Psychoanalysis, Nazism and ‘Jewish Science’

  • Stephen Frosh


Clearly, the idea that psychoanalysis might at least have a strong Jewish connection, even if one might baulk at the idea of it being a Jewish ‘science’, is not particularly contentious. Sociologically and philosophically, in its membership, its practices and its mind-set, psychoanalysis was constructed out of the energy released from the anti-semitic as well as the theocratic restrictions of the past. With the resurgence of the antisemitic part of this in its newly virulent twentieth century European form, that of Nazism, these issues became key once more: psychoanalysis was to be damned because of its Jewish origins and structure, and if it was going to be rescued, then — so at least some of the thinking went — its Jewishness (including its Jewish membership) would have to be discarded. In Germany, where every-thing had to be worked out for the first time and where the full extent of the Nazi terror only slowly dawned on people, the ducking and weaving that psychoanalysts became involved in to preserve themselves and their profession adds up to a sorry tale of collaboration with oppressive power and a readiness to relinquish the attachments and commitments of the very recent past. However, this is no simple tale of vindictiveness or of moral and political blindness, even though both tendencies can be found in the activities of at least some German psychoanalysts of the time.


Nazi Regime German Authority Jewish Origin Nazi Period Political Radicalism 
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© Stephen Frosh 2005

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  • Stephen Frosh

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