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The first contacts between psychoanalysis and Germany occurred during the discussions and correspondence between Freud and Wilhelm Fliess at the end of the 1890s and continued through Freud's student Felix Gattel. Between 1907 and 1910 psychiatrists who formed part of the entourage of Otto Binswanger, professor of psychiatry at Jena, became familiar with the "cathartic method." They included Wolfgang Warda, Wilhelm Strohmayer, Arnold Georg Stegmann, Georg Wanke, Iwan Bloch, Arthur Muthmann, Otto Juliusburger, and Jaroslav Marcinowski.

The first systematic application of psychoanalysis in Berlin was carried out by Karl Abraham, a student of Carl Gustav Jung and Eugen Bleuler. Abraham was in close contact with Freud since 1908 and was responsible for the first meeting of the Berliner Psychoanalytische Vereinigung (Berlin Psychoanalytic Association) on August 27, 1908, which involved a group of local doctors, including Magnus Hirschfeld (a sex researcher), Iwan Bloch (dermatology, human sexuality), Otto Juliusburger (psychiatry, abstinence), and Heinrich Koerber (circle of Monists). Later its members included Max Eitingon and Mosche Wulff. In 1910 the International Psychoanalytical Association was founded on the occasion of the second international congress of psychoanalysis in Nuremberg, with the Berlin Psychoanalytic Association the leading regional group. By the end of 1911 the Berlin association had eleven members, including three women, Tatiana Rosenthal, Karen Horney, and Margarete Stegmann, the first women analysts. In June 1912 two other nonphysician women were admitted as members at large.

Since German psychiatrists resisted psychoanalysis, recognition took place through various cultural movements (sexual liberation, the emancipation of women, judicial reform, monism). At the time two psychoanalytic congresses were held in Germany: the Weimar congress on September 21, 1911 and the Munich congress on September 7, 1913. The Berlin Psychoanalytic Association underwent qualitative consolidation in an effort to set itself apart from the sexual sciences (after the exclusion of Magnus Hirschfeld in 1911) and in reaction to the defection of Carl Jung, who gave up the presidency of the International Psychoanalytical Association in 1913 and was supported by the Munich group.

Aside from its institutionalization, psychoanalysis received a welcome reception in literature (from authors Lou Andreas-Salomé, Hermann Hesse, Rainer Maria Rilke, Alfred Döblin). Indeed, the city of Frankfurt awarded Sigmund Freud the Goethe Prize in 1930. It was also well received in art (though the mediation of Otto Gros, who was part of the action group that included F. Pfemfert, F. Jung, E. Mühsam). Georg Wilhelm Pabst's film Geheimnisse einer Seele (The mysteries of a soul; 1926) was made in collaboration with Karl Abraham and Hanns Sachs.

Georg Groddeck, the "wild analyst" and the "father of psychosomatics," opened a fifteen-bed clinic in Baden-Baden. During World War I, an opportunity arose to prove the effectiveness of psychoanalysis in treating war neuroses. This had the effect of identifying the majority of analysts with the objectives of the war (with the exception of Helene Stöcker and Siegfried Bernfeld) and enabled them to maintain international scientific dialogue (for example, through the publication of the Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse). Official recognition of psychoanalysis grew, as demonstrated by the presence of government representatives from Austria, Germany, and Hungary at the 1918 Budapest congress, whose theme was the use of psychoanalysis in treating war neuroses. It was here that Sigmund Freud spoke in favor of the use of mass psychoanalysis. In 1919 the Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag (International Psychoanalytic Press) was founded in Leipzig (later in March 1936 the Nazis confiscated the firm's inventory).

