VWI goes to the Sigmund Freud Museum

Ferenc ERŐS: From War Neurosis to Holocaust Trauma

Wednesday, 15 June 2016 6.00 pm

Sigmund Freud Museum, Berggasse 19 1090 Wien

In this presentation a historical and critical survey of the contribution of psychoanalysis to our contemporary understanding of the trauma of the Holocaust will be outlined. The theme of mass traumatization effects goes back to the use of psychiatric knowledge and procedures during WWI. As part of the war machine, psychiatry had special functions in the mobilization of the masses as well as in the treatment of soldiers who suffered shell shock, traumatic neurosis or war neurosis. The treatments often utilized brutal, punitive methods such as electric shocks. Based on archival sources, and on the correspondence between Freud and Ferenczi, the application of these methods will be illustrated. The majority of army doctors regarded war neurosis as a character deficiency, a sign of a “feminine” character. It was believed that male hysteria may also infect “healthy” soldiers, destroying their will, patriotism and heroism. On the other hand, psychoanalysts emphasized the importance of understanding the patient’s symptoms. The psychoanalytic approach to war neurosis anticipated later debates on the nature of individual and collective psychic traumata, including the Holocaust trauma.

Comments by Verena PAWLOWSKY

Ferenc Erős is Senior Visiting Fellow at the VWI. Ferenc Erős, studied psychology and literature at the ELTE University in Budapest, and graduated in 1969. He obtained his PhD in 1986, and was awarded the title Doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (DSc) since 2002. Currently he is professor emeritus at the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Pécs. The focus of his present research includes Jewish identity, the social and cultural history of psychoanalysis in Central Europe, psychoanalytic theory and its application to social issues and the problem of trauma and cultural memory. He is the author of several books and articles in his areas of research.

Verena Pawlowsky is a historian involved in research and teaching in addition to being widely published. Research projects include the history of welfare, of disabled veterans of WWI, of confiscated property during the Nazi era and resultant compensation after 1945 as well as the history of institutions during the Nazi era. Her most recent publications include: Die Wunden des Staates. Kriegsopfer und Sozialstaat in Österreich 1914–1938 (2015) [with Harald Wendelin]; and Die Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien im Nationalsozialismus. Lehrende, Studierende und Verwaltungspersonal (2015). For additional information refer to www.forschungsbuero.at.


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