Last updated: 07, Apr., 2009 

     THALASSA. Portolano of Psychoanalysis



NEWS 2008





"J'ai la honte" de Abram Coen


"Remémoration, traumatisme et mémoire collective - Le combat pour la emémoration en psychanalyse"  de W. Bohleber



"De quoi témoignent les mains des survivants? De l'anéantissement des vivants, de l'affirmation de la vie" de Janine Altounian

"Les cachés de la folie" de J.-P. Verot  

  "La difficoltà di dire io. L'esperienza del diario nel conflitto inter-jugoslavo di fine Novecento" di Nicole Janigro (source: "Frenis Zero" revue)


  "I Balcani" di Predrag Matvejevic (source:  "Frenis Zero" revue)

  "La Shoah e la distruttività umana" di A. A. Semi (source:   A.S.S.E.Psi. web site)

"Breve Storia della Psicoanalisi in Italia" di Cotardo Calligaris (source: A.S.S.E.Psi. web site)

"The Meaning of Medication in Psychoanalysis" by Salomon Resnik (source: A.S.S.E.Psi. web site)

"Note sulla storia italiana dell'analisi laica" di Giancarlo Gramaglia (source: "Frenis Zero" revue )

"Adriatico" di Predrag Matvejevic

"Mon Adriatique" de Predrag Matvejevic




Balkans        *Serbia (History of Psychoanalysis in)
Eastern Europe
• EU
• Italy
Turkey, Armenia and Caucasian Rep.
Tatiana Rosenthal and Russian Psychoanalysis

 History of Russian Psychoanalysis by Larissa Sazanovitch


- Syria

 - Jordan

- Lebanon


- Egypt 



- Algeria

- Libya



Questo testo è tratto dal discorso pronunciato da J.-P. Vernant (morto il 9.01.2007) nel 1999, in occasione del 50° anniversario del Consiglio d'Europa, e che è inscritto sul ponte che collega Strasburgo a Kehl:

<<Passare un ponte, traversare un fiume, varcare una frontiera, è lasciare lo spazio intimo e familiare ove si è a casa propria per penetrare in un orizzonte differente, uno spazio estraneo, incognito, ove si rischia - confrontati a ciò che è altro - di scoprirsi senza

 "luogo proprio", senza identità. Polarità dunque dello spazio umano, fatto di un dentro e di un fuori. Questo "dentro" rassicurante, turrito, stabile, e questo "fuori" inquietante, aperto, mobile, i Greci antichi hanno espresso sotto la forma di una coppia di divinità unite e opposte: Hestia e Hermes. Hestia è la dea del focolare, nel cuore della casa. Tanto Hestia è sedentaria, vigilante sugli esseri umani e le ricchezze che protegge, altrettanto Hermes è nomade, vagabondo: passa incessantemente da un luogo all'altro, incurante delle frontiere, delle chiusure, delle barriere. Maestro degli scambi, dei contatti, è il dio delle strade ove guida il viaggiatore, quanto Hestia mette al riparo tesori nei segreti penetrali delle case.  Divinità che si oppongono, certo, e che pure sono indissociabili. E' infatti all'altare della dea, nel cuore delle dimore private e degli edifici pubblici che sono, secondo il rito, accolti, nutriti, ospitati gli stranieri venuti di lontano. Perché ci sia veramente un "dentro", bisogna che possa aprirsi su un "fuori", per accoglierlo in sé. Così ogni individuo umano deve assumere la parte di Hestia e la parte di Hermes. Tra le rive del Medesimo e dell'Altro, l'uomo è un ponte>>.







 (in english)



by Hendrika C. Halberstadt-Freud






This paper was presented at 45th I.P.A. Congress (Berlin, 2007) by the author, we thank very much.

The author is  I.P.A. psychoanalyst and lives in Netherlands.



’The Nazi phenomenon and the Holocaust will be investigated and its causes debated for generations to come.’  Harold Blum (American Imago,  vol 52,3,281-289)








Lisa is a German musician in her forties living in Holland. Her maternal and paternal family were both heavily involved in Nazism. No family member wants to speak about the past. The ‘conspiracy of silence’ characterized Lisa’s upbringing and she  chose to believe the lies and mystifications her parents told about her family. Part  of the deeply buried truth only surfaces at the end of her analysis.

Lisa developed a need for secrecy early on. Her low self-esteem shame and guilt seem  connected to the unacknowledged borrowed guilt inherited from (grand)parents.

Her masochistic character, connected with a conflicted mother-daughter relationship is intertwined with  the twisted family history

We learned about the trans-generational  mission of trauma from children of victims of WWII (Grubrich-Simitis, 1983, Kestenberg, 1993). The consequences for the children of perpetrators has received much less attention. Lisa’s split loyalties, typical for children of perpetrators, are difficult to overcome and distinguishes them from the offspring of victims.

Wars and other man-made disasters and traumas always have grave consequences for later  generations.   







