Wilhelm Reich, the son of Leon Reich, a farmer, and his wife Egleia Roniger Reich, in Dobzau, then part of Austria-Hungary, now in Ukraine, on 24th March, 1897. Both parents were Jewish, but decided against raising him, and his younger brother, Robert, as a Jews. The boys were brought up to speak only German, were punished for using Yiddish and were forbidden from playing with the local Yiddish-speaking children. (1) The family was "well-to-do, highly respected, somewhat stuck-up and put a very pronounced stress on German culture". (2)
At first he was taught at home by his parents: "At age six, I began to learn the primary-school subjects. Mother and Father took turns teaching me reading, writing, and arithmetic, and it was at that point that I felt the full extent of my father's strictness. For the slightest mistake or lapse of attention he struck me, made me eat in the kitchen or stand in a corner. This is the period during which he laid the foundation for my ambitiousness, a characteristic which today I often find distasteful, yes, even revolting. My mother always protected me from his blows by standing between us, and I finally begged that only she give me instruction. She promised, on the condition that I really apply myself. And that I did!" (3)
In 1907 Leon Reich employed tutors to teach his son. According to his autobiography he discovered one of his tutors, a young men he called "S" was having an affair with his mother: "Father had gone out at about six o'clock and stayed away for a long while. I spent the entire time waiting in the foyer, struggling to decide whether to disturb them or to report it to Father. Some very vague feeling restrained me from doing either. Then, when Mother came out of the room, which I could see was completely darkened, with flushed cheeks and a wild, darting look in her eyes, I knew for sure it had happened, although I had no way of telling whether or not for the first time. I stood in a corner, cowering behind a cabinet, with tears streaming down my face. I wanted to run to her but could not do it, to the great misfortune of us all. I am still deeply convinced that seeing me at this point would have brought her to her senses, even though belatedly, and saved us our mother as well as Father his wife. This would have been the only possible salvation! Just what held me back at that moment I cannot say, but at the same time I began to feel pity for Father, and gritting my teeth, I crept away. I was then eleven and a half or twelve years old." (4)
Leon Reich became suspicious of his wife's behaviour with another tutor. "Father entered our room and closed the door. There were beads of perspiration on his forehead as he called us both to come to him and tell everything we knew. Threateningly, he demanded an answer. I trembled as I said that I knew nothing about our present tutor but that I had been a witness to Mother's relationship with S. from beginning to end. It is impossible to describe how Father went rigid when I told him. He pressured me to tell him everything, and I did - unfortunately, too late. Haltingly, in broken sentences, I related how I had listened behind the door but had not dared to do anything, for fear of being killed." (5)
The Death of Egleia Reich
Leon Reich arranged for the children to be taken away from her. Egleia also suffered continuous beatings from her husband. "His sudden temper and his anguish repeatedly gained the upper hand. In attacks of senseless rage which occurred almost daily, he would beat Mother mercilessly.... Mother constantly implored him on bended knee to forgive her and threatened to hang herself at any attempt by Father to separate from her. She agreed to live with us in town, promised not to cast a glance at anyone and just be with the children... But the minute she expressed her agreement to such a plan Father started screaming that all she wanted was to be alone in town so that she could begin other affairs without interference. (6)
In 1911, Egleia Reich decided to bring an end to this torment. "Mother had poisoned herself while Father was away (it was impossible to discover what she had taken)... When Father arrived home on Monday, Mother was lying in bed and asked him to forgive her. She had had to do it, she said, but wanted to see the children one more time. Father immediately sent for the doctor (an old acquaintance of his) and told him everything. The doctor held out little hope... How horrible it was to hear this. We all stayed awake that night. Mother was fully conscious."
Wilhelm Reich explained in his autobiography: "At approximately two o'clock, Mother called for us. Father and I rushed in and fell to our knees at her bedside. Never had I seen her so beautiful! There she lay, with cheeks flushed and her wavy hair loosened. She gazed at us with dreamy eyes and placed both her hands on our heads. Then she asked to see Robert, who was awakened and brought in. Only the four of us were in the room, united once again - and all was forgiven, but alas, it was too late! Father cried and sobbed, whispering the same words over and over: 'Egleia, forgive me, do not die!' Again and again, in a monotone. He appeared to have lost his senses. Mother could only whisper, 'Leo, I was always true to you - it was only that once - forgive me now - Willy and Robert are your children - be good to them for me!' And thus we waited for death to take her. Oh, how beautiful she was as she lay there. 'Just as she looked on her wedding day,' Father said later. We kissed her left hand as she held her right hand to her chest. She shed silent tears. The last we saw was that she tried to raise her right hand to her mouth to wipe away some saliva. Her hand came to a halt just below her chin. Mother was dead." (7)
Reich later blamed himself for his mother's death: "My betrayal, which cost her life, was an act of revenge: she had betrayed me to Father when I stole the tobacco for the cartwright, and in return I then betrayed her! What a tragedy! I wish my mother were alive today so that I could make good for the crime I committed in those days, thirty-five years ago. I have set up a picture of that noble woman so that I can look at it over and over again. What a noble creature, this woman - my mother! May my life's work make good for my misdeed. In view of my father's brutality,
she was perfectly right!" (8)
Wilhelm Reich and Sigmund Freud
Leon Reich died of tuberculosis three years later. Although only a teenager he attempted to run the family until it became a battlefield during the First World War. In 1915 Reich joined the Austro-Hungarian Army, and by 1916 he was serving as a lieutenant at the Italian front. (9) "The hierarchy was absolute, as was the separation between officers and men. The noncommissioned officers were strictly held to not yielding to the soldiers. Every method of enforcing discipline was allowed. I had about sixty men under my command. They were mostly men between thirty and forty years of age. Those in command were eighteen to twenty years old." (10)
When the war ended he moved to Vienna. At first he studied law at the University of Vienna, but in his second year he became a medical student. He was interested in psychiatry and became a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Society. Reich met Sigmund Freud in 1919 and agreed with his views on sexuality: "Perhaps morality speaks against it, but my own experiences, my observations of myself and others, have led me to the conviction that sexuality is the core around which all social life, as well as the inner spiritual life of the individual, revolves - whether the relationship to that core be direct or indirect.... I do not make such claims under the influence of Freud's writings... I offer the fact that I was already conscious of these things long before I began to study this science. For example, I recall that during my childhood, conscious sexuality was awakened within me at the age of four through contact with the maids." (11)
Wilhelm Reich became a socialist but is unwilling to join the Communist Party or the Social Democratic Party: "My life, my actions, are dominated by one idea: reality is dirty. How the communists revile the Social Democrats - disgusting! They attacked the Social Democratic labor council like a pack of mad dogs because of one action; in other words, they act exactly the way the Christian Socialists do. And the Social Democrats? The same! Ugh ! Yes, if one could only find a group that functioned outside of the mire of political machinations, which always, no matter where they originate, bear the stamp of power and egotism. Such groups must be brought into existence! They must grow in spirit!" (12)
In 1920 Reich began treating, a nineteen-year-old girl named Lore Kahn who was a kindergarten teacher. "She was lively, clever, and somewhat 'messed up' because she had no proper boyfriend. She was in love with a brave revolutionary politician... she had attached herself to him and slept with him. But now she could no longer have him. This made her miserable. Lore became psychically ill, even though she was a strong person. She lost her self-confidence and became moody and so no longer liked herself....She fell in love with me. It was not only a case of father-transference; and where, after all, is the basic difference between a genuine, sensual love for the father and the equally real sensual feeling for a lover who is to replace father and mother and simultaneously provide the pleasure of sexual union ! In short, Lore declared one day that she was analyzed, and now she wanted me." (13)
Sigmund Freud warned fellow psychologists of something he called "erotic transference" when female patients acted out their Oedipal desire to be seduced by their fathers. He wrote a paper entitled Observations on Transference Love, where he tried to impose what was known as the "rule of abstinence" on the analytic process, requiring the analyst to deny the patient's craving for love. (14) Despite this several early psychologists, such as Carl Jung, Ernest Jones, Sándor Ferenczi and Wilhelm Stekel, all had affairs with patients. Reich agreed with Freud's instructions: "One should not sleep with one's patients; it is too complicated and dangerous." (15)
One day Kahn declared that she was cured and that she now loved Reich. It was decided that Kahn's analysis should be brought to an end. A few weeks later Reich attended a lecture given by Kahn on kindergartens. After the talk she invited Reich to go hiking with her in the Vienna Woods, where Reich and Kahn embarked on an affair. (16) Reich explained: "She knew what she wanted and did not hide it. After all, she was no longer a patient. And it was nobody's business. I loved her, and she grew very happy." (17)
Lore Kahn wrote in her diary: "I am happy, boundlessly happy. I would never have thought that I could be - but I am. The fullest, deepest fulfillment. To have a father and be a mother, both in the same person. Marriage! Monogamy! At last! Never was there coitus with such sensual pleasure, such gratification, and such a sense of oneness and inter-penetration as now. Never such parallel attraction of the mind and body. And it is beautiful. And I have direction, clear, firm, and sure - I love myself this way. I am content as nature intended! Only one thing: a child!" (18)
Reich and Kahn used to sleep together on their hiking outings, but back in Vienna, his landlady wouldn't permit female guests. In his autobiography, Reich rejected the idea of marriage or living together: "All was well between us. But we had no room in which we could be together undisturbed. It was no longer possible at my place; the landlady had become hostile and a threat. So Lore got a room at a friend's. It was unheated and bitter cold. Lore became ill, ran a high fever, with dangerous articular rheumatism, and eight days later died of sepsis, in the bloom of her young life." (19)
Reich responded by writing a letter to his dead lover: "To you, Lore, with your now cold, pale face and its lingering smile at a world which your free spirit outwitted wherever it could; to you, with your loose flowing hair which you tossed into my face on a bright moonlit night as we danced our way home, hand in hand, blissful over our world; to you, who made me forget the sordidness of life by telling me tales such as only you could tell as I rested my head on your lap in the warm sunshine; to you, who awaited me in a dark room, whose tender lips kissed away all my cares in a happy onslaught and sowed the seed of lighthearted laughter within me! Your will to live, your sparkling joy in life were unable to frighten away an incredibly hideous death; how you smiled and overlooked the filth which surrounded you! I send you a kiss, my beloved companion. When all else has receded into the infinite grayness, your naive, childlike freshness will still be with me." (20)
