Kemper, Werner Walther (1899-1975)

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Werner Walther Kemper, the German physician and psychoanalyst, was born on August 6, 1899, at Hilgen in the Rhineland, and died in Berlin on September 27, 1975.

He was the second of seven children, his father being a village pastor in Westphalia and his mother coming from a family of Rhineland landowners. Having taken the special session of the baccalaureate in 1917, he was mobilized on the Western Front (the battles of the Somme, the Marne, and Champagne, escaping only after being buried alive in an explosion).

He began to study medicine in 1919, specializing in internal medicine and obstetric surgery. He was particularly interested in hypnosis and psychosomatic illness. He gave up on the university career he had initially planned in order to become medical director of a reputable clinic in Berlin-Grünewald.

He did the first part of his analytic training in the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute in 1928 and his training analysis with Carl Müller-Braunschweig. He had supervision analysis, instituted for the first time in this institute in 1923, with Felix Boehm, Otto Fenichel, Jenö Hárnik, and Ernst Simmel. At the end of his training Kemper set up in private practice as a physician and psychoanalyst. He married the graphologist and future psychoanalyst Kattrin Kemper, with whom he had three sons. Following his conference on the "Genesis of genital erogeneity and the orgasm," he became a regular member of the German Psychoanalytic Society (DPG) in 1933, dean of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute in 1934, and a member of the board of directors of the DPG in 1936.

Beginning in 1941 and following the arrest and execution of John F. Rittmeister for acts of resistance, he divided his time between his private practice and the polyclinic that he managed from 1942 until the end of the war. In spring 1946, with Harald Schultz-Hencke, he created the Central Institute for Psycho-genic Illness for the Berlin insurance company, which led German insurance companies to recognize analytic psychotherapy, and in 1947 he became director of the DPG's new Institute for Psychotherapy, also established in Berlin.

To the best of our knowledge he was the only German psychoanalyst who, after twelve years of psychoanalysis under the Nazi regime, enjoyed the unreserved confidence of the International Psychoanalytic Association. In 1948, with the support of Ernest Jones, he became the first training analyst in Rio de Janeiro, where he then lived and where he founded, along with Mark Burke and Domicio A. Camara, a psychoanalytic society based on the Berlin model and which was at the origin of the stormy development of the Rio de Janeiro psychoanalytic institute. Having worked as a training analyst for twenty years, he left his mark on several generations of Brazilian candidates.

He returned to Berlin in 1967 for health reasons and until his death in 1975 he lived apart from his German colleagues who had never emigrated. He never accepted the break between the two German analytic societies (DPG and DPV).

Under the Third Reich, Kemper published work on the psychotherapeutic indications in sexual disorders and sterility. His major work, Die Störungen der Liebesfähigkeit beim Weibe (Disorders in women's capacity to love; 1942), had important repercussions and was re-published several times (1943, 1967, 1972). His monograph on enuresis and its pathogenic factors, published in 1949, is the result of his experience in the polyclinic. Written for a cultivated public, his book entitled Die Traum und seine Be-Deutung (Dreams and their meaning; 1955) is a convincing presentation of the technique of dream interpretation and comprises a comparative study of the various theoretical schools based on his psychoanalytic experience in the 1930s and 1940s. In Brazil, Kemper criticized Melanie Klein's position on the role of the transference in the actual analytic situation and the resulting emotional processes in the counter-transference, subjects he increasingly included in his therapeutic work. His book on group therapy, published in 1960, and his plan to publish Heinrich Racker's contributions on the subject of transference and counter-transference were destined to familiarize German readers with Latin American psychoanalysis and its practice of group work. His other clinical works were: Der Patient schweigt (The silent patient; 1948), Die Abstinenzregel in der Psychoanalyse (The rule of abstinence in psychoanalysis; 1954-55), Organwahl und psychosomatische Medizin (Organ choice and psychosomatic medicine; 1954).

With remarkable skill, Kemper managed to live through the Third Reich without compromising himself too much, in spite of occupying a position of responsibility, and without undermining his identity as a Freudian psychoanalyst, so much so that, after the war, he immediately reestablished contact with international psychoanalysis and proved himself both active and fecund. In Brazil, in spite of the situation there and circumstances that were personally difficult for him, he laid the bases for the establishment and expansion of psychoanalysis by means of collegial exchanges with Adelheit Koch (São Paulo), Marie Langer, and Heinrich Racker (Buenos Aires). In spite of his efforts to transmit his experience to German-speaking countries, he shared the same fate as almost all emigrant analysts, that of being scarcely recognized in his native Germany.

Karin Dittrich

See also: Berliner Psychoanalytische Poliklinik; Brazil; Germany; Göring, Matthias Heinrich; Schultz-Hencke, Harald Julius Alfred Carl-Ludwig.


Brecht Karen, et al. (1985). "Here life goes on in a most peculiar way": Psychoanalysis before and after 1933. Hamburg: Michael Kellner (1993).

Grinberg, Léon, et al. (1960). Psychoanalytische Gruppentherapie, in Werner Kemper (ed.), Theorie und Praxis. Stuttgart: Klett.

Kemper, Werner. (1943). Der Störungen dere Liebesfähigkeit beim Weibe. Leipzig: Thieme.

. (1955). Der Traum und seine Bedeutung. Hamburg: Rowohlt.

Pongratz, Ludwig J. (1973). Werner W. Kemper. In Psychotherapie in Selbstdarstellungen (pp. 259-345). Bern: Hans Huber.