Skip to main content

‘Electroshock Therapy’ in the Third Reich

  • Lara Rzesnitzek (a1) and Sascha Lang (a1)

The history of ‘electroshock therapy’ (now known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)) in Europe in the Third Reich is still a neglected chapter in medical history. Since Thomas Szasz’s ‘From the Slaughterhouse to the Madhouse’, prejudices have hindered a thorough historical analysis of the introduction and early application of electroshock therapy during the period of National Socialism and the Second World War. Contrary to the assumption of a ‘dialectics of healing and killing’, the introduction of electroshock therapy in the German Reich and occupied territories was neither especially swift nor radical. Electroshock therapy, much like the preceding ‘shock therapies’, insulin coma therapy and cardiazol convulsive therapy, contradicted the genetic dogma of schizophrenia, in which only one ‘treatment’ was permissible: primary prevention by sterilisation. However, industrial companies such as Siemens–Reiniger–Werke AG (SRW) embraced the new development in medical technology. Moreover, they knew how to use existing patents on the electrical anaesthesia used for slaughtering to maintain a leading position in the new electroshock therapy market. Only after the end of the official ‘euthanasia’ murder operation in August 1941, entitled T4, did the psychiatric elite begin to promote electroshock therapy as a modern ‘unspecific’ treatment in order to reframe psychiatry as an ‘honorable’ medical discipline. War-related shortages hindered even the then politically supported production of electroshock devices. Research into electroshock therapy remained minimal and was mainly concerned with internationally shared safety concerns regarding its clinical application. However, within the Third Reich, electroshock therapy was not only introduced in psychiatric hospitals, asylums, and in the Auschwitz concentration camp in order to get patients back to work, it was also modified for ‘euthanasia’ murder.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      ‘Electroshock Therapy’ in the Third Reich
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      ‘Electroshock Therapy’ in the Third Reich
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      ‘Electroshock Therapy’ in the Third Reich
      Available formats
Corresponding author
* Email address for correspondence:
Hide All

1. Selzer, ‘Cerletti e Bini: L’elettroshock’, Zentralblatt für die gesamte Neurologie und Psychiatrie, Referateteil, 93 (1939), 486.

2. Yasukoti G G. and Mukasa H., ‘Elektroshocktherapie der Schizophrenie’, Fukuoka Act Med, 32, 8 (1939), 8183, cited in: Anton von Braunmühl, ‘G. Yasukoti and H. Mukasa, “Elektroshocktherapie der Schizophrenie” ’, Zentralblatt für die gesamte Neurologie und Psychiatrie, Referatenteil, 96 (1940), 167.

3. Shorter Edward and Healy David, Shock Therapy: A History of Electroconvulsive Treatment in Mental Illness (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007).

4. Peters Uwe Hendrik, ‘Die Einführung der Schockbehandlungen und die psychiatrische Emigration’, Fortschritte der Neurologie und Psychiatrie, 60 (1992), 356365.

5. Hans-Walter Schmuhl and Volker Roelcke (eds), ‘Heroische Therapien’: Die deutsche Psychiatrie im internationalen Vergleich 1918–1945 (Göttingen: Wallenstein, 2013), 10; Angelika Ebbinghaus, ‘Kostensenkung, Aktive Therapie und Vernichtung: Konsequenzen für das Antstaltswesen’, in Angelika Ebbinghaus, Heidrun Kaupen-Haas and Karl Heinz Roth (eds), Heilen und Vernichten im Mustergau Hamburg, Bevölkerungs- und Gesundheitspolitik im Dritten Reich (Hamburg: Konkret Literatur, 1984), 136–46; Hans-Ludwig Siemen, ‘Psychiatrie im Nationalsozialismus’, in Michael von Cranach (ed.), Psychiatrie im Nationalsozialismus: Die bayerischen Heil- und Pflegeanstalten zwischen 1933 und 1945 (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1999); Götz Aly, ‘Forschen an Opfern’, in Götz Aly (ed.), Aktion T4 1939–1945: Die ‘Euthanasie’-Zentrale in der Tiergartenstrasse 4 (Berlin: Hentrich, 1987), 153–60: 159; Michael Hubenstorf, ‘Tote und/oder lebendige Wissenschaft: Die intellektuellen Netzwerke der NS-Patientenmordaktion in Österreich’, in Eberhard Gabriel and Wolfgang Neugebauer (eds), Zur Geschichte der NS-Euthanasie in Wien, Teil 2: Von der Zwangssterilisation zur Ermordung (Vienna: Böhlau, 2002), 237–420; Herwig Czech, ‘Abusive medical practices on “euthanasia” victims in Austria during and after World War II’, in Sheldon Rubenfeld and Susan Benedict (eds), Human Subjects Research after the Holocaust (Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, 2014), 109–25.