From the literature




Kestenberg (1990 [1982]) bitterly wrote: In Germany, the myth “we did not know” and mass hypocrisy about the Nazi past persists where perpetrators become innocent victims. After sixty years, hidden reminiscences and facts keep surfacing.  The third might not be the last generation concerned. ‘The end of the Neubacher project’, is a film made by Marcus  J. Carney (2007), a grandchild, about their dark past of his family.‘ The Lebensborn children’, now in their late sixties, only recently discovered they are the product of a scheme to create ‘ideal Arians’.  (Landler, 2006). An Anonymous(1990) author describes how she, like Lisa, suffered from depression and anxiety. Her dreams reveal a marked contrast to her conscious ideas, betraying hidden unconscious loyalties to her parents’ undigested past.

Often patients try to hide the fact that their (grand)parents were Nazis (Eckstaedt, 1990, Eickhoff, 1986).

Sigrun  Anselm (2001) establishes the connection between right wing radical youths, their their Nazi ideology, and the hidden anti-Semitic past of their parents. Anisfeld, (1999); Berger& Berger, (2001); Brugger, (1997); Dahmer, (1990); Grünberg (2000); Hartmann, (1990); Heimannsberg& Schmidt, (1993), Rosenkötter, (1990) and Bar-On (1993) all point to the deep shame and silence about the past, a taboo that is damaging to the next generations. Rosenkötter  and Simenauer( 1990) reflect on the consequences for super-ergo development, deformed by a secret criminal past.  

Brugger (1997) interviewed (great)grandchildren who seemed totally unaware of their ties to the Nazi past. Unconscious signs in speech and behaviour made the hidden truth ‘come out form every pore’. Unconscious, split off, archaic aggression too dangerous to acknowledge, was in stark contrast to heir utopian ideas about society. Hartmann tells how oppressed, even obliterated and demoralized the next generations feel by their parents’ concealment, meaning soul murder to them. They are irritable, depressed or overly excitable and suffer from psychosomatic disorders. Heimannsberg & Schmidt speak about a collective silence, born of guilt, fear and shame, leading to a strong bond between members of the older generation, like Lisa tells about her parents. ‘For the children and grandchildren of active participants in the Third Reich and of convinced Nazis, the taboos are particularly virulent and the working through is particularly difficult.’ (p.6). Helm Stierlin (1993) states that dialogue between the generations is required in order to differentiate fantasy formations and myths form facts. Magarethe Mitscherlich wrote in 1987 : ‘The inability to stand criticism is naturally closely interwoven with the German’s precarious self-esteem’ (p.119). This is born out in the case of Lisa and her parents. And in 1997 she wrote: ’The mourning of those who were not guilty, their recovering the past is nonetheless necessary to distance themselves from ideals, prejudices, projections, and delusions, but also from unconscious guilt feelings they inherited from their parents and their representatives. ‘Defence against remembering, repression  of unconscious borrowed guilt and shame will only increase the self hatred that is connected with it.’(p. 482, my translation).

Dahmer, (1990) concludes tat (grand)parents resist questions about the past. The loyalties of the children are split between diametrically opposed value systems. The transference is hindered by their hidden loyalties to the parents, which is often stronger than the working alliance with the analyst. Even when, as is the vase with Lisa, Nazi (grand)parents have often been as insensitive about the suffering of the persecuted as they are about the feelings of their own children.   


Lisa’s presenting  problems


Lisa suffers strong and vague guilt feelings. She is angry with and at the same time unable to separate from her intrusive mother. She in turn, is obsessively preoccupied with her younger son. She hesitated for ten years before seeking help and seems  deeply troubled. I propose analysis to which she agrees.

In her first hour Lisa tells me that Wagner makes her sad and she loathes German conductors. She admits a tendency to distort reality, to hide the truth and to tell myths and lies about the past, like her parents always do. She feels ashamed about being  German

Lisa had an abortion without ever telling her husband she was pregnant. When the next  unplanned pregnancy occurred, she herself noticed 6 weeks before delivery she was expecting a baby.   

As a child Lisa already kept secrets, creating a hidden world of her own on the attic. She calls her fantasy creations, made of dirt and rubbish, ‘messy’ and ‘filthy’. When her mother discovered the chaos she was heavily scolded and the row always ended by Lisa’s asking forgiveness. She seems to have a masochistically tinged symbiotic relationship to her ‘meddling’ mother.



Into the Analysis


Lisa feels deeply unloved as a German, except by her husband. When fetching her children from school, she can not bear to face other parents. In her eagerness to please she professes to be rabidly anti-German and tells everybody that her parents were anti- Nazi and how brave they were during the war, but  none the less she feels rather persecuted than accepted. Her self-esteem is so low that she cannot imagine I could ever like her and she masochistically denigrates herself in almost every sentence she utters.

After an initial period of continued hiding the truth Lisa begins to disclose a different picture and tells some damaging facts about her (grand)parents.