Lore Kahn's parents had urged her not to see Reich and claimed that their daughter had died after a botched illegal abortion, possibly performed by Reich himself. She visited him and accused him of being a murderer. Reich recorded in his diary: "This is the hysterical comedy of a woman in menopause, who has identified with her daughter and is lustfully wallowing in the idea of an operation despite its obvious absurdity. This wallowing is the hysterical symptom of a desire for an operation she really wanted - from me!" (21)
According to one of Reich's biographer's, Christopher Turner, she found some of her daughter's bloodied underwear in a cupboard and accused Reich of having arranged an illegal abortion for her daughter and suggested that it was this that killed her. Later, Reich confessed to Elsa Lindenberg that Lore Kahn had died as a result of an illegal abortion. (22)
In December, 1920, Mrs. Kahn committed suicide. Reich wrote in his diary: "There is no way to avoid the feeling that I am the murderer of an entire family, for the fact remains that if I had not entered that household, both of them would still be alive! And with this on my mind I continue my life-more lectures, analysis, concerts. I am acting out a comedy, while causing the people around me to die! Didn't my own mother also die-better said, also commit suicide - because I had told all? I seek relief from this heavy burden; who will help me? Who am I and what can I do? Why do I bring about such tragedies of life and death? (23)
In January 1921, Annie Pink became Wilhelm Reich's patient. The 18-year-old Annie had never had a boyfriend. Reich commented: "She flees from men; I am supposed to enable her to release her drives and at the same time to be become their first object. How do I feel about that? What must I do?" Terminate the analysis? No, because afterwards there would be no contact!" Reich wrote in his diary, "A fine woman, very neurotic. Do I love her? The way she is today - not the way I would like her to be - yes!". (24)
Reich started to fantasize during these sessions about marrying Annie, admiring her "lithe body" as she lay on his couch. "It is awful when a young, pretty, intelligent children they'd have. "It is awful when a young, pretty, intelligent eighteen-year-old girl tells a twenty-four-year-old analyst that she has long being entertaining the forbidden idea that she might possibly embark on an intimate friendship with him - yes, that she actually wishes it, says it would be beautiful - and the analyst has to resolve it all by pointing at her father." (25)
Annie Pink called an end to their analysis after six and a half months. She went instead to see an older analyst, Hermann Nunberg. Reich now considered himself free to take her on a day trip into the Vienna Woods before booking into a hotel called the Sophienalpe. Apparently, Annie had never kissed a man before. Reich wrote: "Is an analyst permitted to enter into a relationship with a female patient after a successful analysis? Why not, if I desire it!" He added that "I corresponded somewhat to her hero fantasy, and she looked a little like my mother." According to Annie's best friend, Edith Buxbaum, later commented: "It would turn any patient's head, to have her analyst fall in love with her." (26)
They began an affair: "When I visited her in the evenings with her parents, I left late and went to a nearby cafe and waited until I thought her parents were asleep. Then I crept silently to her like a criminal and she awaited me like a criminal as well. The forbidden did not in any way increase the pleasure, as clever people claim; we were afraid of being discovered. So it went for weeks. One night, I lay with her and we heard a noise as if someone were standing outside the door. Then the door opened quietly, very quietly, and a head appeared through the crack, looked for a long time, and went away. It was Malva, her stepmother. We were worried, but at the same time it amused us." (27)
The following morning Reich had a meeting with Annie's father: "Her father, a very decent and liberal-minded man, came in. He was a Social Democrat, member of the district administration, counsel to the poor, and a freethinker. He looked distressed. Curtly and with some embarrassment, he said that he knew everything and now we 'had to get married.' But we were not thinking of getting married. It is true that some weeks previously I had asked Annie to become my wife, but she had said that could wait. Now her father demanded it.... I gave in: I did want to live with her. Still, we were defiant, and the Sunday marriage we announced was a sham." (28)
The marriage took place on 17th March 1922. Annie Reich who now began her medical training at the University of Vienna. Reich had already been a practicing psychoanalyst for three years, and was so in demand that he had to rush from an analytic session to collect his graduation diploma. Reich did not like ceremonies, and did not invite his friends to the university. "Only my mother's good wishes would have made me happy." (29)
Wilhelm Reich and Marxism
In 1923 the Social Democratic Party government in Vienna, inspired by the ideas of Victor Adler and the leadership of Jakob Reumann, began a massive home building programme by constructing 2,256 new residential homes for working-class families. The government instituted social, healthcare and educational reforms. These measures helped to raise their standard of living. This deepened the ties of workers towards the party and created a large pool of loyalists on whom the party could always depend. Otto Bauer, one of the people behind the project, claimed they were "creating a revolution of souls". (30)
Sigmund Freud decided to give his support to this venture. He urged his followers to create "institutions or out-patients... where treatment shall be free". He hoped that one day these clinics would be state-funded: "The neuroses threaten public health no less than tuberculosis." The Vienna Psychoanalytic Society established the Ambulatorium, a free psychoanalytic clinic in Vienna. Those who worked at the clinic included Wilhelm Reich, Annie Reich, Eduard Hitschmann, Helene Deutsch, Siegfried Bernfeld, August Aichhorn, Wilhelm Hoffer and Grete Bibring. (31)
Wilhelm Reich became deputy director of the Vienna Ambulatorium. In the next few years 1,445 men and women were treated in the Ambulatorium. The vast majority were working-class, with over 20% being unemployed. Reich claimed: "The consultation hours were jammed. There were industrial workers, office clerks, students, and farmers from the country. The influx was so great that we were at a loss to deal with it." (33)
Reich began associating with left-leaning therapists such as Karen Horney, Ernst Simmel, Erich Fromm, Viktor Frankl, Edith Jacobson, Helene Deutsch, Frieda Reichmann, Edith Weigert and Otto Fenichel who began to take into consideration the social and political impact on the clinical situation. Together they explored ways of "finding a bridge between Marx and Freud". Elizabeth Ann Danto, described the group as being interested in providing "a challenge to conventional political codes, a social mission more than a medical discipline." (34)
In 1924 he became director of the Seminar for Psychoanalytic Therapy. He also visited patients in their homes to see how they lived, and took to the streets in a mobile clinic, promoting adolescent sexuality and the availability of contraceptives, abortion and divorce. Reich would stand on his soap-box and lectured them on "the sexual misery of the masses under capitalism" and warned about the dangers of abstinence, the importance of premarital sex, and the corrupting influence of the family. He said he wanted to "attack the neurosis by its prevention rather than treatment." (35)
On 27th April, 1924, Annie gave birth to the couple's first child, a daughter they named Eva. They moved into a large double apartment that was sumptuously furnished by Annie's wealthy father. In 1925 Reich published The Impulsive Character: A Psychoanalytic Study of the Pathology of the Self. Reich argued that character structure was the result of social processes, in particular a reflection of castration and Oedipal anxieties playing themselves out within the nuclear family. (36)
Freud was impressed with this work and arranged for his appointment to the executive committee of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. The appointment was made over the objection of Paul Federn, the vice-president of the society, who regarded Reich as a psychopath. Reich found the members of the society very conservative and wrote that he felt "like a shark in a pond of carps." (37)
Annie complained that by 1927 Wilhelm Reich was showing signs of "incipient psychosis". (38) She claimed that Wilhelm "thought the world was mad, not him - he felt he was a lucid and sane observer of its delusions." Annie described him as "angry, paranoid and suspicious of her". A second child (named Lore, after the ill-fated Lore Kahn) was conceived in a desperate attempt to consolidate the marriage." (39)
The birth of Lore Reich in 1928 did not change Reich's womanizing. He began a relationship with Lia Laszky quite openly. In his essay, Compulsory Marriage and Enduring Sexual Relationship (1930) Reich argued that sooner or later sexual attraction between a couple dried up and they were invariably drawn to others. "The healthier the individual the more conscious he is of his desires." It is clearly an autobiographical article and he indicated that he disliked Annie's toleration of his sexual relationships with other women: "The unconscious hatred (toward the partner to which you are no longer as sexually attracted as you once were) can become all the more intense the kinder and more tolerant the partner is." (40)
In the summer of 1927, three members of an Austrian right-wing paramilitary group accused of murdering an eight-year-old boy and elderly war veteran were acquitted by a conservative judge. In Vienna there were strikes and riots in protest. The police were ordered to shoot directly into the crowd and as a result 89 people died and hundreds were wounded. Reich, who was one of those who treated the injured, was radicalized by these events. When Reich asked Sigmund Freud for his opinion on the "civil war", his mentor replied that he was fundamentally unsympathetic to the "primal horde". (41)
Reich responded by attacking Freud's view that repression was an inherent part of the human condition. He became a sexual evangelist who held that the satisfactory orgasm made the difference between sickness and health. "There is only one thing wrong with neurotic patients," he concluded in The Function of the Orgasm (1927): "the lack of full and repeated sexual satisfaction". He argued: "Psychic illnesses are the result of a disturbance of the natural ability to love. In the case of orgiastic impotence, from which the overwhelming majority of people suffer, damning-up of biological energy occurs and becomes the source of irrational actions." (42)
Freud responded to this article by writing to his friend, Lou Andreas-Salomé about Reich's views in relation to one of her patients: "It must often happen that particular people have particular experiences to relate, as in the case of your K. One must take note of such a case. We have here a Dr. Reich, a worthy but impetuous young man, passionately devoted to his hobby-horse, who now salutes in the genital orgasm the antidote to every neurosis. Perhaps he might learn from your analysis of K. to feel some respect for the complicated nature of the psyche." (43)
Reich found fault with the ideas of both Marx and Freud. He believed that the growth in European fascism was an "inevitable consequence of their patriarchal, authoritarian family system". Reich believed that "Marxism was not psychological enough, and Freudian psychoanalysis was not sociological enough. Yet simply adding them together would not suffice; he had to create a new synthesis." (44)