The executive board of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Association appointed Max Eitingon, Ernst Simmel, and Karl Abraham on September 26, 1919, to head the Poliklinik für psychoanalytische Behandlung nervöser Krankheiten (Polyclinic for the Psychoanalytic Treatment of Mental Illnesses), which opened on February 16, 1920. Though the Berlin Psychoanalytic Association managed the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute and the polyclinic, Max Eitingon owned the physical assets and library. He financed the association with an annual fund of 16,000 Reichsmarks. Annual elections were held for the various positions (polyclinic, teaching, candidate, cash management, and subventions). The association grew through an influx of Hungarian analysts fleeing the revolution and counterrevolution, as well as the arrival of analysts from other countries, who were attracted by the freedom and liberality of the Weimar Republic and the then favorable economic situation in Germany. From 1923 the training of analysts was systematized according to guidelines established by Max Eitingon, Carl Müller-Braunschweig, and Sándor Radó and included theoretical courses, a required analysis, and supervised analyses. In 1925 analytic treatment was recognized by a new Prussian order on honoraria (PREUGO) and the German doctor's agreement (ADGO). Following the death of Karl Abraham (on December 25, 1925), Ernst Simmel became director of the association (Sándor Radó was secretary, and Karen Horney was treasurer). On April 24, 1926, the association, in compliance with the international guidelines introduced by Ernest Jones, president of the International Psychoanalytical Association, became the Deutsche psychoanalytische Gesellschaft (DPG; German Psychoanalytic Society).

Germany was host to international psychoanalytic congresses in 1922 (Berlin), 1925 (Bad Homburg), and 1932 (Wiesbaden), as well as a couple of national conferences in 1924 (Würzburg) and 1930 (Dresden). Psychoanalytic work groups were formed in Leipzig in 1919 around Karl H. Voitel (from which a second group formed in September 1922 with Therese Benedek at its head), in Frankfurt in 1926 (with members Karl Landauer and Heinrich Meng), in Stuttgart in 1930 (with members Gustav Hans Graber and Hermann Gundert), and in Hamburg in 1930 (with members Clara Happel and August Watermann).

In 1929 the Südwestdeutsche psychoanalytische Arbeitsgemeinschaft (Southwest German Psychoanalytic Work Group, with members Karl Landauer, Heinrich Meng, and Frieda Fromm-Reichmann) was formed in Frankfurt in close collaboration with the Institut für Sozialforschung (Institute for Social Research) (with members Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno). This work group sought to diffuse psychoanalysis by providing training analysis and classes on theory held at the university for candidates without any therapeutic training. A few psychoanalytic clinics were established, though they soon closed for lack of financing. There were the Therapeutikum (from 1924 to 1928, with room for fifteen patients), founded by Erich Fromm and Frieda Fromm-Reichmann in Heidelberg to create a bridge between orthodox Judaism and psychoanalysis, and the Schloss Tegel sanitorium in Berlin (from April 1927 to August 1931) for the treatment of serious neuroses, addictions, and character disturbances.

In 1928 Max Eitingon became president of Internationaler psychoanalytischer Verlag. On January 13, 1931, he was elected president of the DPG, and was assisted by Felix Boehm, Hanns Sachs, and Ernst Simmel.

On April 7, 1933, a law restoring the "office of professions" was issued by the National Socialist government, followed, on April 9, 1933, by an "Aryanization" order directed at medical organizations. On April 22, 1933, medical health insurers started excluding "non-Aryan" doctors, and psychoanalysis was attacked as a "Jewish" science. Yet many eminent non-Jewish representatives of the profession, such as Felix Boehm and Carl Müller-Braunschweig, believed, as did National Socialism itself, that psychoanalysis was an effective therapeutic practice. Many eminent leftist psychoanalysts, including Wilhelm Reich, Otto Fenichel, and Ernst Simmel, considered psychoanalysis to have a worldview opposed to National Socialism.

At the annual DPG meeting of May 6, 1933, when Boehm and Müller-Braunschweig proposed Aryanizing the presidency, most members voted against the change (eight out of fifteen, with five abstentions). On May 10, 1933, the works of Sigmund Freud, along with those of other psychoanalysts, were burned. On November 18, 1933, Boehm and Müller-Braunschweig assumed control of the society, and on December 31, 1933, Max Eitingon left Berlin.

