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Sabina Spielrein

1885 – 1942

by Karen Hall

Sabina Spielrein, a pioneer active in the early stages of the birth of psychoanalysis who made significant contributions to the field, was the first person to propose the thesis about instinctual life, which Freud later adapted. Spielrein determined that instinctual life was based on two instincts—the life instinct and the death instinct—which were opposed to each other. Spielrein’s contributions to the early development of psychoanalysis have been overlooked and, until recently, mainly forgotten. In the mid–1970s papers pertaining to Spielrein, including diaries and correspondence, which were found hidden in a basement in Geneva revived interest in her. Unfortunately, much of the recent work on Spielrein has focused on her role in a triangle with Freud and Jung, rather than on her own specific contributions.

Sabina Spielrein was born on November 7, 1885 in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. She was the oldest of five children. Her father, Naphtul Arkadjevitch Spielrein, was a merchant, and her mother, Emilia (Eva) Marcovna Lujublinskaja, was a dentist. Spielrein’s maternal grandfather and great-grandfather were both rabbis. Her grandfather educated Spielrein’s mother, who was very intelligent and musical. However, after she became engaged to a Christian, her father arranged the marriage with Spielrein’s father, who was Jewish. It was not a marriage Spielrein’s mother wanted, nor does it appear that she and her husband ever fell in love or enjoyed a satisfying relationship.

The parents, who were extremely strict, forced the children to endure an extremely harsh upbringing: her father tyrannized the household; her mother beat the children severely. Nevertheless, they placed great emphasis on the children’s education, employing a nursemaid, a governess to prepare them for high-school entrance and a music teacher.

Spielrein was a very delicate and sensitive child, subject from infancy to frequent illness. She was also very precocious. While Russian was her first language, by the age of six Spielrein also spoke German and French. Indeed, the entire household communicated in a different language every day of the week, moving between German, French, English and Russian.

At the age of ten, Spielrein began attending a girls’ grammar school in her hometown, completing her studies with distinction in 1904. She lived at home with her parents, three brothers—Jean, Isaak and Emil—and one sister, Emilia. In addition to her coursework, Spielrein studied piano. At the age of twelve, she started studying Latin and voice. She very much enjoyed natural science courses and decided that the direction in which she wanted to move was medicine. When Spielrein was fifteen, her six-year-old sister died of typhoid. This episode had a dramatic effect on Spielrein.

Spielrein’s mental health “affliction” appeared at age seventeen, although she had been beset with problems throughout her young life. She was taken to Heller Sanatorium, Interlaken, in Switzerland for one month, and was admitted to the Burghölzli Treatment and Care Institution (or Psychiatric Clinic) in Zurich on August 17, 1904. Spielrein became the first patient of Carl Jung, ten years her senior, who treated her until her discharge on June 1, 1905.

Given what has been learned since 1905 regarding a young person’s reaction to extreme trauma, many of the symptoms Spielrein exhibited would be more “normalized” today as natural responses to severe, prolonged trauma. Many of the abnormalities Jung noted in Spielrein’s records are now more easily recognized and understood by trauma specialists.

Following Spielrein’s discharge, she began studying medicine at the University of Zürich. Professor Eugen Bleuler, the head of the Burghölzli Clinic, provided a typed medical certificate for the university recommending her admittance. He stated that Spielrein had not been under treatment for mental illness at the Burghölzli Clinic, but that she had been suffering symptoms which were hysterical in nature, as part of a nervous condition. She remained an out-patient in treatment with Carl Jung for years after her hospital discharge.

Sabina Spielrein fell deeply in love with Jung during her treatment, a love that she knew must remain secret due to his marriage and the ethics of his profession. Jung was first attracted to Spielrein at Burghölzli. In the records at Burgholzli Hospital on his treatment of Spielrein, Jung wrote an entry in his own handwriting on January 29, 1905. He states that he had visited Spielrein the previous night, “reclining on the sofa.” He describes her manner as “oriental” and “voluptuous,” and her face as bearing “a sensuous, dreamy expression” (Covington and Wharton, 96.) Both Spielrein and Jung’s feelings for each other continued to deepen in subsequent years. They shared a passionate interest in psychoanalysis that further bonded them. Spielrein was delighted in the parallelism that existed in their thoughts. The result was a stormy love affair between them that continued until the spring of 1909. To what degree the relationship was sexual remains a hotly debated subject.

