Rezension zu Unpolitische Wissenschaft? (PDF-E-Book)

Rezension von Henry Zvi Lothane

Andreas Peglau. Unpolitische Wissenschaft? Wilhelm Reich und die Psychoanalyse im Nationalsozialismus. Psychosozial-Verlag, 2013. Anthony D. Kauders. Eine Geschichte der Psychoanalyse in Deutschland. Berlin Verlag, 2014.


These two books share a number of themes: the history of psychoanalysis in Germany in the Third Reich, the tragic complex of Wilhelm Reich, the most gifted and most controversial of the Freudians born around the turn of the 19th century, and the question of psychoanalysis as a political or nonpolitical science. Behind these themes becomes visible the continuing history of the German soul-searching Angst about the Schoah, or Holocaust, the anti-Semitic Nazi persecution, and genocide of the Jews, including what was done to Jewish psychoanalysts. The further reason for the this larger context is that not only were victims, survivors and their children »betroffen« by WW II and Holocaust – the Germans were betroffen as well, the soldiers who bled and died, the defeated veterans who came back to their traumatized wives and children. By saying I do not intend to minimize the crimes and horrors of the Holocaust that are still a tabooed topic for both victims and perpetrators for decades after war’s end (Volkan et al., 2002). Even after the 1946 Nürnberg trials and convictions of the leading Nazi architects of the genocidal »Final Solution« as well as the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, an evil wrongly characterized by Hannah Arendt as »banal« (Lothane, 2014a), and the history of psychoanalysis from 1993 to 1951 was also a theme veiled by a curtain of silence, until the 1985 IPV Congress in Hamburg in 1985: then the flood gates were opened with the book by Brecht et al. (1985) and the 1985 book by Geoffrey Cocks about psychotherapy in the Third Reich. Thereafter two historiographies developed, one orthodox, represented by DPV members, e.g. Werner Bohleber, Ludger Hermanns, and non-member Michael Schröter, and the other revisionist, represented by Dahmer, Fallend, and Nitzschke, paralleling the political split between the DPG and DVP that developed between 1945 and 1951 and continued until recently. Could the political situation today bring about a more ecumenical synthesis? Another dichotomy that emerged the question whether there was a break, that psychoanalysis was a »Jewish science« that died in the Third Reich as claimed by Goggin & Goggin (2001) and the DPV; or was there a continuity, as argued by the DPG, Nitzschke (1997, 2003) and Lothane (2001b, cited by Peglau on p. 29). Peglau has provided additional research demonstrating this continuity with documents not previously seen. As Peglau rightly noted, Reich »blieb für mehrere Jahre der einzige Psychoanalytiker, der sich öffentlich ausführlich mit dem Faschismus (..) auseinandersetzte.« (S. 506)

Both Peglau and Kauders come with impressive scholarly credentials, both wrote excellent books that hold one’s interest from cover to cover. The narratives are clearly written, impeccably researched, copy edited and proof read (in Peglau I found the name of the former IPA president’s Charles Hanly misspelled as Handy).

The question of whether psychoanalysis is, or can be, non-political is more rhetorical than real for the more basic question is: what is science. Derived from the Latin scientia, means knowledge, Wissen, same as in Greek: episteme, i.e., valid knowledge as contrasted with doxa, or opinion. Strictly speaking, science means studying something material, or tangible. So which science do people have in mind: chemistry, physics, biology, neuroscience? One can also apply this to the time-hallowed psychoanalytic notion of interpretation: is it based on valid knowledge or mere opinion, let alone conjecture, or even error? On the one hand, science is applied to a systematized body of knowledge and observation and to rigorous argumentation. Thus, conceived narrowly, science means Naturwissenschaften, exact sciences involving measurement and quantification, vs. Geisteswissenchaften – and therein lies the rub, as Hamlet said, a source of Reibungen due to differences of opinion, ethics, or the socio-political and socio-historical context. For the subject of the Geistes- and Sozialwissenschaften, the human being (der Mensch), cannot be quantified and measured as the person who lives, loves, and suffers from outer and inner conflicts, further complicated by the fact that the person is part of a collective: family, society, nation, or Masse and, last but not least, bound by religious faith or the ideology of a political party. Now, sciences such as chemistry and physics that are applied to technology and civil or military industrial production can become politicized among nations in conditions of economic competition and warfare. For example, the science of climatology is beset by constant and insoluble debate about global warming. So far, the only non-controversial and non-political science is mathematics, all other sciences are prone to either being infected by politics or mythology, as Freud wrote to Einstein in 1933(a): »Aber läuft nicht jede Naturwissenschaft auf eine solche Art von Mythologie hinaus? Geht es Ihnen heute in der Physik anders?« (p. 22). In 1933(a) Freud claimed that psychoanalysis, as compared with Marxism, is not a matter of a Weltanschauug, or ideology: »Denn auch die Soziologie, die vom Verhalten der Menschen in der Gesellschaft handelt, kann nicht anderes sein als angewandte Psychologie. Streng genommen gibt es ja nur zwei Wissenschaften, Psychologie, reine und angewandte, und Naturkunde« (S. 194). However, in the same work he stated this to be true of »Abfallsbewegungen«: »das eine jede sich eines Stücks aus dem Motivesreichtum der Psychoanalyse bemächtigt und sich auf Grund dieser Besitzergreifung selbständig macht, etwa des Machttriebs [Adler], des ethischen Konflikts [Jung], der Mutter [Rank], der Genitalität [Reich] usw.« (S. 154). Clearly, such heresies, let alone the heresies of Adler and Jung from the libido doctrine, were matters of opinion and ideology, i.e., politics.

