Ernst Simmel (German: [ˈzɪməl]; 4 April 1882,
Breslau – 11
November 1947, Los Angeles) was a German-Jewish neurologist and
2.1 Anti-Semitism study
4 See also
7 Further reading
8 External links
Breslau (Wrocław), Silesia to a secular Jewish background,
Simmel moved to
Berlin as a child. He studied medicine and
Berlin and Rostock. He graduated in medicine in 1908,
with a dissertation on dementia praecox. In 1910 he married Alice
Seckelson. In 1913 he helped found the Society of Socialist
Physicians (VSÄ), and became one of the pioneers of Social Medicine.
World War I
World War I he headed a hospital for psychiatric casualties of
war in Posen; self-taught in psychoanalysis, he introduced the use of
psychodynamic categories there. His pioneering work on the
treatment of war neurosis with psychoanalytic methods drew him to the
attention of Sigmund Freud, who would build explicitly on his work
Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego
Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego (1921).
After the war, Simmel received a training analysis with Karl Abraham
— another leading analyst who rated the serious young physician very
highly — and himself provided the writer
Alfred Döblin with
training analysis. Simmel helped Abraham and
Max Eitingon found the
Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute in 1920, the world's first
psychoanalytic clinic providing free analytic help for indigent
patients: between 1920 and 1930, 1,955 consultations took place there,
721 resulting in some form of psychoanalysis. Simmel had played a
model role in the institution by insisting from the start on
confidentiality and equal treatment for non-paying as for paying
Simmel was President of the Society of Socialist Physicians from 1924
to 1933, and President of the
Berlin Psychoanalytic Society from 1926
to 1930. In 1927 he founded a sanatorium at
Tegel Palace in Tegel,
which lasted until bankruptcy forced the sanitorium to close in 1931.
Freud was his guest there during several visits to Berlin, and the
sanatorium for five years played an innovative role in new clinical
developments. In 1929 he married his second wife, Hertha
Emigrating to the
United States to escape
Hitler in 1934, he was
briefly at the
Topeka Psychoanalytic Institute
Topeka Psychoanalytic Institute before settling in Los
Simmel was one of the discoverers of the "war neuroses", and stressed
the part played in them by both the superego and the revival of
forgotten infantile traumas. He also did pioneering work on
gambling, seeing it as a regressive attempt to obtain by force sought
after narcissistic supply. Simmel maintained that “on the
developmental path of mankind, games of chance are a reservoir for the
anal-sadistic impulses held in a state of repression”, and that
gambling served to satisfy the “bisexual ideal which the Narcissus
finds in himself”.
Among other topics covered in the ten or so papers he published
between 1918 and 1937 were screen memories; sadism in sex murderers;
psychosomatic defences against psychosis; and hypochondriasis.
With respect to the latter, he focused on the role of introjects in
affecting the hypochodriacally disturbed part of the body, writing
that: “The introjected parental substitute becomes the morbid
material which must be eliminated if the patient is to recover”.
Simmel also pioneered the psychoanalytic study of alcoholism,
considering alcoholic exaltation as an artificial mania, and in
his last paper (1948) urging future co-operation intreatment with
Through such studies, Simmel played a significant part in ensuring
that psychoanalytic theory was extended from individual diseases to
include cultural issues and social situations. For all his
theoretical radicalism, however, Simmel's reputation as an analyst was
for an austere and scrupulously meticulous analytic technique.
One of Simmel's abiding contributions was made in the 1946 anthology
on Anti-Semitism — a collaborative work of psychoanalysts and social
theorists based on the contributions to a 1944 symposium held in San
Francisco. Other contributors were Theodor W. Adorno, Bernhard
Berliner, Otto Fenichel, Else Frenkel-Brunswick,
Max Horkheimer and
Douglass W. Orr.