Jung eventually ended the affair, to save his marriage and his career. A rumor was maliciously circulated in Vienna and Zurich about an affair he allegedly had with a student. Initially, both Jung and Freud thought Spielrein was the origin of the scandal as an act of revenge against Jung for ending their relationship. Together, Jung and Freud plotted against her. However, it turned out that they had accused her unjustly. Spielrein had nothing to do with the slander of Jung.

Spielrein’s case appears to be at least part of what motivated Jung to initially contact Freud. Jung had been greatly impressed by some of Freud’s innovative techniques and writings, and applied them to his treatment of Spielrein. Jung wrote to Freud in October 1906 seeking his opinion about a challenging case he had involving a young female Russian student. Spielrein also sought help from Freud, initially requesting a consultation with him in 1909, but Freud declined due to his discussions with Jung about his relationship with Spielrein. Spielrein eventually met Freud in Vienna in October 1911. He was greatly impressed with her.

In May 1911, Spielrein obtained her doctorate. Her study, “Concerning the Psychological Content of a Case of Schizophrenia,” was the first dissertation written by a woman that was psychoanalytically oriented. It was published in 1911 as the lead paper in the Jahrbuch der Psychoanalyse, which was edited by Jung. At the meeting of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society (WPV) on October 11, 1911, she was elected to membership as the second female doctor. She became an active member of the society, attended its Wednesday meetings, gave lectures and published numerous papers. Freud even sent her patients. But this was not enough to keep her afloat financially. Unable to earn a living in Vienna, she returned to Berlin.

Spielrein met Dr. Pavel (Paul) Naumovitsch Scheftel, a Russian Jewish physician, and they were married on June 14, 1912. In December 1913 she gave birth to her first daughter, Irma Renata. Spielrein continued to correspond with Jung and Freud during this time, despite the destructive split that occurred between the two men in 1912. She corresponded with Jung until at least 1919 and with Freud until 1923.

Shortly after World War I broke out, Spielrein was back in Switzerland. She had difficulty finding a place where she could settle down and practice and was plagued with financial worries. Her husband was nowhere in sight. In 1920 in The Hague, Spielrein spoke at the sixth International Psychoanalytic Congress. She shared her new theory about child development, including children’s speech, and discussed the importance of suckling and the mother’s breast. Her theory had a profound influence on Melanie Klein, who also attended the Congress. Spielrein then moved to Geneva for work at the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Institute, where she spent her last three years in Switzerland. She lectured and did clinical work, but her most renowned work there was her treatment of Jean Piaget in 1921 as his analyst for eight months. She also wrote part of a novel and wrote theater criticism for the Journal de Genève, but she was unable to make an adequate living.

In 1923 Spielrein returned to Russia to visit family and colleagues. She lived in Moscow and from September 1923 worked with colleagues on a training program at the Moscow Psychoanalytic Institute. At the same time, she became director of the child psychology department at the First Moscow University and served as pedagogical doctor at the Third International, a kind of children’s village.

Spielrein returned to her hometown of Rostov-on-Don in about 1924 and reunited with her husband. Although he had returned earlier, they had been separated for several years. He had fathered a child with another woman and had been living with her. In 1926, Spielrein gave birth to a second daughter, Eva. Back in her hometown, Spielrein founded a psychoanalytic children’s nursery and taught at the university until 1936, when Stalin banned psychoanalysis. Her brothers, who had meanwhile developed academic careers, were arrested under Stalin’s reign of terror and killed in a Gulag.

