Psychiatric genocide: Nazi attempts to eradicate schizophrenia

E. Fuller Torrey, Robert H. Yolken

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Although the Nazi genocide of Jews during World War II is well known, the concurrent Nazi genocide of psychiatric patients is much less widely known. An attempt was made to estimate the number of individuals with schizophrenia who were sterilized and murdered by the Nazis and to assess the effect on the subsequent prevalence and incidence of this disease. It is estimated that between 220000 and 269500 individuals with schizophrenia were sterilized or killed. This total represents between 73% and 100% of all individuals with schizophrenia living in Germany between 1939 and 1945. Postwar studies of the prevalence of schizophrenia in Germany reported low rates, as expected. However, postwar rates of the incidence of schizophrenia in Germany were unexpectedly high. The Nazi genocide of psychiatric patients was the greatest criminal act in the history of psychiatry. It was also based on what are now known to be erroneous genetic theories and had no apparent long-term effect on the subsequent incidence of schizophrenia.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-32
Number of pages7
JournalSchizophrenia bulletin
Volume36
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

Keywords

  • Genocide
  • Psychosis
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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