Eitingon, Max (1881-1943)

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EITINGON, MAX (1881-1943)

Max Eitingon, a medical doctor, was born in Mohilev, Russia, in 1881 and died in Jerusalem on July 3, 1943. He was cofounder and presidentof the Berlin Psychoanalytic Polyclinic (1920-1933), director and patron of the Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag (1921-1930), president of the International Psychoanalytic Association (1927-1933), founder and president of the International Training Committee (1925-1943), and founder of the Palestine Psychoanalytic Society (1934) and of the Psychoanalytic Institute of Israel.

Eitingon was born into an orthodox Jewish family. His father, Chaim Eitingon, had a large successful fur business, with a store in New York City. Max was the last of his four children (the others where Esther, Fanny, and Vladimir). Around 1893, when he was twelve, the family moved to Leipzig, Germany, where Chaim became a generous patron to the Jewish community, financing the construction of a hospital and a synagogue. In 1929 he was ruined by the stock market crash and died in Leipzig in 1932.

Educational problems, most likely associated with his stuttering, prevented Max from taking classes at the local high school, and he became a student in a private school that had a curriculum based on the study of modern languages. He learned to speak ten languages and later was able to take medical notes in several languages and dialects. However, because he did not have an opportunity to take his baccalaureate exams, he was not allowed to enroll in medical school and had to obtain a degree equivalent to the baccalaureate. He studied at various universities in Halle, Heidelberg, and Marburg, where Hermann Cohen, a specialist in Judaism, taught.

After this educational odyssey he began his medical studies in 1902 at the University of Leipzig. Eitingon completed everything but his dissertation when he left to become an intern at the Burghölzli Clinic in Zurich. Eugen Bleuler, head of the clinic, sent Eitingon to Freud with a patient because he wanted to discover what a psychiatrist could learn from a psychoanalyst. The "Minutes of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society" note the presence of "Mr. Eitingon, of Bleuler's clinic, as guest" at the Wednesday evening meetings of January 23 and 30, 1907.

Eitingon was the first doctor from the Burghölzli Clinic to meet Freud. He served as an intermediary between Freud and psychiatry, but also asked to see him privately as a patient. Between 1908 and 1909 he underwent a five-week analysis during evening walks with Freud, a somewhat unusual venue for psychoanalysis. This was Freud's first training analysis. We can assume that Eitingon discussed with Freud his relationship with his father and his inhibition about working. Presented these difficulties of Eitington's, Freud, who was very indulgent in his countertransference, appears to have been inclined to make Eitingon a "doctor of psychoanalysis."

Eitingon, with the help of Carl Jung, finally managed to complete his dissertation: "Effect of an epileptic attack on mental associations." He settled in Berlin, where his father's fortune provided him with a life of comfort and ease among the intellectual and artistic elite of the city. On April 20, 1913, he married Mirra Jacovleina Raigorodsky, an actress from the Moscow Art Theater. During this period he had some time to help Karl Abraham introduce psychoanalysis to Berlin.

During the First World War, Eitingon became an Austrian citizen and joined the army as a physician. He was sent to Prague, Kassa, Iglo, and Miskolc (his birthplace), where he recommended Sándor Ferenczi as an expert for a military trial. In the hospitals Mirra worked with him as a volunteer nurse. He successfully treated cases of war trauma with hypnosis and was decorated several times for his work. He attended meetings of the Budapest Psychoanalytic Association, worked with Ferenczi on a psychoanalytic clinic, and attended the 1918 psychoanalytic congress.

At the end of the war, faced with an unstable political climate in Hungary, Eitingon left for Berlin, where he began his lifelong commitment to psychoanalysis. He had become a close friend of Freud in 1910 and remained his confidant during difficult times. In Freud's words, he was the "first messenger [of psychoanalysis] to approach a solitary man [Freud]." With Ferenczi he played the role of a supportive disciple throughout the war years. A reliable individual, he was in a sense an administrator of the Freudian enterprise, resolving any problems that arose in the various local psychoanalytic societies (Zurich, for example).

He replaced Anton von Freund as a member of the Secret Committee (of Freud's supporters) and continued his work in introducing psychoanalysis. In 1920 he took over work that had been done in Budapest and succeeded in creating a polyclinic in Berlin, whose construction he entrusted to Freud's son, Ernst, an architect. He financed the polyclinic out of his personal fortune and ran it with the help of Karl Abraham and Ernst Simmel until the rise of National-Socialism in 1933.

The polyclinic was the first center in the world for treating patients with the Freudian psychoanalytic method and the first training institute for young analysts. The clinic trained candidates from all over the world to address the mental and social problems of postwar Europe. The curriculum lasted two years, then three, and comprised three separate tracks: theory, personal analysis, and supervised analysis.

After the death of his father, a cerebral thrombosis left him paralyzed in the left arm. On June 13, 1933, Eitingon presented Ferenczi's funeral elegy in Budapest. Ruined, handicapped, and no longer able to bear the persecution in Berlin, he left Germany, on Freud's advice, in September 1933. Because of his Zionist sympathies, he decided to emigrate to Palestine. He settled in Jerusalem, on Balfour Street, and there founded the Palestine Psychoanalytic Association (1934). In spite of Freud's support, he failed to obtain a chair in psychoanalysis at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In 1938 he was involved in a court case in Paris (the "Plevitskaya affair") and suspected of being a Soviet spy. Vladimir Nabokov used this episode for the short story "The Assistant Producer." Marie Bonaparte and René Laforgue testified on Eitingon's behalf. Despite the French government's official acknowledgement of "strategic error," he was again accused of being a spy, this time posthumously, in the United States in 1988. A new controversy followed, but Eitingon's reputation was cleared (Moreau Ricaud, 1992).

Eitingon was the author of some thirty articles, including "Genie, Talent und Psychoanalyse" (1912), "Gott und Vater" (1914), "Ein Fall von Verlesen" (1915), and twelve reports to various international psychoanalytic congresses, from Berlin 1922 to Paris 1938.

Michelle Moreau Ricaud

See also: Berliner Psychoanalytiche Polyklinik; Berliner Psychoanaltisches Institut; Germany; International Psychoanalytic Association; Internationale Zeitschrift für (ärztliche) Psychoanalyse ; Israel; Lay analysis; "Lines of Advance in Psycho-Analytic Therapy"; Secret Committee; Technique with adults, psychoanalytic; Training analysis.


Draper, Theodore. (1988, April 14). The mystery of Max Eitingon. New York Review of Books, 35 (6), 32-43.

Eitingon, Max. (1912). Genie, Talent und Psychoanalyse. Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse, 2, 539-540.

Eitingon, Max. (1914). Gott und Vater. Imago, 3, 90-93.

. (1915). Ein Fall von Verlesen. Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, 3, 349-350.

. (1922). Zur psychoanalytischen Bewegung. Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, 8, 103-106.

. (1923). Report of the Berlin Psychoanalytical Polyclinic. Bulletin of the International Psychoanalytical Association, 4, 254.

Moreau Ricaud, Michelle. (1992). Max Eitingon (1881-1943) et la politique. Revue internationale d'histoire de la psychanalyse, 5, 55-69.