Pappenheim Bertha (1859–1936)

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Pappenheim Bertha (1859–1936)

German feminist and social worker, founder of the Federation of Jewish Women's Associations and several pioneering Jewish social organizations in Germany and Austria, who was later revealed to be "Anna O.," the subject of a famous case in the early history of psychoanalysis. Name variations: "Anna O."; (pseudonym) Paul Berthold. Pronunciation: BEAR-tah PAH-pen-highm. Born on February 27, 1859, in Vienna, Austria; died at Isenburg, Germany, on May 18, 1936; daughter of Sigmund Pappenheim (a grain dealer) and Recha (Goldschmidt) Pappenheim; had two sisters and one brother; educated by governesses and at a Catholic school in Vienna; never married.

Treated by Dr. Josef Breuer in Vienna (1880–82); moved to Frankfurt with family (1889); was described as patient "Anna O." in Studies in Hysteria , by Breuer and Sigmund Freud (1895); became director of the Jewish Orphanage for Girls (1895); translated into German and published the English feminist Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1899); wrote a play entitled Women's Rights (1899); raised the issue of the "white slavery" of young Jewish women in Eastern Europe (1900); traveled to Eastern Europe and the Middle East (1903–05); spoke at the International Congress to Fight White Slave Traffic in London (1910); founded home for Wayward Girls and Illegitimate Children in Neu-Isenburg, Germany (1907); founded Care by Women, an organization seeking to apply the goals of feminism to Jewish social work (1902); founded the Federation of Jewish Women's Associations (1904), and served on the organization's board of directors (1914–24); translated into German and published the Memoirs of Glückel von Hameln (1910); wrote a newspaper article advocating a national Jewish welfare association for Germany (1916); participated in the founding of the Central Welfare Office of German Jews (1917); honored with a stamp by West Germany as a pioneer in German social work (1954).

Selected works:

(under pseudonym Paul Berthold) In the Rummage Shop (1894); The Work of Sisyphus: Letters from Travels in the Years 1911 and 1912 (1924); The Work of Siysphus 2: Continuation (1929); German translation of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1899); (play) Women's Rights (1899); (under pseudonym Paul Berthold) The Jewish Problem in Galicia (1900); On the Condition of the Jewish Population in Galicia (1904); (translated into German) Memoirs of Glückel von Hameln (1910); Tragic Moments (1913).

Although she might have remained at home, as was generally expected of unmarried daughters of wealthy European families in the late 19th century, Bertha Pappenheim selected a different path, forging a career as a feminist and a pioneer in Jewish social work in Germany and her native Austria. To do so, she had to overcome a serious psychological crisis while in her early 20s, a crisis documented in an early book on psychoanalysis, in which she was named only "Anna O." Pappenheim's true identity was not revealed until 1953, some 20 years after her death, when Freud's biographer Ernest Jones linked "Anna O." to Pappenheim and claimed that she was the real author of some of Freud's methods.

Bertha Pappenheim was born in 1859 and grew to adulthood in Leopoldstadt, the Jewish section of Vienna. Her father Sigmund Pappenheim, the son of an Hungarian Orthodox Jewish family, was a grain dealer who had inherited most of his wealth and the co-founder of an Orthodox school in Vienna. Her mother Recha Goldschmidt Pappenheim was from a well-to-do German family. Pappenheim's maternal lineage could be traced to a number of wealthy or prominent Austrian-German Jewish families and included the poet Heinrich Heine.

Pappenheim was the third of three daughters, although only she and a brother, Wilhelm, would live to adulthood. Educated by a governess, she was also sent to a Catholic school which the family believed offered a better education than other Viennese schools. By her early adult years, she could speak fluent French, Italian, and English. She later wrote that she did not get along with her mother but felt favored by her father. She also came to resent her brother, who was given a university education—at a time when most German-speaking universities in Europe did not offer degrees to women. Even as a young woman, she noted that the birth of a baby girl was greeted with a more muted reaction than the birth of a baby boy—sometimes with the words, "Only a girl." Although she planned to remain in the family home as a young woman, doing charity work or other volunteer work, her strong sibling rivalry with her brother became a motivation for her to achieve more.