Lisa tells her paternal grandfather was a  ‘Gauleiter’, a high ranking official during the Nazi-period, but ‘he did nothing wrong’ and she has no idea why he was  punished and incarcerated for years after the war. Later she admits this is a myth she always chose to believe. Her mother claims to have no idea why her father in law destroyed his papers and went into hiding after the war. Lisa’s father refuses to talk about his parents’ past and Lisa questions his sincerity when he does. His own  participation in the Hitler Youth was ‘the most glorious time of my life’, but he claims that the burning of the synagogues was a shock to him. He still likes to sing Nazi songs and uses fascist expressions like: “was Weh tut, tut auch gut” (what hurts is beneficial). Anita Eckstaedt (1986) states: ‘confessions about having been a National Socialist are the exception. Most persevere in their old beliefs, or persist in denying the past,  in which case splitting mechanisms are likely to develop in combination with repression’ (p.317).  

            Lisa’s maternal grandfather went to the Eastern front and his role likewise remains a mystery. Her maternal grandmother was an enthusiastic believer in Hitler and his Third Reich till she died. Lisa loved her grandmother, who was kinder to her than her mother, a strange and depressed woman, where she spent much of her childhood. 

For Lisa, the third generation, asking questions about the past is to this day a most  heavily loaded taboo.       Het parents were adolescents during the war, to Lisa’s great dismay, they never distanced themselves from their parents’ ideology.


            Lisa’s tells her father has always been a total mystery to her. She cannot explain his aberrant behaviour throughout her childhood. He was hardly ever home and mostly avoided contact with his family. He disappeared for days on end. To this day Lisa has no idea where he hung out and her mother never explained either. When fantasising about her father, Lisa suspects he went  drinking, visiting brothels, possibly satisfying sadomasochistic sexual preferences? During the weekends her father used to be sick with all sorts of   psychosomatic complaints. He still neglects himself physically, never sees a doctor or a dentist and has bizarre masochistic eating habits. His ideology is to be hard on himself and never show weakness (a fascist ideal). He avoids being questioned, is evasive in conversation and hides behind endless, senseless monologues that irritate Lisa. For her he remains unknown, an empty lifeless figure. Nevertheless, she prefers him to her mother, whom professes to hate. Eickhoff, (1986). mentions the ‘straw father’, a pseudo human being…’he (the father) does not tell his story, but persists in the attempt to continue living it in the ghostly form.’ Lisa’s father was such a straw father and he behaved like a ghost or like he was in hiding.  


            Her parents marriage was unhappy and Lisa’s mother always sought a collusion with her daughter against the father, complaining about her husband and making it clear she looks down on him. According to Lisa, her parents, who slept in separate rooms, had no sexual relations since she was a child.


It seems Lisa’s parents have been unable to digest their past. They tell contradictory stories, myths and lies and remain in denial  (Bajohr & Pohl, 2007. The ideals of the parents were shattered when the war was lost. They consider themselves victims, unjustly accused and punished by the Allies. On the other hand shame makes them hide the truth. Although Lisa’s mother read the Mitscherlich’s ‘The inability to mourn’ (1967), this has had no noticeable impact on her way of thinking.


As far as I can judge from Lisa’words, both parents suffer from identity problems and low self-esteem in connection with massive social shame and uneasiness about their past. Feeling socially disadvantaged, they are preoccupied with  status and eager to socialize with socially ‘superior’ and ‘successful people’, irritating Lisa by their hollow talk about ‘respected and well known’ friends. 

Lisa is always tense when meeting with her parents:‘they only talk nonsense, are not interested in my children’. They react to her curiosity about the past by hardening their attitude of lying and denying making her angry.

I remark that her reproachful attitude towards her parents might mean she wants to punish them. Her anger only puts them off, making them defensive and anxious.

I suspect that questioning her parents about the past is useless until she has worked through her own denial and becomes more able to understand their position. The question in my mind remains: does she really want to know?


Listening to Lisa’s endless self-denigration and accusation, I wonder if  her shame and guilt is connected to her (grand)parents’ past. Is she burdened with the unresolved guilt of her (grand)parents by sharing in their denial?

I ask Lisa why she is not more interested in finding out about the past of her family during the Hitler period. She says she wants to know, but her resistance to do so remains. Her loyalty to and unconscious identification with her parents prevents her from finding out the truth. She feels she cannot inquire behind her parent’s back.  

Intellectually, Lisa understands it might be better for her to know the past  than denying it. On the one hand she claims she was always preoccupied with WWII, on the other hand she never really though about it at all?!

Lisa reluctantly contacts the German judicial archives but gives up without  knowing his verdict. She suspects her grandfather became rich during the war as he lived in a villa formerly belonging to Jews. Lisa shudders as she wonders: “Could both my grandfathers have been ‘Kapo’s’ in concentration camps?”. Her father’s sister worked for Hans Frank in the Krakow ghetto. She and other relatives still live, but Lisa does not ask them about the past.  


            In her third year of analysis Lisa wants to find out more about her maternal grandfather who died just before liberation. After much resistance from her mother, she succeeds in retrieving his letters form the Eastern front. Her mother and sisters never read them and do not want Lisa to do so. The letters shock her because of their ‘hypocrisy, bigotry, the woolly language and the religious ranting’. For him Nazism was a struggle between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘God is with us in this mission of killing Jews and Russians, as they are not human’. His slogan was: ‘via the Kaukasus to Jerusalem and Armageddon.‘ Lisa spends many months reading these letters and is preoccupied by them.  

