Dorothea Buck, born April 5, 1917, sculptor (Photo: Reinhard Wojke).
Victim of forced sterilization during the Nazi-area. Lived in
Hamburg. On October 9, 2019, Dorothea Buck passed away in Hamburg.
After free artistic activity, taught art and handicraft at the Technical
College for Social Pedagogy in Hamburg from 1969-1982. Since 1970, active
in the self-help movement. In 1992, co-founder of the German Bundesverband
Psychiatrie-Erfahrener (BPE; Federal Association of [ex-] Users and Survivors
of Psychiatry), Honorary Chair until her death. In 1989, co-founder of
the "Psychosis-seminars". Countless lectures in Germany and
abroad and contributions in specialised journals and anthologies.
In 1997, awarded with the "Bundesverdienstkreuz erster Klasse"
(decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany for service to the community)
by the President of Germany. In 2008, awarded with the Großes
Verdienstkreuz des Verdienstordens der Bundesrepublik Deutschland,
the greatest decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany for service
to the community. In 2017, awarded the Medaille
für Treue Arbeit im Dienste des Volkes in Silber (Silver medal for
faithful work for the service to the people, a lifetime achievment award)
by the Lord Mayor of Hamburg.
Publications (also under the name "Sophie Zerchin", an anagram from "Schizophrenie")
der Spur des Morgensterns – Psychose als Selbstfindung (On
the Trail of the Morning Star: Psychosis as Self-discovery, 1990;
6th ed. 2016; CD 2005) / Mit
meinen herzlichen Grüßen! Ihre Dorothea Buck. Der Gartenhaus-Briefwechsel
(With My Heartful Regards: Your Dorothea Buck. The correspondence from
the garden house, 2016) / Ermutigungen
Ausgewählte Schriften (Encouragements: Selected Texts,
2012) / 70
Jahre Zwang in deutschen Psychiatrien – erlebt und miterlebt (Seventy
Years of Coercion in German Psychiatric Hospitals, Experienced and Witnessed,
Sky and Beyond – On the Trail of Dorothea Buck, film by Alexandra
Pohlmeier in the English language, 2008.
Lectures in English & German
· Films & DVD in English &
· Biography · German Books
& CD · Contributions
to Anthologies · Articles about
Dorothea Buck · Congratulations,
Years of Coercion in German Psychiatric Institutions, Experienced
and Witnessed". Keynote lecture from June 7, 2007 to the
congress "Coercive Treatment in Psychiatry: A Comprehensive Review",
run by the World Psychiatric Association in Dresden, Germany, June
Abstract: Dorothea Buck was born in Germany in 1917 and can
therefore be called a contemporary witness. She had 5 stays in psychiatric
hospitals in the period from 1936 to 1959 and was subjected to various
forms of coercion, such as forced sterilization, cold wet sheet packs
and forced injections and was never granted a single talk about the
origin or meaning of her psychotic episodes. Facing the historical
development of psychiatry and its effects on today's mental health
system, she challenges biological psychiatry, which rejects communication
with patients, and demands a paradigm shift toward a psychosocial
system based on the wealth of patients' experiences and provides alternatives
to psychiatry, such as the therapeutic principles of "Soteria" and
Yrjö Alanen's "Need-Adapted Treatment."
- More lectures
in the German and Slowenian language
Films & DVD
Born April 5, 1917, the fourth child of five, of Hermann Buck and
his wife Anna Buck, nee Lahusen, I spent my first 19 years in a cosmopolitan
parsonage in Naumburg/Saale, in Oldenburg/ Niedersachsen and on the
island of Wangerooge (Northern Sea).
Five weeks after a mental jolt, my first psychosis broke out the
morning of March 2, 1936, with the disturbing certainty of a coming
dreadful war. In the asylum of Bethel near Bielefeld,
being kept there for nine months, I was confronted with a psychiatry
which left us unoccupied and only kept, enforced sterilization included,
without any chance of a dialogue with a physician. This disciplinary
action included the prohibition to marry and various rigorous restrictions
regarding education and career. I had to give up my vocation to become
a nursery school teacher and was only allowed to accept a freelance
job. Starting with pottery, I became a sculpturer. My first episode
was followed by four more: 1938, 1943, 1946 and 1959. I then began
to think of my psychosis, labelled as schizophrenia, as
a break-through of my own subconscious, in order to solve former mental
jolts or conflicts the same way night dreams do, in form of awakenings
of symbols, identifications, with a different feel for the world and
otherwise not felt connections of sense. Ever since I began to live
by my inner impulses, which came to the top in my five psychoses,
and receded with them to a weak instinct, in order not to let them
stop and reappear in new episodes. From 1959 on, I have been healthy.
