In August 2012, in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, a protest took place critiquing a plaque that memorialized the 27,000 “citizens” who were systematically shot in a two-day massacre by the Nazis during World War II. Russian officials had removed the original plaque, which had honored the mostly Jewish victims, and replaced it with a revisionist plaque honoring only “citizens.” The precious Jewish souls, the doctors, lawyers, poets, scientists, librarians; all the parents, children, and grandparents, murdered specifically on account of their ancestry—were gone, literally overnight. Among them was Dr. Sabina Spielrein, the pioneer psychoanalyst, a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, the first child psychoanalyst in the world, (yes, even before Anna Freud), and the founder of Moscow’s Psychoanalytic Clinic.
Spielrein’s murder, and the enforced anonymity of her fate, were called to my attention by Angela Sells, in her new and impressive book: Sabina Spielrein: The Woman and the Myth. Sells quotes Rabbi Shimon Samuels, who “termed this removal of Jewish heritage (in Rostov-on-Don) a memoricide. Stripping the plaque, and by extension, its occupants, of Jewish roots, seems a deliberate attempt to suppress the historical horror that occurred at the site in order to avoid the discomfort of others.” What the Russian government did by removing the plaque, arguably to avoid “ethnic tensions” was, in a way, Sells argues, also done to Spielrein’s work, first by her psychoanalytic colleagues and then by their followers down to the present day.