6. Szasz Thomas S., ‘From the Slaughterhouse to the Madhouse’, Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice, 8 (1971), 6467: 67.

7. Braslow Joel, Mental Ills and Bodily Cures: Psychiatric Treatment in the First Half of the Twentieth Century (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997). See Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Toronto: Signet Book/NAL, 1962), or, more relevant still, the movie of the same title (USA, 1975); Erving Goffman, Asylums. Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates (Garden City NY: Doubleday, 1961); Timothy W. Kneeland and Carol A. B. Waren, Pushbutton Psychiatry: A History of Electroshock in America (Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing, 2002).

8. Friedlander Henry, The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 169: ‘a machine designed to give electroshock treatments and thus inflict torture’; Ebbinghaus, op. cit. (note 5), 142: ‘Elektroschockbehandlung ist keine Therapie’.

9. Schmuhl and Roelcke, op. cit. (note 5), 16 and 10; Hubenstorf, op. cit. (note 5), 375.

10. See Shorter and Healy, op. cit. (note 3); Robert Passione, ‘Italian Psychiatry in an International Context: Ugo Cerletti and the Case of Electroshock’, History of Psychiatry, 15 (2004), 83–104; German E. Berrios, ‘The Scientific Origins of Electroconvulsive Therapy: A Conceptual History’, History of Psychiatry, 8 (1997), 105–19; Norman Endler, ‘The Origins of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)’, Convulsive Therapy, 4 (1988), 5–23.

11. See Lara Rzesnitzek, ‘Lothar B. Kalinowsky und die Einführung der Elektrokrampftherapie in Europa: Die verflochtene Geschichte eines “zufälligen” Aufbruchs “wider Willen”?’, in Schmuhl and Roelcke (eds), op. cit. (note 5), 200–15; Isabelle von Bueltzingsloewen, ‘Un fol espoir thérapeutique? L’Introduction de l’électrochoc dans les hôpitaux psychiatriques français (1941/1942–1945)’, Annales historiques de l’électricité, 8 (2010), 93–104; Rudolf Nowak, ‘Zur Frühgeschichte der Elektrokrampftherapie in der deutschen Psychiatrie’ (unpublished PhD thesis: University of Leipzig, 2000); Lara Rzesnitzek, ‘ “Schocktherapien” im nationalsozialistischen Deutschland: Am Beispiel der Berliner Psychiatrie’, Nervenarzt, 85 (2013), 1175–81; Holm Krumpolt, ‘Die Auswirkungen der nationalsozialistischen Psychiatriepolitik auf die sächsische Landesheilanstalt Großschweidnitz im Zeitraum 1939–45’ (unpublished PhD thesis: University of Leipzig, 1995); Erik Robert Heintz, ‘Die Einführung der Elektrokrampftherapie an der Psychiatrischen und Nervenklinik der Universität München 1941 bis 1945’ (unpublished PhD thesis: Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, 2004); Hendrik van den Bussche, ‘Personalprobleme, Disziplinkrise und Selbstdeprofessionalisierung der Psychiatrie im Nationalsozialismus’, Schriftenreihe der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Nervenheilkunde, 21 (2015), 127–169.

12. See Wiebe E. Bijker, Thomas P. Hughes and Trevor J. Pinch (eds), The Social Construction of Technological Systems: New Directions in the Sociology and History of Technology (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987); Bruno Latour, Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999).

13. Ugo Cerletti, ‘Electroshock therapy’, in Arthur M. Sackler et al. (eds), The Great Physiodynamic Therapies in Psychiatry (New York: Hoeber-Harper, 1956), 91–120: 91; compare: Lothar Kalinowsky, ‘Lothar B. Kalinowsky’, in Ludwig J. Pongratz (ed.), Psychiatrie in Selbstdarstellungen (Berne: Hans Huber), 147–64, 154.

14. For a quick overview see Berrios, op cit. (note 10).

15. Szasz, op. cit. (note 6); Ebbinghaus, op. cit. (note 5), 142; Cornelius Borck, Hirnströme (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2005), 253; compare also: Lothar Kalinowsky, ‘The Discoveries of Somatic Treatments in Psychiatry: Facts and Myths’, Comprehensive Psychiatry, 21, (1980), 428–35.

