Svenja Goltermann's The War in Their Minds was originally published in German in 2009, and was translated by Philip Schmitz to English and published in 2017. Leading up to its original publication in 2009, Goltermann remarks in the acknowledgements that she was working on the book for 15 years prior. The result is an incredibly detailed and multilayered history of discourse about the mental effects of war on Wehrmacht veterans and the expressible means for communicating long-term postwar mental suffering. (The Wehrmacht was the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany.) Goltermann organizes the book into three sections: (1) private memories of soldiers in psychiatric records and letters from their family members to psychiatrists; (2) an archaeology of psychiatric knowledge and prevailing psychiatric doctrine, from the Great War (1914-1918) into the 1960s and 70s; and (3) portrayals of mental suffering in West German media from 1945-1970. This work speaks to a disability studies audience as a compelling history of the governmentality of psychiatric disability at the intersection of war, political ideology, national identity, and medical and legal discourse.

Of the many intertwining themes throughout this major study, Goltermann pins down a crux issue when she asks: "What is the inner connection between the approval or denial of victim status and the problem of responsibility for the crimes committed?" (20). In other words, Goltermann explores the ways in which Wehrmacht soldiers both perpetrated crimes against humanity and experienced mental suffering from the violence of war. I see Goltermann's main thesis in two parts. She argues that the dominant view of Wehrmacht veterans transitioning seamlessly into normal, daily life by way of "successful 'repression' of the recent war or genocide" proves untrue (6). Death and the dead were a silent presence in postwar West German society, evident in the inner worlds and private memories of Wehrmacht veterans' psychiatric records, and in the depictions of veterans' nightmares and hauntings in film and media.

In the first section, Goltermann presents a fascinating case study of mostly unexamined psychiatric files of Wehrmacht veterans who were suffering postwar mental distress. These primary documents presented a methodological dilemma for historical interpretation, and is the second aspect of Goltermann's overarching thesis. She argues against anachronistic, retroactive diagnoses of soldiers' private disclosures of mental suffering in terms that we utilize and widely accept today, such as trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. After examining private memories in section one, section two zooms out to psychiatric doctrine in the time period. From WWI to the 1950s and 60s, Goltermann shows that the term or concept of trauma did not exist as such in scientific medical discourse. Prevailing psychiatric doctrine believed in the resiliency of humans to endure unimaginable violent situations, and also that a failure to recover from mental suffering was a failure of individual strength of will (110-111). Doctrine believed in the "hereditary factor" and predisposition to mental illness, that psychiatric diagnosis was an internal condition not linked to external violence (138).

What I think is interesting for disability studies, Goltermann tracks the overlap and interconnection in discourse between psychiatric disability diagnosis and claims for disability pension in the postwar state. Goltermann maps "a dense network of interlinking forces" to show how the shift in prevailing psychiatric doctrine (that there was no causal relationship between war and mental suffering, toward recognizing a connection thereof) corresponded to the legitimation of pension claims, and vice versa (16, 121-124, 141). Goltermann also shows how psychiatric studies outside of Germany on the effects of the Holocaust on Jewish survivors influenced the shift in psychiatric discourse in West Germany, especially with respect to reparations.

The War in Their Minds has been widely reviewed. In Disability & Society, Michael Robinson writes, "For disability historians, [the book] effectively demonstrates how there was not a universal experience of disability amongst veterans" (321). In the journal of Central European History, Jay Lockenour points out that since the book was originally published in 2009, the current translation into English could possibly benefit from recent scholarship on the history of emotions, that "has also struggled with what individual feelings of fear, despondency, or guilt reveal about society and history" (295). Without a doubt, Goltermann's study invites further research and analysis by critical disability scholars and war historians alike.

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