Mentally Traumatized Officers of World War One in Germany

Researcher: Dr. Gundula Gahlen

Duration:      2013 - 2018

Funding:      Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)


German officers who acquired a mental illness during, or because of their deployment in World War One are subject of this research project. The study comprises an analysis of their war experiences, their medical treatment and the effects of their illness on their career, life-path and self-image. The discourses concerning the mentally ill officers in various social groups, in the military, in the medical fraternity and in the public at large, constitute a further topic of investigation. The analysis will show how and why the categories of meaning within which their mental illness was considered changed from 1914 to 1939, as well as the consequences these changes had on the officers’ careers. Furthermore, the officers’ position among the mentally traumatized soldiers as well as among the officer corps will thereby be assessed. With regard to the so called war neurotics, the analysis will clarify to what extent these officers were allocated a special position in the military. With reference to the officer corps, the research project will feature an analysis of the military elite’s and the public’s opinion about the effect of mental trauma on officers’ capabilities to fulfill their duties. Poised between medical and military history, this study will reveal new insights into society’s developing relationship to war and mental illness in Germany as well as into the values and the inner workings of the German military between the beginnings of the First and of the Second World War.