Spielrein’s death remained a mystery until 1983 when M. Ljunggren, a Swedish journalist, discovered her fate: In 1942, together with both her daughters, Spielrein was shot as a Jew by Germans who had captured Rostov for a second time on July 27. Neighbors saw her being herded with other Jews, including Eva and Renata, toward the “Snake Ravine” (Zmieva Balka) just outside the city, where men of Einsatzkommando 10a from Einsatzgruppe D killed them. Her husband had died a few years earlier.

Spielrein published thirty psychoanalytic papers in French and German. The majority of them have not yet been translated into English. Her two most significant works were her dissertation on schizophrenia, which contributed greatly to understanding the language of schizophrenics, and her second work, “Destruction as the Cause of Coming into Being.”

The oblivion into which Spielrein has fallen is remarkable. She was a major figure in the development of the psychoanalytic movement—and a rare woman in that field. Her thought and work had significant impact on the theories Jung and Freud developed. Spielrein has been considered by some as the model for Jung’s concept of the anima. She deepened both Jung and Freud’s understanding of transference and countertransference. The relationship between Jung and Spielrein also demonstrated to Freud that a therapist’s emotions and humanity could not be kept out of the psychoanalytic relationship between analyst and patient. Freud had been hopeful that, as scientists, psychoanalysts would be able to function from an objective and neutral position in their work.

It is hard to explain the oblivion into which Spielrein fell until recently. Neither Ernest Jones in his standard work on Freud (1953), nor Peter Gay’s magnum opus, Freud (1987), nor even Nancy Chodorow, who wrote on the contribution of women to psychoanalysis (1987), mention her in their writings. Her primary role in child psychology has been wrongly attributed to Anna Freud or, alternatively, to Melanie Klein.

There are many parts of Sabina Spielrein’s life that remain a mystery and there is continued controversy regarding specific dates and activities in her life. One can only hope that more of her story will be discovered and that more research will focus on the work that Spielrein did personally. She faced many obstacles, both because she was a woman working in a predominantly male profession and because she was Jewish during a period of violent antisemitism. Her tragic death cut short a life of promise.


“Über den psychologischen Inhalt eines Falles von Schizophrenie (Dementia Praecox).” Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen (1912): 3:329–400; “Die Destruktion als Ursache des Werdens.” Johrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen (1912) 4:465–503; “Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Kindlichen Seele.” Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse und Psychotherapie (1912) 3:57–72; “Mutterliebe.” Imago (1912) 2:523–24; “Selbstbefriedigung in Fusssymbolik.” Zentralblatt für Psychoanalyse und Psychotherapie (1913) 3:263; “Traum vom Vater Freudenreich.Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychotherapie (1913) 1:484–486; “Das unbewusste Träumen in Kuprins Zweikampf.” Imago (1913) 2:524–525; “Die Schwiegermutter.” Imago (1913) 2:589–591: “Der vergessene Name.” Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse (1914) 2:383–384; “Tiersymbolik and Phobie bei einem Knaben.” Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse (1914) 2:375–377; “Zwei Mensesträume.” Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse (1914) 2:32–34; “Ein unbewusster Richterspruch.” Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse (1915) 3:350; “Die Äusserungen des Oedipuskomplexes im Kindersalter.” Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse (1916) 1:44–48; “Das Schamgefühl bei Kindern.”Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse (1920) 6:157–158; “Zur Frage der Entstehung und Entwicklung der Lautsprache.” Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse (1920) 6:401; “Das Schwache Weib.” Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse (1920) 6:158; “Verdrangte Munderotik.” Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse (1920) 6:361–362; “Renatchens Menschenentstehungstheorie.” Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse (1920) 6:155–157; “Russische Literatur.” Bericht über die Fortschritte der Psychoanalyse 1914–1919, Vienna: Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag (1921); “Schnellanalyse einer kindlichen Phobie.” Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse (1921) 7:473–474; “Briefmarkentraum.” Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse, (1922) 8:342–343; “Qui est l’auteur du crime?” Journal de Geneve 2 (January 15, 1922); “Die Entstehung der kindlichen Worte Papa und Mama.” Imago (1922) 8:345–367; “Schwiez.” Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse (1922) 8:234–235; “Rêve et vision de étoiles filantes.” International Journal of Psycho-Analysis (1923) 4:129–132; “Die drei Fragen.” Imago (1923) 9:260–263; “L’automobile: Symbole de la puissance male.” International Journal of Psycho-Analysis (1923) 4:128; “Ein Zuschauertypus.” Internationale Zeitschrift für ärztliche Psychoanalyse (1923) 9:210–211; “Quelques analogies entre la pensée de l’enfant, celle de l’aphasique et la pensée subconsciente.” Archives de psychologie (1923) 18:306–322; “Einige kleine Mitteilungen aus dem Kinderleben.” Zeitschrift für Psychoanalytische Pädagogik (1923) 2:95–99; “Die Zeit im unterschwelligen Seelenleben.” Imago (1923) 9:300–317; “Kinderzeichnungen bei offenen und geschlossenen Augen.” Imago (1931) 16:259–291; “Destruction as the Cause of Coming into Being.” Journal of Analytical Psychology 39 (1994) 2:155–186; “The origin of the child’s words ‘papa’ and ‘mama.’ Some observations on the different stages in language development.” In Sabina Spielrein: Forgotten Pioneer of Psychoanalysis, edited by Coline Covington and Barbara Wharton, 287–305. New York: 2003.


