Göring, Matthias Heinrich (1879-1945)

views updated


Matthias Heinrich Göring, a German physician, psychiatrist, and Nazi, was born on April 5, 1879, in Düsseldorf, Germany and died in 1945 in captivity in Poznan, Poland.

He earned a doctorate in law at Freiburg/Breisgau in 1900 and a doctorate in medicine at Bonn in 1907. Specializing in psychiatry and neurology, in 1923 Göring set up practice as a Nervenarzt in Elberfeld and subsequently underwent a training analysis with Adlerian Leonhard Seif in Münich. In 1928 he established an educational counseling service in Elberfeld and in 1929 founded a study group of psychotherapy in Wuppertal.

Like fellow Adlerians Seif and Fritz Künkel, Göring placed an emphasis upon "community feeling," to which he added German patriotism and Christian pietism. He was therefore critical of psychoanalysis for its alleged materialism and pansexualism.

Göring's significance in the history of psychoanalysis stems from his career after 1933. His position as leader of organized psychotherapy in Nazi Germany stemmed from the fact that he was an elder cousin of Nazi boss Hermann Göring. In part to protect the fledgling institution of psychotherapy against Nazi medical activists and university psychiatrists, Göring (who joined the Nazi party in 1933) preached against "Jewish" psychoanalysis and supervised the exclusion of Jewish psychoanalysts from his society and institute.

In 1934 Göring assumed leadership of the German General Medical Society for Psychotherapy and from 1936 to 1945 was director of the German Institute for Psychological Research and Psychotherapy in Berlin. In 1938 he presided over the destruction of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute and the dissolution of the German Psychoanalytic Society, although also protecting and employing psychoanalysts August Aichhorn, Felix Boehm, and Carl Müller-Braunschweig.

At the German Institute for Psychological Research and Psychotherapy in Berlin and at branches elsewhere in Germany and in Vienna, however, non-Jewish psychoanalysts continued to practice, study, and train. Göring himself allegedly expressed appreciation for the expertise of the Freudians, who were especially active within the Berlin outpatient clinic. Göring's wife Erna was in analysis with Werner Kemper and his son Ernst underwent a training analysis with Carl Müller-Braunschweig. Outpatient director and psychoanalyst John Rittmeister, however, fell victim to charges of espionage and was executed by the Nazis in 1943.

The legacy for psychoanalysts in Germany of the institutionalization of psychotherapy that Göring occasioned during the Third Reich has been one of both professional advancement and internecine ethical debate.

Geoffrey Cocks

See also: AllgemeineÄrztliche Gesellschaft für Psychotherapie; Berliner Psychoanalytische Poliklinik; Deutsches Institut für Psychologische Forschung und Psychotherapie (Institut Göring); France; Germany; Psychopathologie de l'échec (Psychopathology of Failure).


Cocks, Geoffrey. (1985). Psychotherapy in the Third Reich: The Göring Institute (2nd ed). New York: Oxford University Press.

Lockot, Regine. (1985) Erinnern und Durcharbeiten : zur Geschichte der Psychoanalyse und Psychotherapie im Nationalsozialismus. Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer.

. (1994). Die Reinigung der Psychoanalyse : die deutsche psychoanalytische Gesellschaft im Spiegel von Dokumenten und Zeitzeugen (1933-1951). Tübingen: Diskord.