At the annual DPG meeting held on December 1, 1935, the society, with the assistance of Ernst Jones, president of the International Psychoanalytical Association, refused to dissolve and decided to remain within the association. However, it required its Jewish members to leave the society. By 1936, 74 analysts had left Germany. Salomea Kempner, August Watermann, and Karl Landauer did not survive their incarceration by the National Socialists.

Some members of the DPG resisted the regime: Edith Jacobsohn fought with the socialist resistance group Neu Beginnen (New Beginnings). She was arrested on October 24, 1935, but managed to escape and fled to the United States. The DPG then passed a resolution that required members to abstain from politics. In February 1937 Käthe Dräger became head of the Berlin committee of the KPD-Opposition (the opposition group formed to fight the German communist party, or KPD). She wrote and distributed antifascist writings and tracts, and helped the families of comrades who had been jailed. In 1937 John Rittmeister was forced to flee Switzerland for "communist activity," and in 1941 he joined the resistance group that had formed around H. Schultze-Boysen (the Rote Kapelle, or Red Orchestra). He was arrested on September 26, 1942, and executed on May 13, 1943. Fourteen psychoanalysts remained in Germany.

Discussions between Felix Boehm (president of the DPG), Sigmund and Anna Freud, and other leading analysts gave Boehm the impression of a certain neutrality toward or even support for his and the DPG's adaptation to the National Socialist regime. But those involved did not want to further complicate matters, though they did not agree with his political views or the ideological conformism of Müller-Braunschweig. The Ministry of the Interior told Boehm that to obtain authorization to teach, he, as president of the DPG, had to fold the other psychotherapeutic organizations into the Deutsches Institut für psychologische Forschung und Psychotherapie (German Institute for Psychological Research and Psychotherapy), which was to be under National Socialist control and run by Professor Matthias Heinrich Göring.

The new institute was founded in May 1936, and Max Eitingon's assets "inventoried." This was the beginning of the development of a "German psychotherapy," an eclectic mix of different psychotherapeutic theories. The DPG was dissolved on November 19, 1938, after an aborted attempt by MüllerBraunschweig to transfer the Wiener Psychoanalytische Vereinigung (WPV; Vienna Psychoanalytic Society) and the publishing house to the German Institute for Psychological Research and Psychotherapy, within which it would become working group A.

Although Boehm and Müller-Braunschweig were officially banned from teaching and publishing, they were both important collaborators of the institute. They ran the polyclinic, and Boehm coordinated the working group on homosexuality, while MüllerBraunschweig coordinated the teaching program. The ban on the use of psychoanalytic terminology did not affect Harald Schultz-Hencke, however, who in 1933 developed a form of "neopsychoanalysis," an amalgam of current psychoanalytic teachings, by abandoning metapsychology and other essential elements of analysis.

Of the 300 members of the medical staff of the German Institute (including 17 members of the DPG/WPV), 41 were members of the Nazi party (the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei), and of the 145 members who were not doctors (25 of whom were members of the DPG/WPV), 22 were party members. Although most of the DPG members remaining in Germany had managed to adapt to the Nazi regime, only Doctor Gerhard Scheunert was a member of the Nazi party. The German Institute, by then solidly established, was recognized by the union of German workers, financed by the Luftwaffe and private insurers, and, during the war, was "assigned to the war effort." Eventually it was raised to the level of a government institute within the Reich's research council (Reichsinstitut im Reichsforschungsrat), with an annual budget of 880,000 Reichsmarks.

