By August 11, 1942, pioneer psychoanalyst Sabine Spielrein must have ditched all illusions about German civility. On that day, she and her daughters – accomplished cellist Renate, 28, and promising violinist Eva, 18 – were, like thousands of other horrified Jews, force-marched through the central streets of the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don. They were herded toward Zmiyevskaya Balka (Snake Gully), where they were soon shot, together with many Red Army POWs.
Thus – ignominiously and brutally – ended the tempestuous 57-year life of a strong-willed woman, exceptionally independent and nonconformist for her time. In Western cultural enclaves, she’s sporadically remembered (in books, plays and films) for her affair with one of the fathers of psychoanalysis, Carl Jung.
It was a big deal back in the early years of the 20th century, when she lived in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. It was a case of opposites attracting. Jung, an unabashed anti-Semite, was both enticed by the spirited petite and repelled by her Jewishness. She was mesmerized by his Aryan looks and fantasized about a love-child in whom the best of the Jewish and Aryan would splendidly combine.
Sigmund Freud, whose great break with Jung was sparked – among other causes – by this liaison, wrote to Sabine: “You must learn to discern the difference between friends and enemies (I mean Jung).” Continue reading