Von "Erziehung statt Strafe" zur "Stählung des Charakters"
Psychotechnik und Erbbiologie in den österreichischen „Bundesanstalten für Erziehungsbedürftige“, 1929–1945
Schlagworte:Kaiserebersdorf, Hirtenberg, applied psychology, psychotechnics, Nazi social politics, hereditary biology, bio-criminology
This paper provides a historical analysis of the development of “psychotechnics”, a branch of early applied psychology, in the context of the Austrian reformatories in Kaiserebersdorf and Hirtenberg from 1929 to 1945. These institutions were founded in 1929 after a juvenile criminal law reform in Austria that aimed to offer education and vocational training to juvenile delinquents. Methods of psychotechnic aptitude testing were implemented to help adolescents find a job that matched their abilities and interests. After the “annexation” of Austria in 1938, the reformatories repeatedly faced the threat of being shut down, but staff members managed to keep them running by adapting their educational, psychological and medical practices to the racial ideology and war politics of National Socialism. This article argues that applied psychology, despite its initial implementation as a tool to help young delinquents, effectively became an instrument for racial and political suppression as well as the war industry from 1938 to 1945. After the collapse of the Nazi regime, Kaiserebersdorf never saw a return of the progressive welfare ideals that stood behind its creation in the first place. Until its closure in 1974, it remained one of the most feared educational institutions in Austria.