In 1929 Reich joined the Austrian Communist Party and with four other analysts and three obstetricians he established the Socialist Society for Sex Consultation and Sexological Research. The following year he visited the Soviet Union and the authorities gave permission for his Dialectical Materialism and Psychoanalysis, that had appeared in a journal run by the German Communist Party, to be published in Moscow. (45)
In the article, Reich defined the proper object of psychoanalysis as "the study of the psychological life of man in society", an "auxiliary to sociology", "a form of social psychology". Both psychoanalysis and Marxism are seen by Reich as "science" (psychoanalysis as the science of psychological phenomena and Marxism of social phenomena) and by implication as unarguably valid. Reich highlights the importance of sexual repression in capitalist society: "Just as Marxism was sociologically the expression of man becoming conscious of the laws of economics and of the exploitation of a majority by a minority, so psychoanalysis is the expression of man becoming conscious of the social repression of sex". (46)
Reich's views had an impact on a group of intellectuals in New York City. Greenwich Village bohemians, such as the writers Max Eastman and Floyd Dell, the anarchist Emma Goldman and Mabel Dodge, who ran an avant-garde salon in her apartment on Fifth Avenue, adapted psychoanalysis to create their own free-love philosophy. Dell warned that "sexual emotions would not be repressed without morbid consequences." Eastman asked "Weren't all forms of repression evil?" However, as Dell later admitted, their experiment was an isolated one, and it would take another forty years before "the idea of sexual liberation would permeate the culture at large". (47)
German Communist Party
Reich and his wife, Annie Reich, moved to Berlin in November 1930, where he set up clinics in working-class areas, taught sex education and published pamphlets. Reich set up the German Association for Proletarian Sexual Politics (Sex-Pol) and spoke to crowds up to 20,000 strong. One newspaper reported: "The moment he (Wilhelm Reich) starts to speak, not at the lectern, but walking around it on cat's paws, he is simply enchanting. In the Middle Ages, this man would have been sent into exile. He is not only eloquent, he also keeps his listeners spellbound by his sparking personality, reflected in his small, dark eyes." (48)
Anna Freud recommended that Annie Reich left her husband. She did this but eventually returned to the family home. Later, his daughter, Lore Reich, explained what happened: "My father was having an affair with Lia Laszky at the time... He had lots of affairs, and he felt that if didn't go along with that you were just clingy and neurotic. This was totally different if women cheated on him... But anyway, he was having these yelling matches and things, and he was being crazy in many ways and she was in analysis, so she was telling all this to Anna Freud, and I am sure she told Freud... My mother was a very modern woman. She became a psychoanalyst. She was highly intellectual, very cultured, and she became very successful in her field. Her problem was that she should have left him when he went to Berlin, but she didn't, she went back to him." (49)
Annie later wrote about her sexual relationship with her husband: "Intercourse is an experience of extraordinary intensity in these cases of extreme submissiveness in women. It is worthy of note that the self-esteem of the submissive woman falls to a strikingly low level when she is away from her lover. The man, on the other hand, is overrated; he is considered to be very important, a genius. He is the only man worthy of love... she develops a sort of megalomania in regard to him. In the magic of unio mystica she finally regains, through identification, the narcissism which she had renounced." (50)
Fritz Perls was taught and analysised by Wilhelm Reich, Karen Horney and Otto Fenichel while living in Berlin. He admitted to finding Reich "alive and vital." Later, after escaping to America, in reviewing all his experiences with psychoanalysts, he reminisced that he got "from Fenichel I got confusion, from Reich, brazenness; from Horney, human involvement without terminology." (51)
Arthur Koestler recalled that Reich, "expounded the theory that… only through a full, uninhibited release of the sexual urge could the working-class realise its revolutionary potentialities and historic mission; the whole thing was less cockeyed than it sounds." The German Communist Party became concerned about his ideas and accused of trying to turn the communist youth associations into brothels. "The communist bureaucracy had dwindling sympathies for his psychoanalytically informed arguments about the importance of sex to revolution, and in 1933 he was kicked out of the party." (52)
During this period Wilhelm Reich and Karen Horney clashed with Sigmund Freud over his concept of the death instinct during a conference in January, 1931. Jack L. Rubins argued: "With his leftist leanings, he attributed individual destructiveness to capitalism and other economic inequities and to the social injustices that derived from them." (53)
According to his biographer and friend, Ernest Jones, Reich submitted an article for publication "which was the amalgamation of Marxism and psychoanalysis" which according to Freud, "culminated in the nonsensical statement that we have called the death instinct is a product of the capitalistic system". Jones points out that "this was very different from Freud's view that it constituted an inherent tendency of all living beings." Jones admitted that "Freud had thought highly of him in his early days, but Reich's political fanaticism had led to both personal and scientific estrangement." (54)
The German Psychoanalytical Society also disapproved of Reich's Marxism and he was eventually expelled from the organisation. Charles Rycroft has argued: "In retrospect, neither of these two expulsions seems intellectually justified, though in the view of the political circumstances of the time they are perhaps forgivable. The psychoanalytical movement felt it had no chance of surviving the rise of fascism if it was associated with communism... while the Communist Party felt he was diverting into mental and sexual hygiene campaigns energies which were required for direct political action." (55)
Elsa Lindenberg, a dancer, met Wilhelm Reich in May, 1932, during a protest demonstration against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. She later recalled that "I got to know Willie Reich when I used to walk around Berlin at night with a pot of glue and anti-Hitler posters." They became lovers and she convinced him that modern dance was intimately linked to sexual freedom. (56)
Adolf Hitler became Chancellor in January 1933. The Nazi Party still didn't have a clear parliamentary majority, however, on 27th February, 1933, someone set fire to the Reichstag. Several people were arrested including a leading, Georgi Dimitrov, general secretary of the Comintern, the international communist organization. Dimitrov was eventually acquitted but a young man from the Netherlands, Marianus van der Lubbe, was executed for the crime. As a teenager Lubbe had been a communist and Hermann Goering used this information to claim that the Reichstag Fire was part of a German Communist Party (KPD) plot to overthrow the government. Hitler gave orders that all leaders of the KPD should "be hanged that very night." (57)
As a Jew and a communist, orders were given for Reich's arrest. However, the family went into hiding. In March, 1933, Völkischer Beobachter published an attack on Reich's pamphlet, The Sexual Battle of Youth. Annie and Wilhelm now escaped to Vienna to meet up with their two daughters, who had already been sent to live with their grandparents. (58)
On April 21, 1933 Elsa Lindenberg and her friend, Ruth Abramowitsch, were formally excluded from the ballet group under the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service. She was accused of "state damaging behavior". Lindenberg decided to join Wilhelm Reich in Vienna. It was at this point that Annie Reich decided to leave her husband. Lore later recalled that her mother lost "all the admiration and submissiveness, and the belief that he was a great man." (59) Annie wrote to Elsa that "your happiness will be built on my tears". (60)
The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933)
Later that year Reich published The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933), an attempt to explain why Hitler had gained power: "It was during the rapid decline of German economy between 1929 and 1932 that the NSDAP gained by leaps and bounds: from 800,000 votes in 1928 to 6,400,000 in the fall of 1930; 13,000,000 in the summer of 1932; and 17,000,000 in January 1933." He pointed out that in 1933: "Communists and Social Democrats together had between twelve and thirteen million votes, the NSDAP and the German Nationalists together between nineteen and twenty million. This means that in terms of practical politics, not the economic but the ideological stratification was the decisive factor. The political role of the lower middle classes was much more important than had been assumed." (61)
Reich then went on to say that the situation in Nazi Germany undermined the theories of Karl Marx: "The Marxist dictum that economic conditions transform themselves into ideology, and not vice versa, ignores two questions: First, how this takes place, what happens in the 'human brain' in this process; and second, what is the retroactive effect of this 'consciousness' (we shall speak of psychological structure) on the economic process? This gap is bridged by character-analytic psychology which uncovers that process in psychic life which is determined by the conditions of economic existence. It comprehends the 'subjective factor' which the Marxist does not understand.... But political psychology alone – not social economics - can make us understand the human character structure of a given epoch, how the individual thinks and acts, how he reacts to the conflicts of his existence and how he tries to manage them. True, it investigates the individual only. But if it specializes in the study of those psychological processes which any given groups, classes or professions have in common and which are characteristic of them, eliminating the individual differences between them, it becomes mass psychology." (62)
According to Reich to understand the growth of fascism it was necessary to "study that social institution in which the economic and the sex-economic situation of patriarchal society are interlaced. Without a study of this institution, a comprehension of the sexual economy and of the ideology of patriarchy is impossible." He then goes on to say "Character-analytic investigation of people of any age, nationality or social stratum, shows that the interlacing of the socio-economic with the sexual structure, as well as the structural reproduction of society, takes place in the first four or five years of life, and in the authoritarian family. The church only continues this function later on. In this way the authoritarian state develops its enormous interest in the authoritarian family: the family is the factory of its structure and ideology."
Reich suggests that the family structure helps to develop the character traits that finds fascism appealing: "At first, the child has to adjust to the structure of the authoritarian miniature state, the family; this makes it capable of later subordination to the general authoritarian system. The formation of the authoritarian structure takes place through the anchoring of sexual inhibition and sexual anxiety.... To understand why sex-economy considers the authoritarian family the most important place of reproduction of the authoritarian system, we only have to take the example of a conservative worker's wife. Her economic situation is the same as that of the revolutionary worker's, but she votes fascist. The difference between the sexual ideology of the average revolutionary and the average reactionary woman is decisive: the anti-sexual, moralistic structure of the conservative woman makes it impossible for her to develop a consciousness of her social position, it ties her to the church as much as it makes her afraid of sex.... by repressing the sexual needs and by becoming anchored as moralistic defense - paralyzes the rebellion against either kind of suppression. More than that, the inhibition of rebellion itself is unconscious. The conscious mind of the average unpolitical individual does not even show a trace of it."