My early suggestions to prominent psychiatrists of introducing group
discussions for a mutually gained understanding of psychosis and of
a conception the way one sees him- or herself. in psychiatry, was
neglected by them.
A severe hiatus in my life after my enforced sterilization in 1936
has been the hidden medical patient-murders of so-called Euthanasia.
During the Eichmann trial in 1961, I first heard numbers of psychiatric
victims named for the first time. Except a minor chapter in Medical
Science Without Humanity by A. Mitscherlich und F. Mielke, nothing
could be found about these crimes in those days. I researched archives.
In a record of the Military Court of Nürnberg of 1946, the number
of the murdered inhabitants of asylums and homes rose to at
least 275,000. These hidden medical crimes and the unchanged
degrading and inhuman German asylums disturbed me deeply, although
I could have used my concentration for my artistic work. As a sculptor,
I lived on public commissions in Hamburg, which could only be gained
through competition. When in 1965, my last bronze objects were placed,
I stopped this work. As long as there was no elementary humanity,
art seemed less important. I revised the researched facts of euthanasia
in a play with a followed satirical theatre play for a patient drama
group. As the long-prepared big euthanasia trial did not
take place, because of the suicide of the main prisoner at the bar/defender
Professor Heyde, I would have preferred the announcement of these
crimes on stage from the view of the patient.
In 1970, we founded our Club 70 with people who experienced psychiatry
and were lonely. In 1971, Aktionskreis '71 (Action
circle '71) followed as the first self-help group of people who
experienced psychiatry in Hamburg.
If we want psychiatry to be based on our experiences rather than
on theory, we are asked to defeat its dogma of physical and genetic
incurable, endogenous psychosis, as this psychiatric dogma
prevents any dialogue about the contents and early history of our
psychosis and its meanings. Without any dialogue, psychiatrists could
not get to know and meet us as human beings. This is why they could
transport hundreds of their patients to the gas chambers of the six
death camps and poison them by overdosed medication and starve them
to death after the official gas stop in August 1941.
In my manuscript following my Euthanasia play, I examined
psychiatric theories and confronted them with my own experiences with
psychosis. Hans Krieger, contributor to the big German magazine DIE
ZEIT, advised me, to make my experiences the main substance for my
book. I wrote during the mornings, and from 11:30 on, since 1969,
I taught as a lecturer, and from 1974 on, as a teacher of art and
handcraft at the College for Social Pedagogics of Hamburg. In 1990,
my report about schizophrenia and self-healing, On The Track Of
The Morning Star: Psychosis as self-realization, was published
under the anagram of schizophrenia = Sophie Zerchin by
List Publishers. The book was reviewed in many newspapers as a self-healing
A year before 50 years after the beginning of euthanasia
Prof. Dr. Dr. Dörner offered me the opening lecture for
the 41st training week of Gütersloh: Now it's
getting serious the reform of psychiatry begins! To understand
schizophrenia as an attempt in solving a problem was new to the audience.
From then on, I got invitations for lectures and readings.
The first and only hearing that those of us who were survivors of
forced sterilized and psychiatric death camps got was at the Deutsche
Bundestag in June 1987. I was asked to write down my criticism on
today's still suppressing psychiatric methods of medication for the
Federal Health Department. In June 1988, I handed my 22 page petition
for a working group for more participation of those from self-help
groups in psychiatry to Ms. Rita Süssmuth, the German Health
Minister. Its assembly should be by (ex-) users and survivors of psychiatry,
relatives, psychiatric staff members of all occupational groups and
both theological leaders of a catholic or Lutheran clinic. All in
all, 30 members, meeting monthly in the department, should initiate
the foundation of further working groups within Germany. A better
understanding of psychosis taught by people who are experienced in
psychosis would also help to improve the social circumstances of the
(ex-) users and survivors of psychiatry, for people burden only those
they do not understand and thus regard inferior with things unbearable
The Federal Health Department placated us with the advice to form
the petition locally. In the summer term of 1989, I suggested,
as a guest student in a regular psychosis seminary, initiated by the
psychologist Dr. Thomas Bock for students and professionals, not just
to talk about psychotic people, but to talk with us, the (ex-) users
and survivors of psychiatry. In winter term of 1989/90, the psychosis
seminar was opened for people who experienced psychosis, and for relatives.
