Previously total extermination - today those affected are excluded from the congress by the "medical model of illness"

Speech by Dorothea Buck on August 6, 1999

By titling my speech "Previously 'extermination', today 'exclusion of those affected from the congress by the 'medical model of illness' ", I would like to express the desastrous consequences of this "medical model of illness" for all of us who have experienced psychiatry.

German psychiatry justified the rigorously enforced sterilizations from 1933 to 1945 and the murdering of patients in the so-called "Euthanasia" with their psychiatric dogma of "uncurable endogenic psychoses", which were ostensibly not psychical, rather inheritable and having physical origins and therefore without any value. This somatose dogma prevented any discussion between a doctor and us psychotic patients about the history and substance of our psychoses and their correlation to our past personal histories.

While I was a patient at the evangelical church institution in Bethel for three-quarters of a year when I was just 18 years old, I had not one single consultation with a doctor, neither before nor after the forced sterilization, by which I was in fact completely suprised and which was carried out without giving me any reasons beforehand why it was about to take place or afterwards why it had already taken place. At that time a person aged 19 was not yet responsible for her/himself. During her very first visit my mother was given the choice: either she agrees to my sterilization or I would be put into an institution up to the age of 45. "This would be very much worse!" In a state of shock, she agreed. She told me this later.

The clergyman at the Bethel institution cited words from the Bible at our beds without ever speaking to us personally. The most anguishing experience of human indignity, which remains indelibly in me to this day, is that the doctors and ministers in the Bethel institution didn't deem us worthy or capable of a discussion and in addition kept us in custody without any useful activity under a barrage of biblical words. The Bethel doctors and clergymen left us completely alone with our concerns about being labelled as "inferior hereditary ill" and the life-long consequences of the marriage ban and the rigorous restrictions in our education and occupation possiblities.

From 1934 to 1945 about 400,000 people had to endure forced sterilization. Over one thousand - mostly women - died as a result of the operation. Many committed suicide. Without marriage, without children, branded with the label "Inferior", they decided that life was no longer worth living. For me personally the possiblilty of committing suicide, which had never came into my mind before, became a decisive help to survive. If, instead of 60 years (which seemed like an eternity) I only saw one or two or even five years before me, my desperation decreased a little, because the hopelessness which resulted from the forced sterilization was based on the not forseeable amount of time still left to me. How could I fill this lifespan without my desired profession as kindergarten teacher, which I was no longer aloud to become and without a husband and children? With the possiblity of sucide I saw a way out. Man cannot live without having some goal to achieve. I now had a goal ahead of me after my life's goal had been taken from me. I could once again make plans, albeit the freedom to commit suicide. The strength which was born out of hopelessness could once again be used for living.

In 1961, while I worked as a sculptor on public projects, I heard for the first time during the Eichmann trials in Jerusalem about an amount being named of the victims murdered in the "Euthanasia" by psychiatrists. Totally dismayed by this, I wanted to learn more about this crime which had been kept a secret for so long. Apart from a short chapter in "Medizin ohne Menschlichkeit" ("Medicine without humanity") by Alexander Mitscherlich and Fred Mielke, there was absolutely nothing to be found in the bookshops. Out of my five experiences between 1936 and 1959, I was reminded of only one in 1943 in the Frankfurt University Clinic during the years of the "Euthanasia" 1939-45. When an assistant medical director stood at the bed of a fellow patient who had no reaction due to an insulin shock and remarked with regret that "it was a pity for her", another old, resident patient whispered to me later: "She will be transferred to 'Eichberg' and there the patients are starved to death." I refused to believe this.

And then in 1961 in the press archives I found a letter from a former patient in "Eichberg" to the editor of "Der Spiegel" about photos it had published of thinned to the bone survivors of the concentration camps. F.H. had to pull out the gold teeth of patients gassed in the psychiatric killing institution "Hadamar". And because of his experience gained there, he had been transferred to "Eichberg" to pull the gold from the mouths of the patients who were murdered there by starvation or other means. He wrote: (quote) "The pictures published by you could not compare with that which I witnessed."

I was especially affected by the lonely death of the "Euthanasia" victims. The Jews, Poles, Gypsies who were murdered on racial grounds experienced their extermination as a people and as a family unit.The psychiatric verdict of "a life unworthy of living" struck each of the "Euthanasia" victims individually. From the many conversations which I have had with fellow patients I discovered that they had gone through similar experiences as I had. Patients who had never been questioned by psychiatrists about experiences such as these (the ones I had), were labelled "schizophrenic" and murdered as "unworthy of living".

I felt completely alone with the weight of this knowledge of this suppressed, unspoke of murder by doctors of "at least 275,000 people" (according to the International Military Court in Nuremberg) in institutions and homes. What kind of questionable mental health without an intact moral conscience was presented to us also after 1945 by the "mentally healthy" persons in politics church and society. It repeatedly compels me to leave my artistic work and once again sit at the typewriter.

