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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

Prof. Dr. Burkard Sievers

Dear friends and colleagues,

With great sadness I must announce the death of our very dear Past President and Distinguished Member, Prof. Dr. Burkard Sievers. He leaves behind his beloved wife Rose Redding Mersky, Past President and Distinguished Member of ISPSO as well, four children and six grandchildren.

Burkard was Professor emeritus with a chair in organizational development at the Bergische Universität Wuppertal. He was co-editor of “Freie Assoziation”, the only German speaking journal connecting psycho- and socio-analytic thinking with organizations, society and culture. He co-founded the first group relations organization in Germany (MUNDO) and later directed conferences for over 20 years (Trans-European Management).

Early on, as a child of a catholic family, he wanted to become a priest, but after discovering sociology he decided to study this subject at the Sorbonne and later went to the US to expand into Organization Development at the National Training Labs.

With him we lose an important contributor to our field, brilliant, sharp-minded, and unorthodox in his perspective and approach. In his many papers and books, he connected psychoanalytic, socio-analytic ,and critical reflections on the state of today’s organizations as well as culture and society. His writing remains up-to-date until now as if they were written just yesterday. Unfortunately, he could never finish his book on Moby Dick which was a life-long-fascination for him. His themes though ranged much further, from Moby Dick to the Greeks, from greed, money and cynicism to motivation and people development. Not afraid of the dark sides of organizations and leadership he achieved to uncover the often destructive forces at play. All of his papers can be found in our library.

His other fascination was photography. Building on the concept of Social Dreaming he developed the Social Photo-Matrix. Sadly, he had to abandon a book on a socio-analytical exploration of photography in 2016. His last published article concerns a photograph his father took of him as a 2-year-old child. It is titled: “A photograph of a little boy seen through the lens of the associative unconscious and collective memory”.

Intellectually curious as he was the conversations with him were always inspiring and often joyful, filled with wittiness and humorous remarks.

For ISPSO Burkard was an important president as he (not only) achieved to open our society up towards Eastern Europe and a new Eastern-European membership.

Developing young people, students, and young members of ISPSO was very dear to him. He took joy in mentoring and teaching them what he knew. His sometimes a bit rough shell covered the most kindest heart and soul and a most vulnerable and sensitive person.

Personally, I owe him my membership at ISPSO as it was him who introduced me and supported me to join our society. I will always be most grateful to him.

At the end his mental and physical strength have left him and he died peacefully with Rose.

We will miss you, dear Burkard!

And, dear Rose, we weep with you and your family about the loss of a great man and strong personality.

Warm and sad greetings


Prof. Dr. Claudia Nagel
ISPSO President