Another Tack: Sabine’s misrepresented murder

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).”

In 1911 Sabine had settled down and married a Jewish physician from Russia, Pavel Scheftel. She returned with him to Moscow in 1923 and then moved back to her native Rostov. In 1936 the regime outlawed psychoanalysis, closed down her psychiatric clinic and seized the family’s property. Pavel died in 1937 during Stalin’s “Great Terror,” and Sabine’s three brothers, all noted academicians, also perished in those purges.

When invading Nazi forces occupied Rostov, Sabine said: “I know Germans, they are a civilized nation. They are not capable of evil deeds.”

Today astonishingly little is known in her native land about Freud’s disciple and the founder of psychoanalysis in Russia. It’s as if she never existed. But her elimination from Russian collective memory, only underscores Sabine’s Jewish lot.

After the Soviet Union’s fall, the Russian Jewish Congress put up a plaque commemorating Jewish victims at the Zmiyevskaya Balka mass grave of 27,000 – known as Russia’s Babi Yar. That plaque was recently removed and arbitrarily replaced with a new marker, which, in the style of the defunct USSR, identifies the dead only as “peaceful citizens of Rostov-on- Don and Soviet prisoners-of-war.”

No rationale is given for why certain Soviet citizens were targeted by the Nazis. Moreover, no mention is made of slain Jewish refugees from Poland, who were decidedly not Soviet citizens. It’s as if Jews were never there and none were annihilated because of their Jewishness.

This isn’t an instance of localized hardheartedness.

It’s commonplace throughout the former USSR, and not only in Russia. Its roots reach deep and explain as much about today’s Russia as about past Soviet idiosyncrasies and why they persist.

The Soviets spawned their own singular version of Holocaust-denial. They didn’t deny the carnage; they merely obfuscated the identity of whom Hitler singled out for systematic extermination. Thus according to the official Soviet version, there never was specific anti-Jewish butchery in Nazi-ruled Soviet territory. There was heroic resistance against German occupiers in which Soviet citizens were callously massacred.

The distinct Jewish tragedy is obscured by submerging it in the overall wartime narrative (which fails to dwell on the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact).

Little wonder, then, that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu-Mazen) authored his Holocaust-denial treatise at Moscow’s communist-era Russian University for Friendship between People (a.k.a. the People’s Friendship University of Russia, also a.k.a. the Patrice Lumumba Friendship University).

There Abbas specialized in revising history, an endeavor that in 1982 ripened into a PhD dissertation that both denied the Holocaust and yet blamed Zionists for it. Two years later, Dr. Abbas further expanded and embellished his “research.” He never apologized or retracted a single nuance of his learned thesis. Neither did today’s Russia ever censure the state-sanctioned fraud.

The mendacity lives on.

Abbas personally and the PA media he controls consistently glorify terrorist atrocity-perpetrators, who with Nazi-like zeal lust after Jewish blood. Palestinian Media Watch, for example, revealed that Abbas’s PATV broadcast greetings and praise to the Fogel family’s slaughterers, tried and imprisoned in Israel.

Hakim Awad’s mother sent “greetings to dear Hakim, the apple of my eye, who carried out the operation in Itamar.” His aunt extolled “Hakim Awad, the hero, the legend.” The TV host effusively concurred.

Last March, Hakim and Amjad Awad invaded the Fogel home in Itamar and knifed to death a father, mother and three youngsters (aged 11, four and three-months). At the time, Russian-educated Abbas insisted Arabs were incapable of such bestiality. Yet now Abbas’s media turns convicted baby-killers into national heroes and role models.

But not only does Soviet-like duplicity endure and thrive in Abbas’s latifundia; it takes on sinister incarnations in Russia.

It was convenient at the height of the Cold War to ascribe Moscow’s malevolence solely to communist machinations. But communism is purportedly gone, while Russia tenaciously clings to the wrong side of history, as in its obdurate defense of Damascus despot Bashar Assad and its outright assistance in constructing Iran’s nuclear facilities, to say nothing of its ongoing opposition to stringent sanctions against Tehran’s nuke-craving ayatollahs.

This calls to mind USSR strategy before the June 22, 1941 monstrous German betrayal. Until then, the Russians ensconced themselves firmly on history’s wrong side.

Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov applauded the Third Reich’s conquest of Warsaw. The German invasions of Denmark and Norway caused him to “wish Germany complete success in these defensive measures.” Upon receiving news of the French collapse, Molotov conveyed “the warmest congratulations of the Soviet government on the splendid success of the German Wehrmacht.”

