Boehm, Felix Julius (1881-1958)

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German physician, a specialist in neurological and mood disorders, psychoanalyst and president of the German Psychoanalytic Association (DPG), Felix Boehm was born in Riga on June 25, 1881, and died in Berlin on September 20, 1958. Remembered more as a practical psychotherapist than as a theorist, Boehm was an "Aryan" member of the psychoanalytic community during the Nazi era.

Boehm's father, Paul, was an industrialist originally from Fürstenwalde; his mother, Luise, née Zelm, was the daughter of merchants. His brother, Paul Boehm (1879-1951) took over his father's business, while Edgar Boehm (1889-1922) became an architect in Berlin. All three brothers were associated with the "Rubonia Clique," a group of Baltic Germans, and so became acquainted with Alfred Rosenberg, who would become the principal ideologist of National Socialism and was ultimately sentenced to death at Nuremberg.

Boehm studied engineering in Munich before pursuing medical studies in Geneva, Freiburg im Breisgau, and Munich. Among his teachers were F. von Müller, Emil Kraepelin, and Ernst Cassirer. He was analyzed by a Polish student of Freud, Eugenia Sokolnicka, and became a member of the Munich regional group of the International Psychoanalytical Association in 1913. In 1914 he married B. E. Welsch, with whom he had three children. Enlisting as volunteer doctor during the First World War, he was promoted to chief physician and served as a psychiatric expert in a war tribunal held in Germersheim.

In 1919 Boehm settled in Berlin and began an analysis with Karl Abraham, taking a doctorate in 1922, with a thesis on "Two Cases of Delirium by Arteriosclerosis." He taught at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute from 1923 to 1933, set up scholarships at the Institute, and collaborated with the newly founded Berlin Psychoanalytic Polyclinic. Boehm placed his daughters into a prophylactic psychoanalysis with Melanie Klein. In 1928 he began studies in ethnology and worked with Eckhard von Sydow, a philosopher and art historian.

After Hitler's accession to power and the Nazis' immediate efforts to discredit psychoanalysis, Max Eitington resigned as president of the DPG and Boehm, viewed by Freud as "so-so," took his place. Viewing his role as "savior of psychoanalysis," he served as president of the DPG from 1933 to 1936 and as director of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute. He advocated harsher racial laws and expelled Jews from the DPG in December 1935. The next year Boehm was appointed to the administrative board of the German Reich's Institute for Psychological Research and Psychotherapy (Göringinstitut); however, despite his cooperation with the National Socialist authorities, he was no longer allowed to conduct didactic analyses.

Beginning in 1939, Boehm directed a research team that investigated homosexuality, always one of his main interests, and undertook a follow-up study of the institute's polyclinic patients. From 1941 to 1945, as health officer and expert in service to the Wehrmacht, Boehm took part in sentencing to death "malingerers," deserters, and homosexuals.

After the war, in 1947 Boehm was one of the founders of the Institut für Psychotherapie, and in 1949 he was appointed director of instruction and training policy for educational psychology. In 1950 Boehm became president of the reconstituted DPG which, to his considerable disappointment, was refused admission to the International Psychoanalytic Association.

Regine Lockot

See also: Berliner Psychoanalytiche Poliklinik; Berliner Psychoanalytisches Institut; Deutsches Institut für Psychologische Forschung und Psychotherapie (Institut Göring); Germany; Phallic woman.


Bibring, Grete. (Ed.). (1951). Report on the 17th International Psychoanalytical Congress. International Journal of Psychoanalysis, 33, 249-251.

Boehm, Felix. (1978). Schriften zur Psychoanalye. Munich: Ölschläger.

Cocks, Geoffrey. (1985). Psychotherapy in the Third Reich: The Göring Institute. New York: Oxford University Press.