The hostile critics of psychoanalysis, ever since Freud became a target of attacks by psychiatrists Richard von Krafft-Ebing in Austria and Gustav Aschaffenburg and Alfred Hoche in Germany in the first decade of the 20th century, claimed that it is not a science. Freud anticipated this criticism the Studien über Hysterie: »es berührt mich selbst noch eigentümlich, daß die Krankengeschichten, die ich schreibe, wie Novellen zu lesen sind, und daß sie sozusagen des ernsten Gepräges der Wissenschaft entbehren. Ich muß mich damit trösten, daß für dieses Ergebnis die Natur des Gegenstandes offenbar eher verantwortlich ist als meine Vorliebe« (1895, S. 227). As an empirical science psychoanalysis, originally born of medicine, a mix of science and art, was nurtured in the bosom of literature (Brandell, 1976, Lothane, 2009).

What is insufficiently addressed by both authors is that from the beginning of his itinerary as healer of the sick soul Freud was concerned with therapeutic psychoanalysis, on the one hand, and with angewandte Psychoanalyse, on the other, not just starting with the 1916-1917 Vorlesungen zur Einführung in die Psychoanalyse, as Peglau dates it (Lothane, 2014b). As therapeutic psychoanalysis evolved, its findings gradually coalesced with philosophical and sociological concepts and were applied to philosophy itself, psychology, philology, biology, art, history, literature, and education. At first Freud was predominantly concerned with the psychology of the individual; starting with Totem and Taboo and climaxing with the great sociological essays of 1921, 1927 and 1930 Freud turned his attention to society and sociology (Freud, 1913; Rieff, 1959, Roazen, 1971). Kauders is perplexed by what he calls der Freud Komplex, an »Ansammlung von Gefühlen, Bildern und Gedanken« and by »deutschen Sonderweg, mit der Rolle der Romantik im deutschen Denken über die Psyche« (S. 16) and the lack of consensus as to whether psychoanalysis is scientific, psychological, or philosophical, about instincts or free association. This is true, but Kauders’ perplexity stems from the common and recurrent lack of clear demarcation between therapy and theory, of psychoanalysis as a psychoanalytic method of healing (Heilen) and research (Forschen) utilizing the method of free association as the fundamental methodological instrument vs. psychoanalytic theories of disorder, i.e., the doctrines of Freudism (I prefer this to Freudianism can be reserved for designating groups of adherents to this or that doctrine).

Freudism is largely concerned with generalizations about the causes of disorders, the two major ones being sexuality (the libido theory), and aggression (the death instinct theory). As noted above, This entails the additional differentiation: between ideas that are intrinsic to a science and others that are extrinsic to it. Thus theorists called Freudians, e.g. Fenichel, focused on instincts as intrinsic to psychoanalysis, while neo-Freudians, e.g., Harald Schultz-Hencke and Karen Horney, emphasized feelings and emotions, such as love, hatred, envy and jealousy. These theoretical differences have been the core of extrinsic psychoanalytic politics of inclusion and exclusion down the decades, marked by dissent, discord, and damage, such as malicious gossip and character assassination. In such confrontation it was overlooked that, paradoxically, Freud was neo-Freudian (Feud 1905a) before he turned Freudian (Freud,1905b) (Lothane, 2014), that generalizations and abstractions are not per se causes of human actions and interactions, for the latter are in the realm of individual dramatic interactions of concrete historical persons, with their external and internal characteristics, interacting with each other in life’s dramas, as dramatis personae in situations in time and place, motivated a pursuit of popularity, power, prestige—and financial profit, both intramurally and extramurally, within the psychoanalytic establishment and in the arena of society at large.