In Simmel's own paper — "Anti-Semitism and mass psychopathology" —
he interprets antisemitism on the basis of Freud's critical
exploration of myth in his book
Moses and Monotheism
Moses and Monotheism (1939). Simmel
explained the anti-semitic complex in terms of irrational impulses in
individuals and groups which were aimed at overcoming pathological
disorders. A reversion to infantile modes of denying external reality
(reaching back to stages of development dominated by the death drive),
in Simmel's model anti-semitism appeared as a mass psychosis that
nevertheless enabled the individual to compensate for psychological
deficits, in such a way as to remain socially integrated and
relatively intact psychologically: "The flight into mass psychosis is
not only a flight from reality but also from individual insanity".
Simmel's papers are held at the Library of the Los Angeles
Psychoanalytic Society and Institute, and in special collections at
W. H. R. Rivers
Kriegs-Neurosen und "Psychisches Trauma", Munich & Leipzig: Otto
'On the Psychoanalysis of War Neurosis', 1919. Reprinted in Ernst
Simmel, Karl Abraham, Sandor Ferenczi and Ernest Jones, On the
psychoanalysis and the war neuroses. London: International
Psychoanalytic Press., 1921.
'Psychoanalysis and the Masses', 1919.
'Über die Psychogenese von Organstörungen und ihre psychoanalytische
Behandlung'. In Report on the sixth general medical congress for
psychotherapy (p. 56-65; 251-260). Leipzig: Hirzel, 1931
'The psychoanalytic sanitarium and the psychoanalytic movement'.
Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic 1 (1937) 133-143.
'Self-preservation and the death instinct'. Psychoanalytic Quarterly
13 (1944), 160-185.
(ed.) Anti-Semitism: A social disease. New York: International
Universities Press, 1946.
Psychoanalyse und ihre Anwendungen. Frankfurt-am-Main: S. Fischer,
^ a b Veronika Fuechtner, '
Alfred Döblin talks to
Ernst Simmel', ch. 1 of
Berlin Psychoanalytic: Psychoanalysis and
Culture in Weimar Republic Germany and Beyond, University of
California Press, 2011, pp.28-31
^ a b c Ludger M. Hermanns, 'Ernst Simmel', International Dictionary
of Psychoanalysis, Gale, 2005. Reprinted online by answers.com.
^ Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time (1989) p. 376
^ Sigmund Freud, Civilization, Society and Religion (PFL 12) p. 124
^ Elizabeth Ann Danto, Freud's Free Clinics (2007) p. 51
^ Peter Gay, Freud: A Life for Our Time (1989) p. 462
^ Danto, p. 97
^ Danto, p. 185
^ Peck, John S., 'Ernst Simmel: psychoanalytic pioneering in
California', in F. Alexander, S. Eisenstein, M. Grotjahn (eds.),
Psychoanalytic pioneers, New York: Basic Books, 1966.
^ Otto Fenichel, The Psychoanalytic Theory of the Neuroses (London
1946) p. 120-6
^ Jon Halliday/Peter Fuller eds., The Psychology of Gambling (1974) p.
^ Quoted in Halliday/Fuller, p. 16
^ Fenichel, pp. 257, 263, 356, 529 and 654
^ Fenichel, p. 263
^ Fenichel, p. 378
^ Jerome D. Levine, Introduction to
Alcoholism Counselling (1995) p.
^ Danto, p. 204
^ Danto, p. 232
^ Simmel, quoted in Werner Bergmann, Error without Trial (1988) p. 18
^ Russell Jacoby, The repression of psychoanalysis: Otto Fenichel and
the political Freudians, University of Chicago Press, 1986, p.164
Max Horkheimer, "
Ernst Simmel and Freudian Philosophy (1948)", In:
Psyche, 1978, pp. 483–491
Sebastian Möhle, The first generation of German psychosomatic
medicine – Early psychoanalytic approaches and developments
Simmel, Ernst (1882-1947)
Detlev Claussen, 'Analysis of the uncanny' (in German)
ISNI: 0000 0000 8391 4457
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