I'm not looking for xenophobia, which is a rather general phobia of foreigners.

Rather, something to describe inflated fear and suspicions of another country's behaviour in times of war.

For example, "Amidst the fear and ..., suspicions grew that the captured soldiers were being 'brainwashed'– a novel concept for the time"

This isn't the sentence I want to use exactly, but gets at the meaning. During war time, conspiracies abound about the other country, the doings of its government and army, often proposing things that seem really inhumane – the worst tortures etc. It seems to be partly driven by a sense of alienation from the other country's people, feeling that their moral and ethical values would be so vastly different from and more primitive than our own – things that we consciously convince ourselves our own governments would never do, but the other country would (like brainwashing, invention of the worst tortures etc).

  • Paranoid personality disorder? Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 13:53

1 Answer 1


You could try "demonization", defined by the Cambridge dictionary as

to try to make someone or a group of people seem as if they are evil:

The Nazis used racist propaganda in an attempt to demonize the Jews

In World War II, the Allies and Axis powers used to demonize each other. Hence, citizens in the Allied countries used to view people in the Axis countries in the ways like you described, and vice versa.

As this wikipedia page explains:

Demonizing the enemy, Demonization of the enemy or Dehumanization of the enemy is a propaganda technique which promotes an idea about the enemy being a threatening, evil aggressor with only destructive objectives. Demonization is the oldest propaganda technique aimed to inspire hatred toward the enemy necessary to hurt them more easily, to preserve and mobilize allies and demoralize the enemy.

  • I think this is on the right track. OP's question implies we're talking about how people in general might come to view "the enemy" during wartime. But my guess is most people have always known perfectly well that they're basically just like us (except usually, they speak a different language). This "extreme wartime xenophobia" might sometimes be useful for the soldier who has to shoot someone, but mostly it's just propaganda from The Powers That Be and their mouthpieces in mass media. And demonization exactly describes what they do. Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 14:22
  • Yes, and a quick googling of "demonization in world war II" turns up more web pages that say similar things, e.g., propaganda-project.weebly.com/demonization.html and abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=79071 Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 14:54
  • You could coin a word, based upon Greek: echthros (enemy). So you could use echthrophobia. "Amidst fear and echthrophobia, suspicions grew that the captured soldiers were being brainwashed." It doesn't exactly trip of the tongue, does it and insn't in a dictionary. My advice is that when the search for a single word does not come to you, find another way around.
    – Tuffy
    Commented Jul 9, 2020 at 15:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.