Handwriting analyst examines psyche of Nazis, survivors

By analyzing the handwriting of Nazis, Holocaust survivors and the survivors' children, a Santa Rosa graphologist says she will decode two of the greatest mysteries of human behavior — the desire to kill and the will to live.

The Israeli-born Varda Rose has used her technique to proclaim O.J. Simpson guilty of murdering his ex-wife, affirm Timothy McVeigh's hand in the Oklahoma City bombing and declare the Unabomber deranged.

Rose, 49, will discuss her psychological profiles of Shoah perpetrators, survivors and survivors' children Monday at Congregation Beth Ami in Santa Rosa. She believes that her research will shed some light on the darkest of human motivations as well as the attitudes that help people to cope with trauma.

While graphology in the United States often is considered New Age hocus-pocus, Rose said Israelis consider the practice a way of life.

Landlords, kibbutzim, matchmakers and employers commonly request handwriting samples from applicants. The Mossad also dabbles in it, she said — "It's a tool."

Rose discovered the handy technique 20 years ago at a Mountain View crafts fair, where a graphologist gave her a reading. She was entranced by its accuracy.

"I got obsessed. It's [still] a passion."

After years of independent research, the Israeli has written three books on the subject.

She also is a certified documents examiner, consults businesses on check forgery and employee theft and helps criminal investigators with hand-written leads.

Rose believes that how a person writes is more revealing than what they write. In penmanship, she can see how honest, clever, competent and stable the person is.

"Writing is a two-way signal; it expresses what is happening in the subconscious and [also] will demonstrate how you are functioning in different areas of [the outer] life."

So profound is the connection of penmanship and psyche, Rose claims, that people can reprogram their behavior by changing their handwriting.

"When you change the writing, what you are doing is communicating with the subconscious and reprogramming the brain."

The graphologist offered to use this therapy to help juvenile lawbreakers and women at domestic violence shelters, but authorities turned her down.

The child of a Holocaust survivor, Rose is emotionally invested in her latest project to examine the writings of well-adjusted survivors, the children of survivors and Nazis who had a direct role in the killing of Jews.

"My father's family [in Poland] was almost all wiped out. He was so traumatized. I grew up with nightmares."

Although she is still collecting handwriting samples for her study, Rose already has found striking similarities among each group.

In the Nazi group, she notes the common signs of cruelty, indoctrination and a lack of flexibility. Their writing is rigid, angular and sometimes full of ink-blotches, the mark of sadism.

While the German national penmanship before World War II already tended toward angularity, Nazi higher-ups such as Heinrich Himmler, Josef Mengele and Rudolf Hess exhibited more extreme forms, she said.

Hitler's writing, she contends, was the most drastic with blotchy, hard angles and a sharp right slant, suggesting hysteria and low self-esteem.

"Thick strokes are sensual, but blotchiness, like an ax filled with blood, is criminal writing. I have checked writings of serial killers and murderers with the same."

Survivors, on the other hand, have rounded letters and simplified formations, disclosing creativity and adaptability. The tension in their lines of writing are taut like a clothesline pulled tight. Line tension, in general, indicates determination.

In the case of the survivors, she said, "It shows the desire to live."

One of Rose's most telling war samples is a photo of a Jewish man who had been murdered in the streets of his ghetto. Before taking his last breath, the man had written with his own blood on the wall next to him, "Jews' revenge."

While the message conveys the sentiments of a hateful person, Rose maintains that the rounded letters show an intelligent, loving person. The sample shows that even a loving person can get to a place of such hostility, she said.

Among the children of survivors, Rose has noticed strict, perfectionist writing alluding to repression, the failure to acknowledge emotions connected to a past event or activity, and distrust of authority.

Their misplaced capitals, lack of margins and a certain way of writing "i's" and "k's" also reveal a rebellious streak, she says. One survivor's daughter — described as "very gypsy" — could not conform to the schedules and hierarchy of the workplace, so she became a successful self-employed investor.

While the Holocaust project is a compelling case study, Rose says that graphology can be an effective method of self-examination for anyone.

"It's amazing how we can be not in touch," Rose said. "Graphology allows us to see ourselves better."

Lori Eppstein

Lori Eppstein is a former staff writer.