Psychoanalysis and National Socialism – Break or Continuity?

Was psychoanalysis in Germany „destroyed” or „saved” in the period 1933-1945? To this day ever new answers are given to the question, answers which depend on the time and the interests involved. This contribution seeks to reconstruct once again the steps leading to the incorporation in 1936 of the German Psychoanalytic Society (Deutsche Psychoanalytische Gesellschaft [DPG]) into the National Socialist German Institute for Psychological Research and Psychotherapy (Deutsches Institut für psychologische Forschung und Psychotherapie). This process of incorporation, which was intended as a „rescue“ and led to the self-disbandment of the DPG in 1938, took place during ongoing talks between Felix Boehm and Carl Müller-Braunschweig, officials of the DPG, on the one hand, and Ernest Jones, president of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA), on the other. The process was connected to yet another desideratum: the expulsion of Wilhelm Reich from the DPG/IPA…

by Bernd Nitzschke

In his Freud biography Ernest Jones, who as president of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA) in the period 1933-1945 was concerned with the institutional integrity of psychoanalysis, summed up the fate of psychoanalysis under Hitler in the following sentence: „This year saw the flight of the remaining Jewish analysts from Germany and the ‘liquidation’ of psychoanalysis in Germany. It was one of Hitler’s few successful achievements” (Jones 1957, p. 185). The statement is pregnant – and false. All the same it has influenced the historical view of most psychoanalysts for a long time, above all thanks to the fact of the National Socialist book burnings which took Freud’s works with them and thereby appeared to support Jones’s picture. With the 1980s however a more differentiated view of the matter arose thanks to new research efforts; and with that a controversy of international scale was born which had until then tended to be of local interest: What happened to psychoanalysis under Hitler? Was it „saved” or „destroyed?” (Lothane 2001). To these questions the two German professional organizations have found different answers – the German Psychoanalytic Society (Deutsche Psychoanalytische Gesellschaft [DPG]) founded in 1910 which at the congresses of Zurich (1949) and Amsterdam (1951) was no longer recognized as a branch of the IPA; and the German Psychoanalytic Association (Deutsche Psychoanalytische Vereinigung [DPV]) founded in 1950 and in 1951 taken into the IPA in place of the DPG. „The German Psychoanalytic Society (DPG), which carried on the tradition of psychoanalytic collaboration with other schools of psychotherapy in the Göring Institute, declared that psychoanalysis had been ‘saved’ by a small group of remaining psychoanalysts in Nazi Germany. The German Psychoanalytic Association (DPV) (…) argued that psychoanalysis had been ‘destroyed’ by the Nazis” (Cocks 2001, p. 230). Meanwhile the controversy went forward, and with it the larger question of whether the National Socialist period meant a break in the history of psychoanalysis or if a certain continuity can be detected over and beyond that period. Geoffrey Cocks (1985) on the one hand and James and Eileen Goggin (2001) on the other have marked the varied positions which Cocks has from his viewpoint summed up as:

„The Goggins argue that the history of psychoanalysis in Nazi Germany constitutes a catastrophic discontinuity in the history of the discipline. This argument runs counter to my argument that the history of psychotherapy in general in the Third Reich displays important institutional continuities with preceding and succeeding developments inside and outside the discipline. (…) The most obvious difference between my work and that of the Goggins lies in our respective subject matters. My research has a broader focus, that of psychotherapy and psychiatry, of which the history of psychoanalysis is only a part, while for the Goggins psychoanalysis is the focus. The Goggins are correct that the independence of the psychoanalytic movement was destroyed by the Nazis, that its ranks and its moral integrity were depleted by the expulsion of the large numbers of Jewish members, that the trust necessary for its consistently effective practice was absent under the Nazi regime, and that its core values were inconsistent with the evil assumptions and practices of Nazism. But seen in the context of the rise of a psychotherapeutic challenge to psychiatry, the German Institute for Psychological Research and Psychotherapy (the Göring Institute) that was founded in Berlin in 1936 clearly represents a strengthening of a trend within and without the medical profession toward increasing reliance on psychological theory and practice in treating a wide range of disorders” (Cooks 2001, p. 232).

I wish to refer to a phrase from this citation which most readers will probably accept but which I must disagree with: „(…) the independence of the psychoanalytic movement was destroyed by the Nazis.” My objection is that before the Nazis were able to „destroy” the independence of the psychoanalytic movement, the representatives of the DPG (who dealt with Jones and other representatives of the IPA) gave up psychoanalytic positions to such a degree that the Nazis at first tolerated psychoanalytic institutions and then step by step took them over. Psychoanalysis was therefore not forbidden under Hitler in the real meaning of that term. I intend to support my thesis with a closer look at the period 1933-1936 during which the process of concession can be seen and two exemplary events studied which give meaning to the time: the expulsion in the summer of 1933 of Wilhelm Reich from the DPG, kept secret at first, which meant as well, under the rules of the time, his exclusion from the IPA; and in the summer of 1936 the entry of the DPG into the German Institute for Psychological Research and Psychoanalysis (Deutsche Institut für psychologische Forschung und Psychotherapie, the so-called Göring Institute) (Nitzschke 1999, 2002). Two years later, in 1938, the Nazis demanded the dissolution of the DPG, which from then on was run as „Workgroup A” of the German Institute (Brecht et al 1985).