"The result of this process is fear of freedom, and a conservative, reactionary mentality. Sexual repression aids political reaction not only through this process which makes the mass individual passive and unpolitical but also by creating in his structure an interest in actively supporting the authoritarian order. The suppression of natural sexual gratification leads to various kinds of substitute gratifications. Natural aggression, for example, becomes brutal sadism which then is an essential mass-psychological factor in imperialistic wars. To take another example: the mass-psychological effect of militarism is essentially libidinous. The sexual effect of a uniform and of rhythmically perfect parades, of military exhibitionism in general, are obvious to the average servant girl, even though they may not be obvious to learned political scientists. Political reaction, however, makes conscious use of these sexual interests. Not only does it create peacock-like uniforms for the men, it uses attractive women in its recruiting campaigns... Why are such posters effective? Because our youth, as a result of sexual suppression, is sex-starved." (63)
Paul A. Robinson, the author of The Freudian Left (1969) has argued: "Reich's social theory offers an imaginative conceptual tool for sociological and historical research which could be used to understand how economic realities are translated into politics, ethics and religion, indeed even to understand how the economic order itself is maintained, he in fact never worked it out in a way that was academically acceptable…. The crude, undisciplined character of his mind did not lend itself to a patient empirical elaboration of his basic insight. In this respect, as in so many others, he fell short of the greatest social theorists, who never considered scholarly historical research beneath their dignity." (64)
Living in Exile
After the publication of The Mass Psychology of Fascism, Reich moved on to Denmark. The book made him unpopular with the Danish Communist Party as they regarded it as "counterrevolutionary". He was also criticised for his promotion of abortion and sex education. When his visa expired, it was not renewed. He therefore decided to apply to live in England. (65)
However, leading figures in psychoanalysts, Melanie Klein, Anna Freud, Ernest Jones, Joan Riviere and James Strachey all refused to support his application because of his hostility to the theories of Sigmund Freud. Anna attempted to explain her opposition to Reich: "There is a wall somewhere where he (Wilhelm Reich) stops to understand the other person's point of view and flies off into a world of his own... He is an unhappy person... and I am afraid this will end in sickness." (66)
Reich and Lindenberg moved instead to Malmö in Sweden, but he government declined to extend his visa, and the couple had to move briefly back to Denmark. They finally settled in Oslo, Norway, in October, 1934. Over the next few months Reich conducted what he called the bion experiments. This involved growing cultured vesicles using grass, sand, iron and animal tissue, boiling them and adding potassium and gelatin. Having heated the materials to incandescence with a heat-torch, he wrote that he had discovered "bions" and believed they were a rudimentary form of life, halfway between life and non-life. He wrote that when he poured the cooled mixture onto growth media, bacteria were born, dismissing the idea that the bacteria were already present in the air or on other materials. (67)
Wilhelm Reich published The Sexual Revolution in 1936. He argued in the book: "The healthy individual has no compulsive morality because he has no impulses which call for moral inhibition... Intercourse with a prostitute becomes impossible. Sadistic phantasies disappear. To expect love as a right or even to rape the sexual partner becomes inconceivable, as do ideas of seducing children. Anal, exhibitionistic or other perversions disappear, and with these the social anxiety and guilt feelings. The incestuous fixation to parents and siblings loses its interest; this liberates the energy which was bound up in such fixations. In brief, all these phenomena point to the fact that the organism is capable of self-regulation." (68)
Reich also suggested that a long-term successful marriage was difficult to achieve: "Marriages could be good, at least for a certain period of time, if there were sexual harmony and gratification. This would, however, presuppose a sex affirmative education, premarital sexual experience, and emancipation from conventional morality. But the very thing that might make for a good marriage means at the same time its doom. For once sexuality is affirmed, once moralism is overcome, there is no longer any inner argument against intercourse with other partners except for a period of time, during which faithfulness based on gratification exists (but not for a life-time). The ideology of marriage collapses and with it the marriage. It is no longer marriage, but a permanent sexual relationship." (69)
Some feminists have attacked the views of Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse for being sexist. Beatrice Faust has argued: "Both Marcuse and Reich saw sexual repression as a weapon of authoritarian, patriarchal culture and economic exploitation although the former was directly concerned with European fascism while the latter was concerned to expose the fascism that he believed was latent in the affluent democracies. Both related the Freudian concepts of repression and sublimation in the psychic economy to destructive forces in capitalism, anticipating revolutionary changes in both individuals and in society." Like two other radical thinkers, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud... Reich and Marcuse... "both disguised inherent conservatism by a facade of self-righteous non-conformism." (70)
Reich and Lindenberg moved instead to Malmö in Sweden, but he government declined to extend his visa, and the couple had to move briefly back to Denmark. They finally settled in Oslo, Norway, in October, 1934. Reich described Lindenberg as his "companion-wife". He began conducting investigations into sexual electricity. This was an idea first proposed by Sigmund Freud who suggested that the libido was made up of some "chemical substance". According to Ernest Jones, Freud had dreamed of "transforming psychology into a biological or physiological discipline." (71)
Reich purchased an oscillograph, a device designed to measure and record electrical charge, and began to try to quantify the libido, rigging up the nipples and genitalia of various volunteers with silver electrodes. He wrote to his friend, Ellen Siersted: "It is the beginning... and within three years we will be able to state that Freud, long ago, had found how to measure the electrical power of sexuality!" (72)
Reich, who had no previous experience of laboratory work, wrote to his estranged wife that in this regard he felt like an "untrained tourist... standing at the foot of Mount Everest." (73) Reich eventually concluded that the oscillograph was a sort of lie detector test for orgastic potency. "He claimed that his machine could distinguish between an orgasm and a total orgasm, only the latter being properly accompanied by liberated energies, as recorded by the oscillograph, no matter what the subject said he or she felt." (74)
Several of his friends served as test subjects for these bioelectric experiments. This included Willy Brandt, a German socialist who had fled to Norway, where he established the International Bureau of Revolutionary Youth Organizations. Lindenberg compared the two men: "Brandt was very calm, with a clear, sharp mind. There was an inner restlessness there due to his political involvement but he kept it under control... Wilhelm Reich was also feeling this inner restlessness but he made no attempt to control it." (75)
Annie Reich and her two daughters, plus her new husband, Arnold Rubenstein, a Russian historian who was fourteen-years her senior, emigrated to America in 1938. Annie Reich became a member of the New York Psychoanalytic Institute and joined the staff that included Karen Horney, Erich Fromm, Clara Thompson, Lawrence Kubie, Harry Stack Sullivan, David M. Levy, Abram Kardiner, Harmon S. Ephron, Ludwig Jekels, Paul Federn, Herman Nunberg, Kurt Lewin, Robert Fleiss, Henry Lowenfeld, Bernard S. Robbins and Sarah Kelman. It has been claimed that like Annie Reich, several of these people had migrated from Europe, and this had an impact on the organization: "The traditional German authoritarianism of their background began to manifest itself in stricter training standards, greater insistence on adherence to orthodox theory and rejection of any deviation, more attention to the hierarchical organization of institutes." (76)
Reich had originally believed that Elsa Lindenberg's ideas on modern dance was intimately linked to sexual freedom. However, as the relationship deteriorated, he began to ridiculed Lindenberg's dancing. He also began to suspect her of having an affair with her pianist. He turned up at the man's house unannounced and caused a scene that included breaking a mirror and throwing around some chairs. Although he believed in free love for himself, he was extremely jealous of his partners having relationships with other men. That night Lindenberg left Reich. (77)
Reich became increasingly concerned about Hitler's aggressive foreign policy and decided he would like to join his former wife and their two daughters in the United States. Theodore P. Wolfe, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, who had translated The Mass Psychology of Fascism into English, offered to help him and made contact with Adolph Berle, an official in the State Department. (78)
Wilhelm Reich wrote in his diary: "I am sitting in a completely empty apartment waiting for my American visa. I have misgivings as to how it will go.... I am utterly and horribly alone! It will be quite an undertaking to carry on all the work in America. Essentially, I am a great man, a rarity, as it were. I can't quite believe it myself, however, and that is why I struggle against playing the role of a great man." (79)
The United States
He received the visa and sailed out of Norway on 19th August, 1939, on the SS Stavangerfjord, the last ship to leave for the United States before the war began on 3rd September. He began teaching at The New School in New York City. In October 1939 he met the 29 year-old Ilse Ollendorff. Reich compared her to his previous girlfriend, Elsa Lindenberg, she is "clever, pretty, and she has a body that reminds me of Elsa, except that she is a brunette". (80)
Ollendorff later recalled her impression of him: "I was very much impressed by him, even a little awed... He was a striking figure with his gray hair, ruddy complexion, and white coat. He showed me the laboratory, the house, and invited me to have a glass of wine." (81) She added: "He was very stocky, and had a very red face because he had a skin disease... He was very attractive and out of the ordinary." (82) The couple began a passionate affair. Reich wrote in his journal that this brought an end to "six ghastly weeks of abstinence". (83)
Ollendorff became pregnant but he insisted she had an abortion because he feared a child would distract him from his research. However, she did have a child, Peter, five years later. They decided to live together and she became Reich's secretary and laboratory assistant. She was put in charge of the crates of cancerous mice that Reich was experimented on. "Reich was a hard taskmaster... The records had to be kept meticulously as to every detail of treatment... At times I had the feeling that our whole life was ruled by the stopwatch." (84)
Annie imposed time limits on her former husband's visits with his own daughters. "What's the matter - are you afraid I'll seduce her?" Reich asked when Lore Reich was forbidden to stay overnight. Annie replied: "I wouldn't put it past you." Lore later recalled that she understood why her mother did not allow her to stay with with her father: "I think he was a sex abuser. I didn't trust him, I'm sorry. He was a very dangerous, difficult man and I think he was sexually unreliable, and I wouldn't be surprised if he molested my sister, though she would never admit that, I'm sure... I didn't want to spend the night at his place because I thought he would be sexually promiscuous with me." (85)
In an article written in November, 1940, Reich argued that: "Freedom of religion is dictatorship when it does not go hand in hand with freedom of science. For when this is not the case, there is no free competition in the interpretations of the life process. It must be decided once and for all whether "God" is a bearded, all-powerful, divine figure, or whether he represents the cosmic law of nature which governs us. Only if God and the law of nature are identical is an understanding possible between science and religion. It is but one step from the dictatorship of an earthly representatives of God to the dictatorship of a divinely ordained saviour of peoples." (86)
In 1940 Reich built a box that he called an orgone accumulator. The earliest boxes were for laboratory animals, but later constructed a human-sized, five-foot-tall box that was set up in the basement of his house. It was made of plywood lined with rock wool and sheet iron, and had a chair inside and a small window. The boxes had multiple layers of these materials, which according to Reich caused the orgone concentration inside the box to be three to five times stronger than in the air. Reich placed mice with cancer in his orgone box. Reich told his supporters that his box was definitely able to destroy cancerous growth. "This is proved by the fact that tumors in all parts of the body are disappearing or diminishing. No other remedy in the world can claim such a thing." (87)
Although not licensed to practise medicine in the United States, he began testing the boxes on human beings diagnosed with cancer and schizophrenia. The father of an eight-year-old girl with cancer approached him for help, then complained to the American Medical Association that he was practising without a licence. Reich was sacked from his post at the university and was evicted from his house. However, one of his supporters, gave him $14,000 to buy a new house. (88)
