Another Tack: Sabine’s misrepresented murder

Communism is purportedly gone, yet Russia tenaciously clings to the wrong side of history.

Sabine Spielrein 390 (photo credit: Sarah Honig)
Sabine Spielrein 390
(photo credit: Sarah Honig)
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 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 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.