Putin’s Russia, despite its quasi-democratic façade, seems to harbor the same wrongheaded great-power aspirations as its Soviet predecessor. These had less to do with exporting communist ideology than with Russian nationalist ambitions.

The plain fact of the matter is that Russia still offers succor to the Jewish people’s worst enemies. It emits exceedingly troublesome vibes. It reverts to type – be it in critical geopolitical maneuverings or in just expunging the unique Jewish Holocaust from its chronicles. It’s in this inimical ambiance that the mass-murder of Jews at Zmiyevskaya Balka can be misrepresented.

Russian parliamentarian Tamara Pletneva condescendingly advises Jews to “forget the bitterness and live in peace…. The memorial should commemorate all the war victims…. So why single out Jews?”

Perhaps because the Nazis singled them out. Despite rampant Pletneva-type portrayals of yesteryear’s Jews as incidental victims and of present-day Jews as obsessively parochial, the only reason that Sabine and millions of fellow ill-fated Jews were put to death was that they were Jews.

In 1913, when Sabine was expecting her first child, Freud wrote her, expressing the hope that the baby “will develop into a stalwart Zionist.” He added: “We are and remain Jews. The others will only exploit us and will never understand or respect us.”

There is a message here for the Jewish state almost a century later.

11 thoughts on “Another Tack: Sabine’s misrepresented murder

  1. Thanks for this report. One always wonders what is going on in Russia these days. Antisemitism has an old history in Russia and antisemitism certainly had its role in the pact between Stalin and Hitler. While it is certainly true that Russia and Russians have spent too much time being on the defensive against a persecuting West, especially for their Eastern Orthodox beliefs, they do little to distinguish themselves from their persecutors, instead opting into the West’s worse behaviors, hoping to win favor with flattery by imitation. They should wake up to their unique history and pry themselves loose from the poisonous superstitions Europe is steeped in and especially antisemitism. The West’s designs on Russia’s resources and labor are unrelenting. If many in Europe had their way, Russia could become another China with a veneer of affluence covering a more characteristic serfdom.

  2. Let’s forget about Russia and Russians. Let’s remember – always! – what Freud … added: “We are and remain Jews. The others will only exploit us and will never understand or respect us.”
    Let’s always understand that Arabs, Russians, Ukrainians, Poles, Germans, French, whoever else?… all hate us because they could not kill us out and possess ours.
    Until we circle ours and say “Don’t touch! It’s ours.”, they continue trying. They continue trying even after, but unless they hear us, their appetite is large.
    Stop hating ourselves! Start hating our enemies!

  3. It looks to me that Russia, along with other countries in Europe, such as Ireland, are slowly subscribing to the PA narrative in which Jews are not a nation, rather only a religion. If Jews are only a religious group and not a race, then their natural conclusion is that the murder of Jews in the Holocaust was not out of racism. And since Nazi Germany, as well as Soviet Russia were violently non-religious, they couldn’t have been murdered because of their religion- they must have been innocent Soviet citizens…
    It’s amazing how we managed to survive as a nation for 2000 years without a country, only to emerge into the 21st century and be told that the Jewish nation never existed…

  4. it was Barry Rubin speaking at a synagogue in Pennsylvania several years ago when he observed: “they hated us when we didn’t defend ourselves, today they hate us when we do. they hated us when we didn’t have a country, today they hate us when we do.”

  5. Thank you Sarah. A very touching story well told. Freud’s last words here surprised me. Interesting. The basic story here is still going on, menacingly. Remember someone wrote a book some years ago blubbering something about the End of History …?

  6. One over riding thought that came to my mind after reading this ;
    “I know Germans,(Americans) they are a civilized nation. They are not capable of evil deeds.”

    This same naive mentality which Sabine suffered from affects the majority of Jews in America who like her cannot see what was coming to the U.S. very,very soon.
    This same naive mentality infects the majority of Israel who assist their modern destroyers (craftily disguised as allies and friends) by going along with the “process” naive fools call peace.

    After Israel deals with Iran,surviving Jews in America will be blamed for the literal fallout and incredible destruction and will be targeted.
    The little seeds have already been sown,but who is paying attention to the little sprouts ?

  7. There were other reasons for Freud’s break with Jung, which did not occur until 1912. And it is not accurate to call Jung an “unabashed anti-Semite” based on his writings and actions — the truth is much more complex. (Not that Jung is blameless: That many prominent people such as Jung, or Richard Strauss, who were not really personally anti-Semitic could work with the Nazis and not see their evil is a blot on that generation.)