On 12th December 1941, five days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Reich was arrested in his home at 2 a.m. by the FBI and taken to Ellis Island, where he was held for over three weeks. They searched his house and found what they considered to be left-wing books. He was eventually released and the FBI reported: "This German immigrant described himself as the Associate Professor of Medical Psychology, Director of the Orgone Institute, President and research physician of the Wilhelm Reich Foundation and discoverer of biological or life energy. A 1940 security investigation was begun to determine the extent of Reich's communist commitments. A board of Alien Enemy Hearing judged that Dr. Reich was not a threat to the security of the U.S." (89)
Reich's next book, The Function of the Orgasm (1942), Reich suggests specific recommendations for reforms which would increase the incidence of sexual happiness and reduce that of neurosis. He believed that "life could be freer and more untrammelled than civilized societies allow it to be, and that if man could live by his instincts and not in submission to his character-armour, life would not only be freer and richer than it is but also that many moral problems and indeed many physical illnesses including cancer would never occur." (90)
"Mental illness is a result of a disturbance in the natural capacity for love. In the case of orgiastic impotence, from which a vast majority of humans are suffering, biological energy is dammed up, thus becoming the source of all kinds of irrational behaviour. Psychic disturbances are the results of the sexual chaos brought about by the nature of our society. This chaos has, for thousands of years, served the function of making people submissive to existing conditions, in other words, of internalizing the external mechanization of life. It serves the purpose of bringing about the psychic anchoring of a mechanized and authoritarian civilization by way of making people lack self-confidence." (91)
Reich stressed the importance of loving and being loved: "One hates most when one is prevented from loving or being loved. Thus, aggression assumes the character of destructiveness with sexual aims, as, e.g. in sex murder. Its prerequisite is the complete inability to experience sexual pleasure in a natural way. The perversion 'sadism' (the impulse to satisfy oneself by hurting or destroying the object) is, therefore, a mixture of primary sexual and secondary destructive impulses. It does not exist in the animal kingdom and is a recent acquisition of man, a secondary drive. Every kind of destructive action by itself is the reaction of the organism to the denial of the gratification of a vital need, especially the sexual." (92)
The Orgone Accumulator
Reich's work was largely ignored until an article by Mildred Edie Brady appeared in The New Republic: "Wilhelm Reich… the man who blames both neuroses and cancer on unsatisfactory sexual activities has been repudiated by only one scientific journal… Orgone, named after the sexual orgasm, is, according to Reich, a cosmic energy. It is, in fact, the cosmic energy. Reich has not only discovered it; he has seen it, demonstrated it and named a town - Orgonon, Maine - after it. Here he builds accumulators of it, which are rented out to patients, who presumably derive 'orgiastic potency' from it."She added that he had said the accumulators could cure not only impotence but cancer. (93)
According to Ilse Ollendorff, Wilhelm Reich became increasingly dictatorial, aggressively seeking confirmation of his assumptions. "Reich probably was not to sure of his own theories and observations and therefore demanded from all his assistants absolute identification with the work. Very few of us were able to do this." However, he had a few followers who believed "everything Reich said, whether it was against all logical appearances or not." (94)
Myron Sharaf was one of his assistants who expressed doubts about his theories: "His voice boomed, his skin reddened, he was all harshness." (95) Reich wrote to an old friend, Ola Raknes, in Norway: "The Oranur Experiment had the effect of bringing out the truth in everybody and resulted in the fact that the following persons have gone or have separated themselves: Myron Sharaf, Lois Wyvell, Allan Cott, Chester Raphael, Lee Wylie, Grethe Hoff, Albert Duvall, Theodore Wolfe and several others." (96)
Reich became increasingly paranoid. He would scrawl messages to those "red fascists" who he thought were plotting to kill him, which he would post around the house. In one he pinned to the door read: "Want to make it kind of look like suicide." In another he wrote: "This room is wired for me and for you as an equal citizen." He believed the CIA were trying to find out about his theories but he had fooled them by writing down false information: "The hoodlums in government did not get the real stuff... The true stuff is in my head." (97)
Reich accused his wife of being unfaithful. "He was drinking a lot and that was worrying me. He was always suspicious that I had an affair, with this one and the other one. Absolutely not true.... I think one has to recognize, as painful as the admission may be, that Reich's logic had carried him on and on, so far into space that at some point he began sometimes to lose contact with reality. He was able to pull himself back again and again, but the continued pressure forced him to seek escape into the outer regions, into a more benevolent world." (98) In 1952 Ilse Ollendorff obtained a divorce from Reich and went to work for the Hamilton School in Massachusetts. (99)
In 1954 Reich began to believe that the planet was under attack by UFOs. He spent his nights with his son searching for UFOs through telescopes and binoculars. Reich claimed he had shot several of them down during a "full-scale interplanetary battle" in Arizona, where he had rented a house as a base station. He wrote about this in the book, Contact with Space (1956). Christopher Turner has argued: "UFOs seemed to account for all the loose ends of everything Reich had discovered; now anything that he could not explain was attributed to spacemen." (100)
In February 1954 the United States Attorney for the District of Maine filed a complaint seeking a permanent injunction under Sections 301 and 302 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to prevent interstate shipment of orgone accumulators and to ban promotional literature. Two years later, Reich was accused of sending an orgone accumulators part through the mail to another state, in violation of the court injunction. The jury found him guilty on 7th May 1956, and he was sentenced to two years' imprisonment. The Wilhelm Reich Foundation was fined $10,000, and the accumulators and associated literature were to be destroyed. (101)
The following month FDA officials supervised the destruction of the remaining orgone accumulators at Reich's home. They also destroyed 251 copies of Reich's books that he had self-published. The American Civil Liberties Union issued a press release criticizing this action. (102) On 23rd August, 1956, six tons of Reich's books, journals and papers were burned in New York, in the public incinerator. The material included copies of several of his books, including The Sexual Revolution, Character Analysis and The Mass Psychology of Fascism. (103)
Richard C. Hubbard, a psychiatrist, examined him on admission to Danbury Federal Prison, and claimed that he was suffering from paranoia manifested by delusions of grandiosity. On 19 March, 1957, Reich was transferred to the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary and examined again. This time it was decided that he was mentally competent although he became psychotic when stressed. (104)
Wilhelm Reich died after suffering a heart-attack on 3rd November 1957. Ilse Ollendorff, published an affectionate biography, Wilhelm Reich: A Personal Biography in 1969. She believed that the death of his mother had caused him long-term psychological problems: "His subsequent guilt over it may well have added to his personality that obsessive note of absolute, relentless dedication which so frequently is a characteristic of the intellectual pioneer." (105)
(1) Wilhelm Reich, The Passion of Youth (1988)
I was born in a small village as the first child of not unprosperous parents. My father was a farmer who, together with an uncle of my mother's, had leased a fairly large landed estate in northern Bukovina, the farthest outpost of German culture. From the beginning, my mother tongue was German, as was my schooling.
My parents considered it very important that I not speak the Yiddish of the surrounding population; they regarded it as "crude." The use of any Yiddish expression would bring severe punishment. The line separating my parents from the Orthodox Jews had a very material basis. In the agricultural business which my father ran, there were three types of workers: the daily workers, who were farmers from the surrounding villages; the farmhands, who were the paid employees in the business; and, lastly, the office workers, a number of whom were Jews - the manager, the steward, the cashier, and so forth. My father was not only a so-called free spirit but, as the boss, he had to keep himself apart from the Ukrainian population as well as from the Jewish administrative staff. The structure of the business was absolutely hierarchical and patriarchal.
The Hebrew language, unlike Yiddish, was an expression of reverence for the old Jewish tradition, built on a history of some six thousand years. Thus, there existed a Jewish aristocracy and great importance was attached to one's lineage. My father's father was famous as a "very wise man." He, too, had been a free spirit, a "thinker," who was held in timid regard by the Orthodox Jews but was highly esteemed by the Ukrainian farmers.
He ran an agricultural establishment, but actually left business matters to his wife. He himself read many books, scolded the farmers, and counseled the women as best he could. He was, as they said, "cosmopolitan" and a "kindly friend" to the people. He adhered to the Jewish law, but only to avoid talk.
Once, when I was about six, we visited him on the Day of Atonement, when Orthodox Jews fast. I was asked to call him from the prayer house to a meal. But they forgot to tell me to speak softly. I spoke loudly and in front of everyone. There was a great fuss and my father spanked me.
It is from this date that my recollections begin to grow clear. There is one scene which I can still envision vividly in all its detail: My brother must have been a year old, and I four. Mother was away and had left us in the care of the servants, a fact which was to play an important part in my later development, especially in regard to sexuality. We had three servants: a cook; a housemaid, who was a country girl; and a nurse for Robert. Father had gone to the city for the day on business and was not expected home until about ten o'clock. My brother and I were playing in the kitchen on the bed of one of the servants. Suddenly my brother let out a scream. I was terrified, for I had a great fear of the beatings which were so amply meted out by my austere
(2) Wilhelm Reich, The Passion of Youth (1988)
It is from this date that my recollections begin to grow clear. There is one scene which I can still envision vividly in all its detail: My brother must have been a year old, and I four. Mother was away and had left us in the care of the servants, a fact which was to play an important part in my later development, especially in regard to sexuality. We had three servants: a cook; a housemaid, who was a country girl; and a nurse for Robert. Father had gone to the city for the day on business and was not expected home until about ten o'clock. My brother and I were playing in the kitchen on the bed of one of the servants. Suddenly my brother let out a scream. I was terrified, for I had a great fear
of the beatings which were so amply meted out by my austere father. And at that moment Father did, in fact, come in and ask what had happened. Naturally, I could not answer; the nurse told all. As our "family doctor" (who was also the steward of our estate and had great practical experience in such matters) later stated, I had dislocated my brother's tiny arm. I can still see him lying there on the bed, dressed only in a baby shirt and screaming at the top of his voice.
Our steward reset the arm while I cowered in a corner, waiting for what was to come. However, to my great astonishment, it did not happen. My father only looked at me with that terrible expression which, even when I was older, made me tremble and which always heralded trouble.
I cannot remember my father ever having cuddled or treated me tenderly at that time-nor can I recollect feeling any attachment to him (I should like to emphasize at that time).
A second experience which either immediately preceded or followed the above and to which I attach great significance will serve to illustrate the first phases of my conscious sexuality.
As I have already mentioned, we children lived with the servants. Father was always away on trips, since he loved Mother very dearly and could not stand being at home when she was not there. Robert and I slept with his nurse, all in the same bed.
I recall that, even then, women were a mystery to me. As proof of this, I offer the fact that I do not remember (nor has anyone ever mentioned) that I asked adults the well-known children's questions such as "Where do babies come from?" etc. I do know very well, however, that I had been brooding over this and similar problems long before this period and had never asked those questions because I sensed something verboten.
Our housemaid was having an affair with the coachman, a young, good-looking farm boy who had work to do in the house every evening and often staged humorous little skits in the kitchen when Father was away.