Condition for the DPG’s joining the Nazi institute was the „voluntary” giving up of DPG membership on the part of those Jewish psychoanalysts who had remained through 1935 members of the DPG. For this purpose a DPG member meeting took place which IPA president Jones also attended. He later wrote in his Freud biography: „In response I went to Berlin and presided at a meeting of the Society on December 1, 1933 (actually 1935, B.N.), where the few remaining Jews volunteered to resign so as to save the Society from being dissolved” (Jones 1957, p. 186; italics B.N.). Jones’s choice of words – years after the end of the Hitler regime – shows that the notion that it was then a question of „saving” psychoanalysis was by no means limited to the representatives of the DPG. But such usage did not come first into being after the end of the Hitler regime, in other words not first as a post hoc attempt at justification. Such usage was rather rule in the period 1933-1945. In Anna Freud’s letter to Jones of March 10, 1936, for example, dealing with her meeting with Felix Boehm during which the imminent joining of the DPG to the Göring Institute was discussed, she writes: „I can understand why he wishes to make this attempt. If it fails, analysis has lost nothing (…). If he saves a little workgroup for the future then all to the good” (cited in Lockot 1994, p. 47; italics B.N.).

The task of „saving” of psychoanalysis was assigned to the „Aryan” Boehm. In April 1933 in Vienna Boehm and Freud discussed the question of a new board for the DPG. Freud agreed that Boehm (together with Carl Müller-Braunschweig) would take over presidency from the then president Max Eitingon who shortly thereafter emigrated to Palestine. In any case Boehm had to meet two conditions: first, he had to expel Wilhelm Reich, whom Freud saw as a „bolshevist” attacker (see Nitzschke 2002), from the DPG; second, he had to prevent, during the period of National Socialist domination, „inside opponents such as Schultz-Hencke”, who criticized Freud’s libido theory, from „taking advantage the Institute to put their theories into play” (Freud to Eitingon, March 21, 1933 – Freud, Eitingon 2004, p. 848). Freud expressed his wish to have Reich expelled from the DPG and IPA in another letter to Eitingon of April 17, 1933: „I desire it on scientific grounds but have nothing against its coming about on political grounds – I do not begrudge him the role of martyr” (Freud, Eitingon 2004, p. 854). The „scientific” grounds had to do with Reich’s (1932a) objections to Freud’s death instinct theory, which objections went hand in hand with Reich’s position that psychoanalysis as a progressively-oriented organization should fight fascism as well. The „political” grounds, strictly speaking, had to do with Freud’s fear that given Reich’s prominence and notoriety as a communist psychoanalyst, the DPG risked being banned by the Nazis.

On his return from Vienna Boehm turned to implementing the strategy discussed with Freud. On May 6, 1933, Freud’s birthday, Boehm and Müller-Braunschweig presented themselves at the plenary meeting of the DPG as joint candidates for the presidency and were roundly defeated. The majority of DPG members, including Harald Schultz-Hencke, voted against the two candidates and confirmed Max Eitingon once again as president of the DPG just days before the Nazi book burning. That was one of the last acts of open resistance on the part of the DPG. Half a year later, on November 18, 1933, Boehm and Müller-Braunschweig succeeded in their second try and took over control of the DPG. The correspondence section (Korrespondenzblatt) of the IPA (which was part of the Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse) carried the following: „The election took place following a suggestion of Eitingon: Boehm and Müller-Braunschweig were elected unanimously. Boehm took over the duties of president of the DPG and the management of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute; Müller-Braunschweig continues to carry out the function of treasurer and administrator of the educational sections as well as taking over the duties of secretary of the Society and of president of the training section” (Korrespondenzblatt 1933, p. 132).

As treasurer Müller-Braunschweig demanded the repayment of training stipend debts by Jewish members who had fled Germany. As payments were not received, he wrote on December 29, 1936 (by which time the DPG was part of the Göring Institute) in the following angry tones to Jones: „It seems by now not to be economic circumstances alone that make it hard for our debtors to pay us but rather the widespread resentment toward an exclusively non-Jewish DPG which accounts for an unwillingness to pay” (cited in 8: 69). With that Jones acted to help Müller-Braunschweig with collecting on the debts. At the same time Boehm and Müller-Braunschweig informed not only Jones but the IPA as well, thereby  affording glimpses, in the correspondence section (Korrespondenzblatt), into activities aimed at having the DPG conform to the new political situation in Germany. Thus it is noteworthy that early in 1934 DPG members were urged „to attend in numbers the Psychotherapist Congress in Nauheim May 10-13 during which were to be discussed details of the establishment of a professional therapist group” (Korrespondenzblatt 1934, p. 414).