The newspapers/magazines: the "Hamburger Abendblatt", the "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung", "Die Zeit", "Die Welt", "Der Spiegel", "Der Stern" harshly criticized the pitiful conditions in our institutions in the Federal Republic. Even on April 20, 1979 "Die Zeit" printed a cover story titled: "The society of hardened hearts - In the snakepits of german psychiatry" with the accompanying report on the desolate living conditions of the mentally retarded people in the evangelical-ecclesiastical institution of Alstersdorf here in Hamburg. How could I still concentrate on my artistic work? When the most elementary humane feelings are absent, the Arts seemed to me to be of less importance.

First I adapted the laboriously researched facts concerning the "Euthanasia" into a stage play with a subsequent satirical performance by patients. After the suicides, matters which were not handled by the courts and therefore remained untold concerning the psychiatry professors who were responsible for the "Euthanasia" murders, should at least be made public in a theatrical production. But of course this never happened. As an appropriate date I had in mind the 30th anniversary of the beginning of the "Euthanasia" in Autumn 1969. But at this point in time no-one was interested in the murders of the patients. Much later, on May 29, 1981, I received a letter from Ernst Klee: "We exchanged correspondence with one another in 1978. You brought to my notice the beginning of the euthanasia and your own experiences. I intend putting all my energy into working on this subject and would like to know if you could contribute your own experiences concerning this?"

I wrote to him about my "Euthanasia" stage play and the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the "Euthanasia" in Autumn of 1979 and suggested a mutually organized event to coincide with this date in order to "together formulate our demands for a more helpful psychiatric practice which could only be achieved in institutions with human dignity and without psychiatric drugs."

Today - on the 60th anniversary of the beginning of the "Euthanasia" in 1999 - this mutual event is taking place. It was initiated and organized by our "Landesverband Psychiatrie-Erfahrener Berlin-Brandenburg" (LPE). Our "Bundesverband Psychiatrie-Erfahrener" (BPE) and the Hamburg "Landesverband" linked up with them.

Originally, nothing at this 11th World Congress was planned as a reminder of the forced sterilization and the "Euthanasia" victims or their suffering. Only after a mass of protests, especially from the "Deutsche Gesellschaft für Soziale Psychiatrie" (DGSP, the "German Society for Social Psychiatry"), was there no other choice but to show an exhibition about the starvation murders in the south-german institution Kaufbeuren.

Five years ago on June 5 - 10, 1994, the DGSP and the "World Association of Social Psychiatry" together with our BPE and the "Bundesverband der Angehörigen psychisch kranker Menschen" (the National society of the relations of the mentally ill) convened the first World Congress on Psychiatry to take place in Germany after World War II. This event also took place here in this congress center. The title was: "Abschied von Babylon - Verständigung über Grenzen in der Psychiatrie" ("Farewell to Babylon - Communicating over the boundaries in psychiatry"). Communication between psychiatrists, those affected and their relations is only possible if they speak to one another. It saddens us greatly that this 11th World Congress doesn't want this communication in the form of a dialogue with us and the family members. This painful retrogression to the earlier polarization - on the one side the omniscient psychiatrists, on the other the "ignorant" affected persons and their relations - demands us to look back to the 9th World Congress 5 years ago.

In 1994 the first whole day was dedicated to the "Dark sides of psychiatry - the banishment, the degradation, the extermination of the affected persons". The "megalomania and claims to power" of psychiatry with its powers of definition, e.g. that psychoses are primarilly caused by disturbances of the chemical interaction in the brain and according to the psychiatric teachings at that time these "endogenic psychoses had hereditary and physical causes and were therefore uncurable". For this we were punished with forced sterilization and the victims of the "Euthanasia" paid for with their lives. Today people having experienced a psychosis have to pay for this "medical model of illness" with a possibly life-long taking of psychiatric drugs with all its side-effects. These persons are not even asked about their experience with their psychically caused psychoses or whether this experience has a significance for them.

The second day of the World Congress of 5 years ago was dedicated to "Erleben und Miterleben" (Experience and share experiences). Here the affected persons and their relations had a chance to make themselves heard during the plenum discussion. Without their experience it is unthinkable to comprehend this decisively important subject of what a psychosis consists of, the case history of the individual and the correlation between the meanings expressed.

The third day of the congress 5 years ago was dedicated to "Verstehen, Vorbeugen und Behandeln" (Understanding, prevention and treatment). But how do the psychiatrists of the present congress expect to be able to understand psychoses and depressions without the affected persons and their experiences with psychoses and depressions? Because all of us - including the psychiatrists - can only really understand that which we have experienced ourselves. Without a thorough discussion with the affected persons, the only other option they have is to apply the "medical model of illness" of the "disturbed interaction of the brain chemicals" and the routine of suppressing the symptoms by the use of drugs. The psychiatrists know just as well as we do that this suppression of symptoms by the use of drugs cannot bring about a cure. So what is more obvious than to ask those who managed to cure themselves what had helped them.