Lisa becomes interested in books about WWII. She buys a TV and starts to watch the movies she always avoided.  In her parental home the TV was turned off when films about the war and the Holocaust appeared. Lisa always assumed that was because her parents found the Holocaust too horrible to watch. She says she realizes only now that the secret truth had to remain hidden.


Lisa and her mother


Lisa compares her relationship with her mother to Elfride Jelinek’s ‘The Pianist’

She never dared to criticize her mother as she always had to pay for that by making amends and excuses afterwards. She went a year to America through a student exchange program when she was fourteen years old. It was a very lonely and unhappy experience. Her parents had little empathy and showed no understanding for her anxiety and homesickness.

Only once, when she was 15 she dared to reproach her mother, screaming:“everything is your fault”. But during adolescence she gave up all protest and  became rather docile.  She colluded with her mother’s endless complaints about her husband and formed an unwholesome and illusory symbiotic bond with her mother. This was a false idyll of peaceful mutual agreement without room for hostility. The symbiotic bubble finally burst after  Lisa came to Holland, fell in love and married. Her mother’s comment was: “So you still believe in love?”, making Lisa irreparably angry. Only now, she realizes that, though seemingly close to her mother, there had never been any real contact or intimacy between them. Her mother does not listen  to what she has to say and talks endlessly about futilities of her own. Perversely turning everything upside down she pities her daughter, who according to her must be sick and crazy to need psychoanalysis. Any connection to her upbringing as a third generation child or to the Nazi period is met by disavowal (‘Verleugnung’, Freud, 1928). Lisa feels aversion towards both  parents and especially dreads her mother’s phone calls, while father never calls her.

            Lisa’s symbiotic mother bond has resulted in similar relationships with women friends. They don’t listen to her, claim her attention, ask for her help and stick to her like glue. She resents and hates these women though she used to behave in the same way, stalking girl friends and dropping them when she had enough and she admits  she would love to stalk me. Lisa’s persecutory and intrusive relationships with women are life and death affairs for her. In her fantasy either one of them will die. Kramer Richards (2003) counts aggressive stalking in women under the female perversions.

Lisa transmits the mother-daughter relationship to her son Peter. She is obsessively preoccupied with him. When he is away she has fantasies he is dead. She habitually broods about him: where might he be, what is he doing, is he liked and have enough friends? When Peter is home Lisa is unable to leave him alone, breaks into his room and is inquisitive, not respecting his boundaries (Kogan,2007). She cannot concentrate on anything else, thus copying her mother’s behaviour towards her. Her

mother still always nervously inquires about Lisa’s social life, her prestige, her popularity, implying that as a German she risks ostracism. Lisa gets into a panic when Peter quarrels with friends or is not invited often enough. As he reaches puberty he begins to resent her constant mingling in his affairs more and more.

Lisa’s of her being disliked because of his German mother transmits her problem to the next generation and Peter can be self-denigrating like she is, saying things like: “I am useless, worthless, a good for nothing.’ 


On the occasion of the 60 year Auschwitz and Holocaust commemorations.

Lisa says.: “I still don’t dare to tell my parents about my interest in the holocaust. When they called I didn’t tell them that I was watching this event on TV. Out of solidarity I leave these things out, as usual. I look surreptitiously and feel ashamed how little the German past used to mean to me.”



Lisa’s Dreams


After talking about her loyalty and the impossibility of prying information from her parents they don’t want to give, she has the following dream: L.: “My thumbs were inflamed and I saw a doctor, a clumsy butcher’s wife with a dog sleeping at her feet. She lifted my fingernails and lots of disgusting tiny insects came out. I was very ashamed,  but then the pests jumped onto your nose.” She associates about lice, head louse, shame louse. Meanwhile, I silently wonder about the obvious connection between lice and concentration camps. Lisa: “I once had shame lice, coming from Italy on the train and it was very embarrassing.” After a silence she continues: ”When I visit my parents, they talk only nonsense, but I am tense and constantly fear horrors could be disclosed.” Analyst.: “there are things you prefer to keep suppressed, under your thumb as it were.” Lisa.: “Yes, you are that butcher woman who lets the horrors out.” A.: “You feel forced by me to search for shameful facts. In the dream the lice jumped onto my nose: I should be ashamed instead of you.” (Should I be ashamed of my Jewish nose, I wonder). L.: “Yes, it would be nice if you were burdened with all the things that preoccupy me.” 

               Like her parents she chooses to avoid painful subjects. Instead she accuses the dignitaries at the commemoration ceremony of hypocrisy.

