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Max Eitingon was born in 1881 in the White Russian city of Mohilev as the oldest son of Chaim and Alexandra Eitingon. The family operated a flourishing furrier business with branches in New York, Paris, London, Stockholm and Lodz. In 1893 the companys headquarter was transferred to Leipzig, where the family had moved and where Eitingons father, a pious Jew with Zionist tendencies, was a generous patron. Initially Eitingon attended a secondary modern school in Leipzig, and later he left the Gymnasium without having earned his diploma. Nonetheless, he began his higher education as an auditor at the University of Leipzig and then in Halle. In 1902 he matriculated at the University of Heidelberg and began his medical studies, which he continued in Zurich in 1904 and 1905. At the Burghölzi Psychiatric Clinic, where he was an assistant between 1906 and 1908, Eitingon began an intensive study of Freuds writings under the influence of his teacher Eugen Bleuler and attended the psychoanalytic study group that Bleuler had initiated with C.G. Jung. Eitingon met Freud in person for the first time at the beginning of 1907, and in Vienna he participated in the meetings of the Psychologischen Mittwoch-Gesellschaft (Wednesday Psychological Society). After completing his degree he moved to Berlin in 1909 to undergo specialist training in neurology at the clinic of Hermann Oppenheim. During that same year he underwent a training analysis with Freud, which Ernest Jones later would refer to as the first training analysis in the history of psychoanalysis. It lasted five or six weeks and was conducted during Freud and Eitingons evening walks through Vienna (Schröter 2004, 4). In 1911 Eitingon went into practice as an analyst, and from this time on he numbered among the Berlin Psychoanalytic Societys leading personalities.
Eitingons contribution to the development of psychoanalysis does not lie in his scientific and theoretical research, but in his organizing work. Michael Schröter characterizes him as a helper and supporter, as an organizer and Sigmund Freuds right-hand man, who carefully and determinedly advanced his position within the psychoanalytic movement (ibid., 7). Eitingons loyalty to Freud, which was among his most outstanding traits, was a fundamental precondition for his power (ibid., 19). After Jungs resignation as president of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA), Eitingon initially took over the duties of the associations secretary. With the founding of the Berlin Policlinic in 1920, Eitingon realized the vision of making psychoanalysis available to all people, which Freud had expressed at the IPA congress in Budapest two years earlier. Into the 1930s, most of the funding for the clinics operating costs was provided by Eitingon, who took over its management with Ernst Simmel. The clinic was founded for two reasons: Firstly, its aim was to offer psychoanalytic treatment to the general population either free of charge or for affordable fees. During the following years, up to 120 psychoanalytic treatments were conducted simultaneously by three, and later five, staff members. Secondly, the clinic was the first psychoanalytic training institute for aspiring psychoanalysts, who conducted half of the treatments. Thus it marked the beginning of psychoanalytic training as an institutionalized and regulated process (ibid., 8). Beginning in 1921, the official training program was expanded, with theoretical courses and supervisory consultations supplementing the training analysis. The founding of the clinic also had an effect on the psychoanalytic movements power structure: Eitingon was admitted to the Geheimen Komitee (Secret Committee). He also exerted increasing influence on the International Psychoanalytic Press, which had been founded in 1920. Although he initially only served as an advisor in financial matters, he became a member of the supervisory board at the end of 1924 and shortly thereafter also became a shareholder in the publishing company. As elsewhere, Eitingon was also industrious in raising money to keep the publishing company above water, but he was forced to forfeit his position in 1932 when the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. In the summer of 1924, after Otto Ranks break with Freud, he was appointed editor of the Internationalen Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse together with Sándor Radó and Sándor Ferenczi. Following Karl Abrahams early death in 1925, he took over both the IPA presidency and leadership of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Society.
One of the key areas of Eitingons activity was in psychoanalytic training and in the establishment of uniform training standards. At the 1924 IPA congress in Salzburg he presented the Berlin Institutes Guidelines for Training and Teaching. One year later the International Training Commission (ITC) was created, an organization under Eitingons leadership that attempted to implement the Berlin guidelines within the IPA. His plans only enjoyed short-term success: in the end the project collapsed, primarily on account of the vehement rejection of lay analysis by the New York Psychoanalytic Society. In the course of the world economic crisis, the Eitingon family business ran into financial difficulties. Hence Eitingon was no longer in a position to financially support and maintain the psychoanalytic endeavor, and his position of power was dismantled step by step beginning in 1932. The International Psychoanalytic Press was put under Martin Freuds leadership, and the editorial office of the Internationalen Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse was transferred from Berlin to Vienna. Eventually Eitingon resigned from his office as IPA president, but he was still able to hold on to the chairmanship of the ITC and the Berlin Society. After the National Socialist takeover he was forced to give up the latter as well. At the end of 1933 he fled Germany and settled in Jerusalem, where he founded the Palestinian Psychoanalytic Association. In the summer of 1938 during a stay in Paris he suffered a serious heart attack from which he never recovered. Max Eitingon died on 30 July 1943 at the age of 62 in Jerusalem.
Text: Christiane Rothländer
Translation: Christopher Barber
Sigmund Freud Privatstiftung
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