Those of us who recognized their psychoses which for example resulted from dammed up emotions and impulses and who integrated it into their lives and who are now living out their "unlived lives" now have an ever increasing competence. The psychiatrists should really have an interest in this activation of this power of self-help. But then the "disturbed interaction of the brain chemicals" would no longer apply as a primary cause for psychoses. The psychiatrists don't realize what strain for the individual results from trying to correct this flaw in the brain which ostensibly can only be corrected by drugs.

Our BPE has its own research project called: "Psychose- und Depressionserfahrene erforschen sich selbst" (People who have experienced psychosis and depression do research about themselves). Due to this research about ourselves, which is in the form of a questionaire formulated by a graduated psychologist who himself has experience with psychosis, we are gathering information on more and more affected persons. The evaluation of the answers to the questionaires is also undertaken by professionals from our society who themselves have experience with psychosis.

The reason being that, in contrast to general medicine, only we with experience of psychoses and depressions know what preceded our emotional disturbances, how we experienced them and how we overcame them or not, as the case may be. In the course of this research project, by reflecting on, making notes about and summing up their experiences, they overcome them instead of being overcome by them.

We have decided that we would only be able to achieve a reform of medically orientated psychiatry and an end to the suppression of symptoms by the forced taking of drugs and without help get a better understanding of psychoses and ourselves if we take the missing psychiatric research and the psychical causes of our psychoses and depressions into our own hands. The reason being that 98% of research financing goes into somatic psychiatry research.

Ten years ago we began with the exchange of experience between those having had psychoses and depressions, their family members and experts, called the TRIALOG, in our first Hamburg "Psychosis Seminar". (Seminar in German means "place of planting" from semen = seed.) This exchange of experience was our answer to the completely speechless psychiatry, which led to our forced sterilization and the psychiatric "Euthanasia" murders in 1933 - 1945. When you don't speak to someone, you can't learn to know them as an individual, one doesn't perceive them as a individual human being. That is why our psychiatrists could transport their patients by the hundreds into the six psychiatric gassing institutions and after the gassing was put an end to in August 1941 could starve them to death or poison them with overdoses of drugs.

There are now already over 100 "Psychosis Seminars" in the Federal Republic and in the neighboring countries. Very often the affected persons had the very first opportunity to speak about their psychoses because in the psychiatric institutions that was impossible without having to fear an increased dosis of their forced medication.
During this exchange of experience with an equality of rights in an atmosphere of respectful acceptance, the first questions are: "How do people experience a psychosis? How should one interpret it? What does one need during the psychosis?" Only then are questions which have been mutually formulated asked. You will find more suggestions and information in our books which we have published together: "Stimmreich - Mitteilungen über den Wahnsinn" 1992, "Im Strom der Ideen" 1994 and in the "Psychosozialen Arbeitshilfe Nr. 10 - Es ist normal, verschieden zu sein" 1997" all published by the Psychiatrie-Verlag, Bonn.

Our psychosis seminars is our joint contribution for an understanding and more helpful psychiatry based on the experience of those affected. The reason being that the basis for an empirical science, which psychiatry wants to be and must be, can only be derived from the our experiences with psychosis and depression.

But above all, the exchange of experience means a liberation from psychiatry writing our psychoses off as a useless experience, which forces us to deny our own personal history. It also means a liberation from the inner isolation of having to keep silent.

We also no longer wish to be silent about the fact that in psychiatric institutions punishment is threatened and can be carried out when a patient wants to make public an injustice which has been inflicted on a fellow patient.

In conclusion now a poem called: "In remembrance of Marco and an admonition to psychiatry" by Peter Pirron:

Once upon a time there was a man named Marco.
He asked his psychiatric guardian to open a window
because he felt ill from the lunch:
So that he could have some peace,
his guardian attached Marco to the hospital bed.

Attached like this without any supervision Marco vomitted.
Helpless, he choked on his own vomit
in March of the year 1984
in a closed section
of the PLK psychiatric hospital in Landeck.

Marco was a Hungarian of German origin.
He had no relations in "this land of ours".
And so a hastily called doctor completed the death certificate and
the clinic management covered up the violation of duties of the guardian.
He continued his work as if nothing had happened.

A letter with which I wanted to make Marcos death public
never left the institution. It was given back to me with the remark:
"Think it over very carefully whether you really want to post this letter!"
"Be careful, if you ever want to come out of here again",
I said to myself and changed my plans.

A few days later my forced incarceration
was lengthened by six weeks.
The case has long since fallen under the statute of limitations.
And if he hasn't gone on pension
then perhaps someday the guardian will meet you - in the PLK Landeck.