Schizophrenia Research Forum - A Catalyst for Creative Thinking
Home Profile Membership/Get Newsletter Log In Contact Us
 For Patients & Families
What's New
Recent Updates
SRF Papers
Current Papers
Search All Papers
Search Comments
Research News
Conference News
Plain English
Current Hypotheses
Idea Lab
Online Discussions
Virtual Conferences
What We Know
Animal Models
Drugs in Trials
Research Tools
Community Calendar
General Information
Member Directory
Researcher Profiles
Institutes and Labs
About the Site
SRF Team
Advisory Board
Support Us
How to Cite
Fan (E)Mail
The Schizophrenia Research Forum web site is sponsored by the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation and was created with funding from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health.
Online Discussions

Updated 12 April 2010
Printable version

Forum Discussion: Psychiatric Genocide—Nazi Attempts to Eradicate Schizophrenia

View article

In our Forum discussion “journal club” series, the editors of Schizophrenia Bulletin provide access to the full text of a recent article. A short introduction by a journal editor gets us started, and then it's up to our readers to share their ideas and insights, questions, and reactions to the selected paper. So read on….

Torrey EF, Yolken RH. Psychiatric Genocide: Nazi Attempts to Eradicate Schizophrenia. Schizophr Bull. 2009 Sep 16. Abstract

View Comments By:
John McGrath — Posted 26 September 2009
Ezra Susser — Posted 13 January 2010
James MacCabe — Posted 22 January 2010
Linda Chafetz — Posted 22 January 2010
Tadeusz Nasierowski — Posted 5 March 2010
Rael D. Strous — Posted 14 April 2010
Sanjeev Jain — Posted 20 August 2013

Background Text
By Gunvant Thaker, Professor and Chief, Schizophrenia Related Disorders Program, Maryland Psychiatric Research Center and Deputy Editor, Schizophrenia Bulletin

In a recently published report in Schizophrenia Bulletin (available online), E. Fuller Torrey and Robert H. Yolken review existing data to estimate the extent of Nazi genocide of psychiatric patients during the period of 1939-1945. The report provides an outline of the “scientific” thinking and the societal benefit “logic” that supported the genocide, including horrific details of the methods used to implement the plans. Torrey and Yolken estimate that hundreds of thousands of psychiatric patients were killed or sterilized, including 220,000-269,500 schizophrenia patients. This constituted more than 73 percent of the patients in Germany at that time (calculated based on the studies carried out in 1929-1931 that reported point prevalence rates of 2.0 per 1,000). Postwar studies in Germany reported lower prevalence rates than comparable studies in other Western countries carried out around the same period, whereas the incidence rate, when first studied in Mannheim 20 years after the last genocide, was found to be 53.6 per 100,000. The authors note that this rate is on the higher end of other published studies. Haffner and Reimann, the original authors of the Mannheim study, also noted that the observed incidence rate in Germany in 1965 was two to three times higher than most comparable studies at that time.

In addition to the horror of reading about the systematic killing of patients based on misguided scientific thinking and the participation of clinicians in the process, Torrey and Yolken’s report is a somber and thought-provoking read. As the authors point out, in contrast to the Nazi genocide of Jews during that period, killings of psychiatric patients are not as well known. It is legitimate (as the authors convincingly argue in the report) and important to examine and understand the impact of these killings and sterilizations on subsequent prevalence and incidence rates. The prevalence rates examined more than 20 years after the last genocide were lower, as one would expect, but the incidence rates didn’t decrease, and if anything, were relatively high. This is consistent with the fact that schizophrenia survives in the population in spite of low fertility rates among patients, and suggests that the disorder is caused by common variations in a large number of genes. The relatively high incidence rates point to an important role of the environmental factors that contribute to the etiology of the disease. Finally, the report needs to be a constant reminder of potential pitfalls as we participate in making health policy decisions based on our current scientific findings.

Hafner H and Reimann H. Spatial distribution of mental disorders in Mannheim, 1965. In: Hare EH, Wing JK, eds. Psychiatric Epidemiology: Proceedings of the International Symposium Held at Aberdeen University 22–5 July 1969. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 1970:341–354.

Comments on Online Discussion
Comment by:  John McGrath, SRF Advisor
Submitted 25 September 2009 Posted 26 September 2009

Apart from collating the best available estimates of the...  Read more

View all comments by John McGrath

Comment by:  Ezra Susser, SRF Advisor
Submitted 13 January 2010 Posted 13 January 2010

Comment by Ezra Susser and Rebecca Smith
The...  Read more

View all comments by Ezra Susser

Comment by:  James MacCabe
Submitted 22 January 2010 Posted 22 January 2010

I agree with Ezra that it is important to discuss this...  Read more

View all comments by James MacCabe

Comment by:  Linda Chafetz
Submitted 22 January 2010 Posted 22 January 2010

In 2003, Susan Benedict published in a nursing journal a...  Read more

View all comments by Linda Chafetz

Comment by:  Tadeusz Nasierowski
Submitted 5 March 2010 Posted 5 March 2010

Genocide of the Mentally Ill and the...  Read more

View all comments by Tadeusz Nasierowski

Comment by:  Rael D. Strous
Submitted 14 April 2010 Posted 14 April 2010

Reprinted courtesy of Schizophrenia...  Read more

View all comments by Rael D. Strous

Comment by:  Sanjeev Jain
Submitted 29 July 2013 Posted 20 August 2013

These discussions are extremely valuable, as they...  Read more

View all comments by Sanjeev Jain
Submit a Comment on This Online Discussion
Make a comment on this live discussion. 

If you already are a member, please login.
Not sure if you are a member? Search our member database.

*First Name  
*Last Name  
Country or Territory  
*Login Email Address  
*Confirm Email Address  
*Confirm Password  
Remember my Login and Password?  
Get SRF newsletter with recent commentary?  
Enter the code as it is shown below:
This code helps prevent automated registrations.

Please note: A member needs to be both registered and logged in to submit a comment.


(If coauthors exist for this comment, please enter their names and email addresses at the end of the comment.)


SRF News
SRF Comments
Text Size
Reset Text Size
Live Discussion FAQs

Webinar: A Webinar is a seminar conducted remotely over the Web. Attendees view the slides through their Web browser and hear the presentations over their own telephones.

Registration: All participants are to register by clicking on the "Register for the Webinar" link.

Access: After you register, you will receive an e-mail with a link to the Webinar and a phone number.
New Schizophrenia Fact Sheet for Patients and Families

Latest BBRF Research Breakthroughs

Visit our Facebook page and our Blog.

Support the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation Today.

Research Participants
Copyright © 2005- 2016 Schizophrenia Research Forum Privacy Policy Disclaimer Disclosure Copyright