Viktor von Weizsäcker

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Viktor Weizsäcker , from 1916 Freiherr von Weizsäcker (born April 21, 1886 in Stuttgart , † January 8, 1957 in Heidelberg ) was a German medic . He was a neurologist who dealt with topics of social medicine and is considered a founder of psychosomatic medicine and modern medical anthropology . With Viktor Emil von Gebsattel , Jürg Zutt (1893–1980), Ludwig Binswanger and Dieter Wyss he is considered a representative of the existential-anthropological theory of psychotherapy.


Viktor Weizsäcker was born on April 21, 1886 in Stuttgart. His father, Karl von Weizsäcker, came from the Palatinate - Württemberg family Weizsäcker . His brother was Ernst von Weizsäcker , the former Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker was his nephew. In 1916 his father, who had already received his personal nobility in 1897 with the office of ministerial director, was elevated to the baron status with his entire family by King Wilhelm II of Württemberg with the conferment of hereditary nobility .

In 1920 Viktor von Weizsäcker married Olympia Curtius (1887–1979), the daughter of Friedrich Curtius and sister of the Romanist Ernst Robert Curtius .

The children Robert Karl Ernst (* 1921; missing 1942), Ulrike Gerda (1923–1948), Eckhard (1925–1945) and Cora (1929–2009) came from his marriage to Olympia Curtius, who lived with the physicist Siegfried Penselin (1927 –2014) was married.

Studies, habilitation, military, 1904–1918

In 1904 Viktor Weizsäcker graduated from the humanistic Eberhard-Ludwigs-Gymnasium in Stuttgart and began medicine at the Eberhard Karls University in Tübingen . There he was a member of the Tübingen student association, the Akademische Gesellschaft Stuttgardia, which shaped southern German liberalism .

He later studied at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg , at the Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Berlin and at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg . In 1908 he met his fellow student Arthur Kronfeld who, together with his friend Otto Meyerhof , sought to interest him in the philosophy of Leonard Nelson and Jakob Friedrich Fries and probably also introduced him to Freud's writings .

Joint lecture visits with Wilhelm Windelband and personal contacts with Hans Driesch and other philosophers in Heidelberg such as Hans Ehrenberg are the real background for the " temptation to leave medicine and - to become a philosopher ", which he later reported. But he remained true to his interest in medicine and received his doctorate on June 28, 1910 with the internist Paul Morawitz with a thesis on blood velocity .

During this time, he was like Meyerhof in the hospital Ludolf von Krehl of Otto Warburg for Physiology interest of the heart. Like her, he qualified as a professor on energy metabolism .

During the First World War , Viktor von Weizsäcker initially worked at Verdun and later, together with Ludolf von Krehl, was responsible for inspecting field hospitals .

Heidelberg University Hospital - Research, 1920–1940

From 1920 Weizsäcker headed the neurological department at the Krehl'schen Klinik in Heidelberg. In 1926 (or as stated in his autobiographical work Natur und Geist. 1928, p. 61) he visited Sigmund Freud and Max Scheler . These visits were of central importance for his further work. In the same year his book was published pieces of medical anthropology in by Martin Buber and Joseph Wittig published magazine The creature , in which he was from 1926 to 1930 co-editor. At the end of the twenties Viktor von Weizsäcker pointed out the relationship between “pension neuroses” and mass unemployment and wanted to cure sick people who were willing to retire with forced labor, situation therapy and the abolition of the social security system.

In 1932 he formulated his ideas for the shape circle with which he tried to theoretically represent the unity of perception and movement . Weizsäcker's goal was to introduce the subject into medicine, the much-cited first sentence of the Gestalt circle read: “In order to explore the living, one has to participate in life.” He worked with Marianne Fuchs , promoted her work and provided the work developed by Marianne Fuchs Deep psychological body psychotherapy Functional relaxation with his work: "The shape circle" the theoretical basis.

In 1933 Viktor von Weizsäcker was not consistently opposed to National Socialism. In a lecture "Medical Tasks" that he gave in December 1933 at the University of Freiburg at the invitation of the rector and long-time NSDAP member Martin Heidegger , he gave an evident "clear signal of his agreement with National Socialism" according to Udo Benzenhöfer and spoke some passages "at least partly the word of the National Socialists". “Despite the formal declaration of consent to the Führer principle,” he put the freedom of the individual over the freedom of the collective in this speech:

“Every leader needs to know, and the true leader knows, that it is up to him to help the individual to develop freely. In this and in nothing else rests the ability and strength of a leader. Here is the root of the community. "

The lecture was published in 1934 in the National Socialist magazine Volk im Werden .

Full Professor of Neurology, 1941–1945

Weizsäcker became professor of neurology at the University of Breslau and head of the Institute of Neurology on May 1, 1941, succeeding Otfrid Foerster . At the neuropathological laboratory of the Institute of Neurology, Hans Joachim Scherer examined, among other things, the brains of killed children from the children's department of the Loben sanatorium .