She has another revealing dream. L.: “We have two cats, I wanted to let them into the house, but a frighteningly big German shepherd came in with them. Mike (her husband) gave him water and tried  to put him out again, but the dog was stronger and bit him. I woke up in a panic.” Lisa associates: “The shepherd dog of a maidservant once bit off the finger of a child. I am very afraid of big dogs and big animals in general.” She fears horses and horse riding, “once a horse nearly ran away with me”. (My association: might her anger and her hidden thoughts run away with her?) A: “Small harmless cats may come in, not the big dangerous dogs. You can be obliging to me, while anger and hostility is forbidden.” L.: ”yes, I associate shepherd dogs with aggression.” A: ”And you don’t want to wake the proverbial sleeping dogs (the truth about the past)” L.: “No, I feel fear and great resistance to do that.” A.: “You fear to say the wrong things. What could you say that would hurt me so terribly?” L.: “About the Holocaust, no German should be allowed to say anything about that. They have no right to speak about it.” Then suddenly: ”I am worrying a lot about Israel and the Palestinians. It seems to me a repetition of what happened before (I do not mention my irritation as she tries to minimise the German guilt by comparing it to Israeli guilt.) A.: “You leave that out not to displease me?” L.: “It sounds ridiculous but it is true. I don’t want to make you angry.” A.: “You have to walk on eggs here?” L.: “Not that bad, I have no thoughts I do not mention.” A.: “Maybe you cannot even think those forbidden thoughts.” L.: “I am not allowed to think or say just anything about any subject.” A.: “A Jewish analyst prevents you from speaking out, but nevertheless you sought me out.” L.: “That was not a conscious choice.” A.: “But it seems no coincidence.” L.: “Yes, it is bizarre that I never thought about that consciously, not then, now all the more so. But I think: if I could say everything here, I would no longer need you. I have this inhibition with everybody in a stronger or lesser degree.”

This line of thought seems to bear fruit and the next week she has more dreams: L.: “We were sitting around the table, I was here with you and said: ‘I find you an awfully unpleasant woman.’ That was all.” A.: “You are now able to dream unpleasant things about me, that cannot yet be said openly.”  

Later we often come back to this revealing dream. The analysis moves closer to the conflicted relationship with her internal mother and eight months later she has the following dream. L.: ‘I was in a funfair or amusement park, my parents were there and my mother wanted to kiss me on the mouth, a deep kiss, I didn’t want that, but she proceeded all the same and I did not stop her.” A.: “Does this amusement park stand for the opposite, the commemoration of the Dresden bombings yesterday?” L.: “Yes that preoccupies me a lot and I watched a BBC series about Auschwitz. Afterwards Mike started to make love, I had to tell him ‘that doesn’t go together’.” She associates: “I  never had a pleasant body sense and sex is a breach of my physical privacy. It always used to bother me when we made love. But this has improved greatly, I can enjoy sex much more now. Though I still prefer to have sex while asleep, not being responsible.” A.: “In the dream you seem to confuse mother and husband.” L: “How unpleasant! Everything that is physically connected with my mother revolts me, even my own body. I cannot enjoy it, explore it, or indicate what I like. To make love when we stay with my parents is impossible. With them the taboo about sexuality is enormous, the subject was never touched upon and sex remains a difficult subject for me to talk about.” .”

Lisa seems confused about her own and her mother’s gender identity, she has fantasies her mother is homosexual.. A.: “The French kiss seems to refer to intrusive mother figures.” L: “It awakens aversion in me to talk about sex, and when Mike and mother are confused, it makes me sad.” A.: “The repetition of the emotional bond with your mother being transferred to Mike makes you sad?”

Two weeks later: L.: “A dream I find hard to tell you: I was at an Eastern market, sought a place to sleep when an eastern man came lying next to me and started to stroke me. He had an enormous sex organ, at first I liked it, but then I was frightened, jumped up and fled.” The powerful and potent Eastern man who wants to sleep with her,  seems to stand for her desires towards the analyst.  In another dream the conductor, an Eastern European Jew she works with, lays his head in her lap and has an erection. Both men behave like powerful mother figures. Hetero- and homosexual strivings are implied and her gender confusion is  apparent.  



Transference and Counter-transference dilemmas 


Lisa’s mother-daughter conflict is repeated in the transference, although hatred is not openly expressed. Lisa often has angry outbursts at Mike, never at me, though she  inadvertently breaks my umbrella stand after a session in which she felt anger.

She struggles hard with her wish to keep the past hidden. Seeking the truth seems a double edged sword. On the one hand she wants to spare me by not talking about unpleasant subjects that would cause me pain, on the other hand she knowingly sins against the analytic aim of finding the truth. She is resisting me and tries to please me at the same time by suggesting she wants to find out about her family’s history. Lisa: ”you would hate me if you knew the full truth’. The guilt laden secrets are connected with her fear of being hated as a German. She has told her mother that she is in analysis, mentions my name and her mother answers: ‘as a Jew she must hate you’. Has she made her mother express her own thoughts?

Gladys Foxe (2006) writes convincingly about transference obstacles between a Jewish analyst and a child of German parents, unwilling to discuss her past.

