Laurence Rickels Online

Nazi Psychoanalysis

Excerpt 1

In 1994 a conference on "Psychoanalysis and Power" held at the New School for Social Research brought together analysts from Germany and New York only one doorway away from what appeared, at first sight, to be the centerpiece of the meeting, the reconstruction of a 1985 exhibit documenting the German history of psychoanalysis before and after 1933. What history was already slow to show in 1985 was first assembled for the International Association's Hamburg Congress to mark the spot everyone was in during this first return of International Psychoanalysis to postwar Germany. At the Hamburg Congress it had to be admitted that psychoanalysis, even if by many other names, had in fact never left, but had remained behind, a functional part of mobilized life in Nazi Germany. French analyst Janine Chasseguet-Smirgel, the queen of radically conservative diagnoses of perversion or adolescence in mass culture, was the chairman of the program committee presiding over the 1985 congress between Allied and German analysts that was to repair the split ends of the International while keeping the pair, the us is not them, intact. A couple of years later, in the International Review of Psychoanalysis she let the record show the removal of loud and clear boundaries from the history of psychoanalysis during World War Two. It was the unexpected side effect brought on by the return to Germany. Although anticipated as traumatic within a force field of persecution and denial, the encounter that all were prepared to take interpersonally and ideologically threw up instead an intrapsychic continuum of transferential objects that took the congress-goers by surprise: "At the same time we began to pick up stronger and stronger echoes of the conflict that had been raging among the German analysts for some years - a conflict which, as it happened, was now coming to a head - about the history of German psychoanalysis under the Nazi regime. The members of the Program Committee and the President of the IPA himself learned on this occasion that a stubborn legend (stubborn because of its credibility) now had to be given up - namely, that of the 'liquidation' of German psychoanalysis under the Third Reich" (435).

Between 1985 and 1994 the transmission didn't copy. We were as close to yet as far away from analysis of the Nazi phase of psychoanalysis (whether or not we had all already, by rights, completely passed through it). Even or especially the very juxtaposition of names - "Nazi Psychoanalysis" - has yet to make the preliminaries of metabolization or the standard reception. What neither sinks in nor swims along the surface of received history is a loss in clarity of boundaries, a loss that counts as traumatic (although the point of impact is not trauma as such but the onset of panic attack). In other words, we're not talking the happening kind of trauma that keeps on repeating itself in building up an anxiety defense (as in our ongoing relations with the Holocaust) but the kind that goes the roundabout route of repression and displacement or, in other words, doubles as origin of identification (which is always a way of being what one at the same time not sees). But the two kinds of trauma and trauma transmission seem co-implicated on the projection screens of resistance. It's as though the unambivalence and unmournability of our relations with the Holocaust required only one kind of boundary. Admission of "Nazi Psychoanalysis," as something new and something historical, demands interrogation or patrolling not only of differences between good and evil but also of the border tensions between therapeutic and political modes of correctness or between the intrapsychic and interpersonal takes on conflict.

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