This congress was of great importance for all psychotherapists since in Nauheim was to be set down the future program of psychotherapy – graduate training, medical training, fitting of psychotherapy into the medical and psychological disciplines, etc. For that reason the constitutive meetings of the Deutsche allgemeine ärztliche Gesellschaft für Psychotherapie (German General Medical Society for Psychotherapy) and of the Überstaatliche allgemeine ärztliche Gesellschaft für Psychotherapie (International General Medical Society for Psychotherapy) took place there also. The Reichsleiter of the German group was Mathias Heinrich Göring, a cousin of Her­mann Göring; president of the international group was C.G. Jung who in December 1933 took over the Zentralblatt für Psychotherapie, the scientific-public relations organ of both groups. Jung presented the periodical’s program as follows: „The main task of the Zentralblatt will be that of creating, by way of nonpartisan evaluation of all actual contributions, an overview which will correspond to the fundamentals of the human soul to a greater degree than has heretofore been the case. The definite distinctions between Germanic and Jewish psychology long apparent to sensible people shall no longer be obscured, something which can only promote the cause of science” (Jung 1933 – translation adopted in part from Glover 1956, p. 152). What appears as a contradiction can be seen, when more closely examined, to be a constitutive principle of the new „German psychotherapy” (Seelenheilkunde): the overall makeup of such psychotherapy is based on a selection – separating „Germanic psychology” from „Jewish psychology”. With regard to psychoanalysis it meant the acceptance of every­thing it offered in the way of effective therapy (treatment technique) and the rejection of everything in it that could be smacking of „Jewish” or even „Jewish-Bolshevist” theory (including a „Jewish” view of mankind and cultural theory). In a presentation entitled „Psychotherapy and political world view” Kurt Gauger set forth at the Nauheim Congress the definition of „German psychotherapy”. Already in its title Gauger’s message to the Congress was „clearly stated, [i.e.] that the meaning [and intent] of my presentation is a political one just as I am standing before you in the uniform of a political soldier, of an SA-man” (Gauger 1934, p. 158). Psychotherapists were not so much called on not merely to obey the new regime but to identify with it based on inner conviction. „It is not a question of incorporating National Socialist terminology in our professional vocabulary in order to show the new state how important psychotherapy is for it. It is a question of whether German psychotherapy and German psychotherapists will be able to meet the totalizing demands of the new state in content and in spirit and not mere lip service” (1934, p. 159).

Gauger presented his picture of psychoanalysis and the notion that „the scientific materialism of Freudian psychoanalysis is most closely related to the economic materialism of Marx” (1934, p. 166). That amounted to a condemnation, but Gauger allowed, for all his criticism of it, one or two points to psychoanalysis: „We do not challenge the value of physics and chemistry. We therefore do not challenge the value of some of the theories of Freudian psychoanalysis formulated on the basis of quasi-scientific observations of human mental life. Ideological hostility arises though when meaning is given to such results! In other words: we do not oppose astronomy but we would prevent any astronomer from using the science of astronomy as a weapon in the hands of communist anti-religious organizations” (1934, p. 165). It would then follow that those who, like Wilhelm Reich, pit psychoanalysis against the National Socialist state will be dealt with mercilessly. What is more, there are neither „unpolitical” people (1934, p. 1966) nor a politically „neutral” psychoanalysis since every person has goals of his own and every psychotherapy has treatment goals which are now to be seen as tied to values, meaning, and ideology. For that reason „in the matter of psychotherapy and ideology (Weltanschauung) it is not a question of a ‘National Socialist method of mental treatment’” (1934, p. 168) but rather of treatment goals. „If the question of the mental health of our people (Volk) is the decisive question of National Socialism, so decisive in fact that it determines foreign policy (read: Hitler’s plan for war and conquest, B.N.) via the determination: better to go down with honor than to live as a slave! – you will not be surprised to hear me say: … the most political discipline of all is psychotherapy!” (1934, p. 168).

On October 22, 1933 in Reichswart, a propaganda sheet dedicated to National Socialist ideology, a contribution to the topic of psychoanalysis and weltanschauung appeared by none other than Müller-Braunschweig which, as its title made plain enough, dealt with questions Gauger presented half a year later in Nauheim. The author of the Reichswart article starts off with a reference to the „current overall situation” out of which springs the need for a „renewed evaluation” of psychoanalysis. He then describes, in a language suitable for the lay reader, the psychoanalytic treatment method which is to act not by „dissolving and destroying” but rather by „liberating and constructing”. In conclusion he presents the therapeutic goals of psychoanalysis just the way the SA-man Gauger was to present them half a year later – in overall harmony with the National Socialist weltanschauung: psychoanalysis is to bend its efforts to „turn impotent weaklings into people fit for life, those cut off from life into people able to look reality in the eye, those prey to their impulses into those able to master their drives, those incapable of love into those able to love and to make sacrifices, and those who take no interest in life into those serving life in its entirety. In such a way psychoanalysis carries out a splendid task of education and can meaningfully serve the newly developed traits of a heroic and reality-oriented life goal” (Müller-Braunschweig 1933 – Reprint 1984, p. 111). Unidentified colleagues are referred to in an addendum: „We concede that in not all psychoanalytic publications such a positive and creative fundamental attitude comes forward clearly enough” (1984, p. 112).

