Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Resistance in Therapy and War: Psychoanalysis before and during the Nazi Occupation of Norway 1933-45

Academic journal article International Journal of Psychoanalysis

Resistance in Therapy and War: Psychoanalysis before and during the Nazi Occupation of Norway 1933-45

Article excerpt

On 28 March 1941, a year after the occupation of Norway, Vidkun Quisling of the Norwegian National Socialist Party (NS) gave a speech in Frankfurt on the alleged moral and scientific decay that had prevailed in Norway before the German occupation: "Psychoanalysis, invented by Freud, the Jew, had a great and harmful influence", the newly installed 'Minister President' noted (Quisling, 1943, p. 8). According to Quisling, the country had been "enmeshed in the Jewish spirit", through German emigre Marxists, British--American liberalists with anti-German sentiments as well as "sexual--pornograhic psychoanalysis", imported through Wilhelm Reich. Reich, "a Jewish pornographer and quasi-scientist", in Quisling's words, had "everywhere been greeted as a man with new and fruitful ideas." He had "ruled" at the University, and his "destructive business among working class youth" had been hailed by "the 'liberated' decadent 'intellectuals' and protected by the Government Party (Labour)", in Quisling's words (ibid.).

This speech shows the use of psychoanalysis as a symbol in Norwegian Nazi rhetoric, both before and during the occupation, indicating the strong currency of psychoanalysis as intellectual capital in Norwegian intellectual discourse, as well as a political point of controversy, epitomized by the presence of Wilhelm Reich during the years 1934--39. Because psychoanalysis was championed by Professor Harald Schjelderup (1895--1974) at the University of Oslo, Norway was perhaps the one country where psychoanalysis truly gained academic acceptance at an early stage and was largely regarded as a proper science; yet the debate surrounding it was highly politicized, more so than in many other countries.

Psychoanalysis in Norway before the Nazi occupation was partly a branch of academic psychology, partly a much-debated intellectual and political discourse. Harald Schjelderup had two professional aims related to psychoanalysis: the first one was to establish a Scandinavian branch of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA), while the other was to bridge the tension between psychoanalysis and related epistemic fields in psychology, to secure psychoanalysis as a legitimate science (Nilsen, 2003). The latter aim would create a conflict with the first, for a very specific reason: Schjelderup held that Wilhelm Reich's Charakteranalyse was the best work on psychoanalytic therapy to date, and that Reich's therapeutic innovations, especially concerning resistance, were groundbreaking in terms of a possible reconciliation between psychoanalysis and academic psychology or traditional psychiatry.

Norwegians at the Berlin Institute of Psychoanalysis in the 1930s

The Norwegian part of the history of psychoanalysis and Nazism has long remained by and large unwritten. In the discussion of psychoanalysis and dictatorships in general and the history of the Berlin society in particular (see e.g. Cocks, 1985), it is noteworthy that the history of the Norwegian society was closely bound with the Berlin Society of Psychoanalysis. As most of the Norwegians were members of the IPA through the Berlin Society, the political tensions of Nazism also entered into the Norwegian group from 1933 onwards and remained an issue until the war, when most of the analysts became involved in the resistance movement.2 I will give three examples of this later in the article: the analysts Harald Schjelderup and Nic Waal (1905--60), and the poet Arnulf Øverland (1889--1968).

Most of the first Norwegian analysts had analyses in Berlin in the early 1930s, just before Hitler's seizure of power. Ola Raknes (1887--1975) underwent analysis with Karen Horney in 1928--29; Nic Hoel, as she was then called, had training analysis with Isidor Sadger (1867--1942) and Salomea Kempner (1880) in 1930--1, later also with Otto Fenichel and Wilhelm Reich. Harald Schjelderup (who had already gone through analysis with Eduard Hitschmann in Vienna and Oskar Pfister in Zurich, and was an IPA member through the Zurich group) underwent analysis with Harald Schultz-Hencke in 1930--31. …

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