Pioneering the study of inhumanity
The centre’s origins stem from a speech by the then Observer editor David Astor in April 1962, in which he argued that since most Nazi leaders and supporters were “not mad in a medical sense”, we had to confront something “deeply alarming and disturbing” about human nature – namely “the pathological possibilities of the normal mind”.
This led him to call for a centre to study what he called “political psycho-pathology”.
Mr Astor was approached by the historian Norman Cohn, who had worked as an army intelligence officer in occupied Austria and was preoccupied by similar themes.
After discussions, he later recalled, “David Astor made me an offer such as can seldom have been made to any scholar: he gave me an undertaking that if I would resign the professorship I then held in the University of Durham and devote myself to implementing the suggestion contained in his address, he would see to it that I would not suffer financially.”
After research convinced him that “the official killings of alleged witches in the 16th and 17th centuries” offered the best parallel to the Holocaust, Professor Cohn began work on what became two major books: Warrant for Genocide, The Myth of the Jewish World Conspiracy and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Europe’s Inner Demons: An Enquiry Inspired by the Great Witch-Hunt.
Read full article: Times Higher Education