Carotenuto, Aldo. A Secret Symmetry: Sabina Spielrein Between Jung and Freud. New York: 1982.

Covington, Coline, and Barbara Wharton, eds. Sabina Spielrein: Forgotten Pioneer of Psychoanalysis. New York: 2003.

Kerr, John. A Most Dangerous Method: The Story of Jung, Freud, and Sabina Spielrein. New York: 1933.


Ich hiess Sabina Spielrein (My name was Sabina Spielrein). Sweden: 2002.


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Please email me a copy of the English translation of "Destruction as the Cause of Becoming." Thank you.

More research articles about Dr. Sabine Spielrein and her works on psychoanalysis, a truly remarkable and brilliant woman... I watched "A Dangerous Method" and from there on her name was always part of my discussion on how she influence/contributed in the world of psychoanalysis... We must give her more credit!

"I shall always be grateful to Toni for doing for my husband what I or anyone else could not have done at a most critical time." ~Emma Jung [Laurens Van Der Post Jung: The Story of our Time; Page 177.]

"You see, he never took anything from me to give to Toni, but the more he gave her the more he seemed able to give me. ~Emma Jung [Jung: His Life and Work by Barbara Hannah, Page 119.]

Carl Jung in Memorium to Toni Wolff

"Perhaps Irene's close tie with Toni Wolff was in his mind at this time, because our visit ended with his taking me into the garden to show me the little sotne bas-relief in Toni's memory, placed under the ginkgo tree that had been given to him by students of the C.G. Jung Institute.

This tree is an import from China, and is on the stone four sets of Chinese characters were arranged vertically.

He told me they read from above downwards:

Toni Wolff

[Joseph Henderson, San Francisco, 1980 in Forward to "A Memoir of Toni Wolf by Irene Champernowne; Page 4"]

Carl Jung on Toni Wolff:


I think Sabina's illness was not psychological, but physical. Most likely she had problems with her brain from typhoid. She probably had a mild case of typhoid along with her sister, but did not die, and she would have suffered brain inflammation, which might have lasted a long time. This is known to happen with other infections too. She would have just gotten over the brain inflammation on her own, over time, which would have made it seem like she was 'cured' by the talk therapy. Granted, she might very well have been comforted by being able to talk to someone, and she might have benefited from falling in love, but the real cure simply resulted from her getting over the brain inflammation.

