So, Mike and I are back to the awful topic of genocide, relating specifically to the participation of psychiatrists in this heinous crime. We are particularly offended by the grotesque misapplication of psychiatric theory and practice to the political field, justifying murder of the “other.”
Two psychiatrists, Jovan Raskovic and Radovan Karadzic, were responsible for utilizing psychiatric theory as a justification for Serbian domination of the Yugoslavian federation of governments. Composed of 6 states and even more ethnic groups, as well as diverse religious groups including Roman Catholics, Orthodox churches, and Muslims, and with the recent history of the Nazi occupation and complicity of some Croats with the Nazis, the challenge of peaceful coexistence in Yugoslavia was overwhelming. And it broke down after the death of Marshall Josep Broz Tito in 1980. The Serbs believed that they were naturally disposed to rule, and a psychological construct was developed, based on a bizarre misapplication of Freudian theory, to support their position. Raskovic’s view was that the Serbs bore an Oedipal complex which compelled them to kill the “Father”, the government of Yugoslavia. Their reward would be the “Mother”, symbolized by the land of Yugoslavia. He said the Croats had a “fear of castration” which rendered them incompetent to exercise authority and hold power. He published a manifesto, Luda Zemlja, had great success in promulgating his theories and, whipping up the Serbs to a frenzy of aggression, established the Serbian Democratic Party. As his health was failing, he put his protege, Karadzic, another psychiatrist, as head of the party.
Karadzic used his knowledge of psychiatry to inflict terror on the groups that he persecuted, particularly the Bosnian Muslims. Now known as the “Butcher of Bosnia,” he used rape as a tool of intimidation and social disruption. As his troops killed, maimed, and raped, he terrified the victim population not only to flee, but to not want to return to the scene of their horrific experience as an element of his “ethnic cleansing” program. The raped Muslim women were socially disgraced, not accepted by their communities, and many committed suicide. This anticipated result was designed to among other things, reduce the reproductive capability of the Bosnian Muslims. Karadzic was convicted of war crimes for his role in the Srebenica Massacre and other massacres of Bosnians.
The Nazis had their own whacked out theories of their ethnic superiority, and convinced themselves that they were more suited to rule (and exist) than others. They carried the characterization of the “other” groups to subhuman extremes as a justification for genocide against the Jews, Romani, and the slaughter of homosexuals, intellectually disabled persons, schizophrenics, epileptics, and others whom they considered undesirables. They found little difficulty in gaining the cooperation of psychiatrists in their madness. Six months after Hitler became chancellor of Germany, a compulsory sterilization law was passed requiring the sterilization of individuals with various neurologic and psychiatric diseases. Among these was “hereditary alcoholism.”
The background of support for this kind of idea was the eugenics movement which had gained great popularity in the United States during the early 20th century. This is not to say that the characterization of Jews as racially defective began at that time, because it did not. Jews had been characterized by the composer Richard Wagner, among others, as “parasites” and “vermin” decades earlier, and was a direct influence on Hitler, who used the same terms in his manifesto, Mein Kampf. The term eugenics was originated in 1883 by Sir Francis Galton, a cousin of Charles Darwin. The aim of this philosophy was to “breed out” human disease and suffering by promoting the reproduction of people with desirable characteristics, and sterilizing those who had undesirable attributes. It should be noted that this idea was first proposed by Plato in his classic work, The Republic. In the US, the American Breeders Association was formed in 1903 to further the cause of eugenics. In 1911 J. H. Kellogg, the corn flakes guy, founded the Race Betterment Foundation which established a pedigree registry. Laws were passed in several states forbidding marriage of different classes of “defectives” and mandating sterilizations of mentally ill persons. The US Supreme Court upheld the practice in a 1927 decision in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote that “three generations of imbeciles is enough.” It took 15 years for this decision to be overturned, but not before tens of thousands of men and women were sterilized. And while not official policy, an extraordinary number of Native American women were sterilized, many without their consent (such as during an appendectomy.) In Hitler’s Mein Kampf, dictated while he was imprisoned, he mentions the eugenics movement in America, and he strenuously advocated for the purity of the Aryan gene pool, using whatever means necessary, including genocide.
During the 1930s Germany’s mental hospitals were overcrowded, with most of the patients diagnosed with schizophrenia. In a paper published in Germany in 1925 entitled Permission for the Destruction of Unworthy Life, written by attorney Karl Binding and psychiatrist Alfred Hoche, it was suggested that some persons are “on an intellectual level which we only encounter way down in the animal kingdom.” The economic burden of caring for such persons was a major aspect of their argument. Another psychiatrist, Berthold Kihn, wrote in 1932 that mentally ill individuals were costing Germany 150 million Reichsmarks per year. His paper was entitled The Eradication of the Less Valuable from Society.
Although the killing of mental patients was under discussion in Germany throughout the 1930s, it was not until 1939 that action was undertaken. On September 1, 1939, the same day that Germany invaded Poland, Hitler issued an authorization for the killing of mental patients. After carefully accounting for all the hospitalized mental patients, along with their diagnoses, plans were made to carry out the exterminations. Early in 1940 the first 20 such patients were made to undress and led into a “shower room” at the Bradenburg Asylum where they were killed with carbon monoxide gas. Their gold fillings were removed and the bodies cremated. Over the next 1 and 1/2 years over 70,000 patients had been killed in this manner in the program known as Aktion T-4. A total of 6 killing centers had been constructed, and they competed with each other. One center had a special celebration to mark the killing of the ten-thousandth patient. All employees received a bottle of beer. Nor was gas the only means of killing. Many were dispatched by shooting, drug overdose, or starvation. In fact, it is thought that of the approximately 250,000 mentally ill patients killed, at least 100,000 were starved to death. As many as 10,000 of the murdered were children. And once the gassing of mental patients was found to be so effective and efficient, as we all know, they instituted the program at the concentration camps to implement “The Final Solution” to the elimination of the Jewish population. Another doctor, Josef Mengele, ” was a notorious sadist who carried out gruesome experiments on inmates at Auschwitz. It is so disturbing how entire societies can degenerate into madness, and how complicit in the madness doctors can be, especially psychiatrists. Don’t doctors take an oath to do no harm?
And on a happier note, I can report that Mike had a good report from one of his oncologists this week. He will have a telehealth visit with his other oncologist next week. I expect good news there as well. In fact, I expect good news for an extended period of time. Let’s have prayers, please for Mike’s friend Ellis, who starts radiation next week for prostate cancer. At his stage of life now many of Mike’s friends have been treated for cancer, and right now things are going well for all of them. Good medical care, a cooperative patient, and prayer energy make for a powerful combination. I hope all of you are well, and that you continue to take the coronavirus seriously. If you don’t it might just take you seriously. Don’t forget to love your neighbor, be positive and hopeful, and pray for world peace. Until next time, so long from Happy Meadows.