking Exceptional degree of physical harm; amount of damage Unusual quality of suffering of the victim; victim demonstrated panic, terror, and helplessness Indulgence of actions in consistent with the social context Carrying out an attack in unnecessarily close proximity to the victim Extreme response to trivial irritant; actions clearly disproportionate to the perceived provocation Satisfaction or pleasure in response to the actions and their impact Despite criminal responsibility, falsely implicating or accusing other of actions, knowingly exposing them to penalty, resulting in the falsely accused being investigated and jailed, and perhaps even tried


• Projecting responsibility onto the victim; feeling entitlement to carry out the action • Disrespect for the victim after the fact • Indifference to the actions and their impact Clinician’s Inventory of the Everyday Extreme and Outrageous (CIEEO) Items • Irreparable destruction or damage to another’s person, or another’s cherished property • Drawing stature from destruction • Choices to damage another person’s valued identity, artificially promote estrangement from others, or hurt standing • Haunting another • Engendering irremediable distress, through trauma or loss • Indulgence and greed to the end of parasitism • Exploiting submission, in domestic, parental, occupational, caregiving settings • Exploiting vulnerability, physical, mental, emotional to the loss of the victim

• Choices not to remedy another’s acute physical suffering, when little or no negative impact would have befallen the actor (such as injury, or meaningful cost) • Deliberately extending suffering to numerous uninvolved others, to family or close associates • Creatively causing suffering • Choosing to extinguish identity, goals, dreams of those affected, be it person or institution, for goal of loss • Extinguishing goodness of another, hijacking goodness • Metastatic outrageousness, involving and inspiring others to carry out outrageous conduct


MICHAEL WELNER, M.D., a renowned forensic psychiatrist, is the founder and Chairman of The Forensic Panel, which introduced peer-reviewed oversight in a national forensic science practice. Constantly innovating in the field, he strives to create and upgrade protocols such as his efforts with the Depravity Standard to establish an evidence-based measure for the worst of crimes. He is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at NYUâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s School of Medicine, an Adjunct Professor of Law at Duquesne University School of Law, and a consultant to ABC News.

THERESA MASTELLON has an MA in Forensic Psychology. While working at The Forensic Panel, she spearheaded the final phase of The Depravity Scale research and focused on writing and publishing articles on a variety of content, including peer review and professional etiquette as well as evil, in its various forms. As a student she concentrated on the combination of Philosophy and Forensic Psychology. Her research interests focus on the extremities of criminal behavior - psychopathy, sexual depravity and the intricacies of terror organizations.Â








ince 2006 the ‘Souterbeeck Programma’, together with the Dutch newspaper ‘Trouw’ have been organising biennial Hannah Arendt Lectures. During these lectures international scholars discuss contemporary politico-philosophical themes from Hannah Arendt’s point of view. The Flemish philosopher Dirk de Schutter had the honour to be the first to speak at this event. He spoke about Hannah Arendt’s thoughts on politics. Two years later the philosopher Hans Achterhuis addressed ‘violence’ and Bernard Wasserstein, professor of modern European Jewish history at the University of Chicago, discussed Hannah Arendt’s capabilities as a historian. The latter’s essay was unusually fierce and shockingly critical, arguing that Arendt was a lousy historian and a rabid anti-Semite. The Dutch publication ‘Hannah Arendt en de geschiedschrijving’ contains Wasserstein’s controversial paper as well as two critical commentaries about it.1 For Europe, the 20th century was in many ways a century of progress. The standard of living improved in part thanks to the introduction of the Welfare State, illiteracy was all but eliminated and ethnic 1 Bernard Wasserstein, Dirk De Schutter, Remi Peeters and Irving Louis Horowitz, Hannah Arendt en de Geschiedschrijving. Een Controverse, Nijmegen: Uitgeverij Damon, 2010.

