Gert Postel went to Hauptschule and finished his training as a mail carrier. Postel himself said that his mother died because of a maladministered depression treatment and that he himself had briefly been in a juvenile ward. From these events, he claimed to have gained the motivation to expose and embarrass psychiatry.
Career as impostor
Public health officer in Flensburg
In September 1982, Postel successfully applied for the position of assistant public health officer in Flensburg using the pseudonym of "Dr. med. Dr. phil. Clemens Bartholdy". When asked about his dissertation's subject, he reportedly replied "On Pseudologia phantastica [with regard to] the example of the character Felix Krull from the homonymous novel by Thomas Mann and cognitively induced biases in stereotypical judgment".
Due to coincidence, his true identity was discovered in April 1983 and Postel had to leave his position in public service. In 1984, he received a suspended sentence and was placed on probation for multiple instances of forgery of documents, unauthorized assumption of academic titles and forgery of health certificates. Also during the eighties, by his own account, he lived seven years in a partnership with a female judge.
Other employments as a medical doctor followed, e.g. in a private clinic and as a surgeon major with the Bundeswehr.
Senior physician at Zschadraß forensic psychiatry
After studying theology for a while, Postel managed to return to medical service in 1995. Using his birth name, he obtained the position of a senior physician in a clinic specialized on neurology and psychiatry in Zschadraß near Leipzig. As a part of his job, he issued psychiatric expertises and held lectures for medical doctors without raising suspicion with anyone. By chance, a co-worker recognised him on July 10, 1997, forcing him to go into hiding. At that time, an appointment was already set for an interview with Hans Geisler, then Saxony's Minister of State for social affairs, health and family, on the occasion of Postel's appointment to a professorship and to the position of chief of medicine at Saxony's hospital for psychiatry and neurology at Arnsdorf near Dresden.
Gert Postel was arrested on May 12, 1998. In 1999, the state court in Leipzig sentenced him to four years in jail for repeated imposture and forgery of documents. Following his probationary release in January 2001, Postel published an account of his experiences, titled "Doktorspiele" (Playing Doctor). Intended to be an exposure of psychiatric establishment, the book made him an idol within the anti-psychiatry movement in Germany.
In 2002, ARD broadcast an NDR-produced docudrama titled "Der Unwiderstehliche – Die 1000 Lügen des Gert Postel" ("The Irresistible One - The Thousand Lies of Gert Postel"), directed by Kai Christiansen. The film features both re-enacted scenes and footage from an interview with Postel.
In contrast to the broadly sympathising stance towards Postel in the German media —who drew comparisons with the "Captain of Köpenick", Wilhelm Voigt— the film takes a far more critical approach, including themes like narcissism. It also makes mention of Postel's alleged stalking of several women, including a prosecutor investigating his case, and intimidation of a patient in Zschadraß, whom according to her own account Postel had threatened with transferral to a locked ward, for challenging his method of treatment.
- (German) Gert Postel: Doktorspiele. Geständnisse eines Hochstaplers. Eichborn, 2001. ISBN 3-8218-3917-1.
- (German) Gerhard Mauz: Ein Gaukler, ein Artist. Der Spiegel 29/1997, p 34f.
- (German) Der Unwiderstehliche – Die 1000 Lügen des Gert Postel at the Internet Movie Database.
- Postel had been suspected of some involvement in the affair. (German) Aktenzeichen 33247/87 ungelöst. Der Spiegel 41/1997, p. 44ff. / 42/1997, p. 190ff.
- (German) fan-maintained Gert Postel site, featuring links to interviews and further reading
- (German) Marianne Kestler: PDF (49.7 KiB). In: Psychosoziale Umschau 2/2004.
- (German) Dario Lindes: "Was ist Therapie? oder 'Die Kutte macht den Mönch'" - Betrachtungen zum Fall Gert Postel
- (German) Since the 1'st of March 2005 Gert Postel is honorary patron (in German: Schirmherr) of the German association of survivors of psychiatry Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Psychiatrie-Erfahrener e.V.