Psychoanalysis in Vienna after the »Anschluss«

After the »Anschluss,« the destiny of Viennese psychoanalysis was closely linked to the Deutsche Psychoanalytische Gesellschaft (DPG) [German Psychoanalytic Society], which had been submitted to a process of »Aryanization« since 1933. In 1936, the DPG was incorporated into the »Deutsche Institut für Psychologie und Psychotherapie e. V.,« headed by Matthias H. Göring, a cousin of Hermann Göring. The »Working Group Vienna of the German Institute« was founded in March 1938. It was directed by
the Viennese psychotherapist and member of the NSDAP Heinrich von Kogerer, a decided enemy of psychoanalysis. The working group never practiced a real exchange of ideas.

Initially without any connection to the Working Group of the German Institute, August Aichhorn taught a class of psychoanalytic theory and practice to a small group of students in his apartment from the winter of 1938-39. Three of the five participants in this first illegal seminar – Ella Lingens, Kurt Lingens, and Karl Motesiczky – were arrested by the Gestapo in October 1942 for helping two Jewish couples flee the country. Karl Motesiczky died from typhoid fever in Auschwitz on June 25, 1943.

In the autumn of 1941, the seminar was recognized by the German Institute, some members of the Vienna Working Group of the German Institute now attended, too. Even after the official recognition, Aichhorn remained true to his commitment to teach unadulterated psychoanalysis in theory and practice.

 “I still have very clear memories of these days in March 38 … before the German invasion … on Friday; when I had to avoid the jeering crowds in Währingerstraße on my way home, I still had no idea what terrible things were to come.“

August Aichhorn, 1946

Which psychoanalytic terms were accepted in the Third Reich, which were objectionable? Aichhorn’s manuscript Kategorien der Verwahrlosung [Categories of Neglect] was examined for “admissible” terms by Werner Kemper, Head of the Outpatient Clinic of the “German Institute” – Kemper for instance wants to replace “anal phase” with “phase of defiance”; next to some terms, like “Oedipus complex”, the Latin word “cave!” [beware!] expresses categorical rejection.

Thomas Aichhorn Archive, Vienna

Letter from August Aichhorn to Heinz Kohut, dated July 23, 1939, on the stationery of a Budapest hotel (facsimile). “My dear Heinz! / After a long pause again a sign of life from me. […] / I have not had any news from London for some time. Do you know anything more of Dr. Hoffer? […] / I for my part don’t see all of our futures in such grey tones. / Please write soon. / Most cordially / A. Aichhorn. / Don’t forget your address!”

Heinz Kohut Papers, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

August Aichhorn

August Aichhorn was born in Vienna on July 27, 1878. After his training as a teacher, he worked in elementary schools and vocational colleges. In 1907, as a reaction to the establishment of military facilities in Vienna, he founded a boy’s day-care center. Aichhorn aimed to base his education for youth on citizenship, not patriotism. In 1914, he was awarded the title of »Imperial Counsellor.« In 1919, the municipal authorities of Vienna commissioned him to establish an educational center for disadvantaged children and youths in Hollabrunn (50 km to the north of Vienna).

Through Willi Hoffer, Anna Freud became aware of Aichhorn, who eventually started a training analysis with Paul Federn and became a member of the WPV in 1922. From 1924, he held courses for educators and social workers at the WPV outpatient clinic, from 1925, he worked with adults and youths in his private practice and as a training and control analyst. He taught at Dorothy Burlingham’s school in the Viennese district of Hietzing and, with his close colleagues Anna Freud, Willi Hoffer, and Siegfried Bernfeld, was among the lecturers of the pedagogical program, which the WPV introduced in 1933-34. Already in 1925, he published his main work Wayward Youth. For the development of psychoanalysis – until then a form of treatment for people with inhibited drives – Aichhorn’s expertise with disinhibited and aggressive individuals was a valuable addition.

On March 11, 1938, Aichhorn’s elder son August junior, an employee of the Fatherland Front, was arrested while trying to flee and transferred to the Dachau concentration camp in May 1938. Even after his release in September 1938, Aichhorn junior was further surveilled by the Gestapo. Aichhorn’s decision to stay in Vienna and collaborate in the »Vienna Working Group of the German Institute« was decisively influenced by his son’s fate. From here, he hoped, he would best be able to support him.

In the war years, Aichhorn regularly visited his Hungarian colleagues in Budapest – a kind of substitute home for him. Jewish analysts were able to continue working in the Hungarian Psychoanalytic Society, albeit with great difficulty.

In 1946, August Aichhorn reopened the WPV. Early in 1948, there was a reunion with Anna Freud in Lausanne.

August Aichhorn died in his apartment in Rathausstraße 20 in Vienna on October 13, 1949.


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