minorities, women and homosexuals could enjoy the prospect of a life with equal opportunities. However, at the same time, Europe was burdened by bitter violence which cost millions of human lives. Civilisation and brutality were not complete opposites, on the contrary, they went hand in hand. In an attempt to understand this phenomenon which astonished yet intrigued her, Hannah Arendt (1905-1975) developed theories on subjects like the banality of evil, revolution and the origin of totalitarianism. The Origins of Totalitarianism and Eichmann in Jerusalem in a Nutshell In The Origins of Totalitarianism, completed in 1945 and published in 1951, Arendt attempts to lay bare the roots of 20th century totalitarianism. The book is divided into three parts: Anti-Semitism; Imperialism and Totalitarianism. In Part I, tracing the socio-political status of Jews in 19th century Europe, the author presents the thesis that modern anti-Semitism grew in proportion as traditional nationalism declined. She argues that anti-Semitism is a cause rather than it is a symptom of the trend towards totalitarianism and emerged not because the Jews defied nationalism but because they served it so faithfully. Part II discusses the political emancipation of the bourgeoisie,


thoughts on race before racism, race and bureaucracy, continental imperialism and the decline of the nation state. Arendt shows how racism and imperialism sought the total destruction of the human psyche and the demoralisation of man. These movements prepared the stage historically for the entry of the totalitarian Nazis and Bolsheviks. In Part III Arendt gives a theoretical analysis of the working and nature of totalitarianism. She rejects all previous explanations of totalitarianism as dominated by class, national, economic, military, or imperialistic interests. She describes it as an ideological and psychological obsession to destroy the world and to reform it into a hard, rigid and virtually delusional system of society. Arendt concludes with the statement that totalitarianism is a crazy system of thought and an absolute evil. Nevertheless she ends on a positive note and expresses hopes for a new morality, a morality again somehow based on humanism and mutual respect among all people. Arendt’s report on the Eichmann trial

(April 11 - May 31, 1961) was published two years after his execution. It does not only cover the trial itself, it also explores the defendant’s personality in detail and retells the full story of the murder of the European Jews. Arendt is critical of the prosecution and attacks Ben-Gurion for having demanded a show trial which served a variety of political-educational purposes. She also holds the chief prosecutor Gideon Hausner in contempt for materializing the Prime Minister’s wishes. She sketches Eichmann not as a bloodthirsty fanatic, but as a mediocre bureaucrat who wasn’t particularly committed to the Nazi ideology and only interested in advancing his career within the administrative framework established by his superiors. Arendt coins the phrase ‘banality of evil’ to describe the thesis that people who carry out monstrous crimes, like Eichmann, may not be crazy fanatics at all, ‘but rather ordinary individuals who simply accept the premise of their state and participate in any ongoing enterprise with the energy of good bureaucrats’. Arendt considers the fact


that the role which Eichmann played could have been performed by such a normal type person, a far more horrible and a more devastating indictment of the Nazi system and of German Society under Hitler than the picture of Eichmann presented to the prosecution.2 Wasserstein on the Relevance of Hannah Arendt’s ideas In his lecture, Bernard Wasserstein looked at the relevance of Hannah Arendt’s ideas to contemporary Europe. In preparation, Wasserstein reread The Origins of Totalitarianism and Eichmann in Jerusalem. He was utterly shocked about several aspects of Arendt’s work and felt compelled to write a critical essay about Arendt’s capabilities as a historian, which was also published in the Times Literary Supplement 2 See Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, 1st ed. New York : Harcourt, Brace, 1951. Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem. A Report on the Banality of Evil, New York: Viking Press, 1963.

in October 2009. His essay called her methods and arguments into question and is specifically concerned with Arendt’s wish to be taken seriously as a historian. Wasserstein has six main points of criticism: He thinks of Arendt as ‘one of those twentieth-century figures who have acquired absurdly inflated reputations on the basis of work in which lack of intellectual rigour is concealed behind a barrage of overblown rhetoric.’ Her overall success in the 1950s and 1960s is related to the way she capitalised on western feelings of guilt about imperialism and the increasingly worsening Cold War rather than The Origins of Totalitarianism. Her work is confused, ungrounded and paranoid, according to Wasserstein. Secondly he finds Arendt painfully ignorant of political economy, diplomacy and military strategy. She had little grasp or interest in the mechanics of the political process in the states about which she wrote. Wasserstein thinks that she snapped up unconsidered trifles of evidence and inflated them into richly


