Dreaming in a Totalitarian Society

loreta

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I was wondering what people during war were dreaming. We are at war, after all. I found this interesting article:

How Dreams Change Under Authoritarianism​


When the Nazis came to power, the writer Charlotte Beradt began collecting dreams. What did she learn?

ot long after Hitler came to power, in 1933, a thirty-year-old woman in Berlin had a series of uncanny dreams. In one, her neighborhood had been stripped of its usual signs, which were replaced with posters that listed twenty verboten words; the first was “Lord” and the last was “I.” In another, the woman found herself surrounded by workers, including a milkman, a gasman, a newsagent, and a plumber. She felt calm, until she spied among them a chimney sweep. (In her family, the German word for “chimney sweep” was code for the S.S., a nod to the trade’s blackened clothing.) The men brandished their bills and performed a Nazi salute. Then they chanted, “Your guilt cannot be doubted.”

These are two of about seventy-five dreams collected in “The Third Reich of Dreams,” a strange, enthralling book by the writer Charlotte Beradt. Neither scientific study nor psychoanalytic text, “The Third Reich of Dreams” is a collective diary, a witness account hauled out of a nation’s shadows and into forensic light. The book was released, in Germany, in 1966; an English translation, by Adriane Gottwald, was published two years later but has since fallen out of print. (Despite ongoing interest from publishers, no one has been able to find Beradt’s heir, who holds the rights.) But the book deserves revisiting, not just because we see echoes today of the populism, racism, and taste for surveillance that were part of Beradt’s time but because there’s nothing else like it in the literature of the Holocaust. “These dreams—these diaries of the night—were conceived independently of their authors’ conscious will,” Beradt writes. “They were, so to speak, dictated to them by dictatorship.”

Beradt—who was born Charlotte Aron, in Forst, a town near the German-Polish border—was a Jewish journalist. She was based in Berlin when Hitler became Chancellor, in 1933. That year, she was barred from publishing her work, and she and her husband, Heinz Pol, were arrested during the mass roundups of Communists that followed the passage of the Reichstag Fire Decree. After her release, she began secretly recording the dreams of her fellow-Germans. For six years, as German Jews lost their homes, their jobs, and their rights, Beradt continued making notes. By 1939, she’d gathered three hundred dreams. The project was risky, not least because she was known to the regime. Pol, who once worked for Vossische Zeitung, Germany’s leading liberal newspaper, soon fled to Prague, and Beradt eventually moved in with her future husband, the writer and lawyer Martin Beradt.


The Beradts lived in Charlottenburg—a largely Jewish suburb of Berlin, which was home to figures such as Walter Benjamin and Charlotte Salomon—and the dreams Beradt gathered reflect the area’s secular, middle-class milieu. “Enthusiastic ‘yes men’ or people who drew some advantage from the regime were not readily accessible to me,” Beradt writes. “I asked a dressmaker, neighbor, aunt, milkman, friend—generally without revealing my purpose, for I wanted the most candid and unaffected responses possible.” Her friends included a doctor who “unobtrusively” canvassed patients in his large practice.

To protect herself and those she interviewed, Beradt hid her transcripts inside bookbindings and then shelved them in her private library. She disguised political figures, turning dreams of Hitler, Göring, and Goebbels into “family anecdotes” about Uncles Hans, Gustav, and Gerhard. Once book burnings and home searches became fixtures of state control, Beradt mailed her notes to friends overseas. In 1939, she and Martin left Germany and eventually arrived in New York, as refugees. They settled on West End Avenue, and their apartment became a gathering place for fellow-émigrés, such as Hannah Arendt (for whom Beradt translated five political essays), Heinrich Blücher, and the painter Carl Heidenreich. In 1966, after retrieving her transcripts, Beradt finally published the dreams, in Germany, as “Das Dritte Reich des Traums.”

“The Third Reich of Dreams” unfolds over eleven chapters, arranged by recurring symbols and preoccupations. Epigraphs from Arendt, Himmler, Brecht, and Kafka give ballast to the surreal material that follows, and chapters are titled with emblematic figures—“The Non-Hero,” “Those Who Act”—and gnomic quotes such as “Nothing Gives Me Pleasure Anymore.” These headings reinforce the book’s premise: that the links between waking life and dreams are indisputable, even evidentiary. In an afterword, the Austrian-born psychologist Bruno Bettelheim notes the collection’s many prophetic dreams, in which, as early as 1933, “the dreamer can recognise deep down, what the system is really like.”

