This is a revised,
abbreviated and annotated version of a paper first published in Graswurzelrevolution,
No. 368 (April 2012), p. 17,
and also available online at http://www.irrenoffensive.de/antifa_merkbefreit.htm (German) and here (English translation).
This version was published in THE HOLOCAUST IN HISTORY AND MEMORY, Vol. 5 (2012), p. 189: Euthanasia Killings
and includes some information added in August/September 2012.
René Talbot, Irren-Offensive Berlin
extermination of heretics on Christian pyres was a theological matter.
On 14-18 October 2012, the 20th World Congress of Psychiatric Genetics took place in Hamburg.ii This was the second time that this World Congress was held in Germany since the end of the Nazi regime. Hardly an eyebrow was raised about the fact that the ideology which was employed to justify the systematic mass murder of people judged as insane and which has only superficially been relabeled with a few different letters was able to hold its World Congress in Germany, the country where these crimes had been committed – how can it be that there was no protest, not even from those who see themselves as part of the ‘Antifa’ (anti-fascist movement)?
Geneticists turned people born as humans but who displayed unwanted behaviour, or expressed unwanted thoughts or feelings, into biologically no-longer-humans who had to be weeded out. The measures implemented to do so in the name of genetic hygiene: forced sterilisation, selection and extermination in gas chambers during the Aktion T4 campaign, continuation of the systematic killings in death camps and mental hospitals, are well known and documented.iii
Since 1995, annual demonstrations have been held to remember the victims of the Nazi Aktion T4 programme, and to protest against acts of aggression by today’s psychiatry.iv The 2012 demonstration, held on 2 May, the international Remembrance and Resistance Day, started at the T4 memorial plaque at the site of Tiergartenstraße 4 and ended up at the seat of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für biologische Psychiatrie (DGBP, German Society for Biological Psychiatry) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychiatrie, Psychotherapie und Nervenheilkunde (DGPPN, German Society for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Neurology) in Reinhardtstraße,
One focus of the demonstration on 2 May was to demand the abolition of psychiatric force, violence and coercion, and it is hoped that remembering the crimes against humanity which the psychiatric profession had committed in Germany during the Nazi period will help achieve this aim. Unfortunately, experience shows that German psychiatry in 2010, after 65 years of silence, only feigned a ‘remembrance’ of the murders so as to ensure the forgetting.v The call to participate in the 17th annual T4 march in 2011 set out:
The ‘Mourning’ by the DGPPN – Disgusting
Rarely has there been such a hypocritical sham as that by the DGPPN on the occasion of the ‘regret’ and ‘mourning’ about the victims of systematic mass murder by doctors during the years 1939-49. It is evident how dishonest these efforts of an alleged ‘commemoration’ and ‘remembrance’ were when at the same meeting a new president of DGPPN is elected, Professor Peter Falkai, who is a former President of the German Society for Biological Psychiatry DGBP, one of whose sections pays homage to genetic hygiene: of course, the old wine was transferred to a new bottle and relabeled as ‘psychiatric genetics’.
Genetic hygiene was the ideology which was used to justify and legitimise the systematic mass murder in the gas chambers. Genetic hygiene was the ideological core of what has become known worldwide as the Nazi genocide. Allegedly, certain behaviours of those who were scapegoated were ‘sick’, although there has never been a causal evidence, nor can there be, because it is a conceptual mistake to believe that one can drag thoughts and feelings, as well as reasons for behaviour, to a scientific dissecting table. In addition, they included the fairy tale that those who were alleged to ‘harm’ or ‘disease’ the ‘body of the people’ would pass on their doings to their descendants. The alleged ‘disease’ is supposedly genetically predisposed and is to be cured through genetic hygiene. Thus National Socialism was intended to become applied biology and the desired corrections became the task of medicine, particularly psychiatry. […].
