‘The patient’s view on occupational therapy and its practical aspects: The Hamburg-Langenhorn Asylum during the Weimar Period’

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Dr Monika Ankele

History and Ethics of Medicine, University of Hamburg, Germany 

‘The patient’s view on occupational therapy and its practical aspects: The Hamburg-Langenhorn Asylum during the Weimar Period’

(Introduced by: Beryl Steeden, College of Occupational Therapists, London)

[22min;  5 slides]


Paper presented to the International Research Symposium:

"Therapy and Empowerment – Coercion and Punishment:

Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Labour and Occupational Therapy"

26–27 June 2013,  St Anne’s College, Oxford


Abstract: The Hamburg-Langenhorn asylum was founded in 1893 as an agricultural colony for male and female patients who were able to work. The asylum was originally planned to house 200 patients, but in the course of the years it was steadily extended, so that in 1914, before the outbreak of the First World War, 2.000 patients were staying there. Because of its size and the way the area was structured, the asylum seemed to be a village of its own, where a lot of products for daily use – like food or basic articles – were self-produced with the assistance of the patients. From the beginning, occupational therapy was a pivotal treatment modality in Langenhorn, which also had its economic advantages.

In this case study I will focus on the Weimar Period using the example of Langenhorn to examine the political and social implications of the occupational therapy as it was practised there and conflating these implications with the patient’s view on occupational therapy. I want to emphasize issues that arise from the everyday practice of the patients in relation to this method of treatment. This includes questions of empowerment and self-determination as well as more concrete and practical questions like those concerning occupational rehabilitation, remuneration or insurance. The latter issues were also discussed at the Hamburg Senate and provided a target for the Communist Party of Germany as diverse news articles, written by patients and published in communistic newspapers, show.

In my presentation I will single out some similar aspects to those mentioned above, where on the basis of the occupational therapy the reference fields ‘psychiatry’, ‘politics’ and ‘society’ can be associated. The view of the patients, as it can be found in patient records as well as patients’ ego-documents, will give central impulses for my presentation. So the primary source base will consist of patient records and ego-documents as well as annual statistics, administration documents and papers and articles concerning discussions about the occupational therapy in Langenhorn.



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