Psychotherapy in the Third Reich

Psychotherapy in the Third Reich : Goring Institute

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In Psychotherapy in the Third Reich, Geoffrey Cocks focuses on a curious phenomenon which has heretofore escaped notice: even at the zenith of Nazi persecution, the profession of psychotherapy achieved an institutional status and capacity for practice unrivaled in Germany before or since. This book shows how, despite the professional disruptions and moral derelictions of life under Hitler, German psychotherapists turned peril into opportunity. The man chiefly responsible for fostering the practice of psychotherapy was Matthias Heinrich Goring, a cousin of Nazi leader Hermann Goring. Under the protection of the Goring name, a full-fledged institute was established in Berlin, funded by the German Labor Front, the Luftwaffe, and the Reich Research Council. In addition to examining the conditions that allowed psychotherapy to flourish during this period, Cocks treats broader issues, such as what a society's treatment of mental illness says about the culture as a whole, and why psychoanalysis was seen as "Jewish" and a threat to the state, while psychotherapy received the support of Hitler's regime.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 338 pages
  • 144.78 x 223.52 x 25.4mm | 498.95g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford Paperbacks
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New edition
  • New edition
  • halftones, line illustration
  • 0195042271
  • 9780195042276

Review Text

Cocks' thesis - as developed here in dense, often-academic detail - is that, despite emigration (at best) of Jewish psychoanalysts, "the Third Reich witnessed not only the survival but also the professional and institutional development of psychotherapy in Germany." (No claims are made for theoretical advances or great therapeutic achievements.) And, throughout, Cocks is much more interested in documenting the practical advances than in pointing a finger at those who, to one degree or another, collaborated with the Nazi regime. Why did the remaining psychotherapists fare so well? Because the psychotherapeutic idea of non-physiological treatment fit in with Nazi racial doctrine. (If pure Aryans suffered from mental illness, it was a character-repair problem - not in the blood.) Because Nazi-regime pressures forced therapists of varying schools to huddle together, leading to a "theoretical and practical unity" that aided institutional development. And, perhaps above all, because the new, unified Institute was, in 1936, placed under the benign leadership of Adlerian psychotherapist M.H. Goring, cousin of Hermann. While officially creating a "new German psychotherapy," the Institute really just amalgamated the existing approaches - including, without the name, Freudianism. ("Where Freud worked, Freud was used.") The Institute received funding from the German Labor Front; it cooperated with the government - via outpatient clinics, via industrial and military psychology; strong training programs for new therapists were set up. And this unified professional framework became a "positive legacy to the postwar development of the discipline in the German successor states" - especially in the West (for obvious reasons), especially re the professional inclusion of non-medical therapists. (Hence the brouhaha over this book in West Germany.) Cocks doesn't provide enough context - how the profession has developed elsewhere - to judge how much of a difference the Nazi years actually made. His writing is fiat, repetitious, sometimes thickly pedantic. But, for students of psychotherapy's history or of professional behavior under the Nazi regime: a well-researched, fully documented study, rich in dark, implicit ironies. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

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