One of the colleagues whose writings lacked the desired „creative fundamental attitude” reacted with anger: „As a member of the DPG forced into emigration I hereby declare that the article in question of Müller-Braunschweig is a disgrace to the entire psychoanalytic science and movement. Under the leadership of its board the DPG is attempting its integration in the German General Medical Society for Psychotherapy whose Reichsführer states in a foreword in the Zentralblatt für Psychotherapie of December 1933: ‘The Society expects of all members who write to have made a serious scientific study of Adolf Hitler’s fundamental book Mein Kampf and to recognize it as a basic work.’ (…) All the worse is the disgrace of the analysts making such an effort to let themselves be brought into step” [gleichschalten] (Wilhelm Reich – cited in Fenichel 1998, p. 103 f.).

This passage is found in a letter of Reich which Fenichel copied in one of a series of circular letters (Rundbriefe, number 4 of June 5, 1934) which he sent out, beginning early in 1934, to Freudians of the left scattered around the world in exile. This group of analysts organized around Fenichel and Reich was united in the conviction that psychoanalysis and sociology (Marxism) had to be joined together. Reich had already tried to carry out the program of „political” psychoanalysis with his book Der Einbruch der Sexualmoral (Reich 1932b). Erich Fromm praised the book as an „important and exciting enrichment of the analytic-Marxist socio-psychological literature which is still in its infancy” (1932, p. 122). Reich continued the effort in his book The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933) which he published in exile. In it he describes the historical, social and psychogenetic conditions for the authoritarian-structured personality which projects its destructive impulses on to others, under the ideological cover of a pseudo-religious content like the National Socialist weltanschauung and ostensibly acting at a time of a national emergency, in order to live a life dominated by hate of others. Max Horkheimer recognized Reich’s attempt as a „theoretically important extension” of Freudian theory and evaluated it as follows: „We are in agreement on many points with his psychological explanation of particular traits of the middle class character” (1936, p. 22, fn. 3).

Fenichel sent out his first circular letter in March of 1934. In it he described the situation of psychoanalysis under Hitler as of the end of 1933 in general and that of the DPG in the National Socialist state in particular: „When I left Berlin in the fall the founding of the ‘Professional group for psychotherapy’ under Göring’s direction and with Schultz-Hencke’s assistance was going full steam. (…) The DPG tried to become part of this group since it feared it had otherwise no chance of existence. In this regard Boehm and Müller[-Braunschweig] traveled in the fall (…) to the Hague, where they met Jones and van Ophuijsen in order to obtain the acquiescence of the IPA” (Fenichel 1998, p. 37). I will return to this trip to the Hague but would like now to deal with Schultz-Hencke, whom Fenichel mentioned as a founding member of the German General Medical Society for Psychotherapy. Schultz-Hencke was, as stated, viewed by Freud as an „inner opponent” (= dissident) of psychoanalysis. He espoused, before, during and after the National Socialist regime, more or less neo-psychoanalytic positions but was in any case no National Socialist sympathizer. Käthe Dräger, who as of 1936 was active in political resistance to the National Socialist state, wrote after the war of Schultz-Hencke that „he was no National Socialist in his political views and showed personal courage” (Dräger 1971, p. 265). This was also the opinion of Werner Kemper, whose views Lockot expressed as follows: when Kemper „helped his colleagues Wilhelm Reich and Lotte Liebeck to escape in time and stayed in contact with the two imprisoned members of the Society, Edith Jacobsohn and John Rittmeister (who was in a training analysis with him), he could always count on help from Schultz-Hencke” (1994, p. 263).