One evening when he was with us, I was on the lookout for his every glance or gesture. I watched him reach down in the vicinity of his genitals. He cast a laughing glance toward his girl, raised his fingers to his mouth, licked them, and clicked with his tongue, which was probably meant to imply, "It tastes good."
He noticed my curiosity and with a laugh instructed me how to perform this gesture. I enjoyed doing this very much and repeated it several times "charmingly" to the amusement of all present.
Another time he visited his girl and I eavesdropped on their sexual act. This produced in me erotic sensations of enormous intensity. (I was approximately four and a half years old.)
On a subsequent afternoon, the nurse was lying in bed with Robi. I crawled in and joined them because, so I claimed, I wanted to take a nap. It is obvious, though, that I had other motives. The prostrate position of the girl with her exposed breasts had excited me and in effect I wanted to do what the coachman had done with the housemaid, namely, have intercourse.
The nurse calmly allowed me to proceed; I climbed on top of her, lifted her dress, and reached feverishly for her genitals (to her apparent enjoyment). Her hair excited me particularly (I always slept with the maid, and several times before this I had made believe I was asleep and touched her genitals, plucking at the hair. After quite some time she would awake, hit me, and threaten to tell Father. Usually I stopped for a few days and then began anew). I should like to mention that I did not make any coital movements but that her vagina did twitch with my penis. I cannot say for sure whether I was erect, but presumably I was.
This activity had gone on for a good ten minutes when my brother awoke, saw the caper, and called out, "I'm going to tell Papa," whereupon he got straight out of bed and toddled through the door in his little red shirt. Naturally, I was terrified once again, jumped down, and ran after him. But it was too late, for Father had just come from the farmhouse and had already been informed of the "good news" by the little fellow-although I do not know how. I did not receive a beating but was no longer allowed to sleep with the maid.
(3) Wilhelm Reich, The Passion of Youth (1988)
At age six, I began to learn the primary-school subjects. Mother and Father took turns teaching me reading, writing, and arithmetic, and it was at that point that I felt the full extent of my father's strictness. For the slightest mistake or lapse of attention he struck me, made me eat in the kitchen or stand in a corner.
This is the period during which he laid the foundation for my ambitiousness, a characteristic which today I often find distasteful, yes, even revolting. My mother always protected me from his blows by standing between us, and I finally begged that only she give me instruction. She promised, on the condition that I really apply myself. And that I did! Under her guidance, I made excellent progress. How vivid the picture is before me: Mother sitting at the table, with her kind eyes, delicate profile, and the distinctive set of her mouth. In her never-idle hands she holds her knitting, before her is my exercise book and I next to it, writing as she dictates. How often her hand stroked my long hair, how concerned was her cry of "Start writing!" whenever she heard Father coming from a consultation with officials or the workers!
I do not wish to be sentimental, but I involuntarily choke up at these memories. How I long for the blissful happiness of childhood, and how little the help or protection of a father means to me! I wish he, too, were alive, but not as a supporting guardian, because it is now, since his death, that I have matured to full adulthood.
(4) Wilhelm Reich, The Passion of Youth (1988)
The groundwork for the disaster was laid the day my father asked me whether I wanted to attend the Gymnasium in town or study at home under the guidance of a tutor. How vividly I still see Father and Mother talking in their bedroom. I was in the children's room when Mother came in teary-eyed and took me to Father, who asked me which I preferred. I remained silent for a while, as I really was undecided; all that I had heard about attending a public school and about life in town drew me, while at the same time I was touched by Mother's tears, which were imploring me to remain with her. Finally, my wish to stay at home gained the upper hand-not because it seemed more desirable (after all, I had never known anything else) but simply because I wanted for once to do my parents a "favor." Oh, that I had never done so! Mother immediately showered me with kisses and promised me heaven on earth as a reward for sparing her the painful separation. Father engaged a law student from the university to prepare me for the entrance examination and to give me instruction later in all the Gymnasium's required subjects.
I still recall very clearly the feeling I had that evening when Father arrived with H. I was timid, either because I feared the transition from being educated under the guidance of a woman to being taught by a man, or due to the respect I felt at having a "real" university student before me. It turned out to be not so bad after all, for soon we were fast friends, although he permitted no nonsense while we were at work. I had to curve my fingers, hold them stiff, and receive a sharp rap on my fingertips - common educational practice in those days ! He also had a way of spurring me on, not by force but through accomplishment based on independent motivation, on my own incentive rather than that of others. Soon he introduced me to the world of German literature, beginning with Karl May and gradually rising to Peter Rossegger and other popular poets, to Schiller and Kleist, and to the beautiful tales and stories of Hauff, which, among others, provided so many pleasurable hours. became true friends - rather than just father and son.
(5) Wilhelm Reich, The Passion of Youth (1988)
S. came to us at the beginning of the academic year and proved to be an affable, pleasant young man who devoted himself to us wholeheartedly. He was an outstanding dancer and soon taught me this art. During our working hours he was strict, although not as severe as his predecessor.
In the fall, Grandmother came to visit for a few weeks, and after that, a period of three or four months passed, partly in interesting work and partly in hours of happy activity. In the winter, we went bobsledding every day, even in the coldest weather, took glorious walks, and always came home hungry to Mother, who awaited us with hot coffee and big, thick slices of bread spread with drippings or honey. My mother looked after S. with the same care she gave us; it even seemed that she was trying to mother him. Strangely, Father did not notice this, whereas he usually saw the dark side in much more innocent cases.
This seems to be the right place to embark upon a detailed description of Mother's physical and emotional constitution, and so I shall attempt it with the greatest possible objectivity. At the time in question, Mother was thirty-three years old, her build was slender, her face round, with a beautiful, gentle profile and delicate features. She had thick, jet-black hair which fell in natural waves all the way to her knees whenever she let it down. Her eyes were also black, her nose small and straight, her complexion as white as snow. As the daughter of a merchant, she had been raised in the city. When she was two years old, her father died, but her mother soon married an extremely kind, intelligent man, whom she loved very much as a stepfather.
Her brother had left home for America at age eighteen and had never been heard from again. Her upbringing in her parents' home was in keeping with the customs of those and of present times ; in other words, she had waited for a man. At the age of nineteen, she married Father, who loved her dearly to the day of her death, although she suffered indescribably because of his bad temper and jealousy. Her infinite kindness far outweighed any other less appealing traits and also made her adored by friends and acquaintances and especially by my paternal grandfather, who always protected her from Father's outbursts. The postcards and letters she wrote to us during her journeys (which I have kept) will bear out the fact that she was an exceptionally loyal and self-sacrificing mother to whom her children meant everything.
S. began to court her. He arranged for pleasant drives and seemed to become bolder as he grew aware of the situation at home and also of the fact that she fancied him. I am not quite sure just how the developing affair began, because I noticed nothing. I first became conscious of the situation and began to keep track of it one afternoon when Father was asleep and I saw my mother going into the tutor's room. The feelings I had at the time were partly erotic curiosity and partly fear (fear that Father might wake up - I thought no further). From that day on, I constantly played the role of monitor and pursuer, but also that of defender, in the event of a possible surprise by my father.
I cannot explain to myself the reasons for my behavior. Either it was my unconscious hatred of Father or the sexual titillation of being party to such a horrible secret that prevented me from telling Father anything. I think both these elements were equally responsible for my behavior. The relationship grew deeper; not a day passed on which they didn't seek and find an opportunity to be alone. This situation lasted about three months. Their afternoon meetings were limited to just a few minutes and I never thought of the possibility of their having sexual intercourse.
One day, however, I became certain of it. Father had gone out at about six o'clock and stayed away for a long while. I spent the entire time waiting in the foyer, struggling to decide whether to disturb them or to report it to Father. Some very vague feeling restrained me from doing either. Then, when Mother (oh, what a terrible ring that word now has !) came out of the room, which I could see was completely darkened, with flushed cheeks and a wild, darting look in her eyes, I knew for sure it had happened, although I had no way of telling whether or not for the first time. I stood in a corner, cowering behind a cabinet, with tears streaming down my face. I wanted to run to her but could not do it, to the great misfortune of us all. I am still deeply convinced that seeing me at this point would have brought her to her senses, even though belatedly, and saved us our mother as well as Father his wife. This would have been the only possible salvation! Just what held me back at that moment I cannot say, but at the same time I began to feel pity for Father, and gritting my teeth, I crept away. I was then eleven and a half or twelve years old.
Nothing had changed in our daily life. I cannot recall any scenes of jealousy between my parents during this period. Shortly after Christmas, Father went away for three weeks. During that time I had the most horrible and repulsive experiences imaginable, which buried themselves deep in my thoughts and emotions.
During Father's absence, Mother slept with Grandmother in the back room at the end of the hall; after it came our room, then the dining room, and then the tutor's - one connected to the other. The very first night (I hadn't shut an eye from excitement), I heard Mother get out of bed - even now disgust seems to be strangling me - and tiptoe through our bedroom in her nightgown. Soon I heard his door open and close partially. Then all was quiet. I jumped out of bed and crept after her, freezing, with my teeth chattering from cold and fear and horror. Slowly I made my way to the door of his room. It was ajar. I stood there and listened. Oh, the frightful memories that drag each recollection of my mother down into the dust, that soil my image of her with muck and filth! Must I go into details? My pen refuses to obey me. No, it is I myself refusing with all my might, yet I want to, I will, I must if I am to do justice to the title of this section.
I heard them kissing, whispering, and the horrible creaking of the bed in which my mother lay. Ten feet away stood her own child, a witness to her disgrace. Suddenly, there was quiet. Probably I had made some sound in my excitement. Then his soothing voice, and then, then again, again-oh!
Oh, composure, peace! What a superhuman effort it takes to view this shattering tragedy "objectively"! What mockery! What an undertaking! All I remember of that catastrophic night is that I wanted to rush into the room, but was held back by the thought: they might kill you! I recalled having read that a lover will kill anyone who disturbs him. With a head full of bizarre fantasies I crept back to bed, without hope of consolation, my youthful spirit broken! For the first time, a deep feeling of misfortune and of having been abandoned overcame me.
And so it happened night after night. I followed her to his door and waited there until morning. Gradually I became accustomed to it! My horror gave way to erotic feelings. Once I even considered breaking in on them and demanding that she have intercourse with me too (shame!), threatening that otherwise I would tell Father. During the final few days, I visited the cook regularly.
