Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Significant Moments: Workplace Mobbing and Holocaust Survivors

I began writing "Individual and Mass Behavior in Extreme Situations" in 1940, about a year after I had been set free and moved to the United States. From the moment I arrived in this country, within weeks after liberation, I spoke of the camps to everybody willing to listen, and many more unwilling to do so. Painful as this was because of what it brought back to mind, I did it because I was so full of the experience that it would not be contained. I did it also because I was anxious to force on the awareness of as many people as possible what was going on in Nazi Germany, and out of a feeling of obligation to those who still suffered in the camps. But I met with little success. At that time, nothing was known in the U.S. about the camps, and my story was met with utter disbelief.
Bruno Bettelheim, The Ultimate Limit.
National Socialist Germany seems to have been something new in human affairs. Its roots were old, and the soil was old, but it was a mutant.
Herman Wouk, War and Remembrance.
A plague!
Thomas Mann, Death in Venice.
The Third Reich erupted into history as a surprise. It lasted a mere dozen years. It is gone. Historians, social scientists, political analysts, still stammer and grope in the mountainous ruins of the unprecedented facts about human nature and society that it left behind. Ordinary people prefer to forget it: a nasty twelve-year episode in Europe's decline, best swept under the rug.
Herman Wouk, War and Remembrance.
Before the U.S. was drawn into the war, people did not wish to believe that Germany could do such horrendous things. I was accused of being carried away by my hatred of the Nazis, of engaging in paranoid distortions. I was warned not to spread such lies. I was taken to task for opposite reasons at the same time: that I painted the SS much too black; and that I gave them much too much credit for being intelligent enough to devise and systematically execute such a diabolic system, when everybody knew that they were but stupid madmen. Such reactions only convinced me more of the need to make people aware of the reality of the camps, of what went on in them and the nefarious purposes they served. My hope was that publishing a paper, written as objectively as possible to forestall the accusation that I distorted facts out of personal hatred, might make people listen to what I had to tell. That was my conscious reason for writing "Individual and Mass Behavior in Extreme Situations," which I finished in 1942.

Unfortunately, for well over a year, this paper was rejected by one after another of the psychiatric and psychoanalytic journals to which I sent it, thinking that these were most likely to be willing to print it. The reasons for rejection varied. Some editors objected because I had not kept written records while in the camps, implicitly revealing that they had not believed a word of what I had written about conditions in the camps. Others refused it because the data were not verifiable, or because the findings could not be replicated. A few came right out and said that both what I claimed were facts and my conclusions were most improbable exaggerations. Some added--probably correctly, as judged by my experience when I tried talking about these matters to professional people—that the article would be too unacceptable to their audiences.
Bruno Bettelheim, The Ultimate Limit.
Certainly it was awkward that I was obliged to publish the results of my inquiries without there being any possibility of other specialists testing and checking them, particularly as those results were of a surprising and by no means gratifying character.
Sigmund Freud, Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria.

Primo Levi recorded in his book The Drowned and the Saved the following admonishment that an SS guard enjoyed giving to prisoners at a Nazi concentration camp:

"However this war may end, we have won the war against you; none of you will be left to bear witness, but even if someone were to survive, the world will not believe him. There will be perhaps suspicions, discussions, research by historians, but there will be no certainties, because we will destroy the evidence together with you. And even if some proof should remain and some of you survive, people will say the events you describe are too monstrous to be believed: they will say that they are exaggerations of Allied propaganda and will believe us, who will deny everything, and not you. We will be the ones to dictate the history of the camps."

Be that as it may.

Workplace mobbing is a subtle form of job harassment or bullying that can be considered as a 'virus' or a 'cancer' that spreads throughout the workplace via gossip, rumor and unfounded accusations. It is a deliberate attempt to force a person out of their workplace by humiliation, general harassment, emotional abuse and/or terror. Mobbing can be described as being “ganged up on". Mobbing is executed by a leader (who can be a manager, a co-worker, or a subordinate). The leader then rallies others into a systematic and frequent “mob-like” behaviour toward the victim.

The victim of workplace mobbing is likely to be victimized twice: first in the workplace and later. When the victim of mobbing describes his experiences his report, based as it is on subtle harassing acts, will probably be dismissed as a product of paranoia or hypersensitivity.  The world will not believe the report of a mobbing victim. There will be perhaps suspicions and discussions but there will be no certainties.  People will say the events the mobbing victim describes are too trivial to have any meaning: they will say that they are exaggerations.  Those in a position to investigate will believe the mobbers, who will deny everything, and not the victim. The mobbers will be the ones to dictate the narrative of the workplace.

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