In 1880, the family moved to the Liechtensteinerstrasse neighborhood of Vienna, which was located next to the street where Sigmund Freud lived and worked from 1881 through 1938. At the time of the family's move, Pappenheim's father, a tuberculosis patient, was in declining health. As Pappenheim assumed the job of being his nurse and staying near his bed most of the time, she began to exhibit psychological difficulties which disturbed her family. She was said to experience problems with her hearing and speech, and she often would not respond to her family. She at times lost the ability to speak German, her native language, choosing to speak English instead. One of her arms and both of her legs were paralyzed, and at times she exhibited a paralyzed neck. She refused to eat and apparently could not read or write.

After a succession of doctors failed to change Pappenheim's behavior, the family decided to consult Josef Breuer, who was considered one of the most talented doctors in the city and whose clinical staff included the young physician Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. Of all the doctors whom the family consulted, Pappenheim would respond only to Breuer who described her as bubbling over "with vitality." She was, he wrote, petite and frail-looking but had had an active life and was an avid horseback rider. He thought her highly intelligent, with a "great grasp" of things. She also struck him as energetic, tenacious, and persistent, and he added that sometimes she was obstinate but that this quality usually gave way to a regard for others, or "basic kindness."

In the early 1880s, Breuer was among a number of Viennese physicians who treated his patients with hypnosis. Since Pappenheim easily could be placed into a trance, he was able to motivate her to tell of her life, and she often spoke of seeing a girl in her mind's eye sitting next to a patient's bed. During such trances, Pappenheim would also complain of "black snakes" and criticize both her mother and her nurse. Breuer also noticed that, under hypnosis, Pappenheim's arm was not paralyzed. His treatment of her, and his conversations about her with Freud in November 1881, became the basis for a book both men published, Studies in Hysteria. In the book, Pappenheim was identified only as "Anna O."

Martin Buber">

There are people of spirit and there are people of passion, both less common than one might think. Rarer still are people of spirit and passion. Rarest of all is a passionate spirit. Bertha Pappenheim was a woman with just such a spirit.

Martin Buber

The more that Pappenheim talked about her troubles while under a hypnotic trance, the more she seemed to improve. While her symptoms worsened after the death of her father in 1881, and a similar regression seemed to occur when Pappenheim left Breuer's hospital for a brief time to live with her mother, Breuer continued to induce her to talk under hypnosis, terming his treatment the "talking cure." He reported that he even talked her through a "mock pregnancy." Of all the doctors, only Breuer could place her into a trance, and she would respond only to his questions. Pappenheim reached a point where she could rise from her bed and walk around her bedroom. The paralysis of her arm was the last symptom to disappear.

As "Anna O.," Pappenheim played a role in the development of psychoanalysis, since Freud believed that she demonstrated that patients who talked about their cases seemed to undergo at least some improvement. He commented to Breuer that Pappenheim's symptoms seemed to disappear in proportion to her resurrection of buried memories.

Released for a time to visit her family's summer home, she began to place herself into trances. She reported that she missed Breuer, a situation described by Freud as the first case of "transference"—of a patient transferring to a therapist the affection usually felt for a family member or spouse. Breuer's wife was said to be upset with the amount of time her husband was spending with one patient, however, and that, plus the phantom pregnancy, reportedly caused Breuer to break off the treatment in 1882. He told Freud that "Anna O." was suffering so much that death would be merciful for her. Fellow psychoanalyst Carl Jung later said that Freud told him that Pappenheim was "not cured" when Breuer's treatment ceased.

After Breuer broke off treatment, Pappenheim was sent for care to a Swiss hospital. Little is known about her life during the 1880s, but she apparently overcame her difficulties by 1889, the year that her family moved to Frankfurt. She would live there the rest of her life. In 1890, Pappenheim began a career as a writer, publishing a book of stories which resembled children's fairy tales, In the Rummage Store. The book, which described various kinds of unhappiness in families, appeared under the pseudonym Paul Berthold.

