The Church of Scientology has launched a campaign against psychiatry throughout Germany, irritating Jewish groups by using Holocaust imagery to drive home its point. In an outdoor traveling exhibit in Berlin displayed June 2, the movement lays blames for the Holocaust on psychiatrists and refers to one of the founders of modern psychiatry, Sigmund Freud, as a drug-abusing promoter of promiscuity whose theories “have been largely disproved.”
Ute Ehrhardt, Berlin spokesperson for the Scientology-linked “Commission on the Human Rights Abuses of Psychiatry,” told JTA the exhibit would be in Berlin for several days before traveling to other cities across Germany.
One panel, titled “The Men Behind Hitler,” includes a gruesome photo of a hand hanging out of a crematorium oven, as well as images of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland.
The panel explains that psychiatrists were behind the Nazi drive to exterminate “worthless lives.”
Other panels refer to methods such as electric shock therapy and lobotomy as “mind destroyers” and to psychiatric drugs as “poison” that benefit only drug companies.
There is no obvious reference on the panels to Scientology, which is not a recognized religion in Germany, but Ehrhardt confirmed that it was a Scientology project.
A 1997 Scientology publication, “Psychiatry Destroys Religion,” was handed out free at the location on Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz. The display was to move to the nearby Brandenburg Gate on Saturday.
The use of Holocaust imagery for unrelated purposes is far from rare here. In 2003, Paul Spiegel, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, blasted the animal-rights group PETA for its “Holocaust on Your Plate” campaign as “the most disgusting abuse of the memory of the Holocaust in recent years.”
The group’s ads compared treatment of chickens and other animals with that of Jews in concentration camps. Under criticism, PETA halted its campaign in Germany.
Some years earlier, groups fighting against the enforced muzzling of pit bulls in Germany paraded their dogs with yellow stars on their collars, suggesting that they were being persecuted as the Jews had been under Nazism. That campaign, too, was halted.
Scientology also ran a controversial ad campaign in the late 1990s, suggesting that treatment of the movement in Germany today is similar to treatment of Jews in Nazi times.
The new campaign is just “another one jumping on that bandwagon,” said Julius Schoeps, director of the Potsdam-based Moses Mendelssohn Center.
“People will use Auschwitz for whatever purpose they need,” agreed Irene Runge, founder of the Jewish Cultural Association of Berlin. “People who pass by will see the oven, the name Hitler, and they will think it’s about Jews.”
“They’re doing it again,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, who nine years ago asked Scientology leaders to stop publicly comparing modern Germany’s failure to recognize the movement as a church with Nazi Germany’s persecution and murder of the Jews.
Now, by “accusing psychiatry of utilizing the techniques and tactics of Nazism during the Shoah,” they’re “abusing it for their own purposes. It’s offensive, insensitive and inappropriate,” Foxman told JTA in a telephone interview.
Scientology’s decades-long campaign against psychiatry recently got a shot in the arm when actor and scientologist Tom Cruise told “Access Hollywood” that he was “going right after psychiatry and these false labels and this pseudo-science.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.