In an article of 1934 called „Die Tüchtigkeit als psychotherapeutisches Ziel” (bravery as a psychoanalytic goal) Schultz-Hencke dealt with the question which Müller-Braunschweig in his Reichwart article and Gauger in his Nauheim address had already answered in a way wholly consistent with the National Socialist weltanschauung. Now Schultz-Hencke with his neo-psychoanalytic views found himself agreeing that neurotics are weakened people whom with the help of therapy one ought to liberate from inhibitions in order to make them strong or even „brave”. Müller-Braunschweig had made it clear in his Reichswart article that the goal of therapy was no unlimited liberation from inhibitions and bolstered his position with a quote from Freud: „To believe that psychoanalysis seeks a cure for neurotic disorders by giving a free rein to sexuality is a serious misunderstanding which can only be justified by ignorance. The making conscious of repressed sexual desires in analysis makes it possible, on the contrary, to obtain a mastery over them which the previous repression had been unable to achieve. It can more truly be said that analysis sets the neurotic free from the chains of his sexuality” (Freud 1923, p. 252; italics Müller-Braunschweig 1984, p. 110). Schultz-Hencke takes up Freud’s metaphor of „chains” and designates the psychoanalytic method as „Desmolyse” (= method of unchaining, from the Greek word for chain) (1934, p. 91). But then he adds: „The misunderstanding concerning the production of all lack of inhibition could arise because too much speculation, conceptual inaccuracy and theoretical deviation in Freud’s theoretical edifice was introduced by him and by his followers. So in particular the libido theory, ‘pansexualism’ (…). The libido theory must then fall and with it all additional speculation and corresponding conceptual inaccuracy. What then remains of insight into the neurotic structures is wonderful and astonishing enough” (1934, p. 92 f.). It was statements such as these that were later cited again and again and held against Schultz-Hencke.

And Müller-Braunschweig? What happened after the fall of the Hitler regime to his piece in Reichswart? It was repressed and forgotten. It stayed forgotten until Helmut Dahmer found it in 1983 and republished it with a commentary. Where did Dahmer find the piece? He found it, and therein lies the irony of history behind which deeper meaning can lurk, in a periodical for political psychology and sexual economics published by Wilhelm Reich in exile. The „article of the board member of the German psychoanalytic branch association Dr. Carl Müller-Braunschweig, … in which the bringing into step (Gleichschaltung) of the psychoanalytic theory of neurosis to the Hitlerian Weltanschauung was carried out”, was reprinted in Zeitschrift für politische Psychologie und Sexualökonomie as evidence of an apparently „un”-political psychoanalysis opposed by the left Freudians: „The burning of Freud’s books in the ‘Third Reich’ had not clearly enough shown the above mentioned board member the incompatibility of psychoanalysis and fascism” (Reich 1934, p. 115).

After the republication of the Reichswart article further contributions to the history of psychoanalysis under Hitler appeared which were written in the tradition of Ernest Jones. In these contributions the Reichswart article was either not mentioned at all (Eickhoff 1995) or was passed off as a harmless debate on psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. So for example it was claimed that in Müller-Braunschweig’s Reichswart article (Nazi) „politics” had had no „influence” on the „factual substance” of psychoanalysis. And as far as „psychoanalysis [was] reduced to psychotherapy,” that was „no real concession” to the Nazi regime but rather a continuation of „an older Berlin line” (Schröter 1998). In contradiction to this statement the same writer later says, with, inter alia, a reference to Eickhoff, that the „real stumbling block” after 1933 was the „integration of psychoanalysis into professional psychotherapy”. In that he was not so much defending Müller-Braunschweig as attacking Schultz-Hencke, who „at the beginning of the Third Reich more than anyone else made common cause with the new masters” (Schröter 2000, p. 1149). This example shows that social groups collectively construct their images of history the way neurotics construct their life stories or personal myths: that is relatively independent of facts. Historiography has thus, in addition to establishing facts, the task of examining critically those constructions of perceptions of history with the help of which desirable self-interpretations become possible and undesirable ones impossible.

Back to Boehm’s and Müller-Braunschweig’s trip to the Hague in the fall of 1933. There they informed IPA president Jones and his representative van Ophujisen of the situation of psychoanalysis in the National Socialist state. In the summer of 1933 Boehm had spoken with National Socialist functionaries who considered psychoanalysis a „Jewish-Marxist piece of obscenity” (Schweinerei), as Boehm (1934/1985, p. 102) wrote to Jones. Boehm convinced the functionaries of the opposite by pointing out that Wilhelm Reich, who was on an wanted list of the Gestapo – see the communication from Berlin police authorities to their Viennese counterparts (Rothländer 1998) –, did not represent psychoanalysis, which was in fact represented by Freud and the DPG. „It was known that Reich often appeared openly as a communist and a psychoanalyst and presented his views as the conclusions of psychoanalysis. This prejudiced view (i.e. that Reich’s views were shared by Freud and the DPG, B.N.) I was obliged to combat” (Boehm 1934/1985, p. 103; italics B.N.) Boehm’s effort was successful. The National Socialist functionaries asked him to put his position in writing so that a ban on psychoanalysis in the National Socialist state could be avoided. Boehm assigned the task to Müller-Braunschweig who drew up a memorandum placed before Jones and van Ophujisen for their signature in the Hague on October 1, 1933. Anna Freud was informed of this meeting; she sent Boehm a letter expressing her agreement with the measure. On return from the Hague Müller-Braunschweig worked over the minor details of the memorandum and then published it in Reichswart as „Psychoanalysis and Weltanschauung”.