Like Svetlana Alexievich’s oral histories of postwar Soviet citizens, Beradt’s work uncovers the effects of authoritarian regimes on the collective unconscious. In 1933, a woman dreams of a mind-reading machine, “a maze of wires” that detects her associating Hitler with the word “devil.” Beradt encountered several dreams about thought control, some of which anticipated the bureaucratic absurdities used by the Nazis to terrorize citizens. In one dream, a twenty-two-year-old woman who believes her curved nose will mark her as Jewish attends the “Bureau of Verification of Aryan Descent”—not a real agency, but close enough to those of the time. In a series of “bureaucratic fairy tales” that evoke the regime’s real-life propaganda, a man dreams of banners, posters, and barracks-yard voices pronouncing a “Regulation Prohibiting Residual Bourgeois Tendencies.” In 1936, a woman dreams of a snowy road strewn with watches and jewelery. Tempted to take a piece, she senses a setup by the “Office for Testing the Honesty of Aliens.”



These dreams reveal how German Jews and non-Jews grappled with collaboration and compliance, paranoia and self-disgust, even as, in waking life, they hid these struggles from others and themselves. The accounts are interwoven with Beradt’s sharp, unembellished commentary, which is deepened by her own experience of Nazism and emigration. By foregrounding dreams, instead of relegating them to colorful secondary material in a more conventional history, Beradt allows the fantastical details to speak louder than any interpretation. Her book recalls the photomontages of Hannah Höch, in which objects, text, and images from the German media are scissored up and juxtaposed, producing unexpected scenarios that feel all the more truthful for their strangeness.

At times, “The Third Reich of Dreams” also echoes Hannah Arendt, who saw totalitarian rule as “truly total the moment it closes the iron vice of terror on its subjects’ private social lives.” Beradt seems to agree with this premise—she understood dreams as continuous with the culture in which they occur—but she also presents dreams as the one realm of free expression that endures when private life falls under state control. Under such conditions, the dreamer can clarify what might be too risky to describe in waking life. Beradt recounts the dream of a factory owner, Herr S., who is unable to muster a Nazi salute during a visit from Goebbels. After he struggles for half an hour to lift his arm, his backbone breaks. The dream needs little elaboration, Beradt writes; it’s “devastatingly clear and almost vulgar.” In a period during which the individual was reduced either to a parasite or to a member of a faceless mob (“I dreamt I was no longer able to speak except in chorus with my group”), dreams offered a rare opportunity to restore a sense of agency.

Beradt’s book does not include any dreams with religious content, and there are no dreams from the Eastern European Jews who lived across town, on Grenadierstrasse and Wiesenstrasse—that is, the Jews who had already survived pogroms. But these absences do not detract from Beradt’s vivid, indelible details, which deepen our understanding of life during Nazism’s early years—a period still overshadowed in the literature by accounts of mass murder and war. Especially novel is Beradt’s study of the many urban women—Jewish and non-Jewish—who narrate their own (dream) lives. Here is Göring trying to grope a salesgirl at the movies; here is Hitler, in evening clothes, on the Kurfürstendamm, caressing a woman with one hand and distributing propaganda with the other. “There can be no neater description of Hitler’s influence on a large sector of Germany’s female population,” Beradt writes, noting the numbers of women who voted for him and his party’s calculated manipulation of his supposed “erotic” power. But the dreams also depict women—reduced to obedient wives and child-bearers in Nazi propaganda—seeking greater social authority. In one instance, a woman has just been classified by the race laws as one-quarter Jewish. And yet, in a dream, she is led by Hitler down a grand staircase. “There was a throng of people below, and a band was playing, and I was proud and happy,” she told Beradt. “It didn’t bother our Führer at all to be seen in public with me.”

The final chapter of “The Third Reich of Dreams” is reserved for those who—in their dreams, at least—resisted the regime (“I dreamed that it was forbidden to dream, but I did anyway”) and those who were Jewish. Beradt writes that such dreams “constitute a separate category, just as the Jews themselves were a separate category under the Nazi regime” and were the focus of “direct, not indirect terrorization.” A Jewish doctor dreams he’s the only physician in the Reich who can cure Hitler. When he offers to donate his services, a blond youth in Hitler’s entourage cries, “What! You crooked Jew—no money?” Later, a Jewish lawyer dreams of travelling through icy Lapland to reach “the last country on earth where Jews are still tolerated”—but a customs official, “rosy as a little marzipan pig,” throws the man’s passport onto the ice. Ahead, unreachable, the promised land shimmers “green in the sun.” It is 1935. Six years later, the mass deportations would begin.