16. Cerletti, op. cit. (note 13), 92.

17. See further: Lara Rzesnitzek and Sascha Lang, ‘A Material History of Electroshock Therapy: “Electroshock” Technology in Europe until 1945’, NTM Journal of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine24, (2016), 251–77.

18. See ‘the hogs were clamped at the temples with big metallic tongs which were hooked up to an electric current (125 volts). As soon as the hogs were clamped by the tongs, they fell unconscious, stiffened, then after a few seconds they were shaken by convulsions in the same way as our experimental dogs’, Cerletti, op. cit. (note 13), 92.

19. Accornero Ferdinando, ‘An Eyewitness Account of the Discovery of Electroshock’, Convulsive Therapy, 4 (1988), 4049: 44.

20. David Impastato, ‘The Story of the First Electroshock Treatment’, American Journal of Psychiatry, 116 (1960), 1113–4; Accornero, op. cit. (note 19), Richard Abrams, ‘Interview with Lothar Kalinowsky, M.D.’, Convulsive Therapy, 4 (1988), 24–39: 30; Shorter and Healy, op. cit. (note 3), 37–43.

21. Abrams, op. cit. (note 20), 30.

22. See Susan Lederer, Subjected to Science: Human Experimentation in America before the Second World War (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).

23. Archivio Ministerio dell’Industria del Commercio e dell’Artigiabato, Ufficio Italiano Brevetti e Marchi, serie Invenzioni: ‘Apparecchio per applicazioni elettriche’/Numero fascicolo, 369–762.

24. Müller Max, Erinnerungen: Erlebte Psychiatriegeschichte 1920–1960 (Berlin: Springer, 1982), 246.

25. Müller, op. cit. (note 24), 246; the guestbook of the mental hospital Münsingen documents Kalinowsky’s visit on 6 May 1938; in the Berne archives estate of Max Müller, there is the letter by Lothar B. Kalinowsky to Max Müller dated 19 March 1939–the authors thank Urs Germann for this suggestion; see further: Lara Rzesnitzek, ‘Lothar B. Kalinowsky und die Einführung der Elektrokrampftherapie in Europa, op. cit. (note 11); Lara Rzesnitzek, ‘ “A Berlin Psychiatrist with an American Passport”: Lothar Kalinowsky, Electroconvulsive Therapy and International Exchange in the Mid-Twentieth Century’, History of Psychiatry, 26 (2015), 433–51.

26. Oscar Luis Forel, ‘L’Électrochoc en psychiatrie’, Annales Médico-PsychologiquesXV série, 99 année (1941), 32–40.

27. Müller, op. cit. (note 24), 247.

28. Lucio Bini, ‘Der durch elektrischen Strom erzeugte Krampfanfall’, in Knud Winther and Knud H. Krabbe (eds), III Congrès Neurologique International, Copenhague 21–25 Août 1939, Comptes Rendus des Séances (Copenhagen: Einar Munksgaard, 1939), 706–8; Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini, ‘Der Elektroschock in der Neurologie’, in op. cit. (note 28), 709.

29. See further: Rzesnitzek and Lang, op. cit. (note 17), 259–60.

30. Kragh Jesper Vaczy, ‘The Origins of Electroconvulsive Therapy in Denmark’, Journal of ECT, 25 (2009), 270273.

31. See Birgit Braun and Johannes Kornhuber, ‘Adolf Abraham Gustav Bingel (1901–1982): Pionier der Elektrokonvuslionsbehandlung in Deutschland’, Fortschritte der Neurologie und Psychiatrie, 81 (2013), 586–91.

32. Pätzold completed his post-doctoral qualification (Habilitation) in 1940 with this subject. He had been employed as a developmental engineer since 1930, and between 1943 and 1945 was head of the entire technical development of SRW.

33. Memo Pätzold dated 6 December 1939; patent department SRW-Erlangen to Bini, 9 December 1939, Siemens MedArchives intermediate archive (SMAZ), Electric-Medical Laboratory (E-Lab), technical development, direct current and low frequency applications (electroshock) [unsigned, abbreviated E1 in the following].

