Re-Establishment of the WPV and Return to Vienna
Post-war Vienna was very unlike the city before the rise of totalitarian structures, was unlike the image in people’s memory. Hunger and hardship, damaged buildings and infrastructure, the continued and noticeable presence of antisemitism – the general situation after the end of the war was disheartening. While democratic structures had quickly been re-established, a collective confrontation with or reappraisal of the Nazi past was still decades away; in addition, complicated application processes and long-drawn restitution proceedings discouraged many victims from claiming reparations.
By 1946, among the former WPV members and candidates, only Walter Hollitscher from London, Otto Fleischmann from Budapest, and Robert Hans Jokl from France had returned. The latter failed to reconnect to Vienna and emigrated to the United States in 1947. In March 1944, before his planned remigration, Josef Karl Friedjung died in Haifa.
In April 1946, the WPV was ceremoniously reopened under the direction of August Aichhorn (president) and Alfred von Winterstein (vice-president) – both had never been NSDAP members – and recognized by the International Psychoanalytic Association. The emigrated WPV members sent messages of congratulation – from afar.
“To revive the old and famous Viennese group is a noble task, and I wish you the best of success with it.”
Ernest Jones to August Aichhorn, July 26, 1946
Re-opening of the WPV
Walter Hollitscher was born into an upper-class family in Vienna on May 16, 1911, and christened a Protestant. After his parents’ separation, he moved to Prague with his father. Already in secondary school, he joined the Communist movement. In 1929, he moved to Vienna and became a member of the Kommunistische Partei Österreichs (KPÖ) [Austrian Communist Party]. At the University of Vienna, he initially studied medicine, then philosophy, and in 1934 he wrote his doctoral thesis on the causal principle in quantum physics under Moritz Schlick. In order to be accepted into the WPV as a candidate, he promised »to refrain from any political activity prohibited by law during the time of his analytic training« in a letter to Anna Freud in 1936. Already in 1935, after the arrests of WPV member Edith Buxbaum and candidate Marie Langer, the training committee had enacted a prohibition for candidates to actively engage in political resistance during their training.
Hollitscher began his training analysis with Grete Bibring-Lehner and Willi Hoffer and also resumed his medical studies. Already on March 18, 1938, he was able to leave Vienna for Switzerland, where he obtained a temporary visa for Great Britain. In London, he continued his medical studies and, at the British Psychoanalytical Society (BPS), his psychoanalytic training. The convinced communist also became an active collaborator of the Austrian Centre London, which had been founded as a self-help organization in 1939 and developed into a politically and socially committed institution for Jewish and otherwise politically persecuted Austrians in exile.
In 1946, Hollitscher returned to Vienna. As a representativeof the BPS, he took part in the ceremonial reopening of the WPV and participated in its first management meetings before resigning from the WPV in 1948. He had lost all interest in psychoanalysis, which he criticized as an expression of bourgeois ideology, as unscientific, speculative, and ahistorical.
In the following decades, he lived and worked in the German Democratic Republic as well as in Vienna, where he was a member of the KPÖ’s central committee from
1965 to 1977. A prolific scientist and author, Hollitscher wrote around 30 books on scientific, philosophical, and psychological subjects from a Marxist perspective.
On July 6, 1986, Walter Hollitscher died in Vienna.
Condolence letter from Walter Hollitscher to Anna Freud, dated September 25, 1939: “Dear Miss Freud! I want to write to you how much your father’s death also / affected me. He was my only great authority; since he ceased to be among the living, the world has changed a lot for me. […] / Your very devoted / Walter Hollitscher”.
Freud Museum London