coloured balloons of generalisation. His next point of criticism is about the concept of totalitarianism. Wasserstein points out that the concept of totalitarianism, basic to the interpretation of Nazism and Communism that she presented in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism, is now treated with caution by most professional historians. His main issue with Arendt’s discussion of totalitarianism is that she never defines this, what he calls, ‘elusive and slippery’ term. He finds totalitarianism without a definition hardly worth discussing or taking seriously; ‘it is in fact a tired old cold-war slogan, not an intellectually respectable or useful heuristic devise’. Next he focuses on her analysis of modern Jewish history and shows that this was heavily derived from Nazi historians. He points out that, together with her German academic environment, her outlook was formed by these historians which explains her contemptuous attitude towards Jews. This attitude was basic to her interpretation of modern history and infected her relationship to everything Jewish, including Zionism and Israel. Arendt’s attitude towards Jews and her use of inappropriate sources, is related to Wasserstein’s next and most powerful attack on Arendt. He finds it appalling that Arendt puts more blame on Jewish victims

than on the anti-Semitic perpetrators. He is of the opinion that Arendt’s profoundly historical conceptualisation of her great subject tends to relativize the Jewish question. In The Origins of Totalitarianism Arendt explains that the Jews were never self-reflective enough about how their perpetuation of “chosenness” deliberately antagonised Christians. Her ideas on this topic prompted Gershom Scholem, scholar of Jewish mysticism and friend of Arendt, to say that she had no love of the Jewish people. In his attack Wasserstein quotes and agrees with Scholem and implies that Arendt was a ‘self hating Jew’ who was guilty of using language that would be considered anti-Semitic if it was said by a non-Jew. In this context he mentions her description of the ‘typical Jew’. ‘Jews were backwards, blind, oversensitive and all too ready to choose the side of the State’. Lastly Wasserstein criticises Arendt’s comparison between Nazism and communism. He finds it unsystematic and unbalanced in particular because Arendt fails to give a thorough description and analysis of the Soviet Union, something she acknowledged herself in later life. Furthermore, she almost completely overlooked Italian Fascism as a predecessor of these forms of totalitarianism, something which Wasserstein finds remarkable since


the notion ‘totalitarianism’ was formulated Arendt approaches totalitarianism from in 1923 by the Italian Giovanni Amendola a moralistic perspective. De Schutter and to describe Italian Fascism. Peeters show that Wasserstein misses the point completely. They point out that Arendt Bolt From the Blue does not have a moralistic perspective, on the contrary, she is known for her For those who had come to the Hannah amoral approach towards totalitarianism, Arendt lecture, Wasserstein’s speech was in which she makes clear that the Nazi like a lightning bolt from the clear blue sky. rule’s success can not be explained from Many academics were offended by this a deep rooted wickedness. Arendt was public assault on Arendt and her legacy. surprised about the devaluation of the Two years after the lecture, a book was traditional understanding of evil and about published with an elaborated version of how easy a supposed universal command Wasserstein’s essay together with two like ‘Thou shalt not kill’ was forgotten. articles counterattacking his comprehensive In their counterattack De Schutter assault. and Peeters mainly discuss Wasserstein’s criticism thatArendt fails as a historian and her Politics and History - De Schutter and use of inappropriate sources. They wonder Peeters if Wasserstein himself has understood the subject of his speech. In other words; The first substantial counterattack comes is he himself a capable historian? They from Dirk De Schutter and Remi Peeters show that Wasserstein is rather careless who discuss Wasserstein’s criticism of with his sources. He quotes the classical Arendt’s approach to totalitarianism. Rather rhetorician and satirist Lucian (125 ADthan focusing on historical facts, Arendt 180 AD) who has discussed those qualities passes moral judgements over those who which make a good historian. Lucian rates were involved, in particularly the Jewish empathy as one of the most vital criteria. Councils. In an attempt to keep control In an attempt to show that Arendt was not over the deportation of the Jews, these a good historian, Wasserstein accuses her councils didn’t seem to recognise that of a lack of empathy, which was particularly they were cooperating with the Holocaust. visible when she criticises the role of the Based on this, Wasserstein concludes that Jewish Councils during the Holocaust.