So why was a ‘remembrance’ feigned by the DGPPN?
pretend that history has now allegedly been ‘cleaned up’ – that which
is now being done in the field of psychiatric genetics, genetic hygiene,
has been white-washed and cleaned of its brown dirt. On this basis,
the Genetic Hygiene Workshop of Biological Psychiatry can invite the
World Congress on Psychiatric Genetics 2012 to Hamburg, supported
by the DGPPN and not least their elected president. This World Congress
of the ideology which justified the Nazi medical crimes has to be
prevented by all who have understood that the ‘mourning’ of the DGPNN
is in fact only disgusting hypocrisy.vi
How a Euphemism Continues to Be Effective
It is amazing how little notice is taken of the brutal radicalism of the ideology of the Nazis. Thomas Szasz has made it clear in a comparison:
‘Schizophrenia’ is a strategic label as ‘Jew’ was in Nazi Germany. If one wants to exclude people from the social order, one must justify this to others, but especially to oneself. So one invents a justificatory rhetoric. This is what all these horrible psychiatric words are about: they are justifying figures of speech, a label wrapped around ‘garbage’ – they mean ‘Take him away’, ‘Get him out of my sight’ etc. This is what the word ‘Jew’ meant in Nazi Germany; it did not mean a person with a specific religious belief. It meant ‘Vermin’, ‘Gas it’. I am afraid that ‘schizophrenic’ and ‘sociopathic personality’ and many other psychiatric diagnostic terms mean exactly the same thing; they mean ‘human garbage’, ‘take him away’, ‘get him out of my sight.’ vii
The justification for the systematic medical mass murder was psychiatric eugenics, and the murders were euphemistically called ‘euthanasia’ – killing on request. The victims were thereby degraded once again and deprived of their will, because with the use of this word for their murder it was insinuated that they themselves had chosen their death. The use of this word today for the systematic medical mass murder during the Nazi regime is the direct reproduction of the pseudo-medical Nazi ideology, an uninformed expression of identification with the perpetrators and by doing so an attempt to cover up their guilt. Let us just assume that the word is used carelessly, in a way which no longer happens with the term ‘Final Solution’.
One falls similarly into the trap of a Nazi euphemism when one does not see through the phrase ‘Life Unworthy of Life’. At the time it was not about a worthy or worthless life, because then it would have been left to the assessment criteria of the evaluator. For example, the relatives would then have been able to evaluate those who were later murdered as worthy of living and being loved, and could have looked after them at home – without any such solidarity being construed as a ‘burden on the public’.
No, those who are duped by this Nazi jargon are mistaken about the function of this rhetoric which was nothing but rationalising jargon. They cannot see that in fact a different species was defined, which meant that the taboo of murder automatically fell away. For the Nazi doctors and mainstream society which followed them it was ‘only’ about the elimination of non-humans, fantasised as cancer tissue.
This is how the murders at the Doctors’ Trial in Nurembergviii were described by the perpetrators themselves. This was not just a defense, it was their conviction. Only the bloody hands that one got in the process were somewhat disturbing. This bloody surface was stripped off like gloves, and shortly thereafter, in the 1950s, the hands became washed in innocence by a slight substitution of letters: psychiatric eugenics became psychiatric genetics, and the same set of ideas could be embraced again. In the 1980s it got the blessing of the allegedly critical social psychiatrist Klaus Dörner, who wrote in 1985:
Likewise genetics could liberate itself from its ideologies and thereby demonstrate its real importance, especially for prevention.ix
With such a broad consent from all experts the crimes of the past could be ‘commemorated’ with a stain-free memory in order to ensure forgetting. In the boom of the belief in ‘the Gene’ as being at the core of everything (‘Gene-ification’) and the ‘Decade of the Brain’ in the 1990s, there was minimal protest when, for example, the 6th World Congress on Psychiatric Genetics was held at the University of Bonn in October 1998.x
A Misunderstanding with Far-Reaching Consequences
Why has the Nazis’ carefully chosen euphemism ‘euthanasia’ been regularly written in inverted commas since the end of the Second World War, but why does it seem that no one has understood why the Nazis chose this term in the first place? The answer is that the concept continues to exist that there are people on the one hand and there are the insane on the other. The embellished phrase ‘Life Unworthy of Life’ allowed an explanation which negated all morals. It set out that capitalist laws were the driving forces, that there was an economic reason for the killings – and that there was a lack of Christian tinted paternalism. As a result the killings can be seen as a neglect of the obligation to preserve life – and not as a violation of the right to self-determination, which in fact they really were. This allowed for the difference between suicide and murder to be blurred in order to keep the mental health regime untouched. The systematic mass murder could be played down as a kind of ‘exaggeration’, because a core task of psychiatric heteronomy is the oppression and punishment of suicide intentions if and when they are noticed – a task which arises from the obligation to preserve life.