This is an excellent summary, more accurate than almost anything else available on the web. May I suggest it needs updating in the light of my recent biography of Spielrein., which is the first full length and researched one in English (see Jewish Book Council: http://goo.gl/GmcM9H. ) I have reassessed her relationship with Jung, placing it in the context of his other relationships, and arguing that it was briefer an more one-sided than usually depicted. I also give an account of her lifelong career and her attempts to link psychoanalysis and developmental psychology: she influenced not only Piaget but also the Russian psychologists Luria and Vygotsky. An increasing number of feminist therapists and others are moving the emphasis away from Spielrein as a sex object and a sideshow in men's lives, and claiming her status as a significant thinker who was marginalized for her resistance to joining factions, and her distinctively female view of psychology.

The Movie entitled: A Most Dangerous Method" is categorized within cinema as belonging to the genre known as: Historical Fiction.

Sadly no matter what Dr. Jung may have written or when he may have written this will never satisfy those who live within the intellectual swampland of the lurid, titillating and tawdry wherein human relationships are invariably reduced to the coarsest common denominators of human existence and who view relationships between the genders through the lens of a soap opera or made for TV Movie of the week.

I have deep appreciation for the publication of this history. It maintains focus on the brilliant and original contributions of Sabina Speilrein and shift away from the erotic objectification and the armchair pathology which was how she was characterized in her young life. Thank you for this coherent , informative and sensitive rendering of her life, her writings and for acknowledging her great value as a woman , as a seminal figure in psychoanalytic history. In her words..."My name is Sabina Speilren. I am a human being."

I'm searching evidence about relationships between two of the earliest Russian psychoanalysts: Sabina Spielrein and Tatiana Rosenthal (1884-1920). Both of them studied in Zurich in the same years. About Rosenthal's biography you can visit web.tiscali.it/tatianarosentha...

I would be really interested in finding further information on how M.Ljunggren in 1983 found out the circumstances of Sabina Spielrein's death. Some sources time her death in 1941, since Rostov-on-Don was taken by the Germans twice - November 1941, for a week, and July 1942. How Stalin treated those soviet citizens who happened to live under german occupation, is a known fact - it is not inconceivable that the Ljunggren account may not be accurate and ascribing to the Germans what might have been done by the Soviets, especially to someone whose brothers had already vanished into the secret police maw. 1983 was a height of the Soviet Communist "stagnation", all delicate information was tightly controlled or denied outflat; foreign reporters' travel and contact was much restricted. It might be possible that the journalist was fed a deliberate "duck", or pre-meditatedly misleading information. The Katyn Forest Massacre was still blamed on the Germans with many a minute plausible detail, including a slew of witnesses - all fabricated. So it might be more expedient and cautious to reference that account as a "version of events", instead of as a definitive happening, and keep looking for materials and archive documents until a solid confirmation of whatever transpired with Dr. Spielrein has been found and authenticated.

Is anyone working on publishing her papers in English? What language did she write her diaries in? It is interesting how women are always the ones not to be noticed by history. It would be good to see more of her story come out.

The effort to rehabilitate Speilrein to her rightful place in the history of medicine would be happily counterpointed against an equal effort to dehabilitate Jung who was basically a medical pretender. This conclusion comes from two points on the intellectual compass- 1) When compared to Freud, Jung's writings exhibit a shallowness that is amazing in light of the seriousness with which it is taken. He is clearly a lightweight and his mapping of psychic structures should be characterized as medieval or, at best, cartoonish. 2) Jung was a Nazi sympathizer for as long as he could professionally get away with it. That his ideas were adapted and adopted wholesale by the so-called "New Age" movement of the 1960's is instructive as to the actual wellsprings of that movement, a movement that I see clearly as an attempt to engineer technological society into a dark age complete with mendicant monks preying upon a superstitious peasantry/royalty. Let's integrate Jung more completely with his actuality and refer to him as Jung/Rasputin.