According to Wasserstein, Arendt turns victims into perpetrators. De Schutter and Peeters show that Wasserstein has applied Lucian’s work selectively and point out that the list of qualities a historian should have is much longer. A historian needs to have a free mind, shouldn’t fear anyone and should be willing to ‘call a spade a spade’. De Schutter and Peeters point out that these are characteristics very typical of Arendt. An Assault on Arendt - Irving Louis Horowitz The second counterattack comes from Irving Louis Horowitz. Compared to De Schutter and Peeters, Horowitz is even more appalled and doesn’t seem to come up with more than pure annoyance and anger about Wasserstein’s essay. He acknowledges that his response can be termed as a defence and feels that, as someone bearing the name of Hannah Arendt as part of a named chair, he can not be numb to Wasserstein’s allegations and condemnations. He compares the latter with a pygmy who stands on the shoulders of a giant. ‘When critics saw off the legs of those who have managed to stand tall for generations, the midgets can win handily in face to face combats with the dead’. Horowitz finds the recent critique on Arendt the most compre-

hensive assault to date. According to him, Wasserstein stitched together a picture of Arendt as a gullible reader of neo-Nazi literature and a closet Jewish anti-Semite in need of intellectual detoxification. Looking at Wasserstein’s six main points of criticism, Horowitz notes that Wasserstein is blinded to several uncomfortable facts and points out that the Origins of Totalitarianism is not about the origins of imperialism, but the origins of totalitarianism. ‘Wasserstein conflates two different aspects of modern dictatorship in a clever way to trivialise Arendt’s formulations. By extension, this allows Wasserstein to make it appear that Arendt’s responses to Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia are simply different ways to deal with 19th century European and American colonial expansions.’ Horowitz finds Wasserstein incredibly eccentric in his formulations and argues that it is precisely Arendt’s formulations of the totalitarian strains in the revolutionary period of German and Russian state power that separate her work from ‘shabby comparative linkages’. Horowitz adds some important observations to the Peeters and De Schutter’s counterattack. In regard to Wasserstein’s fourth point of critique, that her comparison of Nazism and communism were sporadic and uneven, Horowitz reminds us that Arendt wrote and essentially completed her


work in 1945, when the Nazi regime came to an end, but at the peak of the Soviet Regime, which explains why the comparison was uneven. Furthermore he shows that Wasserstein was incredibly selective with his sources. In his assault on Arendt he cites almost all historians of European thought who are critical of Arendt, but he cites no political scientists who responded to her in a positive way. As such Wasserstein misses two of the previously discussed essential qualities of a historian; balanced judgment and the capacity to sift and weigh evidence. Concluding his response, or defence, Horowitz sums up why Arendt and her work matter so much. He characterises Arendt’s life as a testimonial to the open transparencies of the Jewish and American traditions and to the disastrous fall from grace of German liberalism. Arendt, according to Horowitz, had the remarkable ability to face the double tradition from which she emerged from with a sharp-eyed focus that characterises much of her work: ‘its generosity for the practice of democracy and her fierce determination to explain herself as well as for others the failure of her former culture to endure despite its qualities.’ Hannah Arendt’s work brought to the surface the silence and even suppression of the Holocaust that gripped post-war Europe.

Hannah Arendt en de Geschiedschrijving. Een Controverse is available through the United Academics bookshop.







itler was the Führer who was married to Germany. This still dominant view of Hitler was created by a large propaganda machine that portrayed him as a bachelor who invested all his time and energy to his country. Only a small inner circle of friends and confidants knew about his mistress, Eva Braun, who was 20 years his junior. The rest of the world learned about Eva Braun after both she and Hitler took their own lives in that bunker in Berlin where they were hiding from the allied forces in a war that they both knew was lost. This was only two days after they had been married. A Naïve Young Woman? Due to Hitler’s propaganda, Eva Braun was well hidden from sight. Facts about her are scarce and until now she was portrayed as a young and naïve woman who just happened to fall in love with the Führer. As was the dominant view on women in that time, women did not mingle in men’s affairs and hence Braun was assumed to know nothing about the Holocaust and was assumed not to have any inside information or influence