After the war, though participants claimed to have sought to "save psychoanalysis" by their underground presence, they faced considerable skepticism and criticism from colleagues living abroad. On October 16, 1945, the DPG was reestablished with MüllerBraunschweig as its first president, Boehm as representative, and Werner Kemper as the third member of the office staff. It had 35 ordinary members and 2 members at large, 12 of whom had been trained between 1936 and 1945. On April 29, 1946, it resumed activities (as the Berliner Psychoanalytische Gesellschaft until December 3, 1950), but the British military authorities forced the DPG to strike any mention of being a "member of the International Psychoanalytical Association." On May 9, 1947, the Institut für Psychotherapie was founded in Berlin, with teachers from a variety of psychotherapeutic backgrounds, to provide training in psychotherapy; in 1948 the institute also began training "education counselors," or Psychagogen (child and adolescent therapists).

During the first postwar International Congress of Psychoanalysis, which took place in Zurich in 1949, the confrontation between Harald Schultz-Hencke's neopsychoanalysis and the conventional Freudian position of Müller-Braunschweig reached its culmination. The DPG was provisionally admitted to the International Psychoanalytical Association, subject to the requirement that its members state their position openly.

On May 13, 1950, Müller-Braunschweig, unsuccessful in his attempts to obtain recognition from Schultz-Hencke, secretly founded the Deutsche psychoanalytische Vereinigung (DPV; German Psychoanalytic Association). The DPV was admitted to the International Psychoanalytical Association at the 1951 Amsterdam congress, but not the DPG. The DPG only succeeded in regaining membership as the IPA Executive Council Provisional Society at the IPA Congress in Nice in 2001. In 2004 the DPV was the second largest group within the International Psychoanalytical Association in terms of number of members. At the suggestion of Werner Schwidder (member of the DPG and student of Schultz-Hencke), the DPG, in 1962, joined with other neopsychoanalytic groups to form the Internationale Föderation psychoanalytischer Gesellschaften (International Federation of Psychoanalytic Societies), comprising twenty individual societies in Europe, North America, and South America.

In spite of struggles for influence between the DPG and the DPV, which were just beginning to ease, in 1949 Wilhelm Bitter founded the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychoanalyse, Psychotherapie, Psychosomatik und Tiefenpsychologie (German Society for Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy, Psychosomatics, and Depth Psychology), a professional organization incorporating the major trends in depth psychology (neopsychoanalysis, conventional Freudianism, Jungian analysis, Adlerian analysis). The member societies took turns supplying presidents. As of 2004, it had approximately 3,150 members in 45 institutes, which are recognized by the kassenärztliche Bundesvereinigung (German association of registered physicians) and German medical associations as establishments providing further education to become child and youth analytical psychotherapists. Outside Berlin, working groups and psychotherapeutic establishments were created in Munich (the successor of the German Institute for Psychological Research and Psychotherapy and the mobile psychosomatic service of Johann Cremerius), Stuttgart (the working group in 1946, and in 1948 the Institut für Psychotherapie und Tiefenpsychologie [Institute for Psychotherapy and Depth Psychology], representing the various forms of depth psychology and founded by Wilhelm Bitter, Hermann Gundert, and Felix Schottlaender), Heidelberg (the department of psychosomatics run by Alexander Mitscherlich), Bremen (the working group founded by Hildegard Buder in 1949, and an institute founded by R. W. Schulte and Franz Rudolf Haarstrick in 1951), and Göttingen (the Tiefenbrunn regional hospital, founded by G. Kühnel and W. Schwidder). Later, institutes were created in all the major cities of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Berlin institute gradually lost its importance and was overshadowed by the institute founded in Frankfurt in 1961 under the direction of Alexander Mitscherlich and associated with the university. This was the Institut und Ausbildungszentrum für Psychoanalyse und psychosomatische Medizin (Institute and Learning Center for Psychoanalysis and Psychosomatic Medicine), which was renamed the Sigmund Freud Institute in 1964.