Müller-Braunschweig was not through yet. He lent his efforts – as Schröter says – to the „professional modernization movement” in which „psychoanalysis in the 1930s was caught up and not in Germany alone”; and therefore – Schröter goes on – German psychoanalysts today should place their historic inheritance, the Göring Institute, „in a more factual perspective” (Schröter 2000, p. 1150). In 1935 Müller-Braunschweig set himself to modernize psychoanalysis in the sense alluded to by Schröter under the banner of „National Socialist Ideas and Psychoanalysis”. In a work of that name he wrote that psychoanalysis was obliged to carry out a „no holds barred search for truth” and could therefore „not contradict a Weltanschauung (read: National Socialist ideology) the very nature of which is to be combative” (Müllr-Braunschweig cited in Lockot 1994, p. 38, fn. 19). In the same piece he praised the National Socialist regime for having „in a way not known” before „created the conditions” for giving the DPG „a truly German face” (Müller-Braunschweig in Brecht et al 1985, p. 167). Anne Buchholtz evaluated this „German face” as follows: „The Berlin group got into step (gleichgeschaltet) under the leadership of Böhm and Müller B[raunschweig] and thereby identified with National Socialism” (Buchholtz 1936 in Brecht et al 1985, p. 111). Her remark was made in reference to the imprisonment of Edith Jacobsohn and the subsequent „voluntary” withdrawal of Jews from the DPG.

When Erich Fromm, at the time living in the United States but still a DPG member, learned that he had been expelled from the DPG, he complained to the DPG board. Müller-Braunschweig set him straight in a letter of March 21, 1936: „the free decision of all Jewish members” had been to leave the DPG and therefore „there could be no question of expulsion” (Funk 1998). On March 25, 1936 Fromm received a letter from IPA president Jones which informed him in a collegial way: „Dr. Müller-Braunschweig forwarded to me your letter of complaint concerning the resignation of the Jewish members. It is not literally true that they have been excluded (you use the word ‘ausgeschlossen’), but after a considerable discussion in Berlin (…), at which I also was present, they subsequently decided it would be in everyone’s interest for them to send in their resignation (…)” (Funk 2000, p. 192). In compensation Jones offered Fromm direct membership in the IPA – which Fromm after the end of the war lost in circumstances similar to those under which he lost his DPG membership before the war. When Fromm learned that his name was no longer to be found in the roster of IPA members he asked IPA secretary Ruth Eissler about it and was told the IPA statutes had been changed. Thus under the new rules the emigrants had lost their rights given them as direct members of the IPA. Fromm was however at liberty to seek membership in an institute recognized by the IPA. In any case, Eissler added, „Personally (…) I would assume that anyone who does not stand on the basic principles of psychoanalysis could anyway not be greatly interested in becoming a member of the International Psycho-Analytic Association” (cited in Funk 2000, p. 195). Fromm, who rejected Freud’s libido theory, took the not too subtle hint from Eissler and no longer sought IPA membership.

After the „voluntary” resignation of Jews from the DPG at the end of 1933 nothing more stood in the way of DPG entry in the summer of 1936 into the German Institute for Psychological Research and Psychotherapy (Deutsches Institut für psychologische Forschung und Psychotherapie). Or did it? The DPG functionaries believed that they had to give up the membership of the DPG as a group of IPA in order to join the Göring Institute. They were mistaken: 1936 was the year of the Olympics in Germany. The Nazis were eager for international recognition and wanted to use the international forum for their own propaganda. For that reason a party official (Staupendahl) wrote on July 29, 1936 to Mathias Heinrich Göring: „The German group must in all events remain in the IPA because it has shown itself to be opposed to Freud’s theories. The group would have otherwise no opportunity to dismiss Freudian theory in an international forum and thereby to come to grips with the Jewish spirit of psychoanalysis. We must not miss the chance for combat but to the contrary seize every opportunity to bring our opponents up short” (cited in Zapp 1980, p. 66).

Thus did the DPG withdraw its request to quit the IPA (Korrespondenzblatt 1936, p. 435; 1939, p. 213) and remained – „free of Jews” (judenrein) and sworn followers of Hitler’s Mein Kampf – a branch of the IPA until it dissolved itself in 1938. As such it continued to report in the Korrespondenzblatt. Thus for example in the period 1934-1936: „IPA members have been advised of our activities in lectures and seminars through regular program announcements in periodicals. Such activities have been carried out in conformity to the DPG’s revised guidelines of 1929 for training and teaching and to the course plans arising from such guidelines. (…). In July 1934 there were 18 training candidates, in October 1935, 16 and in April 1936, 16. Since then three new candidates have been admitted to training. With the founding of the German Institute for Psychology and Psychotherapy in June (1936) under the auspices of the appropriate authorities which will begin its activities in October 1936 and which the DPG will on equal footing along with the other psychotherapeutic schools take part in, it is to be expected that the attendance of auditors and training candidates will increase” (Korrespondenzblatt 1937, p. 333).