It is noteworthy that Freud (1914) also saw psychoanalysis as a psychoanalytische Bewegung, a term usually linked to a political movement, e.g., die zionistische Bewegung, or a Partei with its ideology, politics, and practice. Bewegung also implies group loyalty as shown by ideological adherence to a ruling doctrine so that deviating from accepted doctrine or dogma can result in excommunication and expulsion from the movement, as happened to Adler and Jung and Stekel. The most notorious—and tragic—case of expulsion was that of Wilhelm Reich. From the time of his meteoric rise to fame in Vienna as gifted analyst, teacher and thinker, and later in Norway and the USA as discoverer of orgone energy, Reich was distrusted and defamed as schizophrenic and paranoid, discarded as trouble maker, and eventually destroyed in the USA. There were four reasons for Reich getting in trouble, and, ironically, it started with Freud’s icy gesture of distrust which later turned blatantly hostile.

I agree with Peglau that Reich was rejected by Freud because Reich dwelt too much on sex (even though Freud sounded Reichian in 1908), on sociology (even though Freud turned sociological in 1921), with political Marxism (which Freud did acknowledge to some extent), his criticism of the death instinct, and, last but not least, his anti-Nazi agitation (which Freud was able to confront only after he left Austria).

Peglau’s linking Reich with the fates of psychoanalysis in National-Socialism continues publications on efforts to »save« psychoanalysis (Baumeyer, 1971; Bräutigam (1984), Brecht at al. 1985; Dahmer, 1997; Lockot, 1994, 2002, Lockot & Bernhardt, 2000; Lothane, 2001a, 2001b, 2003; Nitzschke, 1997, 1999, 2003). It is an effort to rehabilitate both Reich and the psychoanalytic establishment (IPV, DPG) struggling to survive under Nazi rule already at a time when Auschwitz was a hell that nobody could have yet imagined .The expulsion of Reich, first from the DPG and then from the IPV, was an extrinsic affair dictated by appeasement politics of the IPV towards the Nazi state to »save« psychoanalysis (Lothane, 2001b, cited by Peglau, S. 29). And yet, I would argue, Reich’s attacks on Austrofascism and National-Socialism, were actually an intramural matter, more important to Freud and the IPV leadership and the Linksfreudianer at the 1934 Luzern Congress than to the Nazis and the persecution of Jewish doctors and psychoanalysts (Eckart, 2000) and genocide of the Jews.

Kauders discusses Reich mostly in connection with the post-war West German student revolt while Peglau places Reich at the center of the history of psychoanalysis in the NS years. Both Peglau and Kauders mention Hitler and cite numerous past and recent secondary reactions to him but leave out presenting Hitler’s own ideas as expressed in Mein Kampf and cited by Reich in Massenpsychologie des Faschixmus. While the complete 1943 text of Mein Kamp can be read on the internet, the book is still banned from publication by the Bavarian Government for fear it might embolden Neo-Nazis and facilitate the spread of their propaganda (Volkan et al., 2002). This is a mistake: this censorship is not serving the Germans, they should read the book and debate it in homes, schools, churches, town meetings, mass meetings, in the press and in books.

Reich wrote in 1942: »Die Massenpsychologie des Faschismus entstand in den deutschen Krisenjahren 1930-1933. Sie wurde 1933 niedergeschrieben; sie erschien im September 1933 in erster and im April 1934 in zweiter Auflage in Dänemark. ... Die Faschisten verboten das Buch 1935« (Reich, 1972, S. 20). In 1969 Mary Higgins published a third edition, enlarged and corrected edition, a 421 long typescript text Reich composed in 1942, containing numerous corrections in Reich’s handwriting, plus a the new 22 page »Vorwort zur III. korrigierten und erweiterten Aufllage.« This third edition was published in 1971 by Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 351 pages long, and again in 1972, 384 pages long. In his bibliography Peglau lists yet another edition, »Reich, Wilhelm (1986) [1971]« but, surprisingly, does not cite anything from that third edition and only uses citations from the 283 pages long 1933 edition, reprinted by Junius Verlag in 1972. This creates a gap (Lücke), for, as Reich noted himself: »Seither [1933] sind 10 Jahre verstrichen« (S. 20) and his ideas about Marxism, the Soviet Union, and communism had drastically changed. I discuss Peglau’s account in detail elsewhere (Lothane, 2015, in press). However, this should not be seen as a criticism but as a completion of this important book by Peglau.

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