Have you ever wondered how psychotherapy was practiced in Nazi Germany? Probably not, but consider the question; it contains some interesting issues. If therapy is designed to help people find their own inner truth and take responsibility for their lives, does it not run counter to a totalitarian regime's insistence on submission to the state? If therapy owes a great debt to Freud, how could German practitioners acknowledge that debt without opposing Hitler's fanatical anti-Semitism?
"Psychotherapy in the Third Reich," by historian Geoffrey Cocks, answers these and related questions with precision. Amassing voluminous details on who did what and why, Cocks provides an account that will serve as a reference work for students of the period. Objective and careful, he writes like a scholar who has studied his topic exhaustively and is determined to tell us all. Since there are no highs or lows in his prose, however, no impassioned arguments or dreadful revelations, it is almost impossible for the general reader to stay alert for more than a few pages at a time.
Cocks says, "It is not the intent of this book to attempt to justify or condemn the morals and ethics of psychotherapists in the Third Reich, or to assess the degree of their historical responsibility for the advent and actions of the Nazis. Rather, it means to demonstrate and explain the psychotherapists' success within, and often against, the medical establishment in Germany between 1933 and 1945." He sticks to this aim like glue but spends so much time on forgotten figures like Heyer, Schultz-Hencke, Hattingberg, and Achelis that one becomes restless with his compulsiveness, impatient to hear something about someone who matters today.