Monday, August 31, 1998
Anna O's Other Story: Freud's Famous Patient's Crusade Against White Slavery
by Harold Ticktin
Moment (Washington) - Aug 31, 1998
Anna O's Other Story: Freud's Famous Patient's Crusade Against White Slavery
WALLFLOWERS to the dance of Jewish history, sex, and crime have sat out almost all the numbers. Reticent to admit that Jewish mobsters trafficked in Jewish women, our historians concentrated instead on pogroms, keeping shweig (still) about our seamier side until the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Only with the emergence of an earthier vein of Jewish literature -- from I.L. Peretz to Isaac Bashevis Singer, including even the saintly Sholom Aleichem and the roundly criticized Sholem Asch -- have some of the spicier aspects of Jewish history come to the fore.
No example is more interesting than the struggle against white slavery in Jewish communities from Constantinople to Buenos Aires, which would eventually involve one of Sigmund Freud's most important psychoanalyses, the famous case of "Anna O."
Purveyors of Jewish women to bordellos on five continents were aptly named "unclean ones." As with the reluctance of Jews to discuss Jewish alcoholism and violence, so it was with jewish involvement in whit e slavery. Often the trade was denied outright, despite an ultimately successful battle fought over a 70-year period by the organized Jewish community against Jewish pimps and brothel keepers who preyed principally on Jewish women from impoverished areas of the Russian empire, particularly Galicia.
The battle included a number of international conferences with active Jewish participation, and innumerable intra-Jewish meetings in Europe, the Americas, Turkey, and India, in which world Jewry simultaneously fought the "unclean ones" with- in the community and sought to deflate the all-too- easy assumption by gentiles that "the Jews caused it all."(*)
Prostitution may be the worlds oldest profession, but the numbers in its ranks have the 19th century, when rail- way systems spread rapidly across Eurasia to ports of embarkation such as Hamburg, London, and Le Havre.
The railroad spurred modernization, affecting Jewry like a lightning bolt. One could write a Ph.D. dissertation titled, "The Railroad in Jewish Literature 1875-1939." The nature of Jewish jokes changed, making for an indissoluble link between the Iron Horse and the bewildered Jew riding it. A joke that Freud was fond of tells of a Jewish man on his way from Warsaw to Baden-Baden, hassled and attacked at every railroad station because of his appearance. An acquaintance asks him where he's going. "To Baden-Baden, for my health," he answers, "if my constitution holds out." Another classic of the genre is Sholom Aleichem's "Two Anti-Semites," in which two Jews sharing a single railroad compartment are both reading anti-Semitic newspapers to deflect antagonism. When they discover the truth about their shared bacgrounds, they hum "Oyfn Pripichik" (a famous Yiddish song) together.
But transporting Jewish women from as far east as Bombay was no laughing matter. Perhaps because Jews simply did not see themselves as procurers, there was a long period of turning a blind eye to the extent and depth to which Mädchen-handlen flourished among Jews.
The tangled history of pimps and prostitutes faced with an outraged general and Jewish public is thoroughly explored in Edward J. Bristow's Prostitution and Prejudice.(1) Bristow documents a ready-made Jewish underworld eager to engage in pimping. The Buenos Aires branch of alfonsins (the Polish-Jewish epithet for pimps) even formed a fraternal society (Zwi Migdal), which maintained its own synagogue and cemetery.(2)
Although Jewish procurers dealt almost exclusively in Jewish women, they were successful enough to achieve 50 percent of the market in Hamburg, Eastern Europe, and South America, according to police records. The names alone conjure up a Jewish world: Aside from Harry the Mock, Crazy Itch, Charlie Argument, Ryfka the Cow, and an array of madams named Sadie, there is a supporting cast of alfonsins, bombiens (from Bombay), kaftismus (observant alfonsins), macks, freuenhandlers, and a host of other pejoratives.(3)
The weave which formed this history had many threads. Chief among them was the desperate poverty of five million Eastern European Jews virtually entombed in the Pale of Settlement. An uneducated Jewish girl (few were otherwise) could escape the ghetto by registering as a prostitute. Many of the pimps were Jewish men who, as boys, had been snatched from their homes and returned after 25 years of forced service in the Czarist Army. For many Jewish tavern keepers ("between the gates of purity and defilement," in the words of Chaim Nachman Bialik),(4) the transition from tavern keeping to brothel keeping was an easy one.
Still, while there are many causes, there are also no causes. Girls from backgrounds identical to those of prostitutes never entered the trade, and crazily enough, there were a number of success stories, such as Polly Adler's, which was popularly chronicled in her best-selling autobiography A House Is Not A Home.(5) Adler, born in Russia, was a female counterpart to Arnold Rothstein and Nicky Arnstein. Operating in New York during the '30s, she became the most celebrated madam of her day.
