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Ophuijsen, Johan H. W. van (1882-1950)

OPHUIJSEN, JOHAN H. W. VAN (1882-1950)

A physician, psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst, Johan H. W. van Ophuijsen was born on November 12, 1882, in Sumatra, Dutch East Indies, and died on May 31, 1950, in Detroit, Michigan. He was sent to Holland for secondary schooling at age thirteen. He graduated with an MD from Leiden University in 1909 and went for four years to ürich to the clinic of Eugen Bleuler. He had analysis with Jung and analyzed some English-speaking patients. He was secretary of the Züricher Psychoanalytic Society and as such present at the meeting of Freud and Jung about the escalation of their conflicts in November 1912 in Munich, together with Karl Abraham and Ernest Jones.

Back in Holland in 1913 he worked at the psychiatric clinic of Jelgersma in Leiden and participated in meetings with some colleagues who were also interested in psychoanalysis, partly analyzed by Jung. Together they founded the Dutch Psychoanalytical Society in 1917. Van Ophuijsen was the link between Dutch and international psychoanalysis, through his reports in the Internazionale psychoanalytische Zeitschrift and the Dutch Medical Journal. In 1922 he went for a few years to Berlin for further analysis with Abraham, cooperating with Max Eitingon and Hanns Sachs, who were developing the tripartite training model at the Berlin Institute. After his return again to Holland he settled in the Hague and became president of the Dutch Psychoanalytical Society, fervently defending the desirability of lay analysis and the tripartite training model against the opposition of most of the other members.

From 1927-1934 he was treasurer, and from 1936-1938 vice-president of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA). His international involvement caused much resentment among the Dutch. In 1932 he was on the committee to save the Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag in Vienna from financial distress. His appeal to the Dutch analysts for a financial contribution raised opposition in the Society, where earnings from analytic practice were poor. The opposition rose to an uproar when in 1933 four German Jewish refugees came to Holland, with the active cooperation of van Ophuijsen, who hoped that they would play an important role in Dutch analytic training. In fact, he had asked Karl Landauer to join him in the Psychoanalytic Institute, which he had founded a few years earlier. The Dutch analysts feared that they would be overshadowed and lose the limited earnings they had, and refused to accept the immigrants as society members. In a stormy meeting, van Ophuijsen resigned as president of the society and one week later also as a member, followed by five others. He founded a new society, the Society of Psychoanalysts in the Netherlands, which was open to the German immigrants. However, in 1937 van Ophuijsen emigrated himself to Johannesburg (South Africa) together with his analysand Fritz Perls (also a German immigrant and later the founder of Gestalt therapy) and one year later to the United States, where he joined the psychiatric staff of some New York hospitals and became a teacher at the New York Psychoanalytical Institute. Later he settled in Detroit as an analyst and teacher. He continued his psychoanalytic practice until the day of his death.

Han Groen-Prakken

See also: Secret Committee; Netherlands; Switzerland (German-speaking).


Brinkgreve, Christien. (1984). Psychoanalyse in Nederland. Een vestigingsstrijd. Amsterdam: Arbeiderspers.

Bulhof, Ilse N. (1983). Freud en Nederland. Baarn: Ambo.

Greon-Prakken, Han. (1993). The psychoanalytical society and the analyst, with special reference to the history of the Dutch Psychoanalytical Society 1917-1947. In Greon-Prakken and Ladan (Eds.), Dutch Annual of Psychoanalysis, 1993 (pp. 13-37). Amsterdam and Lisse: Swets & Zeitlinger.

Jones, Ernest. (1957). Sigmund Freud. Life and Work. London: Hogarth.

Klein, Emanuel. (1951). Obituary Johan H. W. van Ophuijsen. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 32, 134-135.

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