Research sheds light on famed psychoanalyst’s espionage activities

An early student of Sigmund Freud, who introduced psychoanalysis in what is today Israel, was likely an agent of Soviet intelligence, according to historical evidence stemming from his life and the lives of his close relatives and friends. Max Eitingon, who was a member of Freud’s inner circle of students, funded and directed the Psychoanalytic Institute and polyclinic in Berlin, Germany, in the 1920s and early 1930s. In 1933, the rise of German national socialism prompted Eitingon, who was Jewish, to emigrate to Palestine, where he continued his psychoanalytic work. The view that Eitingon may have actively collaborated with Soviet intelligence in both Germany and Palestine was famously discussed in a lengthy letter exchange in The New York Review of Books in the summer of 1988. Although the debate continues among intelligence historians, two researchers, Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez, both of the Hebrew University’s Truman Institute, believe that there is “a preponderance of circumstantial evidence” that Eitingon did collaborate with Soviet intelligence in Germany and Palestine. In a paper published in March of this year, the two researchers argue that Eitingon’s services to the Soviets included dispatching messages and providing safe houses for Moscow’s operatives. But in a fascinating research update, published yesterday in online journal Tablet, Ginor and Remez contend that historical evidence pertaining to the activities of Eitingon’s Russian-born wife, Mirra, and other relatives and friends, adds credence to the view that the famed psychoanalyst was working for Soviet intelligence. The two scholars point out that Mirra Eitingon, née Burovsky, had a son from a previous marriage, named Yuli Borisovich Khariton. Yuli, who remained close to his mother even after she left Russia, grew up to become the principal designer of the Soviet atomic bomb. Additionally, Ginor and Remez call attention to the role of two of Eitingon’s professional acquaintances: Adolf Yoffe, the Soviet Union’s first ambassador to Germany, and his successor, Viktor Kopp, both of whom shared Eitingon’s psychoanalytic interests. Specifically, Kopp was second-in-command at the Soviet Psychoanalytic Association, while Yoffe had been mentored by Alfred Adler, one of the psychoanalytic movement’s co-founders in Austria. In this sense, Ginor and Remez argue that psychoanalysis and intelligence work were “intertwined” in Eitingon’s life and career. Among several other characters that feature in Ginor and Remez’s intriguing historical investigation is that of Arnold Zweig, a German writer of Jewish descent, who passionately propagated pro-Soviet views in wartime Palestine, before moving to East Germany in 1949. The two Israeli scholars discovered a letter that Zweig sent to Mirra in 1945 —two years after Max’s death— in which asks her to host in her home members of a Soviet political delegation that planned to visit Jerusalem in preparation of establishing a consular office there. The fact that there is no mention of such a visit in the local press at the time leads Ginor and Remez to opine that the Soviets mentioned in Zweig’s letter “would have come [to Palestine] under cover”. This, say the two scholars, can be seen to lend credence to the view that Mirra maintained close ties to Soviet operatives in Palestine even after her husband’s death.

One Response to Research sheds light on famed psychoanalyst’s espionage activities

  1. Pete says:

    I wonder if Max used his position in Germany and Palestine to conduct useful intelligence gathering by psychoanalizing patients in high places? This is given psychoanalysis is partially the art and science of getting people to talk.

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