In Germany, “The Third Reich of Dreams” was reviewed as “surprising and gripping evidence” and an “important historical document.” As the psychoanalyst Frances Lang has noted, it’s strange, then, that Beradt’s book has gone “virtually unrecognised” in America. Perhaps it was difficult for such an idiosyncratic history to compete with the more urgent, straightforward accounts that appeared in the nineteen-sixties. (The book is contemporaneous with both Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem” and Raul Hilberg’s “The Destruction of the European Jews.”) And yet there is still time for the collection to enter the canon of Third Reich literature, and perhaps for it to gain wider circulation. Lang, who practices in Boston, learned of Beradt’s work via a footnote in Freud’s “The Interpretation of Dreams” and wrote about it in the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association. In her own practice, she has noticed a widespread uneasiness following Trump’s election. She has asked her friends and colleagues to begin collecting dreams.

Source
 

Ant22

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
Interesting testimonials everyone. I was hesitant about posting because I'm a quite vivid dreamer in general and I've had episodes of days or weeks of strange dreams many times before. Which made me wonder if I could be picking up on what you're picking up, or if it's just another one of those episodes of strange dreams. For example, last year I had a longer period of really intense and unpleasant dreams where I was chased or in great danger, or some sort of a tragedy was either about to happen or has happened. It actually lasted for months. Those weren't exactly Dark Man dreams but the theme of dread and danger was similar. At some point I even decided to stop sleeping with my dream crystal becuase it got so intense that I was waking up almost every night unable to go back to sleep. Needless to say I was exhausted during the day. I even woke up screaming from one of those dreams, loud enough to wake my family up.

But recently, after a longer period of just standard dreams, I've had a number of dreams with a smilier theme: people being on my case, being chased or people wanting to hurt me. Many of those dreams involved evil people plotting something against me, others involved being in physical danger or attacked. The connection with the past others have mentioned is interesting, I noticed that too.

Just last night I had a dream where I was in my old elementary school building and there was a bunch of people who were plotting to harm me. They were all dressed the same way, in some sort of sand-coloured uniforms that looked like something similar to a suit but the jacket was different and they were tighter fitting. I didn't write down the details so they evaporated as my morning progressed but I remember the general theme and feelings. There were people from my past around me but they were almost like placeholders. It was the people who were plotting to harm me that mattered in that dream. Normally I wake up scared from such dreams but that wasn't the case last night. It may have due to the fact that I woke up not long before my alarm clock and it wasn't dark anymore. If a dream wakes me up in the middle of the night I often feel scared, with the same irrational fear of something hiding in the dark that I had when I was little.
 
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whitecoast

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Last night I had two dreams, the first of which was similar to what’s been shared here.

The first I was walking around the coastal village, far from my house and without my cell phone. A bunch of missiles were slowly rising out of hidden silos in the neighborhood. As if that wasn’t weird enough it seems like A.I. in the missiles was really off or broken, causing the missiles to flounder and bump into buildings, power lines, and trees while they tried to get their bearings and clear the surface if the earth. I almost got hit by one, and knew I had to get home ASAP, fearing for their detonation. This dream was disconcerting.

The second was about work, and an audit, and for some reason Logos5x5 was there. After the audit we got some new work projects and technology in-house. This dream left me a little more cheerful.
 

Wandering Star

Dagobah Resident
A few days ago I had a dream that people had lost their human faces and they looked like pigs - at least from the eyes downwards and I felt very strange in my dream. It was only a short sequence. I remembered the dream when I saw people with masks and I got back this strange feeling I had in my dream.
What a coincidence your dream.

I was not going to comment on it, because I had this dream several months ago.

I was driving a car down a road and I came across a herd of pigs that were closing the road.

I approached very slowly with the car to push them gently and thus open my way and be able to pass through the road.

When I saw the pigs up close ... they weren't pigs.

They were naked people in a purely animal state. I pushed the car slowly through them and continued on my way. His reaction and attitude was identical to that of a herd of animals.

If you have ever driven your car through a herd of animals and exchanged them for naked people, then you can see my dream.