In Germany this conflict erupted again in the debate about the living-will law and was resolved in 2009 in favour of self-determination. The result is that with the help of a specific advance medical directive (Patientenverfügung or PatVerfue) one can legally avoid any psychiatric diagnosis and thus possible abuse.xi Moreover, in 2011 the German Federal Constitutional Court declared a law that would have legalised compulsory psychiatric treatment as unconstitutional.
However, psychiatrists are bad losers: rather than taking stock, Professor Peter Falkai, President of the DGPPN, and others organised the 20th World Congress of Psychiatric Genetics in Hamburg. Of course the machinations of psychiatric genetics must be criticised outside Germany as well, but only here, in Germany, were they able to win political support, with the result that this ideology could be employed to justify systematic mass murder. For this reason the holding of this Congress in Germany should have been prevented. However, it was not possible to win sufficient support for such a move. There is a lack of solidarity, not least by the ‘Antifa’ movement – are they turning a blind eye?
[i] Thomas Szasz, The Theology of Medicine: The Political-Philosophical Foundations of Medical Ethics. New York: Harper & Row, 1977, p. xvii.
[ii] See http://www.ispg.net or http://meeting.ispg.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/SponsorsandExhibition.pdf (accessed 15 December 2012).
[iii] See, for example, Henry Friedlander, The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1995); for the situation in the immediate postwar period, see Heinz Faulstich, Hungersterben in der Psychiatrie 1914–1949: Mit einer Topographie der NS-Psychiatrie (Freiburg im Breisgau: Lambertus-Verlag, 1998), pp. 661-718.
[iv] See ‘May 2nd – Day of Remembrance and Resistance’, http://www.freedom-of-thought.de/may2/index.htm (accessed 15 December 2012).
[v] On 26 November 2010, the DGPPN held a commemorative event ‘Psychiatry during National Socialism – Remembrance and Responsibility’, with speeches by Professor Frank Schneider, then President of the DGPPN, Sigrid Falkenstein, relative of a victim of Aktion T4, and Professor Ephraim Bental, Haifa, son of a Jewish psychiatrist who had to emigrate in 1933; http://www.dgppn.de/dgppn/geschichte/kommission-zur-aufarbeitung-der-geschichte/sonderseite-psychiatrie-im-nationalsozialismus.html (accessed 15 December 2012). See also Frank Schneider (ed.), Psychiatrie im Nationalsozialismus – Erinnerung und Verantwortung, Heidelberg: Springer, 2011.
[vi] ‘Trauer der DGPPN – ekelerregend’, http://www.freedom-of-thought.de/may2/may2_2011.htm (accessed 15 December 2012). See also ‘Erklärung des BPE [Bundesverbandes Psychiatrie-Erfahrener, Federal Association of People Who Experienced Psychiatric Treatment] zum Oktober 2012 in Hamburg geplanten World Congress on Psychiatric Genetics geplanten World Congress on Psychiatric Genetics, 5 February 2011, http://www.bpe-online.de/verband/vorstandsmitteilungen/genetics2010.pdf (accessed 15 December 2012).
[vii] ‘Interview with Thomas S. Szasz, M.D.’, The New Physician, 18 June 1969, p. 460.
[viii] On the Nuremberg Doctors’ Trial, see the Foreword to this volume, p. ·, note ·.
[ix] Klaus Dörner und Ursula Plog, Irren ist menschlich: Lehrbuch der Psychatrie und Psychotheraphie. 2nd revised edition, Bonn: Psychiatrie-Verlag, 1984, p. 478.
[x] For a programme of this Congress, see American Journal of Medical Genetics, vol. 81 (1998), pp. 451-556; see also www.antipsychiatrie.de/6thwoco.htm (accessed 15 December 2012). For a statement protesting against the holding of this Congress by the Bundesverbandes Psychiatrie-Erfahrener (BPE, Federal Association of People Who Experienced Psychiatric Treatment), dated 26 September 1998, see http://www.martinseidler2.homepage.t-online.de/randschau/r9804_m.htm (accessed 15 December 2012).
[xi] For more information, see ‘PatVerfü’, in Irren-Offensive e.V. (ed.), Irren-Offensive: 30 Jahre Kampf für die Unteilbarkeit der Menschenrechte (Neu-Ulm: AG SPAK Bücher, 2010), pp. 103-9; ‘Insane? Your own choice!’, www.patverfue.de/en (accessed 15 December 2012).