34. Report by SRW-Erlangen about a trip to Munich on 7 and 8 October 1941, 10 October 1941, SMAZ, E-Lab, E1; it fits that it is only from March 1941 that usage of electroshock therapy can be proven in the medical files of the Munich clinic, compare Heintz, op. cit. (note 11), 31.

35. Anton Bingel and Friedrich Meggendorfer, ‘Über die ersten deutschen Versuche einer Elektrokrampfbehandlung der Geisteskrankheiten’, Psychiatrisch-Neurologische Wochenschrift, 42 (1940), 41–43.

36. Matthias Hamann-Roth, Die Einführung der Insulinschocktherapie im Deutschen Reich 1935 bis 1937: Studien zur Geschichte der Medizin im Nationalsozialismus Band 2 (Wetzlar: GWAB, 2000); Rzesnitzek, ‘Schocktherapien’, op. cit. (note 11).

37. Matthias M. Weber, ‘Ernst Rüdin, 1874–1952: A German Psychiatrist and Geneticist’, American Journal of Medical Genetics, 67 (1996), 323–31; Volker Roelcke, ‘Ernst Rüdin: Renomierter Wissenschaftler, radikaler Rassenhygieniker’, Nervenarzt, 83 (2012), 303–310. Jay Joseph and Norbert A. Wetzel, ‘Ernst Rüdin: Hitler’s Racial Hygiene Mastermind’, Journal of the History of Biology, 46 (2013), 1–30; see also: Robert Proctor, Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988).

38. Johannes Pätzold, ‘Das Gerät zur Elektrokrampferzeugung und seine physikalischen Grundlagen’, Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift, 42 (1940), 1157–1160; see further on the patent issues: Rzesnitzek and Lang, op. cit. (note 17), 260–2.

39. Flemming Gerald, Golla Frederick and Walter Grey, ‘Electric-Convulsion Therapy of Schizophrenia’, Lancet, 234 (1939), 13531355.

40. Wolfgang Holzer, ‘Über die Methodik der Elektroschocktherapie’, Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie, 118 (1941), 357–379; Wolfgang Holzer, ‘Über eine Entwicklungsreihe von Elektroschockgeräten’, Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie, 121 (1942), 124–40.

41. W[olfgang] Holzer, A[nna] Klaue, H[erbert] Reisner, ‘Erfahrungen mit der Elektroschocktherapie’, Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie, 120 (1942), 119–45: 121.

42. Buchner Otto, ‘Erfahrungen bei über 1500 Elektroschockfällen’, Psychiatrisch-Neurologische Wochenschrift, 44 (1942), 97100.

43. Buchner Otto, Systematische Arbeits- und Beschäftigungstherapie (Vienna and Leipzig: Gerold, 1937).

44. Compilation of protective rights ‘concerning electrical animal anaesthesia and to which we are entitled’, 1 November 1938, SMAZ, E-Lab, technical development, direct current and low frequency use (anaesthesia apparatuses for big animals, apparatuses for the anaesthesia of fish); see further: Rzesnitzek and Lang, op. cit. (note 17), 266–8.

45. Holzer to the SRW-Vienna, 24 September 1941, SMAZ, E-Lab, electro shock 1940–1941 [unsigned, abbreviated E2 in the following].

46. Anton v[on] Braunmühl, ‘Der Elektrokrampf in der Psychiatrie’, Münchner Medizinische Wochenschrift, 87 (1940), 511–4; Anton v[on] Braunmühl, ‘Über mobile Elektrodentechnik bei der Elektrokrampftherapie’, Archiv für Psychiatrie, 114 (1942), 605–610. From an aristocratic Catholic family, Braunmühl was never a member of the NSDAP. In 1946, the American Military Government gave him the directorship of Eglfing-Haar and in 1947 an honorary professorship for medicine in Munich (UAM E II 980, university archive LMU Munich).

47. Holzer Wolfgang, Physikalische Medizin in Diagnostik und Therapie (Vienna: Wilhelm Maudrich, 1940). University archive Vienna, Med. Dekanat 1945/46, GZ 115. After the war, Holzer was awarded the professorship and direction of the psychiatric university hospital in Graz.

48. BArch R 96 I-18: ‘Vorschlag zur Gründung einer Forschungsanstalt für aktive Therapie der Nerven- und Geisteskrankheiten’ by Wolfgang Holzer and letter from Paul Nitsche to Wolfgang Holzer dated 21 September 1944.