When I woke up, I thought that it could be a warning of something similar that could happen.

Vaccines that "play" with the genetic code.
 

loreta

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
What a coincidence your dream.

I was not going to comment on it, because I had this dream several months ago.

I was driving a car down a road and I came across a herd of pigs that were closing the road.

I approached very slowly with the car to push them gently and thus open my way and be able to pass through the road.

When I saw the pigs up close ... they weren't pigs.

They were naked people in a purely animal state. I pushed the car slowly through them and continued on my way. His reaction and attitude was identical to that of a herd of animals.

If you have ever driven your car through a herd of animals and exchanged them for naked people, then you can see my dream.

When I woke up, I thought that it could be a warning of something similar that could happen.

Vaccines that "play" with the genetic code.
Pigs are a good symbol by the way. They symbolise abundance and much more. I found an article about the symbolism of the pig. Maybe it can interest you.

 

naorma

Jedi Master
Pigs are a good symbol by the way. They symbolise abundance and much more. I found an article about the symbolism of the pig. Maybe it can interest you.

Thank you!!! They must be a good symbol! Otherwise one would not give them as a present at New Years Day as I remember now. Nevertheless those pig-humans were very frightening . . . when I think of it again it was because there was no way of communicating with them, no speaking, only grunting, only walking around . . .
 

loreta

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Thank you!!! They must be a good symbol! Otherwise one would not give them as a present at New Years Day as I remember now. Nevertheless those pig-humans were very frightening . . . when I think of it again it was because there was no way of communicating with them, no speaking, only grunting, only walking around . . .
Yes, I believe you. Some years ago I had a nightmare with the head of some pigs and I was very scare. Maybe because pigs are related to a slaughterhouse. Also in the litterature pigs have a bad reputation. For example in the comic Maus, nazis are pigs.
 

Seamus

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
Had another disturbing dream last night, this time quite violent. In the past I would have dreams where something (aliens, monsters, evil men, zombies, vampires, etc) would be threatening me and I would try to defend myself but would be unable to do so because my weapons wouldn't work. The gun wouldn't fire, the sword would turn into a pool noodle, something like that.

Putting it in spoiler tags in case you don't want to read about it:

Well not in this dream. Last night a very large muscle bound man, like the size of Arnold or the Rock was threatening me and I warned him to leave me alone and he followed me and finally attacked me. Well I defended myself in the dream by stabbing him and woke up because of the very graphic imagery around what I was doing and the look of surprise and shock on his face. Yikes.

Then I fell back to sleep and went back into the same place in the dream, but this time I was followed by a fast, weasely man who had a wicked and nasty looking knife of his own. He cornered me and was pressing his knife up against my groin and I woke up because I thought he was going to cut me with it.

I'm not a violent person, I can't say I've ever been in a real fight and I have no military experience or anything like that. I've seen some violent movies but neither dream sequence really reminded me of any movie scenes except the second weasely man looked like the character Johnny Ringo from Tombstone. I guess this kind of dream content could come from the "collective unconscious" or past life memories or something like that.
 

Andi

Padawan Learner
There seems to be a problem with my dreams lately. Nearly all my dreams are deja-vu. Very bizzar. In the dream I dream the continuation of a dream I have never had but in the dream its clear that I have been dreaming it before. If that makes any sense. It happens nearly every night.

edit: I've even went on reddit to see if anyone else was having these and I was surprised to find thread after thread explaining the exact same thing.
 

drazen

Jedi Council Member
FOTCM Member
Last night I had a nightmare about being chased and attacked by some evil bearded big man in a shipyard. I managed to escape into hangar and close the door just at the last moment. I ran through the halls to find someone to help protect me from him, but people who were working there were just staring at me and my feeling was like they will attack me too if I stay a second too long with them. I don't remember all of it, but there was also a lot of blood as I defended myself in the process of running away from these "monsters".

When I woke up, my wife woke up a second later, screaming, she had her own nightmare at the same time. We went to light up a cigarette and to talk about the dreams.

Later during the night I had one more bad dream, but not as frightening as the first one. I was fighting with knives with a "friend" from highschool, he wanted to fight me. We were stabbing each other and he was laughing like mad. Then he took me to some field hospital to see the doctor to help me with my wounds, but there were no wounds actually when we got to the doctor. And that was it, I woke up.
 

