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Book Review

Psychiatrists: The Men Behind Hitler

Psychiatrists: The Men Behind Hitler
Freedom Publishing
Reviewed by Mari Finlan

t was Hitler who did it, or so we have always thought. That ugly disgraceful period of history we call the Holocaust was all because of Hitler, a madman fixated on the insane notion of purifying the race by murdering everyone he considered impure.

      We consider Hitler and the Holocaust part of the same package, and think we are free of it because Hitler is gone. Hitler was a madman, whose brutal policies, we assume, originated from his own demented soul. Consider the idea that he and the rest of German society had to be convinced. Then consider the blackness of soul of those who spent years in the calculated, systematic process of convincing them.

      In Psychiatrists: The Men Behind Hitler, authors Thomas Roeder, Volker Kubillus and Anthony Burwell show us conclusively that it did not start with Hitler and we cannot afford the complacency of thinking it ended with him. The madness of the Holocaust started long before Hitler came to power, before he even reached maturity.

      The first part of this three-part volume focuses on showing where the Nazi ideology originated. The authors have produced an enormous catalog of names and incriminating events. One can almost become lost in the sheer volume of material, but in the end the picture is more than clear, and we find that the psychiatrists are most damned by their own words.

      The following is quoted from psychiatrist Ernst Rudin on the aims and purposes of the “German Society for Racial Hygiene":

      “The formation of the German Society for Racial Hygiene goes back to 1905, when Alfred Ploetz, the founder of German racial hygiene and today an honorary member of the society, set out with a few friends (to whom I also belong) to create a wide dissemination of the ideas and principles of racial hygiene. Despite our continual attempts to call the public’s attention to the fact that something had to be done for our race, and despite our revealing the degenerating quality of the Nordic race which had been going on since the beginning of this century, the immense danger of the declining birthrate and the unnatural nursing back to health of the genetically weak, sick and inferior, our ideas could not gain recognition at the upper echelons of government. Even when our spiritual movement succeeded in quietly and gradually winning over hearts and minds of our best Germans, the powers that be ensured that no racial hygiene measures could be taken. Only through the Fuhrer did our dream of over thirty years, that of applying racial hygiene to society, become a reality.”

      Adolf Hitler was born in 1899 and came to power in 1933. The racial hygiene movement “goes back to 1905” when Adolf Hitler was but six years old.

      Another among the many incriminating documents referenced in this book is a 1920 treatise by psychiatrist Alfred E. Hoche and Chief Justice of the Reich, Karl Binding. The paper, entitled “Permission to Destroy Life Unworthy of Living” outlines the philosophy that “euthanasia” should be performed on persons physically or mentally unable to support themselves or those who are considered worthless to society. This paper, published 13 years before Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich, formed a blueprint for the organized mass murder that followed.

      “The euthanasia program for the handicapped and mentally ill was organized exactly as prescribed in Alfred Hoche’s and Karl Binding’s notorious 1920 treatise,” the authors state. “Hoche had also suggested in 1920 that a commission be appointed to order the euthanasia of ‘dead-weight characters,’ and Binding provided ideas for the removal of legal hindrances. Nearly twenty years later, the euthanasia program was established exactly as Hoche and Binding and others had imagined it a generation earlier when Germany was a republic rather than a dictatorship and when law, not hate, ruled. Theory in a republic had become an unspeakable reality in the twisted minds of totalitarian demagogues.”

      Once the door was open to mass murder under the guise of “euthanasia,” it was but another step in the progression to expand the interpretation of “dead weight characters” and “life unworthy of living” to include an entire race of people. Indeed, the ever-changing, fluid definition is one of psychiatry’s trademarks. We see today their endless cataloging of “Mental Illnesses,” aka “Mental Disorders,” aka “Brain Disorders.”

      They have been engaging in this shell game for over a century as witnessed by the following description of a mental “disease” quoted from Krafft-Ebing in 1892:

      “In history as well as now, one encounters individuals who, unsatisfied with the social institutions, get the idea to improve the world or, at least, put something new in place of the old... They appear in the roles of leaders of revolutions, founders of political parties ... and they make themselves and others unhappy. The incubation phase of the disease is long, often reaching back to childhood.”