49. SRW-Erlangen to SRW-Berlin, 18 July 1941, SMAZ, E-Lab, E1; Braunmühl to SRW-Erlangen, 9 April 1940; Pätzold to von Braunmühl, 4 April 1940, SMAZ, E-Lab, E2; memo Pätzold, 6 December 1939, SMAZ, E-Lab, E1.

50. Ewald Gottfried and Haddenbrock S[iegfried], ‘Die Elektrokrampftherapie: Ihre Grundlagen und ihre Erfolge’, Zeitschrift für die gesamte Neurologie und Psychiatrie, 174 (1942), 635669.

51. Faulstich Heinz, Hungersterben in der Psychiatrie 1914–1949 (Freiburgim Breisgau: Lambertus, 1998).

52. Friedrich Karl Kaul, Nazimordaktion T4: Ein Bericht über die erste industriemäßig durchgeführte Mordaktion des Naziregimes (Berlin: Volk und Gesundheit, 1973); B. Böhm, ‘Paul Nitsche: Reformpsychiater und Hauptakteur der NS-“Euthanasie” ’, Nervenarzt, 83 (2012), 293–302.

53. Anonymus, ‘Kurze Mitteilungen: Insulinverwendung in den Universitäts-Nervenkliniken’, Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie und ihre Grenzgebiete, 121 (1942), 188.

54. Karl Bonhoeffer, Die Geschichte der Psychiatrie in der Charité im 19. Jahrhundert[Sonderdruck aus der Zeitschrift für die gesamte Psychiatrie und Neurologie 168] (Berlin: Springer, 1940); Karl Bonhoeffer, Nervenärztliche Erfahrungen und Eindrücke (Berlin: Springer, 1941).

55. Christel Roggenbau, ‘Über die neue Behandlungsmethode der Schizophrenie nach Sakel’, Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift, 65, 33 (1939), 1297–9.

56. Hamann-Roth, op. cit. (note 36); Rzesnitzek, ‘Schocktherapien’, op. cit. (note 11).

57. Klaus Jürgen Neumärker K.-J., Karl Bonhoeffer: Leben und Werk eines deutschen Psychiaters und Neurologen in seiner Zeit (Leipzig: Hirzel, 1990).

58. Henneberg, ‘Sitzungsbericht der Berliner Gesellschaft für Psychiatrie und Neurologie, Sitzung vom 9. Juni 1941, Bericht über Erfahrungen mit der Elektrokrampfbehandlung bei Psychosen’, Klinische Wochenschrift, 20 (1941), 967.

59. Pätzold to SRW-Berlin dated 25 June 1941, SMAZ, E-Lab, E2.

60. ‘Denkschrift “Gedanken und Anregungen betr. die künftige Entwicklung der Psychiatrie” (1943) according to the agreement between professor Rüdin/Munich, Professor de Crinis/Berlin, Professor Schneider/Heidelberg, Professor Heinze/Görden, Prof. Nische/Berlin’, BArch R 96 I-9, printed in: Franz-Werner Kersting and Hans-Walter Schmuhl (eds), Quellen zur Geschichte der Anstaltspsychiatrie in Westfalen, Bd. 2, 1914–1955 (Paderborn: Schöningh, 2004), 619–25.

61. Ernst Rüdin, ‘Eröffnungsansprache der Tagung der Gesellschaft Deutscher Neurologen und Psychiater am 26.03.1939’, Zentralblatt für die gesamte Neurologie und Psychiatrie, 167 (1939), 1–3.

62. BArch R 96 I–11; compare: Hans Walter Schmuhl, Die Gesellschaft Deutscher Neurologen und Psychiater im Nationalsozialismus (Berlin: Springer, 2016).

63. See Faulstich, op. cit. (note 51).

64. IWF film Archive, C426, ‘Elektroschock’ (publ. 1943, produced in 1941–1942); see further: Ulf Schmidt, Medical Films, Ethics and Euthanasia in Nazi Germany: The History of Medical Research and Teaching Films of the Reich Office for Educational Films/Reich Institute for Films in Science and Education, 1933–1945 (Husum: Matthiesen, 2002).

65. Stolze Heinrich, ‘Die technische Durchführung der Elektrokrampfbehandlung mit dem Konvulsator von Siemens’, Psychiatrisch-Neurologische Wochenschrift, 45 (1943), 100103.