Mitscherlich and his wife, Margarete Mitscherlich-Nielsen, not only renewed relations with the Institute of Social Research (where Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno were central figures) but also initiated a dialog with the international psychoanalytic community concerning the controversies associated with Germany's National Socialist past. Sparked by criticisms from the student movement, interest in social policies, group therapy, and family therapy grew (relevant authors include Horst-Eberhard Richter, Franz Heigl, Anneliese Heigl-Evers). The "Bernfeld Circle" (Johannes Cremerius) began to question the training and qualifications of analysts, the issue of feminism, and the various polemics surrounding psychoanalysis (Christa Rhode-Dachser).

In the German Democratic Republic, ideology interfered with the resumption of a psychoanalytic tradition, although there was relative tolerance for neopsychoanalysis. In an initial phase running from 1945 to 1949, the analysts Werner Kemper (West Berlin), Alexander Mette (Weimar), and Franz Baumeyer (Arnsdorf) were among the dozen psychiatrists responsible for training and accrediting "mental health caretakers and psychotherapists." In Leipzig, the neurologist A. Beerholdt, although he never completed his analytic coursework, was able to introduce psychoanalysis to several psychiatrists (Wendt, Starke, Behrendt, Böttcher). The only trained psychoanalyst remaining in the German Democratic Republic, Alexander Mette, left psychoanalysis to start a career in politics (he pursued an initial interest in health policies, then a university career, and eventually became a member of the chamber of deputies of the German Democratic Republic and a member of the central committee of the Socialist Unity Party). The contents of psychoanalytic discussions were determined by Harald Schultz-Hencke and his followers, Werner Schwidder, U. Derbolowsky, and G. Kühnel. Schultz-Hencke's appointment as professor at Humboldt University on September 29, 1949, led the DPG to issue a resolution forbidding members from taking posts in both East and West Germany, and Schultz-Hencke gave up his professorship. Following the creation of the German Democratic Republic on October 7, 1949, psychotherapeutic establishments were created in Jena and Leipzig.

From 1950 to 1962, while psychoanalysis was expanding in the United States and an antipsychoanalytic movement was taking place in the Soviet Union (where Freud's work represented a facet of National Socialist ideology), the trend in the German Democratic Republic turned to Pavlovianism. Associated with the therapeutic tradition of Otto Binswanger, Johannes H. Schultz, Ernst Speer, and O. Vogt, in 1951 a department of psychotherapy was opened at the medical polyclinic. There they developed a medical-materialist "rational psychotherapy" intended to replace neopsychoanalysis.

The period from 1963 to 1976, when H. Kleinsorge was president of the DPG, was characterized by greater openness in discussions of psychotherapies and in international relations. In the society a number of sections were set up, organized according to method rather than their theoretical leanings: psychodynamic therapy, group therapy, autogenic training and hypnosis, infant therapy, music therapy. Between 1976 and 1984 recognition was granted to "medical specialists in psychotherapy" and "medical psychologists" (August 1978), and individual therapy was reintroduced. Fifteen regional societies of psychotherapy were created to cover psychotherapeutic needs and the basic training of doctors, and interdisciplinary working groups were formed to further integrate psychoanalysis with the medical field. After 1985 efforts were made to institutionalize psychotherapy in the universities by creating autonomous chairs of psychotherapy and medical psychology, and psychoanalytically oriented research on the body helped to conceptualize group therapy. Access to the psychoanalytic literature was still limited, however: Freud was first published in the German Democratic Republic as late as 1983.

In September 1947, the Studiengesellschaft für praktische Psychologie (Research Society for Practical Psychology) was formed in West Germany for representatives of all the academic professions concerned with the individual. Ever since 1945, in the university exams given to psychologists, psychoanalysis appeared under "depth psychology and education counseling." After the educational reforms of 1973, it appeared in the larger field of "clinical psychology," comprising the study of testing, prevention, rehabilitation, counseling, and other areas outside the field of depth psychology.