      Hitler’s personal hatred of the Jews combined with the philosophy of racial hygiene became a juggernaut of insanity. Though not focused on the specific atrocities of the Holocaust, this volume does not shield the reader from the brutal details of what was done. However, it goes beyond what was done to reveal why and how it could happen.

      In the second section of the book the authors examine what occurred after the war. Though some of the psychiatrists involved in the Nazi atrocities were brought to justice, many went free.

      “[I]n Hanover and elsewhere, the prewar judges and prosecutors became the postwar judges and prosecutors, making for a unified administration of injustice, but allowing for the acts of those people to be safe from official scrutiny. Not surprisingly, many postwar verdicts reflected an unwillingness to punish war crimes, possibly because of wartime complicities and crimes of the prosecutors and judges.”

      Not only did they go free, but many of the German psychiatrists of the era continued to be regarded as pillars of the psychiatric community. They continued to teach in the universities, to write and to promote their twisted philosophies.

      Many were members and officers of the Society of German Neurologists and Psychiatrists. The authors researched the sordid past of the presidents of this organization from 1935 to 1980, and none of them have clean hands regarding racial hygiene and the Nazi atrocities.

      Did the psychiatrists recant their involvement with the Nazis and renounce the ideologies that led to the Holocaust? Far from it. Ernst Rudin, quoted above as one of the founders of the German Society for Racial Hygiene was acknowledged in 1992 for “following his own convictions in ‘racial hygienic’ measure, cooperating with the Nazis as a psychiatrist and helping them legitimize their aims through pertinent legislation” (quoted from “75 Years of the Max Planck Institute for Psychiatry, Munich 1917 – 1992”).

      The perverted thinking of the racial hygiene movement did not die with the end of World War II, nor did it confine itself to psychiatry alone. The book offers us the following chilling excerpts from a 1962 London symposium on gene research:

      [From Francis Crick:] “I’d like to concentrate on a certain issue. Do people even have the right to have children? As we have heard, it would not be difficult for governments to add something to the food supply which would prevent procreation. In addition, and this is hypothetical, the government could keep another substance at hand which would counteract the effect of the first one, and only people whose procreation is desired could receive it. This is definitely not out of the question.”

      [From Hermann Muller:] “Probably close to 20 percent of the population, if not more, have inherited a genetic defect. If that is right, in order for us to avoid genetic degeneration, then that 20 percent of the population should not be allowed to reach sexual maturity or, if they live, they would not be allowed to procreate.”

      Probably the most telling, and most alarming section of the book is the third part, “’The Men behind Hitler’ in America?” Here we look at the influences of the same people, the same ideologies and the same twisted thinking as it affects our present society. We see the enormous influence of psychiatry in our schools, our courts and our society as a whole, and the resulting erosion of the values, intelligence and independence of our culture.

      Fortunately, there is hope. In an earlier section, the authors put it this way:

      “[F]rom the beginning of the 1920s until the end of World War II, psychiatric research was funded in large measure by wealthy patrons and private financiers. Without this money, psychiatry, in all likelihood, would have remained essentially powerless. At the mercy of poverty or the caprice of government funding, it may have been just another trend that barely outlived its own birth. The financial infusions that rescued and sustained it came from many sources: Krupp, Loeb, The German Association of Chemical Industries, the Rockefeller Foundation and, between 1933 and 1945, the Nazi treasury.”

      And therein lies one of our weapons, as presented in the third section.

      “The solution rests with the citizen. Vigilance is, of course, essential; active participation in democracy even more so. The purse-strings of psychiatry are held by government, just as they were in Nazi Germany. In those days, however, the German people were left woefully ignorant of what Hitler and his henchmen were doing. This doesn’t have to happen today. The example of the men behind Hitler gives us the ability to spot others who might try to follow in their ideological footsteps.”

      The final message of the book is one of hope, because that is the purpose of the work, to enlighten the society to the reality of the influence of psychiatry, so that when we say “never again,” we can truly mean “never again.”

      “Good standard medical care, religious values that emphasize the spiritual nature of man, an educational program that stresses the application of basics and encourages individuality and exciting new ideas, and a justice system that relies on the discovery of the truth and demands the assumption of personal responsibility by each and every one of its citizens — these are the qualities of a thriving culture. It is not wishful thinking to believe that this can take place — it can happen if we make it so.”


      Psychiatrists: The Men Behind Hitler is available from Citizens Commission on Human Rights at, or call (800) 869-2247.

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