Landauer, Karl (1887-1945)

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LANDAUER, KARL (1887-1945)

German psychoanalyst and physician Karl Landauer was born on October 12, 1887, in Munich and died on January 27, 1945, in the Nazi concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen.

From an Orthodox Jewish family, Landauer was the youngest of three children and the only son; his father, a banker, died after a long illness when Karl was fourteen. When he began his medical studies, he intended to become a pediatrician, but subsequently decided on psychiatry.

To complement neuropsychiatric training with Julius Wagner-Jauregg, in 1912 Landauer took the advice of psychiatrist Max Isserlin, at the Kraepelin Institute in Munich, and began a training analysis with Freud. He joined the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society in the fall of 1913. With the outbreak of war the next year, he entered the military and served as a physician on both the Eastern and Western Front. His wartime experience with poison gas made him a pacifist.

From 1919, for reasons connected with his family, Landauer continued his psychiatric training in Frankfurt. In 1923, he opened a practice, principally devoted to psychoanalysis. He thereafter worked to establish another analytic community, similar to the one developing in Berlin. He organized local and international congresses (Würzburg, 1924; Bad Homburg, 1925; Wiesbaden, 1932) and he visited Freud every year. In 1926, he founded the Southwest German Psychoanalytic Group.

In 1929, together with Heinrich Meng, Frieda Fromm-Riechmann and Erich Fromm, Landauer established the Frankfurt Psychoanalytic Institute, at the invitation of Max Horkheimer, who was one of his analysands and the founder, six years earlier, of the Frankfurt Institute of Social Research. Landauer was also mentor to psychoanalyst Siegmund Heinrich Fuchs (Foulkes).

In 1933, with the rise of National Socialism, Landauer emigrated to Amsterdam, and for the rest of the decade he was the most important analyst in the Netherlands. In 1936, in celebration of Freud's eightieth birthday, he lectured before the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and the Netherlands Psychoanalytic Society.

Failing to take any opportunity to leave the Netherlands for the United States with the approach of World War II, with the Nazi occupation Landauer experienced the gradual loss of personal and professional freedom. In 1943, he was arrested with his wife and his oldest daughter, and transferred from the concentration camp at Westerbork, near Amsterdam, to Bergen-Belsen. There he managed to practice analysis and provide counseling to patients before dying of malnutrition.

Landauer published some nineteen articles in psychoanalysis between 1914 and 1939. Among them are: "Spontanheilung einer Katatonie" (A spontaneous cure of catatonia; 1914); "'Passive' Technik" (The "passive" technique; 1924); "Aquivalente der tauer" (Equivalents of mourning; 1925); "Zur psychosexuellen Genese der Dummheit" (Contribution to the psychosexual genesis of mental retardation; 1929); "Die Ich-Organisation in der Pubertät" (Ego organization in puberty; 1935); and "Die affekte und ihre Entwicklung" (Affects and their development; 1936). A posthumous collection, Theorie der Affekte un andere Schriften sur Ich-Organisation (Theory of affects and other writings on the organization of the ego), appeared in 1991.

Landauer also presented the first case study of narcissistic identification with the lost object, as well as original technical considerations for the treatment of narcissistic disordersan early attempt to combine Freud's structural model with his first theory of affectsand a study on the significance of motricity. A pioneer in analytic psychotherapy for children and teenagers, Landauer's description of the psychodynamics of thought inhibition influenced the Frankfurt School's pioneering research on the character of prejudice.

Hans-Joachim Rothe

See also: Germany; Netherlands; Second World War: The effect on the development of psychoanalysis; Sigmund Freud Institute.


Bergmann, Martin S., and Hartman, Frank. (1976). The Evolution of Psychoanalytic Technique. New York: Basic Books.

Laier, Michael. (1994). Das Frankfurter Psychoanalytische Institut (1929-1933). Anfänge der Psychoanalyse in Frankfurt am Main, Münster: LIT.

Landauer, Karl. (1938). Affects, passions, and temperament. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 19, 388-415.

. (1939). Some remarks on the formation of the anal-erotic character. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 20, 418-425.

. (1991). Theorie der Affekte und andere Schriften zur Ich-Organisation. Frankfurt, Fischer.

Plänkers, Tomas, Laier, Michael, Otto, Hans-Heinrich, et al. (1996). Psychoanalysis in Frankfurt am Main.: Zerstörte Anfänge, Wiederannäherung, Entwicklungen. Tübingen, Diskord.

Rothe, Hans-Joachim. (1987). Zur Erinnerung an Karl Landauer. Geb. am 12.10.1887 in München, gest. am 27.1.1945 in Bergen-Belsen. Frankfurt: Sigmund-Freud-Institut.