66. After the order of seven Konvulsatoren was delayed, the final order to SRW was corrected to a total of 88 devices (list of ordered Siemens Konvulsatoren, 6 April 1943; Hegener to SRW-Berlin, 9 April 1943, BArch, R 96 I-12). Until the end of 1942, besides the Austrian cities of Linz, Salzburg, Graz and Innsbruck, only some Bavarian hospitals and the mental institutions in Berlin, and three hospitals in Württemberg: Tübingen, Weinsberg and Göppingen, had been equipped with electroshock devices; compare BArch, R 96 I-12, page 50–51.

67. See production statistics, Siemens MedArchives (SMA) 289.

68. BArch R 96 I-12, p. 12.

69. Ibid., p. 9.

70. BArch R 96 I-12, p. 15.

71. Heuyer [Georges], Bour and Feld, ‘Électro-choc chez des adolescents’, Annales Médico-Psychologiques, 100 (1942), 75–84.

72. Marcel Lapipe and Jean Rondepierre, ‘Essais d’un appareil français pour l’électro-choc’, Annales Médico-Psychologiques, 99 (1941), 87–95: 94; Bueltzingsloewen, op. cit. (note 11) even claims that it was the Germans who first used electroshock therapy on French territory: in the summer of 1940 in the neuropsychiatric department, the military had started treating their soldiers at Sainte Anne. Concrete clues cannot be found either for this effort or for the assumption that a Konvulsator had been given beforehand to the hospital or the responsible medical unit. Moreover, the psychiatrist responsible for this unit, Reinhard Formanek, coming from the Munich Research Institute for Psychiatry, had hardly any experience with this method as the Institute, if of one believes the medical files of its clinical unit, did not attempt electroshock therapy in 1939 or 1940.

73. Isabelle von Bueltzingsloewen, L’Hécatombe des fous: La Famine dans les hôpitaux psychiatriques français sous l’Occupation (Paris: Aubier, 2007).

74. Götz Aly, ‘Der saubere und der schmutzige Fortschritt’, in Beiträge zur nationalsozialistischen Gesundheits- und Sozialpolitik (Berlin: Rotbuch, 1985), 9–78: 50; Matthias Hamann, ‘Schockverfahren im Nationalsozialismus: Ein Arbeitsbericht’, Manuskript der Herbsttagung des Arbeitskreises zur Erforschung der Geschichte der ‘Euthanasie’ und Zwangssterilisation vom 27–29 Oktober in Grafeneck und Münsingen, 1995, 65–71; Gerrit Hohendorf, ‘Die “Schocktherapieverfahren” und die Organisationszentrale der nationalsozialistischen “Euthanasie” in der Berliner Tiergartenstraße 4, 1939–1945’, in Schmuhl and Roelcke, op. cit. (note 5): 287–307: 305.

75. Robert Poitrot, Rapport sur la destinée de l’Assistance Psychiatrique en Allemagne du Sud-Ouest pendant le Régime National-Socialiste (Imprimerie Nationale: Tübingen, 1945), author’s translation. In Zwiefalten, for example, and according to the annual reports, the apparatus arrived in 1946. The authors thank Bernd Reichelt for drawing their attention to this.

76. Van den Bussche, op. cit. (note 11), 151–3.

77. SRW’s statistics on the delivery of medical technology prove that about 230 Konvulsatoren had been delivered by January 1944 (Pätzold to SRW-Berlin dated 7 January 1944, SMAZ, E-Lab, electroshock from 1942) and more than another 86 Konvulsatoren during 1944 (X-ray and electromedical products, undated statistic for 1944 that lists desired value and built value, SMA 294). Because of the war, the delivery must have concerned the German Reich and occupied territories.

78. Ernst Klee, Das Personenlexikon zum Dritten Reich: Wer war was vor und nach 1945 (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer, 4. Aktualisierte Auflage 2013), 515.

79. Letter of Runckel to Nitsche 30 June 1944, cited in Faulstich, op. cit. (note 51), 652.

80. Anton von Braunmühl, ‘Fünf Jahre Shock- und Krampfbehandlung in Eglfing-Haar’, Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten, 114 (1941), 410–40.

81. See Linden’s statement on the unblocking of insulin (as far as available) for psychiatric shock therapy, dated 31 January 1944, ABezObb (Archive Bezirk Oberbayern) 609.

82. Faulstich, op. cit. (note 51), 653.

83. Rosemarie Schöne and Dieter Schöne, ‘Zur Entwicklung und klinischen Anwendung neuer somatischer Therapiemethoden der Psychiatrie in den 30er Jahren des 20. Jahrhunderts unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Schocktherapien und deren Nutzung in den deutschen Heil- und Pflegeanstalten’ (Dissertation zur Erlangung des akademischen Grades Dr med. Leipzig, 1987), 76.