Gradually, psychoanalysis disappeared from higher education to be taught in training institutes and the psychosomatic departments of medical schools. Nonetheless, in experimental psychology, psychoanalysis remained the most systematic and most studied psychological theory in 1977. At the beginning of the 1980s, the emphasis on the interpretation of psychoanalytic texts brought about through the influence of Jacques Lacan made its appearance in German scholarship. After 1970 medical psychology and sociology, as well as psychotherapy and psychosomatics, became required material for students of medicine and resulted in the creation of the corresponding chairs and, in some cases, university departments. In 1979 the DPG created a psychoanalysis section alongside psychotherapy, and psychoanalysis became a part of the continuing training of doctors. At the start of the 1990s, specialist medical training included fields such as "psychotherapeutic medicine," "psychiatry and psychotherapy," "psychiatry and psychotherapy of children and adolescents."

With respect to the relations between psychoanalysis and insurers, the Einheitskrankenkasse and the Rentenversicherung, in Berlin, had financed the Zentralinstitut für psychogene Erkrankungen der Versicherungsanstalt Berlin (Central Insurance Institute of Berlin for Mental Illness), founded by Werner Kemper and Harald Schultz-Hencke. By 1955 insurance reforms in Berlin had gradually done away with many of these organizations, but the Central Insurance Institute remains. Empirical follow-up work on outpatients by Franz Baumeyer and Annemarie Dührssen made legal recognition of psychotherapy possible. In 1960 the "Munich model" was instituted; this system involved the sharing of medical expenses among the government (for employees), insurers, and patients, each paying a third. In 1967 psychological and psychoanalytic therapies became covered general medical expenses for which insurers were responsible, following verification of the illness. In 1968 insurers (and in 1971 mutual insurance companies as well) started covering psychotherapy under certain conditions, and they also covered child therapies. On July 1, 1976, the medical committee and insurers modified the guidelines for analytic therapies to recognize neurosis as an illness. Psychosomatic treatment became covered from October 1, 1987. In therapy, if the symptoms are recognized, reimbursement covers 160 fifty-minute hours of treatment, with 80 to 140 additional hours possible. Psychologists who have received analytic training can provide psychoanalytic treatments. With the passing of a law regulating psychotherapists (June 16, 1998), "psychological psychotherapists" and child and youth therapists now require a license to practice medicine.

Among journals, one of the most important is Psyche, which began by focusing on depth psychology but later broadened its coverage to include cultural trends. Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse published contributions to the theory, practice, and history of psychoanalysis. Forum der Psychoanalyse and Zeitschrift für psychoanalytische Theorie und Praxis are clinical in orientation. Other journals include Praxis der Psychotherapie und Psychosomatik and Zeitschrift für psychosomatische Medizin und Psychoanalyse.

Until the end of the 1960s, the DPG and the DPV were separated by their divergent theoretical positions concerning Harald Schultz-Hencke's neopsychoanalysis. Since then, the DPG's orientation has shifted to a more international position focused on the ego and the self and on the theory of object relations. Moreover, it has generally supported the classical Freudian position. However, there has been growing interest within both the DPV and the DPG for the Kleinian position, and contacts have developed with the "Middle Group" of the British Psycho-Analytical Society. Though there are a few theoretical differences (Rudolf, 1987), there are more differences in practice. For example, in training analysis the DPV recommends four sessions, and the DPG three.

After accounts were settled over Alexander Mitscherlich's involvement with National Socialism, a reckoning that took place over a twenty-five-year period following the war, the first postwar congress of the International Psychoanalytical Association in Germany was held in Hamburg in 1985. At the congress there was a growing interest in the history of psychoanalysis, its development (Karen Brecht, Volker Friedrich, Ludger Hermanns, Dierk Juelich, Isidor Kaminer, and Regine Lockot), and its interpretation (Hermann Beland, Ermann). In 1995 and 1996 conferences between groups of German and Israeli psychoanalysts took place (H. Beland). In 1996 the first joint DPG-DPV conference was held on "the division of the psychoanalytic community in Germany and its consequences." In 1996 the two societies, the DPG and DPV, had nearly the same number of members (approximately five hundred each).