    • To begin with, where, in this column does it claim that the Jung-Spielrein liaison constituted sole reason for Freud’s break with Jung? Indeed the author states very explicitly (and I quote) that Freud’s “great break with Jung was sparked – among other causes – by this liaison.” Hence there is no inaccuracy in the narrative.
      Secondly, the view of Carl Jung as one who was “not really personally anti-Semitic” but who “could work with the Nazis and not see their evil,” is a further contribution to a misleading attempt to minimize the importance of Jung’s anti-Semitic racism and his contributions to the Third Reich’s genocidal policies. I would refer Charlie Hall to a book by James E. Goggin and Eileen Brockman Goggin, ”Death of a ‘Jewish Science’: Psychoanalysis in the Third Reich,” if he wishes to have a more realistic appraisal of Jung’s racism and his involvement with Nazi politics.
      It is difficult to dismiss the Goggins’ careful presentation of Jung’s involvement with the Nazi movement; his views on Jewish mental and emotional life are at the very core of Nazi propaganda. He was a consultant to Matthias Göring, Hermann’s psychotherapist cousin, and lectured extensively in Germany during the 1930’s.
      It is pathetic that Jung should be excused from responsibility for his virulent racism and his importance in the Nazi movement. Most important, it is likely that his ideas about psychoanalysis were instrumental in Hitler’s and Göring’s desire to cleanse psychoanalysis of Freud’s ideas. As one who wrote papers on “the inferiority of the Jewish race,” Jung deserves a special degree of condemnation, not the lame excuse granted him in the above comment.
      Finally, the Jung aspect isn’t the heart of this piece. Better dwell on the main thrust of this text than concentrate on side-issues – tantalizing as they may be.

  8. A famous art critic stood before the artist’s grand landscape of Jerusalem, exhibited at a renowned private art gallery. The work was priced and tentatively sold for very many dollars, the largest sum of money for a painting by a living artist at that time, in that country, so many decades ago.

    The critic demanded to know where were the occupied areas. Knowing the trick question and reading the deportment of the swaggering and powerful man, the artist replied that it depended on whether one considered the areas in question to be occupied or to be regarded as residential areas of the capital.

    There was no doubting where each other stood, and that the artist was targeted by activists then, and for the rest of his life, including death threats and the certain delegitimization that the arts community conferred on that master thereafter,… is another story perhaps for someone else to tell.

    Well, the Jewish dealer declared to the artist that he had “poofed”, and indeed the national paper derided him, the sale died and the dealer later dropped him. Eventually, the painting was picked up by a well known art collector for a lot less money, and appears to be seconded somewhere in Tel Aviv out of the public realm.

    Now he is old, retired and weary of the battle. He lives with his sullied reputation, fully aware that he is reviled by almost everyone in the arts who knows of him, particularly the Jewish Left; an unintended consequence that remains a festering wound, but was really inevitable.

    But that infamous artist wasn’t Jewish, for those who look for lessons… You would be hard pressed to find a Jewish painter, or any other for that matter who has taken such a stand in our cultural milieu. But I hope there are many and that their stories one day will be told, like that of Sabine, that Sarah has so well made personal to us, and the Russian story that we know to be current today.

    So why this gentile artist? …perhaps it was a high school event where the artist observed a notorious holocaust denier, who was a guest speaker, put up against the wall by a little redheaded Jewish girl, lambasting him for the desecration of her relatives who burned in those ovens. Maybe he was a kook or glory seeker, what does it matter. However, it takes little imagination to see a Sarah Honig in that brave little young girl.

    As for the art critic, he later wrote a book about his bouts with life long depression and the horrific Freudian treatments he had suffered, all the while singing the praises of modern drug therapy…and turned his pen to another subject. Thanking Freud, the artist let off and turned to other targets. After 911, he upped his private war against the cultural and political entities with some success…

    As for the dealer…a kind truce eventually played out…
    and the artist, I hear he is now retired, living with his sullied reputation, vilified by the enemies of Israel, and vexed by the Jewish Left; an unintended consequence, that remains a festering wound, but was really inevitable.

    He was last seen crawling under an old truck with a set of wrenches.

  9. Jung was an antisemitic idiot who had no idea of psychology and simply inventet his ridiculous pseudo scientific garbage, he was an intellectual dwarf compared to Freud.
    The Russians have always been on the wrong side of history and they have always been the most disgusting Antisemites…Dostowjeskij was an outspoken Jew hater !
    Freud was right in every way and he should be heared today…loud and clear !

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