84. Krumpolt, op. cit. (note 11), 63.

85. Eglfing-Haar is not the rule but rather the exception, and therefore offers only limited utility in portraying the ‘the history of everyday life’ (Alltagsgeschichte) of a psychiatric hospital or asylum until the end of National Socialism, compare: Bernhard Richarz, Heilen, Pflegen, Töten: Zur Alltagsgeschichte einer Heil- und Pflegeanstalt bis zum Ende des Nationalsozialismus (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1987).

86. Van den Bussche, op. cit. (note 11), 156.

87. Cited by: Braun and Kornhuber, op. cit. (note 31). Source: Archive of the Hospital of the Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg, historical stock of the psychiatric university hospital, admission number: 308/204; 447/354, author’s translation. The procedure for asking the patient or the family for consent to the treatment, differed between clinics; this can also be shown for the period after the Second World War up to the 60s, see Rzesnitzek, “‘Schocktherapien” und Psychochirurgie in der frühen DDR’, Nervenarzt, 86 (2015), 1412–19.

88. Rzesnitzek, ‘Schocktherapien’, op. cit. (note 11).

89. See SRW-Erlangen to SRW-Berlin dated 24 June1943, SMAZ, E-Lab, E3.

90. Van den Bussche, op. cit., (note 11), 164.

91. Internal Memo branch Mannheim dated 16 July 1942, SMAZ, E-Lab, E3.

92. BArch R 96 I-4; Gerrit Hohendorf and Maike Rotzoll, ‘Medical research and National Socialist euthanasia: Carl Schneider and the Heidelberg research children from 1942 until 1945’, in Sheldon Rubenfeld and Susan Benedict (eds), Human Subjects Research after the Holocaust (Cham, Switzerland: Springer International, 2004), 127–38.

93. Pätzold to branch office Mannheim dated 4 September 1942, SMAZ, E-Lab, E3.

94. Sascha Lang, ‘Röntgenozid’ [X-ray Genocide] (dissertation in preparation: University of Bielefeld) .

95. Department for technical development to SRW-Berlin dated 30 October 1942, SMAZ, E-Lab, E3.

96. BArch R 96 I-4, final report by Schneider of 24 January 1944.

97. Adolf Bingel, ‘Über die psychischen und chirurgischen Komplikationen der Elektrokrampftherapie’, Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie, 115 (1940), 325–43: 342.

98. Fritz Schmieder, ‘Zur Häufigkeit und Bedeutung der Wirbelsäulenschädigungen bei den Krampf- und Schockverfahren’, Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie, 121 (1943), 141–180.

99. H. A. Palmer, ‘Vertebral Fractures Complicating Convulsion Therapy’, Lancet, 234 (1939), 181–2; A. E. Bennett, ‘Preventing Traumatic Complications in Convulsive Therapy’, Journal of the American Medical Association, 114 (1940), 322–4.

100. E[rnst-]A[dolf] Schmorl, ‘Beobachtungen über die Einwirkung der Cardiazol-Krampfbehandlung’, Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Psychiatrie, 108 (1938), 328–42.

101. BArch R 96 I-4.

102. Schmieder to Pätzold dated 27 November 1942, SMAZ, E-Lab, E3.

103. Pätzold to Schmieder dated 25 May 1943; Pätzold to Schmieder dated 18 October 1944, SMAZ, E-Lab, E3.

104. See Meggendorfer to Nitsche, 5 January 1943, National Archives at College Park, RG 549, Records of US Army Europe, Judge Advocate Division, War Crimes Branch, Records relating to Medical Experiments, Entry-Number AI 2217, Box 3, page 125157f.

105. Zenon Drohocki, byly wiezien obozu koncentracyjnego Oswiecim-Brzezinka-Monowice nr 169779, ‘Wstrzasy elektryczne w rewirze monowickim’ [prisoner of the concentration camp Oswiecim-Brzezinka-Monowice number169779, ‘Electroshocks in the Area of Monowitz’], Przeglad Lekarski, 32 (1975), 162–6: 162–4 (for the translation of the article the authors thank Cornelius Borck/Artur Zipf; see also Borck, op. cit. (note 15), 257-62.