When Father was away, Mother and S. made practically no secret of their relationship. During the day they danced and laughed, while Grandmother watched their frolicking. Today I must agree with Father in his accusation that Grandmother was the matchmaker. She certainly at least encouraged the illicit activity.
Days passed, months went by, and when vacation time came, S. left our house without Father's having noticed anything. During the summer he even mentioned on several occasions that S. should come back the following year -but Mother was strictly against it. Apparently, her better traits and her remorse had gained the upper hand. The vacation passed very pleasantly with visits from our relatives. Everything could have continued along the same old lines, but fate decided otherwise.
At the beginning of the school year, Father engaged a university student who was a nice, sincere person, although not quite as young and lighthearted as S. Mother was so curt to him that Father asked her on several occasions why she was treating him that way.
At Christmas, Father and Mother went away for two weeks to visit an uncle, to whom, as I later heard, their marriage seemed very harmonious; they appeared to be fonder of each other than ever before, with the exception of one ugly incident. Mother and Uncle had gone into the bedroom to look at the new furnishings while the rest of the company remained in the dining room. Father then actually began to suspect her of having a relationship with his own brother and reviled her for not even having the decency to abstain from intercourse "in broad daylight" and "standing up."
Upon returning home, Mother was either possessed by the devil again or had been plunged into a depression by Father's unfortunate behavior - in short, several weeks later I noticed that she lingered in the dining room with the tutor for a long time.
Nothing serious had happened as yet when the catastrophe suddenly erupted with full intensity. It was evening and Robert and I were sitting in our room, from which one door led to the dining room, another to my parents' bedroom, while a third opened onto the hallway. Father had gone to the stables. Mother had been in the kitchen, and the tutor in his room. Suddenly the door from the hall was thrown open and in rushed Father. He was pale, there was a wild vacant look in his eyes, and he was wearing a hat, coat, and rubber boots covered with dung. He was quickly followed by Mother, who was also pale and trembling. Father screamed at her in a crazed, gasping voice: "What were you doing with him alone in the hall just now, you whore? Tell me ! Why did he jump back a few steps when I came in!? Why did he jump back, I ask you? Now off to the bedroom with you for an accounting!" And he dragged her into the bedroom while we remained in our room, terrified of what the outcome would be.
I knew my father's temper and expected to hear a shot any second, but nothing of the sort happened. There was only the sound of someone being pushed around and landing on the bed. Then came Father's voice, full of rage: "You tell me everything or I'll murder you - every detail of all the love affairs you've had up to now." Mother swore that there had been nothing between her and the tutor, but it did her little good.
Shortly thereafter, Father entered our room and closed the door. There were beads of perspiration on his forehead as he called us both to come to him and tell everything we knew. Threateningly, he demanded an answer. I trembled as I said that I knew nothing about our present tutor but that I had been a witness to Mother's relationship with S. from beginning to end. It is impossible to describe how Father went rigid when I told him.
He pressured me to tell him everything, and I did - unfortunately, too late. Haltingly, in broken sentences, I related how I had listened behind the door but had not dared to do anything, for fear of being killed. Suddenly we heard a deep groan in the other room. Father rushed in, and then we heard his voice, sobbing: "Egleia, what have you done? I promise you by everything that is holy-all is forgiven - but tell me, tell me, what did you take? Oh, God, Egleia, for the children's sake, don't die - I forgive you!"
We ran into their bedroom and saw Mother in the dark, writhing on the bed. She had taken poison, Lysol!!! Father threw open the window and poured an emetic into her, which helped. Mother vomited up everything - but nevertheless had to remain in bed for a time with her stomach burned, her mouth raw.
And now a period of suffering began for Father, Mother, and also for us children. It was but a prelude to Mother's tragic death and Father's destiny to follow her after only a short time. Father loved Mother far too much ever to have been capable of separating from her, and, besides, he wanted to avoid a scandal. His intention was to try to forgive her, to try to live with her, if only to ensure that the children would have a mother.
The following months were full of confusion, horrible situations and complications which obscured every possible solution to the problem. Even now, I despair at having to describe the period between January and October 1910. To be capable of understanding the spiritual battles waged at that time, one would require a complete, unbiased knowledge of the soul.
Where Father got the idea of demanding that L., our tutor, should ask Mother to forgive him in my presence and avow that he had not had any "intentions," I was never able to understand. The next step Father took was to send us to the Gymnasium in town and dismiss the tutor. I was sent to board with a childless couple. The husband had been a failure as a student. His family was extremely well-to-do and in his youth he had wasted vast sums of money and had then been forced to become an insurance agent. His wife was young and pleasant. We were treated well there and stayed with them for four years.
Robert was not sent into town at the same time as I, for he was just about to take the entrance examinations for the Gymnasium. Father hired a somewhat older student to tutor him until the summer. At the same time, Father and Mother had gone into town to see Grandmother, to whom Father told the whole story. How incredible is the manner in which she received the news, and the advice she gave: "What has happened has happened - you must make your peace now, and eventually all will be well." Father seemed to have had second thoughts about Grandmother's innocence in the unfortunate affair, for he began to ask questions of us and of Grandmother, too, surreptitiously. And then he discovered that Mother and S. had also met at Grandmother's house. When I informed him, to complete matters, that one day Grandmother, Mother, S., and I had passed a pharmacy and that S. had gone in, soon to return to them laughing with a red package in his hand, Father no longer doubted that Grandmother had been an accomplice, for the little package had contained condoms. Later, Mother also confessed that she had spoken to Grandmother about divorcing Father and marrying S., whereupon Father forbade her to visit Grandmother under any circumstances.
He himself wrote her a nasty letter accusing her of matchmaking and pandering and calling her an old whore, a shrew, etc. (and rightly so!). Grandmother complained to our uncle, and he, in turn, threatened to sue for libel (which he prudently refrained from doing) . As for S., Father had various plans in mind for him. At first, he wanted to seek him out and shoot him. Next, he proposed that Mother force S. to marry her, which she adamantly refused to do. (S. seemed to have disappeared from the face of the earth - I never saw him again.) On another occasion, Father unleashed his entire fury on Mother and exonerated S. of all blame by claiming that any young man would gladly have entered into such a relationship.
His sudden temper and his anguish repeatedly gained the upper hand. In attacks of senseless rage which occurred almost daily, he would beat Mother mercilessly. Then he decided to rent an apartment for Mother and us in town, while he continued to live in the country. Had he followed this plan, much would have been resolved; above all, it would have prevented both their deaths. But his jealousy had a fatal effect. Mother constantly implored him on bended knee to forgive her and threatened to hang herself at any attempt by Father to separate from her. She agreed to live with us in town, promised not to cast a glance at anyone and just be with the children. (Secretly, I am sure, the poor woman hoped that time, even if it was years, would heal Father's wound and that he would forgive her completely.) But the minute she expressed her agreement to such a plan Father started screaming that all she wanted was to be alone in town so that she could begin other affairs without interference. He, however, was willing neither to disgrace himself and his children in such a way nor to do her the "favor." Thus, his jealousy again kept him from following the only correct path.
Every time Robert and I saw each other, he told me how horribly Mother suffered. It happened every day, especially in the evening. Father would begin, and go on and on. At first, he would cry and bemoan his fate. Gradually, he would become so involved in his own rage that he physically mistreated Mother and called her hideous names, until she was left cowering in some corner or had fled into the garden. During that period, her face, hands, and body bore the marks of his rage.
When Father and Mother came into town, scenes took place regularly as we passed the clubhouse and reading room of L.'s fraternity. When we arrived at the spot, he would shout at her that she should go inside to her beloved, where she could surrender to him and his fellows and maybe even earn a pretty penny. But just as the unfortunate woman tolerated his blows at home, she bore the verbal abuse here. Her unearthly patience convinced me that the perpetual avowals of her love for Father were not empty phrases, or else she would not have found it necessary to bear such suffering.
During short visits at home and especially during vacations, I was able to verify the indescribable scenes. There was no end to Father's new ideas. He linked the most remote incidents or memories to Mother's infidelity. For example, he began to doubt that Robert was really his son, because Mother had been away at a spa shortly before his conception. Once, when my cousin was visiting, she had rashly kidded Mother in Father's presence about some "gentleman in black" at a spa. The discussion of this incident (like all others) ended with physical abuse. Now Father suspected everyone; once, for example, he considered the night watchman who had held the light for Mother on her way down into the cellar. H., our first tutor, was also included. Of course, all these accusations were utterly unfounded, for (and I am thoroughly convinced of this) Mother had been a perfectly faithful spouse to Father up until the day she met S. After the incident had been exposed, she loved him as dearly as before.
She bore these accusations and the abuse with meekness. Never did she contradict him or try to defend herself and only rarely asked him to be a little patient and show consideration for the children. Whereupon he would ask, naturally while beating her, whether she had shown consideration for the children as she wandered through the house at night to the bed of her disgrace. He was correct, but under such circumstances the idea of living with her should never even have crossed his mind. He had no right to dispose of her life!
One day, when I was back in town, a servant came and summoned me to a hotel. Mother was lying in a room, her face puffy, her eyes swollen from crying. She begged me to help her, for physically she could no longer endure the situation: she said she would poison herself again if things did not change soon. She would not hear of a divorce. After several days, Father took her home again. Summer vacation came and I went home for two months.
Needless to say, the old situation continued. During the day there was often an excellent understanding between them, but at night there were always ghastly scenes and ever-increasing violence. Mother had become completely numb and apathetically allowed the blows to rain down upon her. Several weeks later, she tried to poison herself with sublimate, but, owing to her strong constitution, she had only internal burns and had to spend several weeks in bed. During this period, Father was entirely different again, as if nothing had happened, as if he had never mistreated her so hideously. But she had hardly recovered when his personality changed and he began all over again. Soon Mother lost our support, for we turned away from her and no longer made any effort to protect her from Father's assaults as we had done before. Yes, one day I actually raised my voice to her for some minor reason.
Thus, the poor woman was driven to death like a hunted animal by her husband and children ! None of us saw any way to remedy the situation. We all suffered - and she most of all. I do not hesitate to say that in those few months she more than atoned for what she had done.
The only members of the family who knew of the catastrophe were Mother's uncle, Grandmother, and Uncle Isidor. Not one of them raised so much as a finger to help us. Another uncle of ours, Arnold, would perhaps have taken action, had he known. But Father did not want to tell him, because he assumed - and correctly so - that the matter would travel to our uncle's wife and with her, or through her, to all our other relatives and friends.