Paradoxically, aspects of Jewish religious life actually facilitated the trade. The most graphic example, a variation on the agunah (wives unable to prove the deaths of their disappeared husbands), was the practice of stillah chuppah (literally "silent chuppah"), that is, clandestine weddings done before witnesses and sealed with a gift. The stillah chuppah refers to an arcane point of Jewish law, not unlike common law, which holds that a rabbi is not necessary at a wedding ceremony. The presence of any attending adult (male) is sufficient in Jewish law to confer married status. Often practiced in precisely those districts where families were most desperate and unlearned in the subtleties of Jewish law, such marriages resulted, in what was referred to delicately as "irregular civil status." As Bristow explains, stillah chuppah enabled procurers to manoeuvre unsuspecting girls into compromising situations. Ruthless men would court them, marry them, and then coerce them to practice prostitution.... Such wives had no legal protection because their marriages were not registered in civil law. Yet, they thought themselves married and were recognized as such by traditional Jews.(6)
Books and plays often dealt with this touchy subject, which many would have preferred to leave alone. A prime example is Sholom Asch's play The God of Vengeance (1923), which portrayed the dilemma of a Jewish brothel keeper in New York, who attempts to separate the bordello he runs downstairs from the purity of his young daughter upstairs. The young daughter finds her way below, however, and has a lesbian affair with one of the I nafkes (whores). Prompted by the predictable rabbinic reaction to the play, I Vengeance was the first drama ever convicted of obscenity, a ruling later reversed by New York courts. Revived in recent years, Vengeance had a run in New York as recently as the fall of 1997.
Additional references to Jewish prostitution occur in the writings of Sholom Aleichem, and Isaac Bashevis Singer. Aleichem's, The Gentlemen From Buenos Aires, features a Jewish procurer. Someone innocently asks him what he deals in. "Not in prayer books, my friend, not in prayer books," he replies, The story is set in Buenos Aires because -- along with Constantinople, Hamburg, Warsaw, New York, Rio De Janeiro, Manila, and, unexpectedly, Butte, Montana -- Buenos Aires was a principal destination for white slave traffickers right up to the beginning of World War II.
In one of Singer's early novels, The Magician of Lublin, the wife of an imprisoned gang member tells Yasha the Magician that she has an offer to go to America. "You mean New York?" asks Yasha. "No" she replies, "a different America." Yasha quickly informs her that in her circumstances "another America" means Buenos Aires and the offer is a veiled attempt to get her into a brothel.
Jews are represented in other fictional depictions of the trade of the time, such as Lincoln Steffen's Schloma, Daughter of Schmuhl, Elsa Jerusalem's The Red House; Sholem Asch's Mottke the Thief, Peretz Hirschbein's Miriam, and Moshe Richter's Schlaven Handler-Trafficker. One of modem Yiddish's three great progenitors, Mendele Mokher Sforim, weighed in with Valley of Tears.
Perhaps the most exotic reference comes from Rudyard Kipling, whose Ballad of Fisher's Boarding House, set in Calcutta's red-light district, included the following:
From Tarnau in Galicia
To Juan Bazar she came
To eat the bread of infamy
And take the wages of shame.(7)
Lest there be any doubt that the Galicia reference meant Jewesses, Lord Kitchener himself abetted the practice of encouraging European prostitutes -- largely Jewish -- for his troops in India, while discouraging English ones, to preserve "the moral character of the governing race." (8)
International Jewish prostitution was not eliminated until just before World War II. In the '20s and '30s, white slavery was actually a subbranch of the history of Jewish gangsters, boxers, and bootleggers.
The Jewish community faced the problem of how to work with the larger community to combat the international network of procurers. Jewish leaders intent on removing the worldwide scourge, and the embarrassing Jewish contribution in particular, were sometimes accused of responsibility for all white slavery. This accusation would surface despite extensive documentation that the trade was dominated by French, German, and Italian operators and that Jews dealt primarily with Jewish women. Consequently, those Jews working to suppress this sorry trade in Jewish poverty often found themselves stymied both by gentile accusations and by Jewish reluctance even to acknowledge that a problem existed.
It is precisely at this juncture that the best-known analysand of all time -- Bertha Pappenheim, more famously known as Freud's "Anna O" -- becomes a significant player. Anna O was the name given by Joseph Breuer and Freud to the young woman whose hysterical symptoms laid the foundation of psychoanalysis.(9) The pseudonym was used to guarantee anonymity to the young daughter of a well-to-do Viennese Jewish family, who suffered from a bizarre set of hysterical symptoms after the death of her father, with whom she had been very close, having attended him as a nurse during his death throes. Breuer documented his "talking cure" treatment, in which he hypnotized her and traced each symptom back to a specific traumatic event, almost effecting a cure thereby.(10)
It was this remarkable case, about which Breuer consulted Freud long after the event, which ultimately moved Freud to write The Interpretation of Dreams (read for the first time at a Tuesday night meeting of his B'nai B'rith lodge in 1899, and sent to Theodore Herzl in hopes of a favorable review) and thence to develop his full-blown theories of psychoanalysis. It was not until 1953, however, when Freud's disciple Ernest Jones wrote a definitive biography of the master, that Anna O was revealed as Bertha Pappenheim, whose treatment was broken off by Breuer in 1882, after she fantasized that she was having Breuer's baby.(11) Frightened by this development, Breuer broke off the treatment and went on a second honeymoon with his wife.