on the Nazi-regime. However in ‘Eva Braun: A life with Hitler’ Heike B. Görtemaker sheds a different picture of her which makes this book a ‘must read’ for those who want to learn not only about Braun, but also want to learn more about Hitler. For instance, who knew that the man who led the Third Reich didn’t come out of bed until noon, still living the bohemian life of an artist? Based on meticulous research by the author, the Eva Braun we come to know is not as naïve and innocent as described previously. Although we can’t conclude that she knew about the Holocaust and had influence on the regime, the book shows that she was an active supporter of the regime and helped sell Hitler to the people. They met at Photohaus Hoffman, the company where she worked for which was run by Heinrich Hoffman who was part of Hitler’s inner circle and who remained one of his most intimate friends during the years that followed. Heinrich and his Photohaus Hoffman were responsible for selling Hitler to the German people by the continuous release of pictures of him. Although Hitler and Eva weren’t intimate from the beginning, they grew closer


Nazi Badge Eva Braun, collection David Gainsborough Roberts

over time until finally she became a dominant and stable factor within his inner circle living at the Berghof residence. In this period she grew from an insecure girl to a selfconfident woman. Her feelings of insecurity that dominated the start of their relationship can be related to the lack of public acknowledgement she got as being Hitler’s partner. In fact, it is hard to find pictures of Hitler and Braun together for they hardly appeared together in public. And when you do find a picture where Hitler and Eva appear together, she is always seated in a different row than Hitler. Although this had to be hard for her - she was supposed to have attempted

suicide twice - she was determined to solidify her position. Eventually, she was the woman who reigned at the Berghof, who arranged movie nights and dinners and lived there together with Hitler, a position that wasn’t always evaluated in positive terms by the other members of the Berghof circle. Lack of Primary Sources Interestingly, the exact nature of the relationship between Eva and Hitler remains unclear throughout the book. This is primarily caused by a lack of primary sources (Eva’s diary was never found). However, another part of the puzzle has to do with


the ambivalent nature of Hitler as we come to know him in the book. However, the fact is that he did marry her and she remained true to him until the end when she and Hitler committed suicide on April 30th 1945. It wasn’t until then that the world learned about the mistress, then wife, of Hitler.

did the regime also play a part in creating this blind spot in history?

“Actually the notion of the lives of women and girls in Germany created by the Nazi propagandists had little to do with reality. The actual lives of women beyond the “cult of the mother” were significantly more multilayered and complex than is generally assumed. Nevertheless, visibly political active INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR women, like “Reich Women’s Leader” GerHeike B. Görtemaker trud Scholtz-Klink, were exceptions. Since Not much is known about the role of the women were not allowed to hold high-rankwomen of important Nazi-officials. Is ing positions in politics, the economy or the this caused by a neglect of historians or military, the lives of women in general, and the activities of the wives of the Nazi elite in


particular, were seen as meaningless with respect to their political development. After the war, the women who had been around Hitler gave the impression that they had nothing to do with politics during the Nazi dictatorship and had spent their time only with private matters. Even Ilse Hess, an early campaigner and stern activist of the Nazi Party, declared after 1945 that she, as a woman, had been always “passive”. Therefore, the women themselves and the memoir literature after the war produced the legend of “female innocence” that became part of the “exonerating debate” during the 1950’s. Biographies of Hitler or other leading Nazis, like Hermann Göring or Albert Speer, mostly ignore the wives. And even if they are mentioned: there is no talk about the political motivation of these women, let alone their anti-Semitism or anti-democratic attitude. This view changed slowly during the 1980’s, when a new and more complex perspective on the social history of the “Third Reich” also highlighted the role of women. Now they are increasingly perceived as actors on the historical stage.” Was it difficult - over half a century after her death - to uncover facts about Eva Braun? Could you elaborate more about your sources and how you as a histori-