The end of vacation drew near, and with it the day that Robert would also go into town to live. Mother said nothing, but what torment it must have caused her to think that she would now be completely alone and at the mercy of Father's rage. We had already been in town for a month (September) and had not seen Mother. Toward the end of the month-it was on a Monday - Father paid us his usual visit and drove back home in the evening. Tuesday afternoon, however, he returned and informed us that Mother was extremely ill - she had taken poison again, but this time she was not going to survive. He had come into town to fetch us and a doctor. We three shed silent tears. There was no comfort to be had; no word was spoken.
We all knew that it had to be that way. On Monday, Mother had poisoned herself while Father was away (it was impossible to discover what she had taken). Toward evening, she had hemorrhaged and was being looked after by the steward's wife, who thought it was a miscarriage. When Father arrived home on Monday, Mother was lying in bed and asked him to forgive her. She had had to do it, she said, but wanted to see the children one more time.
Father immediately sent for the doctor (an old acquaintance of his) and told him everything. The doctor held out little hope and recommended that a famous internist from Czernowitz be called in because of the imminent danger of uremia due to kidney dysfunction. Father had therefore gone back to town the same day and asked the doctor to come out. But this physician also pronounced the case hopeless. He said that only an operation could save her. However the operation would have to be done immediately and he had no instruments with him; she might not survive being transported into town.
How horrible it was to hear this. We all stayed awake that night. Mother was fully conscious. At about two o'clock in the morning she said, "Only one more hour!" How I shuddered at the words! I was kneeling next to her; Father had buried his head in the pillows and constantly whimpered, "Forgive me, forgive me!"
She lived through another day. The evening came. Robert was so tired that he had lain down in bed. Father and I waited. Only the doctor and the steward were actually in the room where Mother lay; they did not want to let us in for fear that our frightful state would disturb Mother.
At approximately two o'clock, Mother called for us. Father and I rushed in and fell to our knees at her bedside. Never had I seen her so beautiful ! There she lay, with cheeks flushed and her wavy hair loosened. She gazed at us with dreamy eyes and placed both her hands on our heads. Then she asked to see Robert, who was awakened and brought in. Only the four of us were in the room, united once again-and all was forgiven, but alas, it was too late! Father cried and sobbed, whispering the same words over and over: "Egleia, forgive me, do not die!" Again and again, in a monotone. He appeared to have lost his senses. Mother could only whisper, "Leo,* I was always true to you - it was only that once - forgive me now - Willy and Robert are your children - be good to them for me!" And thus we waited for death to take her. Oh, how beautiful she was as she lay there. "Just as she looked on her wedding day," Father said later. We kissed her left hand as she held her right hand to her chest. She shed silent tears. The last we saw was that she tried to raise her right hand to her mouth to wipe away some saliva. Her hand came to a halt just below her chin. Mother was dead.
(6) Wilhelm Reich, diary entry (1st March 1919)
Perhaps morality speaks against it, but my own experiences, my observations of myself and others, have led me to the conviction that sexuality is the core around which all social life, as well as the inner spiritual life of the individual, revolves - whether the relationship to that core be direct or indirect.... I do not make such claims under the influence of Freud's writings... I offer the fact that I was already conscious of these things long before I began to study this science. For example, I recall that during my childhood, conscious sexuality was awakened within me at the age of four through contact with the maids.
(7) Wilhelm Reich, The Passion of Youth (1988)
She (Lore Kahan) was lively, clever, and somewhat 'messed up' because she had no proper boyfriend. She was in love with a brave revolutionary politician... she had attached herself to him and slept with him. But now she could no longer have him. This made her miserable. Lore became psychically ill, even though she was a strong person. She lost her self-confidence and became moody and so no longer liked herself.... She fell in love with me. It was not only a case of father-transference; and where, after all, is the basic difference between a genuine, sensual love for the father and the equally real sensual feeling for a lover who is to replace father and mother and simultaneously provide the pleasure of sexual union ! In short, Lore declared one day that she was analyzed, and now she wanted me.
(8) Lore Kahan, diary entry (27th October, 1920)
I am happy, boundlessly happy. I would never have thought that I could be - but I am. The fullest, deepest fulfillment. To have a father and be a mother, both in the same person. Marriage! Monogamy! At last! Never was there coitus with such sensual pleasure, such gratification, and such a sense of oneness and inter penetration as now. Never such parallel attraction of the mind and body. And it is beautiful. And I have direction, clear, firm, and sure - I love myself this way. I am content as nature intended! Only one thing: a child!
(9) Wilhelm Reich, The Passion of Youth (1988) page 126
All was well between us. But we had no room in which we could be together undisturbed. It was no longer possible at my place; the landlady had become hostile and a threat. So Lore got a room at a friend's. It was unheated and bitter cold. Lore became ill, ran a high fever, with dangerous articular rheumatism, and eight days later died of sepsis, in the bloom of her young life.
(10) Wilhelm Reich, letter to the dead Lore Kahan (20th November, 1920)
To you, Lore, with your now cold, pale face and its lingering smile at a world which your free spirit outwitted wherever it could; to you, with your loose flowing hair which you tossed into my face on a bright moonlit night as we danced our way home, hand in hand, blissful over our world; to you, who made me forget the sordidness of life by telling me tales such as only you could tell as I rested my head on your lap in the warm sunshine; to you, who awaited me in a dark room, whose tender lips kissed away all my cares in a happy onslaught and sowed the seed of lighthearted laughter within me! Your will to live, your sparkling joy in life were unable to frighten away an incredibly hideous death; how you smiled and overlooked the filth which surrounded you! I send you a kiss, my beloved companion. When all else has receded into the infinite grayness, your naive, childlike freshness will still be with me.
(11) Wilhelm Reich, diary entry after hearing that Lore Kahn's mother had killed herself (10th December, 1920)
There is no way to avoid the feeling that I am the murderer of an entire family, for the fact remains that if I had not entered that household, both of them would still be alive! And with this on my mind I continue my life-more lectures, analysis, concerts. I am acting out a comedy, while causing the people around me to die! Didn't my own mother also die-better said, also commit suicide - because I had told all? I seek relief from this heavy burden; who will help me? Who am I and what can I do? Why do I bring about such tragedies of life and death?
(12) Wilhelm Reich, The Passion of Youth (1988)
I met Annie Pink, whom I later married, for the first time at the symposium at Otto Fenichel's in June 1920. She was the daughter of a Viennese tradesman. She was a member of the Youth Movement and was studying for her high-school diploma. She was very reserved and secretly arrogant; she was not happy. She lived ascetically, suffered from compulsions, and wanted to be treated by me. She did not come to me when Lore was alive; when Lore, her friend, died, she came. The treatment lasted six months and helped her a little. She had the usual father transference and I fell seriously in love with her. I mastered my attraction until the end of the therapy, but afterwards we saw each other regularly and became good friends. One lovely summer evening, we went for a walk in Grinzing. My arm rested in hers. There we encountered her stepmother, who was very friendly and smiled knowingly. The next day, Annie told me the old woman had congratulated her on her "engagement." She had answered that she had no intention of becoming engaged; this made her a "modern sexual rebel."
On a wonderful sunny Sunday, we went into the Wiener Wald. She desired me and I her. We had a deep feeling of belonging together. I corresponded somewhat to her hero fantasy, and she looked a little like my mother. She had lost a bit of her hardness by being so much in love; the mature woman had come to the fore. We were both young, intelligent, and strong. She had never embraced a man. We drove to the Sophienalpe. After we'd undressed, I embraced her. But she suddenly became cold and asked me to stop. I did so out of love for her, but I was utterly miserable.
My body ached with excitement. We walked for some hours, taking the long way home. I decided silently not to continue the relationship and fell into my well-known depression. I accompanied her home. It was three o'clock in the morning, but still I went to a night club; I was in a lamentable mood. The next day, early in the morning, she came to me, entreating and loving. This time she accepted me, and we were very happy. I really loved her. She visited me often in my room, but she had to leave at night because of my landlady. We decided that from now on I should visit her at her home. She gave me a key to the house and to the door of her room, which had its own entrance off the main hall. When I visited her in the evenings with her parents, I left late and went to a nearby cafe and waited until I thought her parents were asleep. Then I crept silently to her like a criminal and she awaited me like a criminal as well. The forbidden did not in any way increase the pleasure, as clever people claim; we were afraid of being discovered. So it went for weeks. One night, I lay with her and we heard a noise as if someone were standing outside the door. Then the door opened quietly, very quietly, and a head appeared through the crack, looked for a long time, and went away. It was Malva, her stepmother. We were worried, but at the same time it amused us. Early the next morning, I was studying in my cafe. Her father, a very decent and liberal-minded man, came in. He was a Social Democrat, member of the district administration, counsel to the poor, and a freethinker. He looked distressed. Curtly and with some embarrassment, he said that he knew everything and now we "had to get married." But we were not thinking of getting married. It is true that some weeks previously I had asked Annie to become my wife, but she had said that could wait. Now her father demanded it. He left and Annie came. She was angry, just as I was. We did not want to be forced into anything. We had taken a four-week tour that summer alone together, with the permission of her father, and naturally had enjoyed ourselves.
Her parents had really not dreamed that Annie would commit the "indecency" of sleeping with me! Only an old aunt from Berlin had made nasty inquiries when we met her in Otztal. Now, as they demanded marriage, I gave in: I did want to live with her. Still, we were defiant, and the Sunday marriage we announced was a sham: there were no marriages at the registrar's office on Sundays. The reason we did this was simple: my brother was in Vienna with his girlfriend - his future wife - and was staying with me. Consequently Annie and I could no longer meet there. We therefore said that we were already married, and thus were allowed to sleep together in her room "entirely legally." Law and custom wanted it this way. So, on that questionable Sunday on which there had not been any kind of legalization of our embraces, there was a small celebration at six in the evening.
Everyone knew the truth except her parents. The witnesses were our friends, and two other young people were also present. This was on March 12. On March 17 we were really married. But there was no celebration this time. Malva, the lascivious old thing, discovered, to our regret, that the marriage license was dated the 17th, and not the 12th of March 1922. There was a scene. We did not want to admit to the deception. We had rebelled against the forced marriage but had nevertheless obeyed. And the whole conflict arose from the fact that we could not and did not want to spend five days apart. But in spite of everything, we were very happy. We moved into a small apartment.
Economic Prosperity in the United States: 1919-1929 (Answer Commentary)
Women in the United States in the 1920s (Answer Commentary)
Volstead Act and Prohibition (Answer Commentary)
The Ku Klux Klan (Answer Commentary)
Classroom Activities by Subject