Death of a 'Jewish Science': Psychoanalysis in the Third Reich

Article excerpt

by James E. Goggin and Eileen Brockman-Goggin. West Lafayette, Indiana: Purdue University Press, 2001. 242 pp. $32.95.

Psychologists James and Eileen Goggin argue that psychoanalysis was destroyed in Nazi Germany. Such destruction by the Nazis of what they condemned as just another "Jewish science" might seem self-evident. Freud's books, after all, were among those burned by brownshirts in 1933, and the universal humanist values inherent in psychoanalytic theory and practice were of course anathema to Hitler's regime. But the Goggins, to their credit, are aware that the story is more complicated than the sudden termination of all psychoanalytic thought and praxis in 1933. To cite the (horribly naive) words spoken by Paul Henreid in the 1943 film Casablanca: "Even Nazis can't kill that fast." Psychoanalysis was well established in Germany, its first institute and clinic having been founded in Berlin in 1920. And it was the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute that in 1936 formed the physical basis for the new German Institute for Psychological Research and Psychotherapy under the direction of Matthias Heinrich Göring, a cousin of Nazi bigwig Hermann Göring. While Jewish practitioners and patients were banished in 1938, psychoanalysis was one of the three "schools" of psychotherapy, along with the Adlerians and Jungians, that were represented in the membership of the new institute. This institute was generously funded by agencies of the Nazi party, the Reich government, private industry, and the military until its destruction during the battle for Berlin in 1945.

So the theory and practice of psychoanalysis actually survived under official protection and even promotion during the Third Reich. The Goggins maintain, however, that the history of psychoanalysis -- for a history, it turns out, there was -- represents a severe discontinuity in the history of the discipline. For the Goggins, the totalitarian nature of the Nazi regime meant that the values inherent in psychoanalysis could not survive, that the moral integrity of its practitioners was destroyed by the exclusion, among others, of Jewish colleagues and patients, that the practice of psychoanalysis was rendered impossible by the Nazi erasure of the conditions of trust necessary between analyst and analysand, and that the autonomy of psychoanalysis as an especially rigorous means of self-examination was compromised through its association with other, lesser, forms of psychotherapy which were ostensibly being forged by the so-called "Güring Insitute" into a "new German psychotherapy" in line with Nazi racial ideals.

While the Goggins are surely correct that the independent psychoanalytic movement in Germany -- and, later, in Europe -- suffered a catastrophe from which it has only relatively recently begun to recover, they ignore important historical contexts that make the story of psychoanalysis in Nazi Germany even more complicated than they allow. …