Turgon

Ambassador
Ambassador
FOTCM Member
Well, I woke up to another strange one last night. In it, I travelled about 15 years into the past as I was then, only I had taken all my accumulated knowledge and experience with me. I was with a former girlfriend who I used to date at the time, but the realization of living in the past and not knowing how to get back was starting to drive me crazy. I tried explaining to my grandparents and other people that I'm actually from the future, but no one believed me and they gave me that look as if they thought I had lost my mind. I was starting to panic and thought that the forum and my connections with members don't exist yet, so many of the books that I read haven't been published and that maybe reading Georgette Heyer might help. Finally, I thought of my cousins and little sister who are now really young again and that I never took much interest in because I was so self-absorbed and that I can be better this time around. When I found that silver lining, I was able to accept what had happened and woke up.

The moral of the story... don't time travel!! Unless you're able to deal with the ramifications and find some way to stabilize yourself while in the midst of such a sudden and abrupt shift in the reality around you.
 

whitecoast

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
For example in the comic Maus, nazis are pigs.
In Maus the British were pigs and the Nazis were cats. 🐷😸🐭

The moral of the story... don't time travel!! Unless you're able to deal with the ramifications and find some way to stabilize yourself while in the midst of such a sudden and abrupt shift in the reality around you.
Maybe it’s a metaphor for how you in the future feels when it sends hints and clues to you in the past but you lack the knowledge and awareness to properly act on it, or even take of stock of the fact that it’s happening?
 

loreta

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
In Maus the British were pigs and the Nazis were cats. 🐷😸🐭


Maybe it’s a metaphor for how you in the future feels when it sends hints and clues to you in the past but you lack the knowledge and awareness to properly act on it, or even take of stock of the fact that it’s happening?
You are right about cats as Nazis, I am sorry for my error. But pigs are, in Maus, Polish.
 

Lukasz

Jedi
Thank you all for your contributions. It's nice to know what others are dreaming about nowadays.

Last night I had a lot of dreams. I would like to share four of them. It's quite unusual for me to remember so much from one night.

In the first one, I was at the train station and I passed some kind of monitor there. Suddenly, it displayed a photo of me along with a message that I'm wanted for theft of money from a store. I thought this is ridiculous and some kind of manipulation. I was angry it displayed such an obvious lie and promised myself to fight this in court no matter what and prove my innocence. But at the same time, an alarm was triggered and I was scared that police will arrest me any minute.

Another dream was about electric discharge. I was with my mother and my two sisters in the apartment where we all lived when I was a kid. We were all in one room near the windows. There were dark outside. Suddenly, a gigantic lightning struck in a distance and started moving along the ground. I shouted and warned my family not to touch the windows. Then the lightning arrived at our building and I saw a lot of sparks flying and sliding down the windows frames. There were also crackling sounds. It was a beautiful spectacle and extremely scary at the same time. When it all passed, I found that despite my warning, my youngest sister was touching the glass of the window with one hand. It frightened me, but it seemed that she was not injured. I woke up from this dream scared and with a slight headache.

In the next dream I was in a room with a friend (but I don't recall with whom exactly) and there was also a group of forum members. There were Laura and Joe in the group, for sure. I remember that Joe had some kind of task to accomplish. I suggested something that in my opinion might have helped him, but nobody noticed me speaking and I realized that I was standing facing the wall. All the people were behind my back. So I turned around and I saw that there was no one in the room anymore. I thought that I must have said something stupid and because of that they all have left.

Perhaps the appearance of all these people from our past is a clue to consider what kind of relationship we really had with them.

My last dream from today relates to this idea quite literally. In this dream I met my girlfriend from the past. She was with her friend and they were trying to teach me a fitness exercise. I wasn't doing well unfortunately. In the meantime I realized that I forgot to put some of my personal crystals in the pockets when I changed my trousers before workout. There was only one of them with me and should have been three. At the end of this dream a greeting card materialized near me. It had a "100th anniversary" inscription on top of it. I asked my girlfriend if I can open it and read it. I asked because I supposed that it was written for her by her other partner. She said it's ok so I opened the card. It was divided in two parts. One of them was written by me and the other by her. We both were surprised by the content of this card and my girlfriend said something like: "So it seems it was something serious", with regard to our relationship.

I'm alone in my house and I'm trying to turn on the lights, but I can't - the lights don't work, or I'm unable to switch them on.
I had exactly the same dream a few times in my life. Last time probably a few weeks ago.
 
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