Yes life is not safe but relationships and love are a wonderful benefit to this journey. In 2000 I found John Kerr Ì¢‰âÂèÏs book, A Most Dangerous Method, what I discovered reading the book was not so much the sexual content of the relationship of Jung and Spielrein but the level of abuse and the trauma that affected her was overcome by talk therapy and yes the question of what is dangerous now intrigues me. Stepping away from the tendency to judge Karl and Sabina in regards to the reported sexual content that developed in their relationship and looking more at the positive affect of the overall relationship supports a conclusion that talk therapy does assist in the development of the cure for a suffer of psychological torment created by years of trauma. I do believe the reported sexual relationship developed after she had left the facility of treatment and was attending to her studies and they had passed the pure state of doctor patient relationship and began maneuvering the waters of friend, confident, and mentor. Now it has been years since I read the book and the movie may have clouded the Ì¢‰âÒfactsÌ¢‰âÂå presented in the book but at this writing I am planning on reaching to my left and revisiting this work because I believe it is a noble attempt at fair reporting of the facts.

Also, with this second reading, it is my hope to look more at the relationship that developed over the years and how they maneuvered through the many different aspects of it and the influence of their common peer and mentor Freud. From Doctors Jung and Spielrein, I believe if I get past my own tendency to get excited about sexual attraction and love, I may glean considerably about the male/female relationships and the different qualities, aspects and roles we all play. To me their story represents the success of Psychoanalysis and my own personal preference over the pharmacology therapy of today. If she had lived through the terror of Nazi Germany the story may be different; we would be looking at the relationship with different facts and outcomes. The contributions of Dr. Spielrein that were lost are not completely directly related to the reported affair and the tendency of the time period to marginalize women but to another tormentor Adolf Hitler. Her life was cut short and we need to remember that. For I believe, if she had lived longer, her level of intellect would have placed Jung in a more even light in the history books and therapeutic journals as only a peer and confident could have. What haunts me and will continue to haunt me is childhood trauma prefaced her entry into the world of psychoanalysis and the horrific trauma of a fascist took her from us.

In reply to by Jo Novello

Exceptionally articulated Jo Novello. I couldn't agree more.

Thank you so much for this article. We watched A Dangerous Method just last night and noted that there was a light suggestion that Spielrein "inspired" much of Jung's work. Found your article during a google search and it is very wonderful to be able to read some of the real work of this pioneer. I had read Chodorow in a Women's Studies class some 20 years ago, but have never (of course) heard of Spielrein. Some one certainly needs to do a serious biography!

As a practicing psychiatrist and psychodynamically oriented psychotherapist I had never heard of Sabina Spielrein until I saw the movie "A Dangerous Mind".

Thank you for the information contained in the article and in the comments. The death instinct is a subject of great importance but little talked about. It may be linked to man's propensity to engage in war and mass slaughter such as the Nazi genocide.

Presumably there were thousands of other brilliant physicians and psychoanalysts who were murdered in the Holocaust and whose contributions to humanity were lost.

Alan Eppel

In reply to by Alan Eppel

I am a registered psychotherapist in New Zealand. Likewise, I was not aware of Spielrein until seeing the movie (which, by the way, is 'A Dangerous Method' - as opposed to 'Mind'). However, the movie was disappointing. It focused somewhat gratituitously on the sexual relationship between Jung and Spielrein, missing her contribution to the ideas of both Freud and Jung. That she may have been the scouce of the importance of life and death instincts - whatever one thinks of that now - and of Klein's emphasis on the breast, and not having been acknowledged, is shocking. It was not, perhaps, that she was a woman - Anna Freud, Marie de Bonapart, Helene Deutsch, Melanie Klein all have their place. Perhaps her relationship with Jung was too difficult, so she had to be forgotten.

In reply to by Sean Manning

Beg to differ with you but because of WWII we lost so much as a society. Dr. Spielrein was a person destroyed by war and this fact I believe greatly affected the development of psychoanalysis and stagnated the field in general. Consequently, it was how she was murdered and not the Jung relationship that silenced her contribution. Also, think that we are only now coming to terms with just how that war affected not only the victims of the holocaust but the world in general and all fields of study.

