Psychology in national socialism: The question of “professionalization” and the case of the “Ostmark”

A new piece in History of Psychology will interest AHP readers: “Psychology in national socialism: The question of “professionalization” and the case of the “Ostmark,” by Wieser, M., & Benetka, G. Abstract:

This article presents a contextualization and revaluation of competing narratives concerning the history of psychology in Nazi Germany. Since the 1980s, this debate revolves around the supposed “professionalization” of the discipline from Hitler’s rise to power until the end of World War II. The question whether or not academic psychology has profited from collaborating with the Nazi regime during the war is not just of historical interest, but also carries strong political and moral implications. Recently, the established narrative concerning the professionalization of German psychology under National Socialism was called into question by Wolfgang Schönpflug. According to his argumentation, psychology did not benefit from the war, but had to suffer considerable losses on terms of personnel and quality in teaching and research. After reconstructing the historical context and the political implications of the debate, we propose to take a different perspective on the question of “professionalization.” Three case examples of psychologists from Austria whose career advanced significantly during the war are provided to shed light on the multitude of opportunities that emerged for those who offered their psychological expertise during the war. In conclusion, it is argued that professionalization should be understood as a theoretical framework that stimulates further historical research on a local level, not as a dogmatic judgment about the state of the discipline as a whole.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.