Book burning in Nazi German.
Source: Wikimedia Commons (US National Archives, public domain)
In 1938, after Nazi Germany annexed Austria, Nazi leaders were divided over what to do with psychologists and psychoanalysts. On the one hand, top officials including Himmler and Goebbels wanted to put “the whole group in prison”, while others agreed with Luftwaffe commander Hermann. G.öring who, ” under the influence of his psychiatric cousin, supported moderation.” Cousin of Matthias Heinrich Göring, who had studied with Emil Kraepelin and Alfred Adler, had joined the Nazi party and began serving as head or puppet of a fledgling institution psychotherapyboth of which began in 1933. Either out of personal conviction or in self-defense, he and his colleagues spoke out against Jewish psychoanalysts and excluded Freudians in particular from their societies and organizations.. Many psychotherapists are neither Jewish nor Freudian can remain active under fascist regimes (Cocks, 1985/2018). Psychiatrist Harald Schultz-Hencke and several colleagues were actively trying to end “Jewish science” and replace it with a “new German psychiatric drug” suitable for Nazi leaders (Goggin & Goggin, 2001).. While not all of Freud’s ideas were rejected, ideas that were deemed useful were generally repackaged and renamed – covertly protected or simply plagiarized?
However, many psychologists and psychiatrists have to decide: run away or die. Here are a few more prominent examples.
- Look at what’s happening in his native Germany, the founder of social psychology Kurt Lewin decided (Benjamin, 1993, p. 158), “I now believe I have no choice but to move, even if it will destroy my life.” In 1933, facing Nazi treatment of Jews and often disparaging psychology, he moved to America. So he wasn’t in Germany when his mother, sister and so many others were murdered in the Nazis. concentration camp. Tragedy took its toll, though: Shortly after World War II, he died of a heart attack in 1947 at the age of 56.
- Sociologist turned psychologist Erich Fromm builds his theoretical foundation for trying to understand how and why his country’s people would elevate the Nazis to power and previously friendly neighbors would turn against Jews, even those they had known all their lives. Suffering under the Great Depression, the German population gave up so many freedoms for the sake of security that were apparent under the dictatorial regime. Fromm (1941, 1955) concluded that the ‘most basic human dilemma’ is the conflict between competing desires for freedom and security.
- Even though the Nazi leaders who opposed psychology and the therapists working with the authorities against the Jews concentrated most of their anger Sigmund FreudOn his ideas, Freud himself refused to leave his home in Vienna, Austria, to the point that he almost waited too long. When the Nazis first took power in Germany in 1933, they publicly burned the books of Freud and other “enemies of the state” such as Albert Einstein. “What progress are we making,” Freud mused (Reef, 2001, p. 191). “In the Middle Ages they would burn me; now they are content to burn my books.” When the Nazis occupied Austria in 1938, he refused to leave despite encouragement and even pleas from his friends. The Nazi gang repeatedly ransacked his home. Only after his daughter’s arrest and release, psychoanalyst Anna Freud, did he finally go to London, where he died the following year. Four of his five sisters died immediately in the concentration camp.
- Not everyone is out. Austria Victor Frankl was sent to Auschwitz and, from there, to another concentration camp for three years. The Nazis killed his wife, parents, brother and nearly all other relatives except for a sister who fled to Australia (Klingberg, 2001). For nine days not long after the Americans released him from Dachau, he wrote what would become the first part of Man’s Search for Meaning (Frankl, 1946, 1958/2006, 1962/2006). One of the most influential books in the world, it describes his experiences under the Nazis and then outlines his therapeutic methods, logotherapy, the key to existential psychology. His work was there and survived only because he was a small part of the concentration camp survivors. Imagine how much the world has lost to all those who didn’t.
What about the psychotherapists who sometimes seemed to thrive under Nazi rule? They face consequences for them cooperation with fascist authority, from Harald Schultz-Hencke who faced great controversy for the rest of his life to the zealous Nazi Matthias Heinrich Göring who died in Poznań prison. In the story about the deal with the devil, the devil comes to take his due.
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