Weizsäcker was deeply involved in the medically directed actions to “ destroy life unworthy of life ”, especially child reuthanasia. In 1942 he made contact with the so-called " children's department " of the youth psychiatric clinic in Loben (now Lubliniec). The medical records of this clinic document the murder of 280 children who had just reached school age. As part of the ongoing euthanasia program, the head doctor Ernst Buchalik in the “children's department” “treated” mainly “difficult to educate” or “socially problematic” children with the anesthetic Luminal until they died of pneumonia or circulatory failure. At his behest, the brains and spinal cord were fixed before the children's corpses were dissected and sent to the Weizsäcker Institute for Neurology in Breslau. All copies of medical histories and neurological-psychiatric reports went over Weizsäcker's desk. Weizsäcker could have no doubt about the real causes of death. In 1944 he wrote down his career path from physiology to internal medicine and neurology and psychotherapy in Breslau, which was published under the title Nature and Spirit . In January 1945 von Weizsäcker fled Breslau, came to Dresden in February, took over a hospital in Heiligenstadt, and in April was taken prisoner by the Americans.

Chair for Psychosomatics in Heidelberg, 1945–1952

In August 1945 von Weizsäcker was temporarily able to take over the management of the Physiological Institute at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg. In September 1945 he began teaching, which on September 7, 1945 offered him a professorship, and on March 1, 1946 (retroactively to August 15, 1945) he was appointed to the Ordinariate General Clinical Medicine . From this emerged the psychosomatic department at the Krehlklinik in Heidelberg, from which a station in memory of von Weizsäcker bears his name.

Helm Stierlin remembered Weizsäcker's lectures as a rather “cryptic” experience. What really appealed to him was the open discussion of the National Socialist past in the von Weizsäcker circle, which included the psychoanalyst Alexander Mitscherlich and the pathologist and internist Wolfgang Jacob .

Viktor von Weizsäcker rehabilitated the neurologist Georg Schaltbrand , who had lost his position at the University Clinic in Würzburg after the end of the war because of medical experiments on people. From 1950 onwards, he was able to continue his research.

In 1950 Weizsäcker opened a clinic for psychosomatics with the help of the Rockefeller Foundation , which Mitscherlich later took over.

Together with Richard Siebeck, von Weizsäcker supported the commissioning of the sister school at the University of Heidelberg in 1953, which the Rockefeller Foundation had sponsored, with Olga Freiin von Lersner as the first school director . The student nurses were able to complete a practical assignment in the Clinic for Psychosomatics and take part in relevant courses.

Weizsäcker did not survive his retirement in 1952 due to illness.

“The problem of the human being […] in this kind of medicine is that he, the human being, not only has his illness, which is to be understood as part of his entire biography, but also causes it. That he produces the illness, the expressive gesture, the language of his body, as he forms every other area of ​​expression and every other speech. "

- Viktor von Weizsäcker : Attempting a new medicine (radio lecture)