In reply to by Jo Novello

Well stated. I agree with you completely that the victims of the holocaust robbed us of brilliant minds in all fields of study. A tragedy beyond compare.

Thanks for the article on this really remarkable human being -- Dr. Sabrina Spielrein.

In my view, Spielrein's major contributions to the early development of depth psychology at the beginning of the 20th Century are not known because she was never fully and adequately acknowledged by Carl Gustav Jung. Freud also failed to properly cite her for her pioneering work in a number of different areas of psychoanalytic theory. Her innovative thinking about the death instinct did not posit a death instinct and a life instinct that were "opposed." In her view, the death instinct was part of the sexual instinct; something must be destroyed for something to be created. This was part of the transformational psychology of the unconscious. This was not her only `idea'. She was very creative. Jung arguably took many of her ideas and reworked them into the Analytical Psychology that he claims to have created.

The author tries to be too `even-handed', writing as though Spielrein and Jung were mutual beneficiaries of a brilliant romance. Increasingly, it seems clear that Jung was a very exploitative figure in the many-sided relationship with Spielrein. The article ought to be more critical of his psychological manipulation, narcissism, antisocial personality, sexual objectification of women, anti-semitism, anti-Russian attitudes, chronic lying, and so on. Jung also "took" more than he gave in the relationship with Freud. Jung is not a very nice person and I think that this is part of the reason why Spielrein's career never got off the ground. Once she ended up back in Russia, things deteriorated under totalitarian conditions, and as the Russians say: "No one ever pulls himself out of a swamp by pulling on his own hair." The question is: why was one of the greatest psychological minds of the early 20th century not saved? If Hannah Arendt could be saved, why not someone like Dr. Sabrina Spielrein? The answer is that Dr. Spielrein was conveniently abandoned on the margins of history by an intellectual elite that had a presumptive responsibility to protect her and help advance her career but failed to do so.

It is worth noting that Freud was forced to flee from Vienna to London where he died, and Spielrein was shot by an SS death squad in a vast killing operation in Rostov-on-Dom, whilst Carl Jung was working his Nazi connections to advance his predatory career in German Psychology.

On a brighter note, I understand that Spielrein's grandfather and greatgrandfather were well-known Hassidic Rabbis. I understand that she practiced Judaism until 11 years of age. I understand that she was mystically inclined from a young age. Did she get any of her ideas from Judaic thought? Did she use Hassidic ideas or Kabbalistic notions in her study of the human psyche? Did she study Hebrew as a child? Did the family speak Yiddish. She went to a Polish Kindergarten until 5 years of age. Did she speak Polish? She uses Italian in her Diary. Did she speak Italian? Coming from Rostov-on-Dom on the Black Sea, would she necessarily have been exposed to Asiatic culture elements from Indo Eurasia?

Spielrein was Piaget's analyst and planned to write a paper with him around 1920. She also knew Vygotsky and Luria in Russia. She was a student of Bleuler, and worked with Claparede and Flournoy. This shows the intellectual depth and range of her interests.

I object to the language used in the following: "men of Einsatzkommando 10a from Einsatzgruppe D killed them." Use of the words `men of' ought to be dropped. To call the murderers `men' humanizes and normalizes them.

Once again, thank you for the article.

In reply to by D Allen

Rostov-on-Don, as name implies, is situated on the banks of the river Don; not on the Black Sea. Otherwise nice comments, thanks. YW

In reply to by D Allen

Dear "Thanks for the article"--I found your comments incisive and profound and am interested in the sources of your information about Spielrein as I am studying about important Jewish women who were murdered by the Nazis and who have been forgotten by history, as in the tragic case of Sabina Spielrein. What are the sources of the information about Spielrein's Hassidic forbears, her study of mysticism, her contacts with Vysotsky, Luria, etc.? Thanks again for your remarks. Sincerely, Masha D.

How to cite this page

Hall, Karen. "Sabina Spielrein." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 27 February 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 3, 2020) <https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/spielrein-sabina>.


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