Remembrance and Resistance Day – Alliance against Torture in Psychiatry – Book review: Caring and Killing

Newsletter of 29/4/2013:

May 2nd  – International Remembrance and Resistance Day

Remembrance: The „Freedom from Fear“ tour in 1999 to visit areas where exterminations took place in prison-„hospitals“ from 1939-1949 located in different parts of Germany.
The international „Foucault Tribunal“ took place on May 2nd 1998 in Berlin.
As a reference to this event the „Remembrance and Resistance Day“ is on the 2nd of May.

This year we will again start the march with a commemoration at the Tiergartenstr. 4, the place where the mass murder was organized, giving the name to the crime „Action T4“. The march will head to the „embassy“ of the regional state of „Schleswig-Holstein“ in Berlin to protest that in this state its parliament in a first reading has accepted to discuss a law permitting forced psychiatric treatment under certain conditions. This first reading took place despite the fact that the UN-special rapporteur on torture has condemned any forced treatment in psychiatry as cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, which torture also is, and therefore no legislation can ever legalize it. Such a law is in itself a crime. One could compare it to being just as impossible as to legalize rape under certain conditions in a law.
See also below the news about the Alliance against Torture in Psychiatry.


Thomas_FothBook recommendation:
Thomas Foth – Caring and Killing
Nursing and Psychiatric Practice in Germany, 1931–1943

Book Review by Hagai Aviel:
The book depicts how the medical-psychiatric profession in Germany from the early years of the 20th century led the way to a systematic mass murder which lasted up until after the second world war 1949. What began as psychiatric diagnoses of incurable psychiatric illnesses evolved into a justification for – and the implementation of – a systematic mass murder in „the name of science“ and as a financial calculation.
The unique point of this book is the role the German „Schwester“ (nurse) played first in creating and manufacturing the psychiatric diagnosis and than in the murder process.

The first half of the book follows the chronological and methodical history of how a psychiatric diagnosis is born. I found the sub-chapter titled „The modification of the right to complain“ (p.64), where the author gives a summary of Foucault’s lectures at the Collège de France 1974-1975, extremely illuminating.

The second half follows with extreme attention to detail the documents of a psychiatric „file“ concerning Anna Maria Buller, a woman from Hamburg who was locked up in psychiatric facilities from 1931 up to her murder in 1943 in the gas chamber of the psychiatric incarceration facility in Hadamar, her death attributed to „enteritis colitis“.
The book gives minute and methodical attention to each step in the transformation and manufacturing of Buller from a human being into a psychiatric patient, and the active role played in this action by the „Schwester“.
These truly valuable and accurate observations of the author are based on the life-long suffering and murder of a person from the past although the psychiatric processes depicted here are a matter of daily routine in psychiatric facilities all over the world up to this very minute.

1. Edition 2013, 279 pages
Information about the book of the Editor: Universitätsverlag Osnabrückss
Price: 44,99 €  – pdf E-Book: 29,99 €
Thomas Foth lives in Ottawa and might be invited for seminars and lectures.


We are happy to announce, in Germany we could set up an:
Alliance against Torture in Psychiatry

On the invitation of the professor for political science, Wolf-Dieter Narr – he was the third person who was thanked for his efforts with the „Golden Flashlight“ Freedom Award (Laudatory in German here) – he could win another 8 university professors and 3 lawyers to agree to co-sign as initiators of the Alliance. Among them Manfred Nowak, the predecessor of Juan E. Méndez, should be specially mentioned!
So we could demonstrate, that the opinion that forced treatment is torture is by now solidly established in the UN Human rights section.
Since 2nd of April the Alliance has gone public via Internet. By now it has been signed by 15 organizations:
All of them demand the instant abolishment of all mental health laws legalizing forced treatment in order to achieve a torture-free Germany. The Alliance bases its demands on Page 5 of Juan E. Méndez’s speech:

„States should impose an absolute ban on all forced and non-consensual medical interventions against persons with disabilities, including the non-consensual administration of psychosurgery, electroshock and mind-altering drugs, for both long- and short- term application. The obligation to end forced psychiatric interventions based on grounds of disability is of immediate application and scarce financial resources cannot justify postponement of its implementation.“

and the following statement in his report A/HRC/22/53, article 82.:

„The prohibition of torture is one of the few absolute and non-derogable human rights, a matter of jus cogens, a peremptory norm of customary international law.“

We hope that others will also be able to form similar alliances so that it becomes known world-wide that this paradigmatic shift of the UN has turned the table.

For those who are interested in further information about why coercive psychiatry is directly linked to torture, we elaborate on that in our magazine Zwang No. 2 of 2004 with the following articles in English:zwang2

Best regards,
rene talbot
(Secretary of IAAPA)