  • Thomas Hauschild : Cover photo: Viktor von Weizsäcker (1886–1957). In: Curare . Journal for Ethnomedicine and Transcultural Psychiatry. Cover photo and text on cover page 2, Volume 9, 1986, Issue 3–4.
  • Peter Hahn, Wolfgang Jacob (ed.): Viktor von Weizsäcker on his 100th birthday (= writings on anthropological and interdisciplinary research in medicine. Volume 1). Berlin / Heidelberg 1987.
  • Stephan Dressler : Viktor von Weizsäcker. Medical anthropology and philosophy. Ueberreuter Wissenschaft, Vienna / Berlin 1989 (= Viennese studies of medicine, history and philosophy. Volume 1).
  • Stefan Emondts: Becoming human in relationship: A religious-philosophical investigation of Viktor von Weizsäcker's medical anthropology. Foreword by Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker . Stuttgart 1993, ISBN 3-7728-1571-5 .
  • Karl Heinz Roth : Psychosomatic Medicine and "Euthanasia": The Viktor von Weizsäcker Case. In: 1999. Journal for Social History of the 20th and 21st Century. 1/1986, pp. 65-99. Cf. also Jürgen Peter : Viktor von Weizsäcker's reaction to the Nuremberg medical trial. 1996.
  • Martin Wein : The Weizsäcker - History of a German Family. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-426-02417-9 , pp. 341-410.
  • Ernst Klee : The dictionary of persons on the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 666.
  • Sven Olaf Hoffmann: Viktor von Weizsäcker: Doctor and thinker against the current. In: Deutsches Ärzteblatt . PP 5, April 2006 edition, p. 161.
  • Udo Benzenhöfer : The medical philosopher Viktor von Weizsäcker. An overview of life and work. Göttingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-525-49172-0 .
  • Wolfgang U. Eckart : The Heidelberg School of Anthropological Medicine. In: Peter Meusburger and Thomas Schuch, on behalf of Rector Prof. Dr. Bernhard Eitel of the University of Heidelberg: Scientific Atlas of the University of Heidelberg. Bibliotheca Palatina, Knittlingen 2011, Viktor von Weizsäcker pp. 118–119.
  • Karin Buselmeier, Jens Dannehl, Susanne Himmelheber, Wolfgang U. Eckart et al .: University Museum Heidelberg - Catalogs Volume 2, booklet accompanying the exhibition. Heidelberg E-Books, heiBOOKS 2006 , The Heidelberg School of Anthropological Medicine with Viktor von Weizsäcker p. 62, published on February 19, 2016.
  • Andreas Penselin: From the albums of the Viktor von Weizsäcker family. In: Ellen Strittmatter (ed.): The family. An archive. Marbach am Neckar 2017, ISBN 978-3-944469-28-7 , p. 281 ff.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Albrecht Scholz, Thomas Barth, Anna-Sophia Pappai and Axel Wacker: The fate of the teaching staff of the Medical Faculty in Breslau after the expulsion in 1945/46. In: Würzburger medical history reports 24, 2005, pp. 497-533, here: p. 530.
  2. ^ Ralf-Dieter Hofheinz: Weizsäcker, Viktor von. In: Werner E. Gerabek, Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil, Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 1470.
  3. Biography of the Viktor von Weizsäcker Society
  4. ^ Burkhard Schmidt, Karl-Ernst Bühler: Brief outline of the history of the Würzburg University Institute for Psychotherapy and Medical Psychology. In: Peter Baumgart (Ed.): Four hundred years of the University of Würzburg. A commemorative publication. Degener & Co. (Gerhard Gessner), Neustadt an der Aisch 1982 (= sources and contributions to the history of the University of Würzburg. Volume 6), ISBN 3-7686-9062-8 , pp. 927–933, here: p. 929.
  5. Martin Arndt: Max Scheler and the soul science discourse of the 20s. In: Psychology and History. Vol. 9, H. 3/4, December 2001, pp. 33-57, here: pp. 39 f. ( online ).
  6. Wolfgang U. Eckart : Medicine in motion: the human being comes into focus. Richard Siebeck, Viktor von Weizsäcker and anthropological medicine. In: KlinikTicker, magazine of the University Hospital and the Medical Faculty of Heidelberg. Issue 5, November / December 2011, Weizsäcker's “Gestaltkreis”, pp. 34–35.
  7. Cora Penselin: Comments on the allegations, Viktor von Weizsacker was involved in the Nazi extermination policy. In: Udo Benzenhöfer (ed.): Anthropological medicine and social medicine in Viktor von Weizsäcker's work. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 1994, pp. 123-137. Quoted from the "Viktor von Weizsäcker Society"
  8. Wolfgang U. Eckart : Seizure of power and sterilization law. In: Christoph Gradmann , Oliver von Mengersen (ed.): The end of the Weimar Republic and the National Socialist seizure of power. Lectures by Heidelberg historians in the Reich President Friedrich Ebert Memorial . Manutius Verlag, Heidelberg 1994, p. 170.
  9. ^ Benzenhöfer, Udo: The medical philosopher Viktor von Weizsäcker. An overview of life and work. Göttingen 2007, p. 116.
  10. Quoted from Udo Benzenhöfer: The medical philosopher Viktor von Weizsäcker. An overview of life and work. Göttingen 2007, p. 116.
  11. Udo Benzenhöfer: The medical philosopher Viktor von Weizsäcker. An overview of life and work. Göttingen 2007, p. 112.
  12. Albrecht Scholz, Thomas Barth, Anna-Sophia Pappai, Axel Wacker: The fate of the teaching staff of the Medical Faculty in Breslau after the expulsion in 1945/46. In: Würzburg medical history reports. Volume 24, 2005, pp. 497-533, here: p. 530.
  13. | Frauke Hartmann: Illness does not mean machine damage. In Die Zeit , No. 22, 1988
  14. Albrecht Scholz, Thomas Barth, Anna-Sophia Pappai, Axel Wacker: The fate of the teaching staff of the Medical Faculty in Breslau after the expulsion in 1945/46. In: Würzburg medical history reports. Volume 24, 2005, pp. 497-533, here: p. 530.
  15. Albrecht Scholz, Thomas Barth, Anna-Sophia Pappai, Axel Wacker: The fate of the teaching staff of the Medical Faculty in Breslau after the expulsion in 1945/46. In: Würzburg medical history reports. Volume 24, 2005, pp. 497-533, here: p. 530.
  16. ^ Helm Stierlin lecture at the Weizsäcker Society.
  17. Christa Winter von Lersner: Memory of Olga Freiin von Lersner. In: Limpurger Brief. Frankfurt am Main, June 1997, p. 4. (on the importance of Richard Siebeck and Viktor von Weizsäcker in the commissioning of the nursing school at Heidelberg University .)
  18. Irene Meichsner: The deeper meaning of diseases. In: Calendar sheet (broadcast on DLF ). April 21, 2011, accessed April 21, 2011 .
  19. Member entry by Viktor Frhr. von Weizsäcker at the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina , accessed on June 11, 2016.