Despite the treatment, young Pappenheim again broke down and spent several years in a sanitarium, never totally recovering her sexuality. She emerged as an early feminist in the 1880s, but her subsequent career has been all but overshadowed by the pseudonymous Anna O.(12)
In fact, Bertha Pappenheim, using her Warburg-related family wealth, played perhaps the most prominent role of any individual in the fight against white slavery involving Jews. From 1882, when Breuer gave up her treatment, to 1888, Pappenheim remained in a sanitarium. In 1888 she and her mother moved to Frankfurt, where she began her far-flung campaign on behalf of fallen Jewish women. From 1890 on she mounted one mighty endeavor after another. In Frankfurt she founded a girl's orphanage and, at the same time, established the Judischer Frauenbund, a feminist organization, which ultimately enrolled some 20 percent of all German Jewish women. In 1906 she also established a home for wayward girls and illegitimate babies there before traveling to Eurasia (where she visited with the Czar's family) and the Americas to pursue her cause.(13)
Pappenheim also launched a remarkable literary career, which included the private publication of The Rummage Store (using a male nom de plume) and a three-act play entitled "Women's Rights" (1899; this time with a female pseudonym). In an essay on Jewish women, she argued for emancipation.(14) She had an extended correspondence and friendship with philosopher Martin Buber, whose theories she candidly admitted were opaque to her. When she died in 1936, Buber wrote a warm obituary, presumably never knowing Pappenheim was Anna O.(15) All this from a woman whom Joseph Breuer said would be better off dead.(16)
Even after Hitler's rise to power in 1933, Papenheim continued to expand her network of more than 60 stations, staffed by volunteers wearing armbands which read "for women, by women." Her work, in the end, was a major factor in dismantling the Zwi Migdal in Buenos Aires and ridding the entire trade of the "unclean ones."(17)
Thus it is that a proper Viennese Jewess appears in history at the end of the 19th century as a patient in the foundational case of psychoanalysis and then reappears in the 20th century as a heroine in the struggle against white slavery. Given the success of her second role, as compared to her first (she vigorously opposed the suggestion of psychotherapy for her charges),(18) it may well be that Freud's Anna O deserves far less recognition than Bertha Pappenheim.
(1) Edward J. Bristow, Prostitution and Prejudice (New York: Schocken, 1982).
(2) Bristow, Prostitution and Prejudice, p. 120.
(3) Bristow, Prostitution and Prejudice, p. 169.
(4) "Avi," from My Father, collected poems of Chaim Nachman Bialik (Tel Aviv, 1935).
(5) Polly Adler, A House Is Not a Home (New York: Cader, 1953).
(6) Bristow, Prostitution and Prejudice, p. 103-104.
(7) Rudyard Kipling, Vase Definitive E Dictim (New York: Doubleday, 1940), pp.40-43.
(8) Bristow, Prostitution and Prejudice, p. 144.
(9) Joseph Breuer and Sigmund Freud, Studies in Hysteria (London: Penguin, 1974), p. 73 et. seq.
(10) Breuer, The Life Work of Sigmund Freud (London: Penguin, 1961), pp. 202-204.
(11) Lucy Freeman, The Story of Anna O (New York: Paragon House, 1990) p.61.
(12) Freeman, Story of Anna O, pp.73-79.
(13) Freeman, Story of Anna O, pp. 61-75, 91-96.
(14) Freeman, Story of Anna O, p.121.
(15) His exact words were: "I not only admired her but loved her and will love her until the day I die." (Freeman, p. 173).
(16) Bristow, Prostitution and Prejudice, p. 305; Freeman, Story of Anna O, p. 143.
(17) Freeman, Story of Anna O, p.150.
(18) There are a number of little-known connections among Bertha Pappenheim; Breuer, and Freud. Breur's family differed sharply with Jones' characterization of their relative (Borch-Jacobsen, Remembering Anna O, [New York: Routledge, 1996], pp. 108-109). The Bernay family (Freud's wife, Martha, was a Bernay) were close to the Pappenheims and may have been related. The two girls knew each other well (Borch-Jacobsen, Remembering Anna O, p. 34; Freeman, Story of Anna O, p. 211). Freud, who never knew his wife's friend, was reliably reported to have explained Pappenheim's subsequent career as a vindication of his theories because it was "all a preoccupation with sexuality" (Borch-Jacobsen, Remembering Anna O, p. 98). This is quite consistent with Freud's criticism of Breuer to the effect that Breuer held the keys in his hand but failed to open the door.
(*) As early as 1908, Adolph Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf: "In no other city in Western Europe could the relationship between Jewry and prostitution and even now the white slave traffic be studied better than in Vienna...an icy shudder ran down my spine when seeing for the first time the jew as an evil, shameless and calculating manager of this shocking vice, the outcome of the scum of the big city."
Photo (The red-light district of Buenos Aires)