An association with a long tradition

Historical development of the DGPPN

In Germany the development of psychiatry as a separate scientific field and independent speciality is closely linked with the history of the DGPPN and of psychiatric journals.

The term „Psychiatrie“ („psychiatry“) can be traced back to the doctor Johann Christian Reil (1759 to 1813) from Halle, Germany. The first documented efforts to establish an organisation of psychiatrists in Germany can be found in an 1827 memorandum from Joseph Ennemoser (Bonn) and Wilhelm Ruer (Marburg) that called for the formation of an association to improve practical mental health care. This initiative was unsuccessful – among other reasons because psychiatry was still not represented in many medical faculties (the first chair for psychiatry was established in Leipzig in 1811)

Psychiatrists join forces

The „Pro Memoria to Germany’s Mad-Doctors“ (1841) by Heinrich Damerow, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Asylum in Halle, can be considered to be the „constitution deed“ of today’s DGPPN. The year 1842 is considered to be the actual year that the association was established. In 1844 the first issue of the „General Journal of Psychiatry and Mental-Legal Medicine“ appeared, under the editorship of Heinrich Damerow (Halle), Carl Friedrich Flemming (Schwerin) and Christian Friedrich Wilhelm Roller (Achern). The editors and contributors of the issue saw themselves as members of a not yet constituted „Association of Germany’s Mad-Doctors“. 

A Psychiatry Section was established for the first time at the 1846 meeting in Kiel of the „Association of German Natural Scientists and Doctors“, which had been founded in 1822, and the first independent congress for psychiatrists was held in Eisenach in 1860. The association received its first statutes in 1864 and thereafter called itself the „Verein der Deutschen Irrenärzte“ („Association of German Mad-Doctors“); Carl Friedrich Flemming (Schwerin) was appointed as its first president. In 1903 the association was given the name „Deutscher Verein für Psychiatrie (DVP)“ („German Association for Psychiatry“).

Until the First World War the DVP listed 550 members. On the initiative of Emil Kraepelin (Munich), who was head of the association from 1906 until 1920, a research institute for psychiatry was established in Munich in 1917. After the end of the First World War the first Annual General Meeting was held in 1920 in Hamburg. At that meeting, Karl Bonhoeffer (Berlin) was elected President, a position he held intermittently through re-election until 1934. 

Era of National Socialism 

After the National Socialists took over power, the DVP was joined and „forcibly coordinated“ with the „Gesellschaft Deutscher Nervenärzte“ („Association of German Neurologists“) to form the „Gesellschaft Deutscher Neurologen und Psychiater“ (GDNP, „Association of German Neurologists and Psychiatrists“), which was led by Ernst Rüdin until 1945. This period was the darkest in German psychiatry: psychiatrists declared as „Jewish“ or „socialist“ were no longer able to work and forced to emigrate. The vast majority of those who remained in Germany were deported to concentration or extermination camps. Psychiatrists (including Ernst Rüdin) played a decisive role in the forced sterilisation of more than 360,000 mostly mentally ill people. The financial resources for the committal and treatment of people with chronic mental illness were severely reduced. Between 1939 and 1945 – again with significant participation by psychiatrists, including professors and hospital directors – at least 400,000 mentally ill and disabled people were classified as „life unworthy of life“ and became victims of the systematic killing of ill people („euthanasia“).

Reorganisation after 1945

In the post-1945 period of reconstruction there was a shortage of young talent. In September 1947, Ernst Kretschmer (Tübingen) organised a congress for neurologists and psychiatrists in Tübingen and one year later the „Annual Meeting of German Neurologists and Psychiatrists“ was held in Marburg. The GDNP was re-established and Kretschmar was appointed as the stopgap president. In accordance with its new statutes, in 1949 the association was divided into 4 sections: psychiatry, neurology, psychotherapy and medical psychology, and neurosurgery. In 1954, at the 70th Meeting of the Southwest German Neurologists, the „Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychiatrie und Neurologie„ (DGPN, „German Association for Psychiatry and Neurology“) was established as the successor organisation of the DVP.

In the former GDR the „Gesellschaft für Psychiatrie und Nervenheilkunde in der DDR“ („Association for Psychiatry in the GDR“), which had been formed from the „Psychiatry Section“ of the „Gesellschaft für Neurologie und Psychiatrie“ („Association of Neurology and Psychiatry“) in 1990 shortly before German reunification, dissolved itself in 1991. The members of the Executive Committee were co-opted by the DGPN. In 1992 the DGPN was renamed as the „Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychiatrie, Psychotherapie und Nervenheilkunde“ (DGPPN, „German Association for Psychiatry and Psychotherapy“) and in 2012 the field of psychosomatics was added to give the association its present name, the „Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, Psychosomatik und Nervenheilkunde“ (DGPPN, „German Association for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics“).

The DGPPN faces up to its past

When the DGPPN amended its statutes in 2009 it acknowledged its special responsibility resulting from the involvement of its predecessor organisations in the crimes of National Socialism, the killing of huge numbers of ill people and forced sterilisations. In 2010 it initiated a research project on the history of the „Deutscher Verein für Psychiatrie“ („German Association for Psychiatry“) and the „Gesellschaft Deutscher Neurologen und Psychiater“ („Association of German Neurologists and Psychiatrists“) at the time of National Socialism.

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