Genealogien von Gewaltstrukturen in Kinderheimen


  • Anna Bergmann Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät der Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt/Oder



Christian sexual morals, work morale, the “incorrigible child”, anti-masturbation campaigns, theory of degeneration, forensic medicine, racial hygiene, eugenics, medical experimentation on children


The paper, with Germany as an example, discusses traditional lines of modernisation processes that would dominate structures of violence in children’s homes until the 1970s. The psychiatrisation of childhood took place since the mid-19th century (Michel Foucault), beginning with anti-masturbation campaigns, and using the biological heredity model of degeneration theory. With the help of the heredity paradigm, the Christian standardisation of a “sinful way of life” entered the sciences and as such became the basis for the medicalisation of the “incorrigible child”. The psychiatric theory of degeneration, having used the category of “psychopathic inferiority” to summarise physical, sexual and social deviations ever since the 1880s, finally provided the passepartout for the legal concept of “neglect”, which became relevant for court injunctions ordering coercive education. Christian sexual morals and work morale having been welded onto the “science of neglect” (Detlev J. K. Peukert) and the forensic “power of normalisation” (Michel Foucault), children in homes became psychiatric cases in two ways: as descendants of “degenerate” parents (such as, for instance, “workshy” people, vagabonds, unmarried mothers, prostitutes) and as incorrigible on account of negative sex-stereotypical characteristics (“instinct-driven”, “unruly”, “lazy”). Especially during National Socialism the psychiatric model of diagnosis became the instrument for coercive sterilisation and for the medical murder of patients, measures which also affected children in homes; but within the framework of growing biopolitically motivated violence, it had already become possible in the 19th century for such children to be the victims of medical experiments in the name of medical-scientific progress.



Bergmann, A. (2014). Genealogien von Gewaltstrukturen in Kinderheimen. Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften, 25(1-2), 82–116.