Pappenheim also began to show an interest in the publications and writings of the German feminist Helene Lange , who headed a national association of German schoolteachers. She translated into German and published A Vindication of the Rights of Women, the 1792 book by the early English feminist Mary Wollstonecraft which asserted that women should be companions of men rather than their playthings and that women should have equal educational opportunities with men. In 1899, Pappenheim wrote a play entitled Women's Rights, in which women were portrayed as the victims of cynical manipulation by men.

Pappenheim insisted that unmarried women from well-to-do families should reject the traditional role of remaining at home and search for vocational training and education. Young Jewish girls, she complained, were in some ways more sheltered and less educated than their Christian counterparts; she wrote in 1902 that she feared the "Christian girls" knew more about topics such as art and politics. If women were kept in ignorance of what went on "beyond the home," she believed, they would fail to see the "human tragedies" of sickness, poverty, and crime.

In 1895, she became interested in welfare work; her first position as a social worker was as director of the Jewish Orphanage for Girls in Frankfurt. Pappenheim accepted the position as a temporary measure but remained there for 12 years. Since she saw female emancipation as a path out of poverty for many young women, she also organized a girls' club for young women who had left the orphanage. It encompassed a lecture room, dining facilities, and a library.

When Pappenheim published The Jewish Problem in Galicia in 1900, she involved herself in controversy. The book described alarming conditions experienced in Poland by young women, particularly women living in ghettos. She wrote of small communities in Eastern Europe where "outside" men would visit and pretend to be searching for a wife, whom they would then force into "white slavery." She argued that wealthy Turkish Jews were financing activities to involve some of these young women in prostitution or the "white slavery" trade. Pappenheim refused to place blame on the prostitutes, but she accused other women of letting innocent girls suffer.

In 1902, Pappenheim attended her first conference on "white slavery." As well, arguing that men always follow their own private interests, Pappenheim founded that year Care by Women, an organization which sought to apply the ideas of German feminists to Jewish social work. It also sought to implement the latest social work techniques and included an employment service and counseling center for women.

After 1905, when her mother died and her brother remarried, she was freed of family responsibilities and could travel outside of Europe. She chose to travel to parts of Eastern Europe, including Poland and Russia, as well as to Greece, Turkey, Egypt, and Jerusalem. She used the trip to gather information on the forcing of Jewish women into prostitution. Many of her findings and experiences on trips were summarized in two volumes she wrote under the title The Work of Sisyphus. She also described her trips when she spoke in London in 1910 at the International Congress to Fight White Slave Traffic.

In 1907, she founded a home for Wayward Girls and Illegitimate Children in Neu-Isenburg, intended to help young women who had been "emotionally, physically, and intellectually damaged." This project was so close to her heart that she remained the head of the home for 29 years and kept it operating despite the shortages of World War I and the inflation of the 1920s in Germany.

Although Pappenheim never married and was not a mother, her feminism became centered around marriage and motherhood. She became convinced that women who worked to help children and adolescents became "spiritual mothers," even if they did not experience "real" motherhood. She came to consider one particular orphan she worked with as her daughter, and she spoke proudly of her "loyalty as a mother."

When the International Council of Women met in Berlin in 1904, Pappenheim had used the occasion to found the Federation of Jewish Women's Associations. She was the Federation's first president and remained on the organization's board of directors from 1914 to 1924. The Federation, which attained a membership of 50,000, established its own homes, clubs, and schools for girls, as ways to prepare young Jewish women for careers. The Federation also worked to replace many volunteer social workers with trained professionals.

The organization reflected Pappenheim's conviction that the family was sacred and that women were fulfilling a sacred role as wives and mothers. She was the major contributor to the Federation's newsletter, particularly on the subjects of social work and "white slavery." The Federation was also part of the abolitionist movement in German feminism, the movement to abolish the German tradition of municipally regulated (and in many cases, municipally sponsored) bordellos in major German cities. At Pappenheim's urging, the Federation also campaigned for some reform of Jewish wedding traditions: she argued that the Ketubah, a Jewish wedding certificate, facilitated "white slavery" since it required only the signature of the groom and two witnesses (who could be accomplices).

