Lanzer, Ernst (1878-1918)

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LANZER, ERNST (1878-1918)

Austrian lawyer Ernst Lanzer, a patient of Freud, was born in Vienna on January 22, 1878, and died in Russia in 1914.

Dr. Ernst Lanzer is more widely known by the pseudonyms the "Rat Man" and "Dr. Lorenz", given him by Freud and James Strachey respectively. He is the subject of Freud's case history (1909d). His parents both came from Silesia: his mother Rosa (née Herlinger) was born in 1844 and his father in 1825. (Freud and the Rat Man were alike in that at their birth, they had fathers who were old enough to be grandfathers.)

The respective names, pseudonyms, and births of the Rat Man's siblings are as follows: Hedwig (Hilde), 1870; Camilla (Katherine), 1872; Rosalie (Constanze), 1874; Robert (Hans), 1879; Olga (Julie), 1880; and Gertrud (Gerda), 1886. The deaths of Camilla (1881), his father (1899), and his aunt (1901) had variously immediate and persistent perturbing influences on the Rat Man's personal and professional life.

In 1897 Lanzer enrolled in the Law Faculty of the University of Vienna, but he could not complete his doctorate until ten years later, shortly before his analysis with Freud. Beset with similar ambivalence and procrastination, he finally made a childless marriage with his cousin Gisela Adler in November, 1908, which was not only about one and a half years after their engagement but also some ten years after he first fell in love with her.

It was during military maneuvers from August 11 to September, 1907, that Lanzer first suffered from his peculiar obsession with rats. Military records from the same year indicate owing to his father's death that he inherited 50,000 kronen, an amount starkly contrasting with the cost (3.80 kronen) of the pince-nez that he lost on maneuvers and that precipitated him into an obsessional frenzy.

Lanzer entered into an analysis with Freud on October 1, 1907. With his conflicts over work being partially resolved (he had previously worked only a little over two months), Lanzer found employment in 1908; yet he changed law offices four times before officially becoming an attorney (Rechtsanwalt ) and finding more secure employment in 1913. In August, 1914 he was activated into military service; he was taken prisoner by the Russians on November 21, 1914 and died four days later.

Patrick Mahony

See also: "Notes upon a Case of Obsessional Neurosis"; (Rat Man).


Freud, Sigmund. (1909b). Analysis of a phobia in a five-year-old boy. SE, 10: 1-149.

. (1909d). Notes upon a case of obsessional neurosis. SE, 10: 151-318.

Mahony, Patrick J. (1992). Freud and the Rat Man. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Nunberg, Hermann, and Federn, Ernst (1962-1975). Minutes of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. New York: International Universities Press.