an weigh the different pieces of - sometimes contradictory - information? “Because of the lack of primary sources, the common interpretations of Eva Braun were encouraged by the memoir literature written after the Second World War. In these accounts former members of the Nazi elite or members of Hitler’s staff mentioned wives, girlfriends or female relatives just as passive bystanders. Neither Hitler nor Eva Braun left any notes with information that could have illuminated the character of their relationship. There exist only a few postcards and letters written by Eva Braun and a diary fragment, dating from the 6th of February 1935 to the 28th of May 1935. But it is disputed whether these pieces were actually written by Eva Braun, because the handwriting in old German is very different from other letters she wrote. But even if there are few personal documents by Eva Braun and none by Hitler, who had his most loyal adjutant destroy all private letters and documents at the end, there are a lot of statements and notes by others that shed light on the relationship between Braun and Hitler. Thus I used, among others, contemporary statements by Joseph Goebbels, Martin and Gerda Bormann, and interviews of the members of the “in-


ner circle” conducted only a few weeks or months after the surrender of the German Wehrmacht. NS-functionaries as well as Hitler’s secretaries, adjutants and doctors were questioned by Allied intelligence officers. Among them were Albert Speer, Karl Brandt, Theodor Morell, Christa Schroeder, Traudl Junge and Wilhelm Brückner. In addition I saw the interrogation files of the family and friends of Eva Braun (including her parents, her sisters, her friend Herta Schneider, Heinrich Hoffmann and other members of the “inner circle”) conducted by the German denazification-courts in Munich from 1947 to 1949. And last but not least I undertook an analysis and assessment of the memoir literature published since the 1950’s in which Nicolaus von Below, Otto Dietrich, Albert Speer, Baldur von Schirach and many others expressed their views. In doing so, asking who said what, when and why, the role of Eva Braun within the circle of the most trusted followers of Hitler became a different one.” Perhaps the most dominant myth about Eva Braun was the idea that she didn’t play any role in the regime and that she didn’t knew what was going on, that she was just a young and naive woman who just happened to fall in love with this powerful, evil man. Although we can’t be certain that she actually knew about the

holocaust, we know now she was an active supporter of the regime and someone who was initiated into the highest circles. How do you think the world would have received this view of Eva Braun when your book was published say 30 or 40 years ago? Do you think the world today was ready for your message? “I think the book would not have been written this way 30 or 40 years ago. Since that time the perception of women in general has changed. Each generation looks at historical events or figures from a different perspective. Whereas at the end of the 1960’s research was mainly concerned with the origins and structure of the national socialist dictatorship and ignored the lives of women as meaningless, today it is unacceptable to strip a dictatorship from the men and women working for it and living in it. Today women are not necessarily perceived as passive bystanders, who are unaware of political events. In the case of Eva Braun, the lack of primary sources and the dominant memoir literature, especially the popular autobiographies of Albert Speer, made it easy to view Eva Braun as a “disappointment of history” because she did not take part in the decision-making leading up to the crimes committed by the Nazis. But the sources that are available now show that Eva Braun has to be seen as part of Hitler’s


inner circle and not apart from it.” The Eva Braun that is portrayed in your book, seems to have a diverse array of traits and characteristics. For instance, sometimes she seems young and insecure while at other times she appears to be very self-confident. One reason for this could of course lie in how the different sources (chose to) portray her. But besides the different sources, are there any other reasons for this apparent diversity in character? Are there also stable traits and characteristics that you uncovered? In other words, what is her core character? “It is very difficult, almost impossible, I would say, to uncover Eva Braun’s “core character”, since the primary sources are so scarce, the family remained almost silent after the war, and we have to rely mainly on statements and notes by others. It was my aim not to add new speculations to the already existing ones but first of all to deconstruct “the story” of Eva Braun which is the subject matter of so many articles, novels, stage plays and movies. For me it was kind of detective work. Therefore I tried not to smooth out the contradictions. All we can say with a certain amount of clarity is that in the fourteen years of her relationship with Hitler, Eva Braun developed from