Jones deals with the entry of the DPG into the German Institute in his Freud biography albeit in a somewhat sketchy and anecdotal fashion: „It took some time to bring about the new organization, and on July 19, 1936 I had a meeting in Basel with Göring, Boehm and Müller-Braunschweig. „I found Göring a fairly amiable and amenable person, but it turned out later that he was not in a position to fulfill the promises he made to me about the degree of freedom that was to be allowed the psychoanalytical group. No doubt in the meantime the Jewish origin of psychoanalysis had been fully explained to him” (1957, p. 187). Jones undoubtedly knew the content of the programmatic speech Göring gave at the first member meeting of the German Institute which appeared, in abridged form, in the Zentralblatt under the title „Weltanschauung and Psychotherapy”. In it Göring mentioned his meeting with Jones in Basel: „It was a pleasure for all of us to learn that at the same time the German Institute was founded the psychotherapy commission of the Swiss Society for Psychiatry issued an invitation for a meeting in Basel which had as sole topic ‘Basic principles on which the various psychotherapeutic schools can unite.’ The interest in this topic was so great that (…). Jones, the president of the IPA, and many Germans attended” (1936, p. 295).

The Göring Jones referred to as „fairly amiable and amenable” described the basic principles for cooperation of the various schools of therapy within the German Institute as follows: „Those who live today in the National Socialist state must be clear that they are required to work under conditions completely different from those in a liberalistic state as it was with us before 1933 and is still to a considerable degree abroad. (…) Today National Socialism takes everything upon itself: the whole man and science too (…). It should not be difficult for us scientists to grasp the importance of a weltanschauung since without one no psychotherapy can take place” (1936, p. 290). Having make clear the primacy of politics over psychotherapy, Göring turns, with praise, to psychoanalysis: „Unfortunately no one before Freud put to practical use the knowledge of the unconscious. It was Freud’s service to us to demonstrate the possibility of such an application. His method has become the common property of all psychotherapists” (1936, p. 292). Also part of that „common property” was „the consideration of a thorough anamnesis, the establishment of an exact diagnosis, the recognition of the unconscious and its fixation on important life situations and people in childhood, therapy through making conscious and the experience of the newly acquired content.” In addition to these common properties Göring marked differences as well: „It will therefore be our task to develop in our lectures and courses a distinction between the Jewish and the Aryan-Germanic weltanschauung” (1936, p. 295).

With the founding of the German Institute came to completion a process of conformity, integration and submission the details of which Boehm had dealt with in talks with National Socialist functionaries in the summer of 1933 and the accompanying ideological program Müller-Braunschweig had formulated in his Reichswart article. At the 1934 IPA Congress in Lucerne Jones thanked Boehm „and other colleagues” whom he had met in Holland for having had „personal talks” with him on the situation of psychoanalysis in Germany. Jones expressed the hope that „the services that Dr. Boehm had rendered psychoanalysis (…) would outlast any momentary criticism he might be exposed to” (Jones 1935, p. 135). That was a jab at the left Freudians who wanted to bring a motion of no confidence against Boehm and Müller-Braunschweig but who then fell into disaccord over the organization of opposition to the course taken by the IPA board. Shortly thereafter Fenichel excluded Reich from the circle of those receiving his circular letters (see Fallend 2002). Jones stuck to his course, which was to present the situation of the DPG in the National Socialist state in as favorable a light as possible. At the 1936 congress in Marienbad he said: „I had occasion to stay in touch with the leaders of the DPG (…). This year two things happened the need for which we deeply regret. In January the situation was such that for all Jewish members it was necessary to give up their membership in the Society (…). A month ago it was ordered that the DPG be integrated as a section of the ‘German Institute for Psychology and Psychotherapy’. With that it maintained, along with other directions taken by psychotherapy, its independence with regard to scientific work and teaching and we hope this will continue to be the case” (Korrespondenzblatt 1937, p. 184; italics B.N.) Even at the Paris Congress of 1938 Jones maintained that the DPG „has to date enjoyed a substantial independence, a greater number of candidates is in training and new members are being accepted” (Korrespondenzballt 1939, p. 366; italics B.N.).

