Sick and disabled persons under National Socialism

Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry shows exhibition

December 02, 2016

„registered, persecuted, annihilated. The Sick and  the Disabled under National Socialism“ This is the title of the travelling exhibition of the German Association for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (DGPPN) being presented at the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry (MPI)in Munich. On more than 40 boards, the exhibition tackles the fate of allegedly sick and disabled persons during the period of National Socialism.

Up to 400,000 victims were sterilized by force between 1933 and 1945, about 300,000 were murdered. „It is our duty as scientists and physicians to deal with this dark and horrifying chapter in the history of psychiatry and to make sure that the broad public is given this opportunity, too,“ explains Prof. Martin Keck, Director of the clinic of the MPI. It would be the aim to restore the victims’ identity and thus part of their dignity. This would be even more the case as Munich and also the predecessor institute of the MPI, the German Institute for Psychiatric Research (DFA), played a significant role in these inhuman crimes. Thus, one of the directors of the DFA, Ernst Rüdin, was instrumental in generating the National Socialists’ "Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring". Together with colleagues, he participated in the so-called „euthanasia“, the killing of children and adults who were suspected or proven to suffer from mental diseases or mental disabilities.

„Unfortunately, coming to terms with those events was characterized by the denial of many responsible persons and indifference towards the victims during the postwar period and apparently far beyond it,“ Keck explains. „As the directors of the institute, we want to deliberately counteract this attitude with utmost transparency and the endeavor to illuminate the facts.” Therefore, the directors are particularly grateful that five additional boards designed by the Munich Documentation Centre for the History of National Socialism in collaboration with the work group Psychiatry and Welfare Care in National Socialism in Munich for presentation in the NS documentation centre in Munich from April to June 2016 can be shown in the exhibition. “There, special attention is given to perpetrators and victims from Munich and more light is shed again on the role of our predecessor institute,“ says  Elisabeth Binder, Managing Director of the institute.

Since its opening in the German Bundestag in 2014, the exhibition designed by the DGPPN in collaboration with the foundations Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and Topography of Terror has been shown on various occasions and in various places - parliaments, memorial places, congresses, clinics - both in and outside Germany. All in all, more than 280.000 people have already visited the exhibition in the meantime, concentrating on the suffering of sick and disabled persons in the NS-era. We welcome the public to have a look at the texts and pictures and let them unfold their effect. The exhibition at the MPI in Kraepelinstraße 2 will still be open until February 3, 2017 from Monday to Friday from 9am to 2pm or on appointment (   


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