My counter-transference is complicated by my personal war experiences and it can  make me angry when a patient denies or is unwilling to confront the past of his or her collaborating ancestors. My unease which I hesitate to bring up might have been noticeable to Lisa. The match between me and a Nazi-child is far from ideal. I would prefer to avoid children of perpetrators, if they would tell me before starting treatment, but they don’t. Lisa’s superego says she has to know the truth, while at the same time resenting this and feeling victimized by me, I am the enemy asking accountability. She fears being caught up with me in ‘the Jewish-German conflict’,  mirroring my feelings towards her.     

A year later she still accuses herself: “If I don’t find out about the past before I die, I will go to hell. I cannot enjoy things I am doing. I make lists of the things I don’t want to do, like finding out about the past, but I have to be obedient. I’m in a struggle with my conscience.” A.: ”What would happen if you decided not to please me and not to do the things you feel you owe me?” L.: “That’s what’s happening, I’m not going to do it, even if you want me to.” A.: “What would happen if you decided you don’t agree with me?” L.: “Not so easy, I have to be good to get your appreciation.” ‘I am always looking for things I should do, I enjoy my guilt feelings, I want to be victimized.”

Nevertheless there is a turning point in the analysis. “L: “A lot has changed since I come here. I know much more than I used to and I don’t tell lies any more. Father’s side remains murky and it still frightens me to know what my father wants to hide.” A.: “Would acknowledging that your parents are so obviously helpless and unable to confront the truth, make it  possible for you to forgive them their silence?” L.: “maybe, but I feel a physical disgust against father’s whole family.”


Lisa has avoided her intense cravings towards the analyst for a long time, as too shameful. In the last phase of the analysis, working through her intense longing for a symbiotic intrusive relationship initiates mourning. Her most cherished fantasy of total intimacy, causes her to mourn for a lost paradise which she might never have experienced.  Lisa’s ambivalent symbiotic love for the analyst alternates with fears of being abandoned and rejected by her. Her bond with, and her hostility towards an internal mother figure become more focused in the transference. The analyst is a vampire like monster, wanting to suck the life blood out of her. In this parasitic relationship either one or the other will be exploited and die.

            The sadomasochistic transference deadlock is resolved. I consider that Lisa is as courageous as one can expect form a person with her family history. I realise what a terrible burden it must be to face unbearable truths by confronting the heinous crimes of grand(parents). Her struggle to get to the bottom of  the secrets about the past has come to rest and things have greatly changed for Lisa. She visits Sachsenhausen with her family. The atmosphere has cleared and I feel more warmly towards her. She reads my paper and agrees to publication.





Lisa’s suffers from a sadomasochistic relationship with her mother and her struggle to get the parents admit their guilty secrets. She ardently desires to be the victim of maternal sadism and transmits her homoerotic sadomasochistic attitude to me in the transference. Lisa had masochistic masturbation fantasies since she was twelve years old. The genetic source of Lisa’s self accusations and her masochism lies both in the unresolved symbiotic love-hate bond with her dominant unloving mother, in combination with the undigested Nazi past. 

Her desires to provokes rape by a phallic mother figure becomes apparent in her dreams and fantasies. Her own cruelty towards her parents, especially her mother is obvious in her cold and distant attitude towards them and in her drive to force them to admit guilt. The German versus Jewish background of analyst and patient is an extra complication. I have struggled with the need to be empathic with patients whose  split loyalties hinder the acknowledgement of the past of their parents.

Lisa reminds me of several children of Dutch Nazis I treated. Without exception they denied any knowledge of the past and resisted inquiring after it. Consciously they rejected the Nazi ideology, while semi-unconsciously supporting it. Their split loyalties, between the parents and the outside world, remained an obstacle. They would attack me in their dreams, while avoiding all overt hostility. It happened many times that second or third generation children of perpetrators choose me as their therapist. These patients, mostly the offspring of Dutch Nazi’s or volunteers in the German army during, seeking redemption by me. When I ask them whether they chose to me to get absolution by a Jew they, like Lisa, agree without exception that that is the case. Their  preference for a Jewish therapists being indirect prove of unacknowledged guilt feelings.

Lisa fears to hurt me by being insensitive and saying the wrong things. The hostile and cruel fantasies she avoids show up in her dreams. Lisa also desires symbiotic bliss with me, an illusion of oneness instead of hostility, while the anger is directed at her mother. The intimate illusionary bond she desires with me is partially acted out with her son, resulting in obsessive preoccupation with him.  

After Lisa has some dreams about sexually intrusive females and males with big penises there comes more room for the sadomasochistic mother-daughter relationship in the transference.  

Her loyalty conflict becomes clear: she feels pushed by me to unearth the secret past while her mother forbids her to do so. This results in a psychic split that can never be totally resolved. Bohleber (2009) speaks of ‘a dissociated self-state, a catastrophic isolation, accompanied by mortal fear, hatred, shame, and despair’.     

Notwithstanding my misgivings, I have to help Lisa to understand her parents instead of feeling accusatory towards them. A pitfall I had to avoid was to implicitly blame Lisa for her resistance to face the full truth. As a child analyst I know that helping the child is not possible while blaming the parents. On the contrary, it is indispensable to empathize with them, notwithstanding the harm they might have done. I realize that Lisa, in spite of her proclamations to the contrary, has once loved these parents. The child inside her is still secretly and unconsciously loyal to them. I have learned through the years the insoluble loyalty to criminal (grand)parents and the mental split that creates in subsequent generations (Speier (1993).   

