First name:
20th century
Field of expertise:
Anthropological psychiatry
Place of birth:
Bremen (DEU)
* 28.06.1893
† 13.11.1980
Biography print

German psychiatrist, proponent of anthropological psychiatry.


Jürg Zutt (1893-1980) was born in Karlsruhe, Germany, as the third child of the lawyer Adolf Zutt and his wife, Ida. His parents died early – his mother in 1897, his father in 1907 – and Zutt spent his teenage years with a foster family. He completed his school education in 1911 and then studied medicine in Freiburg and Kiel, interrupted by military service during the First World War. After completing his doctoral degree in 1920, he was trained in psychoanalysis by Karl Abraham and worked as a trainee at two Berlin hospitals (Krankenhaus am Urban and Charité). In March 1922, he went to work with Eugen Bleuler in Zurich and, in 1923, became an assistant to Charité professor Karl Bonhoeffer, who strongly influenced his professional development. (cf. Schönknecht 2012; 1999; 1998). Together with his friend and colleague Erwin Straus, he joined a discussion circle that was also attended by Viktor v. Gebsattel and Jacob Klein. In collaboration with Wilhelm Mayer-Gross, Karl Hansen and Kurt Beringer, he founded the journal Der Nervenarzt in 1928. In 1932, he gained the formal qualification for professorship (habilitation) with his study on left-right confusion, constructional apraxia and agraphia. He was appointed to a temporary professorship at Charité Berlin in 1936, which was turned into a tenured position in 1939. Zutt married his wife, Ilse Renate, in 1937. She brought a son into the marriage: Caspar Kulenkampff, who was to become one of the key figures of the psychiatric reform in Germany around 1970.


Work as an expert consultant: the Reichstag arson and forced sterilisations

Bonhoeffer and Zutt were the psychiatric experts in charge of assessing the mental state of Reichstag arsonist Marinus van der Lubbe. Their expert report, completed on 30 March 1933, was further elaborated in an article published in Monatszeitschrift für Neurologieund Psychiatrie in 1934. According to this report, van der Lubbe was a “psychopath” but “did not act in a pathological state of mental confusion” at he time of the crime. The initial report excluded the crucial question whether the defendant was fit to stand trial at all (which was positively confirmed by the Leipzig medical officer Richard Schütz only shortly before the verdict was pronounced). The 1934 article, however, states that van der Lubbe was generally fit to stand trial, albeit not ruling out the possibility of a transient psychotic reaction during pre-trial detention, which could explain the defendant’s odd behaviour in court (cf. Bonhoeffer & Zutt 1934 in Pfäfflin 2008: 117 f.; Gerrens 1993; Bahar & Kugel 2001: 485 f.). Germany’s federal prosecutor overturned the guilty verdict against van der Lubbe in 2007, 74 years after his execution in January of 1934.


The Law for the Prevention of Hereditarily Diseased Offspring, enacted in July 1933, stipulated the compulsory sterilisation of citizens suffering from certain allegedly “genetic disorders”. Doctors, who were either medical officers or practitioners, were involved in the assessment of whether or not a person should be sterilised. Between 1934 and 1938, 1,072 cases were assessed at Berlin’s Charité, with half of the requests being rejected (average rejection rate nationwide: 7–15%; Helmchen 2014). Zutt’s approval rate was the highest of all Charité doctors involved (55% or 93 individual cases). However, it must be kept in mind that the approval or rejection rates varied across the clinic’s departments and that Zutt mainly acted as a senior consultant in appeal cases, which gave less room for manoeuvre (Gerrens 1996: 100). He served as a medical officer during the war and, until May 1945, was the director of Charité’s psychiatric mental health polyclinic and also served as senior physician at the sanatorium Berlin Westend.


“Comprehending Anthropology” and social psychiatry

After the war, Zutt first became acting director of the psychiatric university hospital at Charité and then, in October 1946, accepted the chair of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Würzburg. In 1950, he left for Frankfurt to become the chair of psychiatry and neurology at Goethe University. Between 1954 and 1965, he acted as chairman of the newly founded Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychiatrie und Neurologie (DGPN; German Association for Psychiatry and Neurology) and, from 1961 onwards, as president of the Gesamtverband Deutscher Nervenärzte (General Association of German Neurologists). In the early 1950s, Zutt increasingly questioned the reductionism of contemporary psychiatry with its theories revolving around defects and heritability. Drawing on Binswanger’s concept of “Daseinsanalyse”, he developed a “comprehending anthropology” (Schönknecht & Dening 2012) stating that the basic givens of human existence (corporeality, trust, fear, security) manifest themselves as a pre-reflexive anthropological pattern in the context of social milieu and the course of an individual’s life. In 1959, Zutt’s stepson, Caspar Kulenkampff, then a senior physician at Goethe University’s psychiatric clinic, established a department for social psychiatry there. It provided ambulatory day and night care as well as transitional accommodation – and was the first of its kind in Germany (Schönknecht 1999: 33). Under Zutt’s direction, the Frankfurt clinic also set up a neurological centre for therapy and research, which gained significance beyond the region. He became emeritus in March 1964 but still gave lectures and wrote books and articles. In the epilogue to his book Freiheitsverlust und Freiheitsentziehung (1970), he discusses mental and social trauma resulting from psychiatric hospitalisation and in Ergriffenheit und Besessenheit (1972) ethnopsychiatric issues. Jürg Zutt died in 1980 at age 87.



