Psychiatric Quarterly [psaq] PH084-psaq-363099 June 21, 2002 13:23 Style ﬁle version Nov. 19th, 1999
Psychiatric Quarterly, Vol. 73, No. 3, Fall 2002 (
DOCTOR–PATIENT RELATIONS IN NAZI
GERMANY AND THE FATE OF
Irwin N. Hassenfeld, M.D.
German psychiatrists actively engaged in the forced sterilization and killing
of psychiatrically disabled children and adult patients. Academic psychiatrists
embraced the Nazi philosophy and led the way in the “ﬁnal solution” for psy-
chiatric patients. This took place in a climate of widespread racism, virulent
anti-Semitism, disillusionment with utopian social reforms, loss of medical
conﬁdentiality, devaluation of autonomy, intoxication with collectivism, injured
national pride, and economic crisis. In this paper I review the impact on the
physician–patient relationship of scientiﬁc, socio-economic, and political de-
velopments in the ﬁfty years leading up to Hitler’s rise to power, and explore
potential implications for health care in the U.S.
KEY WORDS: doctor–patient relations; psychiatric history; medical ethics; Holocaust;
Renewed interest in what happened under the Nazi regime a half cen-
tury ago has led to new investigations into the behavior of the German
medical profession toward patients (1,2) and research subjects (3).
In 1991 two Berlin medical societies mounted a traveling exhibit (4)
Irwin N. Hassenfeld is an Attending Psychiatrist, Ellis Hospital, Schenectady, N.Y.,
and is an Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, Albany Medical College.
Address correspondence to 18 Wilshire Drive, Delmar, N.Y. 12054.
2002 Human Sciences Press, Inc.