a rather shy and insecure person in Hitler’s inner circle into a determined woman - a capricious, uncompromising champion of absolute loyalty to the dictator, who played a more and more important role for him. By1936, nobody could dare challenge her position. Even Albert Speer and the powerful Joseph Goebbels, as well as others, sought her company in order to get a closer personal grip on Hitler. Within the hierarchy of Hitler’s closest circle, Eva Braun possessed a strong position. To get on well with Eva Braun was absolutely necessary for being invited to the Berghof, one female guest later claimed. Nevertheless, many members of Hitler’s staff and his private circle thought that she was ‘not good enough’ for the “Führer”. They disliked her as much as they feared her.” One of the most intriguing pieces of information about Eva Braun pertains to her two attempts at suicide. Although she seems to have been a troubled young woman back then, these attempts also got Hitler to pay more attention to her and allowed her to play a more dominant role in his life. In the book there is a suggestion that Braun uses the attention she gets from her attempts at suicide to manipulate Hitler to pay more attention to her. The latter fits with the idea that Eva Braun was not merely a victim - ‘the


woman who just happened to fall in love with a monster’ - but also someone who actively pursued a life with Hitler. What is your view on this? Would you say she was a manipulative and power hungry woman? “The exact circumstances of Eva Braun’s attempted suicide with a pistol belonging to her father at the end of 1932 remain unclear. The same is true for another alleged suicide attempt in 1935. There are differing accounts of what exactly happened, and when. But did Eva Braun in 1932 calculatedly act to make the absent Hitler notice her? Did she actually blackmail him? We cannot answer these questions. We can only speculate. In any case, only a year after his niece Geli Raubal’s suicide and in the middle of his political battle for the chancellorship, whose success was closely bound up with the “Führer cult” around him, Hitler could not afford a new scandal. Therefore he had to bring a relationship that he had apparently misjudged under control. We can assume that, with this extreme act, Eva Braun showed Hitler early on her readiness to die. And in his eyes, this act perhaps proved the kind of self-sacrifice which he expected from his followers. Yet her behavior during her last weeks in the Berlin bunker and her willingness to die with Hitler reveal a rather stern character. Some sources indicate

that she encouraged Hitler’s self-deception and supported his delusion that he was surrounded by traitors. She was one of Hitler’s last and most loyal disciples and certainly believed in dying a hero’s death.” When reading your book, I sometimes got the idea that the relationship of Hitler and Braun was more practical than romantic when it concerned Hitler even though in the end he did marry her. Did you think he really did love her or were there other reasons that their relationship was based upon. What was in it for him? For instance, it is often said that a strong woman always stands behind a strong man. See question above. “It is very difficult to judge about the emotional side of the relationship, the feelings both might have had for one another or not, since not a single letter of Hitler addressed to his mistress has ever been recovered. We only have different accounts of former members of Hitler’s “inner circle”, like those of Albert Speer, the adjutant Julius Schaub, the secretary Christa Schroeder and others. But even Schroeder, who maintained in her memoirs that the relationship between Braun and Hitler had been a sham, admitted in an early interrogation by Allied officers in May 1945 that Hitler had treated Eva Braun like his wife. Hitler obviously


trusted Eva Braun until the end and needed her stabilizing support. But this relationship, based at least on mutual loyalty, did not fit into the successfully cultivated “myth” of the lonesome “Führer” who sacrificed his personal life for the cause of the German people. Even more important: Hitler might have feared the influence and the power of a wife who had legal rights and possibilities - as he himself once said. As a mistress, Eva Braun had no legal means and remained in a dependent position.”

HEIKE GÖRTEMAKER PhD (1964) studied history, economy and German. She wrote her thesis on Margret Bovari, one of the best-known  German  journalists and writers of the post-WW2 period, titled Journalismus und Politik im Transformationsprozeβ von der NS-Diktatur zur Bundesrepublik which was published in 2005 as Ein Deutches Leben. Die Geschichte der Marget Bovari 1900-1975. Upon publication in 2010 in Germany Eva Braun: A life with Hitler became an instant bestseller. The movie rights have been obtained by Michael Simon de Normier who also produced The Reader starring Kate Winslet.

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United Academics Journal of Social Sciences - November-December 2011  

This issue is themed Evil and explores questions like 'How do we define evil' and 'What makes people do evil things?' Contributors discuss...