Second World War: The Effect on the Development of Psychoanalysis (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis)
The Second World War, like the First and in spite of the upheavals it caused in the psychoanalytic movement, was the origin of the international expansion of psychoanalytic theories and practices. Three principal factors were involved: The Nazi persecutions, by forcing Jewish psychoanalysts to emigrate and by eliminating all references to Freud in occupied Europe, shifted the international core of the movement to America. Freud's death in the first weeks of the world conflict made all psychoanalysts responsible for what would or would not be considered "psychoanalytic," leading to the gradual evolution from an autocratic to a democratic structure within the movement. The Allied victory in 1945, by spreading American culture abroad, promoted interest in liberated Europe in a certain conception of psychoanalysis, understood as a liberalization of behavior and a new understanding of the individual in a "free" Western world, essentially opposed to Soviet totalitarianism.
Anna Freud and Ernest Jones made a determined effort to organize the emigration of Jewish analysts from Europe to countries willing to receive them (Steiner). Once Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, persecutions against Jews forced many of them to leave professional organizations, emigrate from Germany and leave the famed Psychoanalytic Institute in the hands of Matthias Göring. The "German Institute of Psychological Research and Psychotherapy" attempted to eradicate psychoanalytic theory and practice, and the majority of therapists who remained in Germany compromised themselves during the twelve years the Nazi regime was in existence, although a few of them resisted. John Rittmeister attempted to, and was guillotined in 1943. Karl Landauer died in the Theresienstadt camp, Salomea Kempner in the Warsaw ghetto. In Austria the situation was similar after the Anschluss, when analysts were forced to emigrate. Freud and several family members and friends left Austria in 1938. In Italy Mussolini's fascists had, less brutally but just as efficiently, muzzled publishing and destroyed psychotherapy and helped to eradicate support for Freud in Europe, where psychoanalysis had come into being and flourished. There were a number of Hungarian analysts, for example, who had to flee to South America or Australia, where they became active proponents of Freudian theories.
In France, where several psychoanalysts like René Spitz and Heinz Hartmann had gone before the war and where Rudolf Loewenstein and Marie Bonaparte had emigrated after closing their institute and discontinuing the Revue française de psychanalyse, some psychoanalysts continued to practice, although discreetly. Only René Laforgue, originally from Alsace, tried to collaborate with the Göring Institute, an attempt that was ultimately unsuccessful. Sacha Nacht joined the Resistance movement and Paul Schiff joined the Free French forces with whom he fought until the Allied victory.
But it was among the Allies that psychoanalysis found the greatest support, and it was in Allied countries that it flourished to an unprecedented degree. In Great Britain the controversy between Melanie Klein and Anna Freud gave the British Psychoanalytic Society the tripartite structure it subsequently retained. Just as important were the contributions by psychoanalysts to the war effort through selection and psychological care of English soldiers. John Rickman and Wilfred Bion, among others, developed techniques that were the origin of group therapy practices such as the application of psychoanalytic practices to social problems.
In America the influx of refugees disturbed the equilibrium of the American Psychoanalytic Society (APSA), the number of members rising from ninety-two in 1932 to one hundred ninety-two in 1940 and to two hundred forty-seven in 1945. Obviously there were conflicts. In 1941 Karen Horney left the New York Psychoanalytic Society to found, with Harry Stack Sullivan and Clara Thompson, the Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis. The European analysts and their students took the reins of the APA and continued the discussions and quarrels that had characterized their behavior prior to emigrating. Some, like Otto Fenichel, who had been politically militant in the past, had to keep their opinions to themselves and adapt to an "American way of life," of which, with the passage of generations, they became the most ardent defenders. We know that the APSA's requirement of a medical degree led to the exclusion of many highly capable analysts, like Theodor Reik, from traditional psychoanalytic organizations; others, like Géza Róheim, were not allowed to teach.
The International Psychoanalytic Association was in turn "Americanized," with Freud's prestigious students taking an increasingly greater part in its management. Their responsibilities also grew through the global expansion of psychoanalysis that emigration had caused and which accentuated the popular vogue for Freudian ideas in the United States. The 1945 Allied victory put an end to the dominance of German as the language of psychoanalysis, and English became the principle vehicle for Freudian theories. This was secured by the publication, between 1953 and 1974, of the twenty-four volumes of the Standard Edition of the Works of Sigmund Freud.
The Cold War, and the time it took for traditional European psychoanalytic organizations to resume their activities in countries not subject to Soviet control, resulted in the unchallenged dominance of Anglo-American ideas for nearly fifty years in both international politics and psychoanalysis.
ALAIN DE MIJOLLA
See also: First World War: The effect on the development of psychoanalysis.
La psychanalyse et les psychanalystes dans le monde durant la Deuxième Guerre mondiale. (1988). Revue internationale d'histoire de la psychanalyse, 1.
Steiner, Riccardo. (2000). 'It is a new kind of diaspora': Explorations in the sociopolitical and cultural context of psychoanalysis. London: Karnac.