In the meantime, about 80 psychosis seminars exist in Germany at universities,
colleges, evening classes etc., and since October '96, also in Zurich,
Berne, Basel and Vienna, in which people who are experienced in psychosis
and depression, relatives and psychiatric staff members exchange their
experiences. Our first psychosis seminar in Hamburg brought about
two books as a consequence, in 1992 and 1994. Our third project: A
Guidance Aid Psychosis Seminars Aid For a Dialogue,
we have just finished for the Psychiatry Publishing House.
During the last seven years, I have written articles for many books
and magazines. Year by year, I get more invitations to conferences
and trainings (lectures, work groups, readings, psychosis groups as
an exchange of experiences).
Our Hamburg psychosis seminar was the initiator of the Initiative
Group of People Who Experienced Psychiatry (as patients).
Together with the work group of (ex-) users and survivors of
psychiatry within the holding-organization of psychosocial aid organizations
and many individual fighters, we founded our registered association
Bundesverband Psychiatrie-Erfahrener (Federal Association
of [ex-] Users and Survivors of Psychiatry) in October 9-11,
1992, now, in 1997, with 650 members.
Since May 1996, in cooperation with my sister, the publisher Dr.
Anne Fischer-Buck, I have been working on information and on a collection
of signatures against medical research on persons who have not
the ability to consent even when the research is not
for their personal benefit which is being planned by the Bioethic-Convention
of the European Council. We keep collecting signatures till April
30, 1997. In January 1, 1997 we have gained 30.000 signatures.
We experienced the fate and life-destroying psychiatric interventions
of forced sterilization and medical mass murder on patients, its missing
insight and knowledge because of their withheld dialogue with us.
Now we demand an empirical psychiatry, based on the experiences of
the (ex-) users and survivors of psychiatry. As we all the
psychiatrists included can only know for sure, what we have
Translation: Brigitte Siebrasse, Bielefeld (Germany)
Contributions to Anthologies
"Seventy Years of Coercion in Psychiatric Institutions, Experienced
and Witnessed", in: Peter
Stastny / Peter Lehmann (Eds.): Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry. Ebook.
Berlin / Shrewsbury: Peter Lehmann Publishing 2018
"Seventy Years of Coercion in Psychiatric Institutions, Experienced
and Witnessed", in: Peter
Stastny / Peter Lehmann (Eds.): Alternatives Beyond Psychiatry. Print
edition. Berlin / Eugene / Shrewsbury: Peter Lehmann Publishing 2007,
English Articles about Dorothea
(Chair of the European Network of (Ex)Users and Survivors of Psychiatry):
Honoring Dorothea Buck's memory. Mail from October 22, 2019
Smith: Dorothea Buck, Nazi sterilization victim turned artist and author,
dies at 102. In: Washington Post, online edition from October
21, 2019 (and scheduled to run in the print edition from October 22, 2019)
Lehmann: Irreconcilable memory culture in psychiatry. Congratulation to
Dorothea Buck's 100th birthday. In Journal of Critical Psychology,
Counselling and Psychotherapy, Vol. 17 (2017), No. 2, pp. 112-120
Lehmann: Congratulation to Dorothea Buck's 100th birthday on April 5,
2017. Internet publication from April 5, 2017
Lehmann: Celebrating Dorothea Buck’s 100th Birthday. Contribution
for Mad in America (5. April 2017)
Psychiatric survivor, sculptor, activist Dorothea S. Buck-Zerchin.
In Advocacy Update The latest in activism and community news
from ENUSP, Vol. 1 (2010), No. 1, p. 6
harrowing account of forced sterilisation when a psychiatric patient.
Article in PsychMinded on November 14, 2007, by Adam James