This talk is based on Monroe’s book which examines four critical topics at the intersection of international relations, political psychology and ethics: (1) the psychology of genocide, (2) critical shifts as a political system moves from democracy to authoritarianism, (3) the individual process of cognitive stretching to grasp a new political reality, and (4) the psychological process by which human lives are sewn back together after extreme political trauma. Each topic is addressed by interviewing German Jewish exiles who fled Hitler’s Europe before the Holocaust. The work considers four important questions. (1) What is the relationship between cognition, ontological security and ethnic violence? (2) Are basic personality factors more important than contextual or situational influences in an individual’s ability to withstand the psychology of victimization that accompanies genocide? (3) How social is the construction of identity, and how is political action in turn shaped by others’ perceptions of oneself? And, finally (4) was there something particularly virulent in German anti-Semitism, or can the kind of ethnic violence that occurred during the Holocaust occur elsewhere, given similar background conditions and social-psychological factors? These questions – which take on a political immediacy with the increasing power of non-democratic political movements throughout Europe and the USA -- are addressed through narrative analysis of interviews with Jews who fled the Third Reich and include Dorothea Almond, Millie Singer, Roberta Sigel, Herb Kelman, Gerda Lerder, Hanna Holborn Gray, Kurt Lang, Ruth Deutsch, and Guy Stern inter alia.

(light lunch served)


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