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Hietzing Schule/Burlingham-Rosenfeld School


Founded in 1927 by Dorothy Burlingham and Eva Rosenfeld under the aegis of Anna Freud, the Hietzing Schule (Hietzing School) was an effort to create a pedagogic experience inspired by psychoanalytic principles with children who were at the same time engaged in analysis.

Small and private (it was sometimes known as the "Matchbox School"), the school was housed in a log cabin built in Eva Rosenfeld's back yard, in the XIIIe district of Vienna. Peter Blos, who had been engaged as tutor to Burlingham's four children, was its first administrator. He enlisted his friend Erik Homburger Erikson as one of the teachers.

Rather few students attended the school, about twenty in all. They came from households in which their parents were apt to understand psychoanalysis or to themselves be in analysis. The children of Burlingham and Rosenfeld, Peter Heller (who would eventually write about his experiences), August Aichhorn's son Walter, and Ernstl Halberstadr-Freud, participated in the project, which created something like a "psychoanalytic family."

Freud's own 1918 pronouncements on the role that psychoanalysis might play in preventing psychological conflicts (1919a) undoubtedly influenced the way that the school was conceived. Siegfried Bernfeld, close to Anna Freud, a committed socialist who had himself founded the Kinderheim Baumgarten, gave a lecture on education on February 25, 1929, the contents of which were published in the Frankfurter Zeitung. Psychoanalysis, according to the article, "would provide decisive arguments in favor of endeavors in modern education to promote the independent creative activity of the child and the retrenchment of authority and punishment" (Heller 1992, p. 80). Similarly, teaching at the Hietzing School was to be free of the constraints of a rigid or official curriculum in favor of a project-based approach. To allow free rein to curiosity and fantasy (though not to acting out) would provide a place for studying topics such as "Eskimos," for example, around which would be organized ethnographic investigations, creation of drawings and objects, and games.

Important debates took place between the school's progressives and latitudinarians (Peter Blos and Erik Erikson) and others who thought it was necessary to impose some unpleasant tasks on children, including Anna Freud, Eva Rosenfeld, and August Aichhorn, who managed the school from 1931 to 1932.

Anna Freud, with her teaching experience in a primary school in Vienna and analysis with her father (who was also analyst to both Dorothy Burlingham and Eva Rosenfeld), was one of the first to plan teaching programs based on psychoanalytic principles. She had almost all the children and some teachers in analysis, including Erik Erikson. Although she appreciated progressive advances in education, she was fairly conservative.

The school closed in 1932, in part due to Eva Rosenfeld's departure for Berlin. Some students found it difficult to adapt to public education; this factor subsequently influenced Anna Freud and Dorothy Burlingham when they founded, in London during the Second World War, the Hampstead War Nurseries and Child Therapy Clinic.

Alain de Mijolla

See also: Aichhorn, August; Blos, Peter; Burlingham-Tiffany, Dorothy; Erikson, Erik Homburger; Freud, Anna; Rosenfeld, Eva Marie.


Asspignanesi, Lisa and Forrester, John. (1992). Freud's women. New York: Basic Books.

Freud, Sigmund. (1919a [1918]) Lines of advance in psycho-analytic therapy. SE, 12: 159-168.

Heller, Peter. (1992). Anna Freud's letters to Eva Rosenfeld. Madison, CT: International Universities Press.

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