Bahar, A., W. Kugel (2001): Der Reichstagsbrand. Wie Geschichte gemacht wird. Berlin: Edition q.

Bonhoeffer, K., J. Zutt (1934): Über den Geisteszustand des Reichstagsbrandstifters Marinus van der Lubbe In: Monatsschrift für Psychiatrie und Neurologie 89, (4), pp. 185-213.

Gerrens, U. (1991): Zum Karl-Bonhoeffer-Gutachten vom 30. März 1933 im Reichstagsbrandprozess. In: D. Unverhau (ed.): Berlin in Geschichte und Gegenwart, pp. 45-116.

Gerrens, U. (1996): Medizinisches Ethos und theologische Ethik: Karl und Dietrich Bonhoeffer in der Auseinandersetzung um Zwangssterilisation und “Euthanasie”. (Schriftenreihe der Vierteljahreshefte für Zeitgeschichte, 73). Munich: Oldenbourg.

Helmchen, H. (2014): Bonhoeffers Position zur Sterilisation psychisch Kranker. In:Der Nervenarzt 86, (1), pp. 77-82.

Pfäfflin, F. (2008): Zur Aufhebung des Todesurteils gegen den Reichstagsbrandstifter Marinus van der Lubbe. In: Recht & Psychiatrie 26, pp. 106-118.

Schönknecht, P. (1998): Jürg Zutt. 1893-1980. In: H. Hippius, B. Holdorff, H. Schliack (eds.): Nervenärzte 2, Biographien. Stuttgart: Thieme, pp. 223-231.

Schönknecht, P. (1999): Die Bedeutung der verstehenden Anthropologie von Jürg Zutt (1893-1980) für Theorie und Praxis der Psychiatrie. Würzburg: Königshausen + Neumann.

Schönknecht, P., T. Dening (2012): Between Phenomenological and Community Psychiatry: The Comprehending Anthropology of Jürg Zutt. In: History of Psychiatry 23, (2), pp. 182-193.

Mair, R., J. Zutt (1922): Zur Frage des Zusammenhanges zwischen Homosexualität und Körperbau. In: Monatsschrift für Psychiatrie und Neurologie 52, (1), pp. 54-63.

Zutt, J. (1929): Die innere Haltung. Eine psychologische Untersuchung und ihre Bedeutung für die Psychopathologie insbesondere im Bereich schizophrener Erkrankungen. In: Monatsschrift für Psychiatrie und Neurologie 73, (3/4), pp. 52-100 [Part 1]; (5/6), pp. 243-262 [Part 2], pp. 330-357 [Part 3].

Zutt, J. (1954): Der Lebensweg als Bild der Geschichtlichkeit. Über Krisen auf dem Lebensweg. In: J. Zutt: Auf dem Wege zu einer Anthropologischen Psychiatrie. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer 1963, pp. 352-357.

Zutt, J. (1956): Das Schizophrenieproblem. Nosologische Hypothesen. In: Klinische Wochenschrift 34, (25/26), pp. 679-684.

Zutt, J. (1958): Über den tragenden Leib. (Über den werdenden, wachsenden, blühenden, welkenden und vergehenden Leib). In: Jahrbuch für Psychologie und Psychotherapie 6, pp. 166-175.

Zutt, J., C. Kulenkampff (1958) (ed.): Das Paranoide Syndrom in Anthropologischer Sicht. Symposium auf dem Zweiten Internationalen Kongress für Psychiatrie im September 1957 in Zürich. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.

Zutt, J. (1963): Auf dem Wege zu einer Anthropologischen Psychiatrie. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer.

Zutt, J., E. Straus (1963a): Die Wahnwelten (Endogene Psychosen). Frankfurt on the Main: Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft.

Zutt, J. (1963a): Über verstehende Anthropologie. In: H. W. Gruhle, R. Jung, W. Mayer-Gross, M. Müller: Grundlagen und Methoden der Klinischen Psychiatrie. (Psychiatrie der Gegenwart, Bd. 1/2). Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer, S. 763-852

Zutt, J. (1969): Die psychiatrische Wissenschaft in heutiger Zeit. In: Jahrbuch für Psychologie und Psychotherapie 17, S. 1-12.

Zutt, J. (1970): Freiheitsverlust und Freiheitsentziehung. Schicksale sogenannter Geisteskranker. Mit einem Nachtrag: Freiheitsverzicht und Freiheitsgewinn. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer.

Zutt, J. (1972; Hg.): Ergriffenheit und Besessenheit. Ein interdisziplinäres Gespräch über transkulturell-anthropologische und -psychiatrische Fragen. Bern, München: Francke.


Burkhart Brückner, Ansgar Fabri


Referencing format
Burkhart Brückner, Ansgar Fabri (2015): Zutt, Jürg.
In: Biographisches Archiv der Psychiatrie.
(retrieved on:06.12.2023)