Lisa’s desire to suffer and intrude was  transferred to female friends, to her son and finally to her analyst. The perverted mother-daughter relationship had to be worked through before the analysis could be terminated. After four and a half years the transference was resolved, secrets were partially cleared up and the rage against her mother subsided. Lisa was happy with the result of when we ended the analysis.

The literature on the topic of overcoming the past unanimously states that the unconscious guilt feelings can only be resolved by acknowledging the truth and resolving ‘the conspiracy of silence’. Sabine, a German analyst (Volkan et al., 2002 chapter 8), was unable to get to the truth about her father’s past notwithstanding her tact and patience. Crimes by parents and grandparents usually remain deeply hidden.  I am convinced that getting to know what actually happened and what role the parents or grandparents played is necessary to end the pathogenic silence. As long as this has not been achieved the patient remains in collusion with the parents’ acts and ideals and cannot distance himself enough from them to leave their past behind. He or she remains saddled with ‘borrowed guilt’ about unknown deeds. This guilt is not that of a perpetrator but of someone who refuses to know and persists in denial. Blocking out one’s family history makes one an unacknowledged accomplice with the forgetting, hiding and silence of the older generation(s).

In my experience and that of many others motivating these 2nd and 3rd generation children of perpetrators to unearth and confront the full truth never fully succeeded. The unconscious loyalty to the parents remains in place, notwithstanding verbal rejection of the Nazi ideals. A superficial acknowledgement of the importance of knowing was always coupled with unwillingness to confront the past, a mental split that is reminiscent of Freud’s article on fetishism (1928).

The literature on children of perpetrators is unanimous in stating that the attitude of denial, lying and mythologizing around the guilt- laden past is typical. I am convinced with Blum (1995) that “Analysis requires a willingness to candidly confront the reasons for secrecy, as well as the contents of the secret.” (p.258).

The secretiveness is not only characteristic of individual persons. It has characterised two post-war generations of German historians (Michman, 2002), psychoanalysts and other professionals. The third generation still has to come to terms with this tendency to conceal the criminal past. Only in the last twenty years, in Lisa’s generation,  the wish to lift the veil of fairy tales and mystifications has become stronger. In Lisa’s case her moral masochism due to a perverted mother-daughter relationship is hard to differentiate form her ‘inherited’ shameful and guilty unconscious ‘memories’.



Summary and Conclusions


Although it is not possible to make a clear distinction between pre-existing neurotic psychic family traits  and consequences of the Nazi period, still certain patterns can be seen in the children of victims and perpetrators alike, notwithstanding the parallels and differences between them. Both suffer from trans-generational transmission of traumas and blurring of the boundaries between generations (Kogan, 2007). They suffer from negative memories and have to deal with the complex processes of identification at work among subsequent generations. But there are also important differences between the two groups. They have different reasons to be reluctant to speak about the past. The ‘conspiracy of silence’ and distortion of the truth by perpetrators is different from a reluctance of victims to speak about painful memories. The offspring of perpetrators suffer from  split and dissociated  loyalties that are hard to overcome. The values of he parents, discredited after 1945, were nevertheless transmitted to their children. The unconscious emotional bond to the parents remain, even in children who, like Lisa, profess to hate their parents. ‘The striving for truth and the discovery of a history that was silenced and denied were thus often combined with simultaneous defensive processes’ (Bohleber, 2009).       

In Thomas Mann’s  Dr. Faustus written in 1948 he writes about ‘…ein Volk, das sich nicht sehen lassen kann,’ a people ashamed of itself, as proven by  Günther Grass who after sixty years reveals his secret past.