106. Christian Dirks. ‘Die Verbrechen der anderen’: Auschwitz und der Auschwitz-Prozess der DDR: Das Verfahren gegen den KZ-Arzt Dr. Horst Fischer (Paderborn: Schöningh: Paderborn, 2005), ch. 3.4, 134. On Drohocki’s research activity, see n. 268.

107. Drohocki, op. cit. (note 105), 162.

108. Drohocki, op. cit. (note 105), 165.

109. Dirks, op. cit. (note 106), 136; Drohocki, op. cit. (note 105), 163f.

110. Dirks, op. cit. (note 106), 137.

111. Drohocki, op. cit. (note 105), 165.

112. Dirks, op. cit. (note 106), 137.

113. Personal record Dr Horst Fischer dated 14 August 1965, cited Dirks, op. cit. (note 106), 137.

114. See Drohocki, op. cit. (note 105), 164–6; Dirks, op. cit. (note 106), 140–1.

115. Gerhard Fürstler and Peter Malina, ‘Ich tat nur meinen Dienst’: Zur Geschichte der Krankenpflege in Österreich in der NS-Zeit (Vienna: Facultas, 2004). Gelny also used others methods for killing.

116. Angela Danbauer, ‘Die Heil und Pflegeanstalt Gugging während der NS-Zeit’ (Dissertation: University of Vienna, 2012).

117. Michaela Gaunerstorfer, ‘Die psychiatrische Heil- und Pflegeanstalt Mauer-Öhling 1938–45’ (Dissertation: University of Vienna, 1989).

118. BArch R 96 I-18, Letter from Gelny to Nitsche dated 7 February 1944. Henry Friedlander, The Origins of Nazi Genocide: From Euthanasia to the Final Solution. (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 160.

119. Götz Aly, ‘ “Aktion Brandt”: Bombenkrieg, Bettenbedarf und “Euthanasie” ’, in Aly (ed.), op. cit. (note 5), 168–82: 172.

120. Heinz W. Arnberger, Dokumentationsarchiv des Österreichischen Widerstandes, Widerstand und Verfolgung in Niederösterreich 1934–1945 (Vienna: Österr. Bundesverlag, 1987), 656.

121. BArch R 96 I 18: Letter by Nitsche to Brandt dated 24 August 1944.

122. Report Dr Elisabeth V., dated 9 August 1945, Eichberg Trial, cited in: Michael Burleigh, Death and Deliverance: Euthanasia in Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 262.

123. Peter Sandner, Verwaltung des Krankenmordes. Der Bezirksverband Nassau im Nationalsozialismus.Historische Schriftenreihe des Landeswohlfahrtsverbandes Hessen. Hochschulschriften, 2 (Gießen: Psychosozial, 2003).

124. Expert opinion by Dr Wolfgang Holzer, ‘personally submitted on 23 August 1946’ Court A1-VgVr-criminal files: Vg 8eVr681/1955, in it: Vg 8a Vr 455/46), see Fürstler and Malina, op. cit. (note 119); see further: Rzesnitzek and Lang op. cit. (note 17), 270.

125. Czech, op. cit. (note 5), 112: ‘Holzer was in contact with the medical director of the T4 program, Professor Paul Nitsche, to promote his device and his plans for a research institute…. In a planning document submitted to the T4, he cited the window of opportunity opened by the ongoing euthanasia killings as the main motive for his project’; Hubensdorf, op. cit. (note 5), 375–8.

126. As Czech, op. cit. (note 5), 112 suggests.

127. Holzer, op. cit. (note 48), 10.

The authors thank the Unternehmensarchiv für Medizintechnik (Corporate Archives for Medical Technology) of Siemens AG (Siemens MedArchives) for access to files, support during research work and consent for printing the images. Several colleagues supported the research: among them, especially, Bernd Reichelt (ZfP Südwürttemberg, Zwiefalten), Michal Caire (Hôpital Maison Blanche Paris), Isabelle von Bueltzingsloewen (Université Lyon 2) and Eberhard Gabriel (Vienna). Nicolas Henckes (CERMES Paris) gave a very helpful critique. The research was done and the paper written thanks to the funding of the corresponding author’s post at the Institute for the History of Medicine at the Charité by the DFG-project ‘early psychosis’.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Medical History
  • ISSN: 0025-7273
  • EISSN: 2048-8343
  • URL: /core/journals/medical-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 89
Total number of PDF views: 113 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 896 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 21st December 2016 - 22nd November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.