With the collapse of the „Thousand-year Reich” the manner of self-representation changed radically. German psycho­analysts now represented themselves as past objects of repression and persecution and scarcely as persons with the capacity to conform and pursue opportunistic goals. In the newly founded Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse (Journal of Psychoanalysis) of which only two issues appeared, Müller-Braunschweig posed the question: „Does our undertaking call for justification?” He answered straight off himself by claiming a continuity which despite banning and persecution was kept alive: „For us the name Freud, the very appearance of the founder of modern depth psychology, and the work he left behind constitute an obligation. This obligation presses all the more on us – here in Germany – since we have passed through a time in which his name and his creation were banned. The regime forced a great number of those whose life work it had been to dedicate themselves in words and in writing to psychoanalytic research into exile. The ‘Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute’ which was founded in 1920 by the DPG and which carried on a rich activity of teaching and research and won international acclaim, had to bow to the orders of the regime and integrate in 1936 into the general German psychotherapeutic organization of the ‘German Institute for Psychological Research and Psychotherapy’” (Müller-Braunschweig 1949, p. I). Not a word about the debts Müller-Braunschweig tried to collect from those in exile; not a word about the measures taken against Jews in order that the DPG be able to enter the German Institute.

Schultz-Hencke too continued his work after 1945 as though nothing had happened. At the 16th IPA Congress in Zurich in 1949 he spoke on the topic „Development and Future of the World of Psychoanalytic Concepts” (reprinted in Lockot 1994, p. 343-346). He criticized the metaphorical use of psychoanalytic concepts and the analogies drawn between early childhood experience and the experience of psychically disturbed adults. In the Lehrbuch der psychoanalytischen Therapie of Thomä and Kächele one can find, decades later and in retrospect: „Schultz-Hencke’s critique of libido theory and of metapsychology at the first post-war congress of the IPA would (…) today attract little or no attention and would in fact be shared by many analysts” (Thomä, Kächele 1985, p. XII). In Zurich in 1949 Müller-Braunschweig, who had become president of the re-founded DPG after the war, had seen the matter quite differently. He seized the opportunity to mount criticism in his paper „Schultz-Hencke’s neo-analysis from the point of view of psychoanalysis” (see summary of the paper in Locktot 1994, p. 218 ff.). In it Schultz-Hencke was portrayed as the very model of the psychoanalyst who betrayed psychoanalysis under Hitler. Müller-Braunschweig then found himself praised after his paper by a colleague from the old days – none other than the still president of the IPA: Jones – as one of the few who under Hitler remained „true, real, genuine analysts” (Jones 1949, p. 186).

This mise-en-scène had many advantages. Müller-Braunschweig, who had once along with Boehm „saved” psychoanalysis from Wilhelm Reich, could now be celebrated as the one who „saved” it again, this time from Schultz-Hencke. No one asked what Jones had done to „save” psychoanalysis under Hitler. And Jones kept to himself what he learned about Müller-Braunschweig from his British colleague John Rickman who had gone to Berlin in 1946 to conduct confidential interviews on the position of German psychoanalysts. Rickman had categorized Müller-Braunschweig’s position as „dark grey”, less friendly than the position of Boehm, which Rickman categorized „dark grey, not to say black” (Rickman, cited in Lockot 1994, p. 192 ff.). Rickman therefore recommended that neither of those who had been active functionaries during the National Socialist period be entrusted with any position in a psychoanalytic organization. Jones did not share that view with the Zurich Congress. Instead he shortly thereafter entrusted to Müller-Braunschweig the founding of a new group, the DPV, as its first president after he gave up his analogous position in the DPG, a position Boehm gladly took over. Thus were there now two German professional societies which, each in its own way, claimed to have contributed to the „rescue” of psychoanalysis.

When, half a century later at the 42nd IPA Congress in Nice, the DPG was taken in as a Provisional Society of Council, the split historical picture was set aside with no great historical commentary or recognition – as though nothing at all had happened (Fallend, Nitzschke 2002). Thus the real break in the history of psychoanalysis which began with expulsion of Wilhelm Reich from the DPG/IPA and reached its height with the entry of the DPG into the Göring Institute, the break with the „political psychoanalysis” championed by the left Freudians (see Jacoby 1986) – was not discussed. Fenichel saw such an end coming when shortly before his death in Los Angeles in his last circular letter (number 119 of July 14, 1945) he wrote to the left Freudians: „The development of psychoanalysis in the whole world and in this country especially went into a direction which makes it necessary not so much to fight for ‘the correct application of psychoanalysis to sociology’ but rather for the very existence of Freudian psychoanalysis” (Fenichel 1998, p. 1945). Jones indirectly accepted Fenichel’s judgment when at the 1949 Zurich Congress he summed up the history of psychoanalysis under Hitler in the following cynical manner: „The temptation is understandably great to add socio-political factors to those that are our special concern, and to re-read our findings in terms of sociology, but it is a temptation which, one is proud to observe, has, with very few exceptions, been stoutly resisted” (Jones 1949, p. 179). With that Jones alluded once more to Wilhelm Reich, whose expulsion from the IPA served the continuity of psychoanalytic positions so warmly called for by Jones.

(Translated from the German by Channing Bates)


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First published in: Bernd Nitzschke: Psychoanalysis and National Socialism. Banned or Brought into Confirmity? Break or Continuity? International Forum of Psychoanalysis 12, pp 98 -108.