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"THALASSA. Portolano of Psychoanalysis" is a co-production of "Penta Editions" (Dir. Cosimo Trono) and "Frenis Zero" revue (Dir. Giuseppe Leo) and it would be an attempt to link psychoanalysts and psychotherapists, belonging to the Mediterranean countries. Why would we put the Mediterranean Sea at the centre of attention of psychoanalytic culture? Because it continues keeping , in spite of a time of globalisation of human, cultural and economic exchanges, a central role of hinge between West and East, between cultural patterns dramatically faced with the contemporary problem of sharing universalizable patterns of "humanitas" and civilization. Psychoanalysis, with its group and mass-psychology functioning theories, can help in understanding the anthropological transformations concerning human societies and social institutions in the contemporary world. Our preminent interest is focused on the transformations regarding the cultural "koiné" that has been historically configured as mediterranean, and, moreover,  on the way psychoanalysis can provide interpretative means to investigate them thoroughly. Linking each other  psychoanalysts who, in spite of their different professional backgrounds, share a common belonging to the same cultural milieu, means consulting those who think about such changes from a point of view in which psychoanalysis keeps a preminent role. The means to create this link  would be the traditional ones (through international congresses and colloques), but also those provided by  internet and new communication technologies. "THALASSA. Portolano of Psychoanalysis" est une co-production de "Penta Editions" (Dir. Cosimo Trono) et de la revue "Frenis Zero" (Dir. Giuseppe Leo), née avec le but de mettre en réseau psychanalystes et psychothérapeutes provenants de Pays  Méditerranéens. Pourquoi voulons nous  mettre la Mer Méditerranéenne au centre de l'attention de la culture psychanalytique? Parce que celle-ci continue à tenir, bien que dans une époque de mondialisation des échanges humaines, culturels et économiques, un role central de charnière entre Occident et Orient, entre patterns culturels  dramatiquement confrontés avec la question toute contemporaine de partager de patterns universalisables de "humanitas" et de civilisation. La psychanalyse, avec ses theories du fonctionnement groupal et  des masses, peut nous aider à mieux comprendre les transformations anthropologiques concernantes les sociétés humaines et les institutions sociales dans le monde contemporain. Notre prééminent interet est concentré sur les transformations qui regardent cette koiné culturelle qui historiquement  s'est formée comme mediterraneenne , et sur le comment la psychanalyse peut donner des outils interpretatifs pour approfondir la connaissance de celles-ci. Mettre en liaison des psychanalystes qui, malgré les différentes traditions professionnelles de provenance, partagent l'appartenance au meme milieu méditerranéen,  veut dire interpeller ceux qui réfléchent sur tels changements à partir d'une perspective où la psychanalyse garde une place prééminente. Les moyens pou créer tel réseau seraient ceux traditionnels (séminaires et colloques internationaux), mais aussi innovateurs comme ceux-ci donnés par internet et les nouvelles technologies de communication.  "THALASSA. Portolano of Psychoanalysis" è una co-produzione di "Penta Editions" (Dir. Cosimo Trono) e della rivista "Frenis Zero" (Dir. Giuseppe Leo), nel tentativo di mettere in rete psicoanalisti e psicoterapeuti provenienti dai paesi del Mediterraneo. Perché porre il Mediterraneo al centro dell'attenzione della cultura psicoanalitica?  Perché esso continua ad avere, pur in un'epoca di globalizzazione di scambi umani, culturali ed economici,  quel ruolo centrale di cerniera tra Occidente ed Oriente, tra patterns culturali  messi drammaticamente a confronto con la  problematica contemporanea della condivisione di modelli universalizzabili di "humanitas" e di civiltà. La psicoanalisi,  con le sue teorie sul funzionamento dei gruppi e della psicologia  delle masse, può agevolare la comprensione delle trasformazioni antropologiche  che riguardano le società umane  e le istituzioni sociali nel mondo contemporaneo. Il nostro precipuo interesse è concentrato sulle trasformazioni che hanno per oggetto quella  koiné culturale che storicamente si è configurata come 'mediterranea', e su come la psicoanalisi possa fornire strumenti interpretativi per approfondire  la conoscenza di esse. Porre in collegamento tra di loro gli psicoanalisti che, pur nella diversità delle tradizioni professionali di provenienza, condividono  l'appartenenza al medesimo milieu mediterraneo, significa interpellare coloro che riflettono su tali rivolgimenti da una prospettiva in cui la psicoanalisi mantiene un ruolo preminente. Gli strumenti per creare tale rete saranno quelli tradizionali (attraverso dei seminari e dei congressi internazionali), ma anche quelli innovativi offerti da  internet e dalle nuove tecnologie di comunicazione.





A (Aberastury-Avunculo)
B-C (Babinski-Cura)
D- E (Dador de la mujer-Ey Henri)
F- G (Fachinelli Elvio-Guilbert Yvette)
H-I (Haas Ladislav-Italia)
J-M (Jackson John- Myers F.W.H.)
N- O (Naesgaard Sigurd-Otsuki K.)
P (Pacto denegativo-Putnam)






Cosimo Trono - psychanalyste, énseignant Univ. Paris XIII, directeur Editions "Penta" telecharger  le catalogue

Giuseppe Leo - psichiatra, Centro Psicoterapia Dinamica (Lecce- Italia), editor "Frenis Zero" click here

Comité scientifique/Comitato Scientifico/Scientific Board:

Abram Coen (Paris) psychiatre, chef du service secteur infanto-juvenil Paris-Nord,  directeur collection "Psychanalyse, Médecine et Societé" chez Penta Editions.

Nicole Janigro (Milano) psicoanalista junghiana, nata a Zagabria, collabora a progetti di formazione legati al tema dell’ elaborazione del conflitto, rivolti a volontari e operatori attivi sul campo nelle aree di crisi della ex Jugoslavia. Ha in corso una ricerca su sogno e guerra. 












Copyright © 2007-2008-2009 Cosimo Trono and Giuseppe Leo All Rights Reserved  : "Thalassa. Portolano of Psychoanalysis" is a co-production of "Editions Penta"(59, rue Saint-André des-Arts,, Paris VI, tel./fax: (0033)0143257761) and "Frenis Zero" revue (Ce.Psi.Di.: viale Gallipoli, 29- 73100 Lecce- Italia- tel. (0039)3386129995)