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International Conference “Psychiatry in Europe after World War II”, 30-31 October 2015


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International Conference „Psychiatry in Europe after WW II”


Seventy years after the end of Second World War the situation and development of post-war psychiatry is still widely unexplored. This is true for the FRG, where the rare historiography about psychiatric reforms remained mostly in the hands of former medical protagonists (Brink 2010). It is also true for the GDR and can furthermore be observed for the immediate post-war period in all four German occupation zones. However, it seems also true for other European countries that the history of psychiatry has seldom addressed the first years after war. A possible explanation for this blank spot is the focus on the exploration of the NS mass murder of patients in previous years, which, as is well known, not only happened in the area of the German Reich. Apart from that, the attention of historical scholars if it fell on the post-war period was rather drawn by the psychiatric reforms in the German states than by the psychiatry of the society of collapse (“Zusammenbruchsgesellschaft”, Faulstich 2003).


The upcoming international conference will present research findings of the DFG research project “After patient murder. Structure and daily asylum life of former extermination centres in the four occupation zones 1945–1955” based at the Institute for History and Ethics of Medicine at Heidelberg. The project analyses the consequences of National Socialism and the inner and outer reorientation of German institutional psychiatry in the postwar period using four former killing centres as examples. he conference aids in showcasing the project results, which should be contextualized in different and innovative ways.


For this reason, a closer focus on the psychiatry politics of the occupying powers and their possible influences is clearly relevant. Yet, it is also necessary to include a comparative analysis of the development in other countries; those that were part of the Western and Soviet bloc system as well as those that were not. In doing so, the focus will be on parallel developments, continuities and breaks as well as transfer and exchange processes between the examined countries. The key research questions will focus on the role of Second World War as a turning point in the development of psychiatry and the character, quality and intensity of the expected exchange processes.


The conference will provide new stimuli for scientific research in an area that has not been systematically studied up to now and will bring together a great number of experts in the field of the history of psychiatry from many countries that were affected by the Second World War. As a result, the conference will provide a first overview of the impacts of war and mass murder of the sick on psychiatry in the post-war period and beyond both in the German states as well as the territories occupied by German forces during the war.



Conference Poster

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