Sunday 1 January 2012

The Göring Institute. Psychotherapy in the Third Reich. Inner Circle Seminar 180 (8 July 2012).

Dr. Matthias Heinrich Göring
The Göring Institute

Psychotherapy in the Third Reich

Implications for psychotherapy today

Anthony Stadlen
Inner Circle Seminar No. 180
Sunday 8 July 2012
10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This  is the second of two self-contained seminars devoted respectively to psychiatry and psychotherapy in the Third Reich. Today, we focus on psychotherapy. The history of psychotherapy in the Third Reich is a cautionary tale for today’s psychotherapists, who are all too willing to surrender their own and their clients’ autonomy and become agents, not of their clients, but of the state. To understand psychotherapy in the Third Reich one has to understand how it complemented psychiatry. Psychiatry and psychotherapy are supposed to be companionate, compassionate sister-professions. This blurs the distinction between psychiatry as a coercive agency of the state and the possibility of psychotherapy as a consensual activity between consenting adults.

Psychiatry and psychotherapy in the Third Reich had different functions. Psychiatry was for the supposedly hereditarily ‘degenerate’ ‘mentally ill’, for whom its paradigmatic ‘treatment’ was so-called ‘euthanasia’ – that is, medical mass murder. Psychotherapy was for the supposedly hereditarily sound: primarily ‘Aryans’, including SS men troubled by their work. Its role was to restore the individual to play his or her part as a fit member of National Socialist society. The central psychotherapy institute, led by Hermann Göring’s first cousin, Dr. Matthias Heinrich Göring, was entrusted with coordinating this task. Purged of its ‘Jewish’ elements including psychoanalysis and psychoanalysts, it became the Reich Institute for Psychological Research and Psychotherapy. Through it, the National Socialists pioneered the state regulation of psychotherapy sought by many psychotherapists today.

After the war, psychotherapists from the Göring Institute, who now ran its successor institute, claimed that its archive had been destroyed in a bombing raid. However, the archive was not destroyed, merely hidden. Anthony Stadlen can now tell the dramatic story, which was kept secret for many years, of how the hidden archive was discovered. He has facsimiles of the complete archive, and will draw on crucial documents for the seminar. Among the questions he will discuss are: What was the relation between C. G. Jung and Matthias Göring? Did psychotherapists from the Göring Institute develop psychological methods of deceiving victims of the extermination? If not, who did? Did psychotherapists who had incorporated Nazi principles into their work continue doing so in some form after the war?

Professor Geoffrey Cocks, of Albion College, Michigan, broke new ground with his book Psychotherapy in the Third Reich: The Göring Institute (1985, 1997). Professor Cocks is not able to be present today, but is taking a keen interest in the seminar, and making many suggestions for it. Today we shall discuss his fundamental findings and the state of research in this field today. Your contribution to the discussion will be welcome.

Venue: ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE

Cost: Psychotherapy trainees £50, others £135, some bursaries; coffee, tea, biscuits, mineral water included; no refunds unless seminar cancelled

Apply to: Anthony Stadlen, ‘Oakleigh’, 2A Alexandra Avenue, London N22 7XE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 8888 6857 E-mail:

For further information on seminars, visit:

The Inner Circle Seminars were founded by Anthony Stadlen in 1996 as an ethical, existential, phenomenological search for truth in psychotherapy. They have been kindly described by Thomas Szasz as ‘Institute for Advanced Studies in the Moral Foundations of Human Decency and Helpfulness’. But they are independent of all institutes, schools and colleges.

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