In 1916, Pappenheim advanced the idea of a national Jewish welfare association in Germany; the association was created the next year, under the name of the Central Welfare Office of German Jews. Despite the demands of her organizations, Pappenheim continued to publish. In 1910, she translated from medieval German Yiddish into German the memoirs of a distant relative, Glückel of Hameln , who described what it meant to be a wife, mother, and Jew in Germany in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. In 1913, Pappenheim published a play, Tragic Moments, which voiced concerns over white slavery and continuing anti-Semitism in Germany, while portraying Zionism in favorable terms.

By the 1920s, Pappenheim also had involved herself in further controversies. In 1920, she told a meeting of the Federation that having children was a "woman's privilege" and that abortion was a "crime against the human race." She also found herself a somewhat controversial figure within German Judaism. While Pappenheim believed that her social work was strengthening the Jewish people, Orthodox Jews, who tended to like her religious ideas, were often lukewarm to her feminism and reform plans. More "progressive" Jewish groups liked the latter but found themselves criticized by her for lacking religious devotion. She believed that in a

crisis, "too many Jews reach for their Goethe rather than their Bible." When B'nai B'rith asked Pappenheim to help form a women's auxiliary, she refused, commenting that she did not want to create a "tail end" for a male-dominated group. She also thought that many Zionist men did not hold women in sufficiently high regard and believed that many Zionists were not religious enough.

Although ill health in 1924 forced Pappenheim to relinquish the presidency of the Federation, she continued to work on other projects. She created a social-work curriculum for the Lehrhaus, an adult learning project headed by her friend, the theologian and philosopher Martin Buber. In 1924, she translated into German and published a collection of medieval folk, Talmudic, and Bible stories entitled Mayse Bukh. She also translated into German the Ze'enah U'Ree'nah, a women's Bible which was a popular version of the books of Moses and Talmudic stories.

With the Nazi accession to power in 1933, Pappenheim's relationship with the Zionist movement worsened for a time. She initially thought that Nazism was a transient phenomenon and opposed Zionist plans to send Jewish children to Palestine, calling them "population politics." She had changed her opinion by the time the Nuremberg racial laws were proclaimed by the Nazi government in 1935. The next year, at age 77, she was summoned to Gestapo headquarters for questioning because one of the girls in her orphanage had been heard to comment that Hitler looked like a criminal.

During a vacation in 1934, Pappenheim had been hospitalized in Munich and diagnosed with cancer. When she died of the disease in 1936, she left behind a request that each person visiting her grave honor her with one small stone. She had planned to visit a Jewish girls' seminary in Poland, but her death prevented that. It was a small mercy, since the students would be forced into a brothel by Nazis three years later and her orphanage would be burned. Her death also came before the Nazi government began to use her writings on Jewish involvement in "white slavery" as part of its anti-Semitic propaganda.

In 1954, Bertha Pappenheim was recognized as a pioneer in social work when the West German government—at the suggestion of the welfare department of Freiburg and of Dr. Leo Baeck, a concentration camp survivor and a former president of the Organization of German Jews—issued a stamp in her honor.


Edinger, Dora. Bertha Pappenheim: Leben und Schriften. Frankfurt: Ner Tamid Verlag, 1963.

Kaplan, Marion A. The Jewish Feminist Movement in Germany: The Campaigns of the Jüdischer Frauenbund, 1904–1938. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1979.

Rosenbaum, Max, and Melvin Muroff, eds. Anna O.: Fourteen Contemporary Interpretations. NY: The Free Press, 1984.

suggested reading:

Edinger, Dora. Bertha Pappenheim: Freud's Anna O. Highland Park, IL: Congregation Solel, 1968.

Evans, Richard J. The Feminist Movement in Germany, 1894–1933. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1976.

Freeman, Lucy. Anna O. NY: Walker, 1972.

Jones, Ernest. The Life and Work of Sigmund Freud. NY: Basic Books, 1953.

Whyte, L.L. The Unconscious Before Freud. NY: Basic Books, 1960.


Materials relating to Bertha Pappenheim are contained in the archives of the Leo Baeck Institute in New York City.

Niles R. R. , Professor of History, Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois