The Palmström Syndrome

Mass Murder and Motivation A Study of Reluctance

by Dick W. de Mildt (Author)
©2020 Monographs 166 Pages


This book presents you with the background profiles of those mass exterminators of National Socialism who wound up in court. It pictures their ‘route to crime’ and explains why their court room profiles have always remained so controversial in the eyes of post-war observers and commentators. Both inside and outside academia, this controversy continuous to flare up every now and then. It invariably focusses on Hannah Arendt’s famous thesis about the personality of Adolf Eichmann, Hitler’s manager of mass destruction. We will take a closer look at the arguments involved in this ‘debate’ on the Banality of Evil and see how Arendt’s interpretation of Eichmann relates to the perspectives of the post-war courts who tried other exterminators of Hitler’s empire.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • Preface
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • I The veiled image
  • 1 Little lumps of reality
  • 2 The equilibrium of madness
  • 3 The Laocoön in Nuremberg
  • 4 The carrousel of fate
  • 5 The opportunist route to crime (and back)
  • 6 ‘Show me yourself with your dog, and I’ll tell you what you are’67
  • II Pars pro toto: Franz Stangl
  • 1 Conversations with the executioner
  • 2 ‘The Lord God knows me’
  • 3 The dynamics of evil
  • The Austrian prologue
  • Hartheim and beyond
  • 4 Truth and fiction
  • Duress of orders
  • The incorruptible policeman: Stangl’s self-portrait
  • The awareness of injustice
  • III The Palmström Syndrome
  • 1 A magical encounter
  • 2 The criminal of the century
  • 3 ‘That which must not, cannot be’ (I)
  • 4 ‘That which must not, cannot be’ (II)
  • 5 Facing ‘impossible’ facts
  • Postscript: the measure of all things
  • Appendix
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index on persons

I The veiled image

‘Behind, be what there may,

I dare the hazard—I will lift the veil.’

Friedrich Schiller, Das verschleierte Bild zu Saïs (1795)

[The Veiled Image at Sais, translated by J. Merivale]

1 Little lumps of reality

Distance in space and time degrades intensity of awareness. So does magnitude. Seventeen is a figure which I know intimately like a friend; fifty billion is just a sound. A dog run over by a car upsets our emotional balance and digestion; three million Jews killed in Poland cause but a moderate uneasiness. Statistics don’t bleed; it is the detail which counts. We are unable to embrace the total process with our awareness; we can only focus on little lumps of reality.

Arthur Koestler, ‘On disbelieving atrocities’, January 1944

Tarnopol, 7 April 1943

My beloved!

Before I leave this world, I want to leave behind a few lines to you, my loved ones. When this letter will reach you one day, I myself will no longer be there, nor will any of us. Our end is drawing near. One feels it, one knows it. Just like the innocent, defenseless Jews already executed, we are all condemned to death. In the very near future it will be our turn, as the small remainder left over from the mass murders. There is no way for us to escape this horrible, ghastly death.

At the very beginning (in June 1941) some 5000 men were killed, among them my husband. After six weeks, following a five-day search between the corpses, I found his body…. Since that day life has ceased for me. Not even in my girlish dreams could I once have wished for a better and more faithful companion. I was only granted two years and two months of happiness. And now? Tired from so much searching among the bodies, one was ‘glad’ to have found his as well; are there words in which to express these torments? (…)

←15 | 16→

Tarnopol, 26 April 1943


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2020 (March)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 166 pp.

Biographical notes

Dick W. de Mildt (Author)

Dick de Mildt is a historian and co-editor of the multi-volume documentation series of post-war German trial judgments concerning Nazi crimes, Justiz und NS-Verbrechen.


Title: The Palmström Syndrome