EITINGON, MAX. 1881-1943.
Guest Book belonging to Dr Eitingon. 4to. Berlin and Jerusalem, 1922-1939. Leather bound album within a quarter morocco dropbox. Covers slightly worn.
Dr. Eitingon was one of the first Russian psychologists and one of the first and most faithful disciples of Sigmund Freud. His was a wealthy and unusual family: his cousin Motty was a successful New York fur dealer whose strong financial ties to the Soviet Union made him the largest trader in the world; and younger brother Nahum (a.k.a. Leonid) was a Soviet double agent and assassin who helped orchestrate the murder of Leon Trotsky in Mexico. Dr. Eitingon met Dr. Freud in 1908, joined the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society and underwent personal psychoanalysis with Freud. He moved to Berlin where he founded the Berlin Psychoanalytic Society. Here he and his wife Mirra were at the center of Russian émigré society and opened their home to thinkers, writers, artists, composers, musicians and other intellectuals. On Freud's recommendation, he left Germany for Palestine in 1933. The next year he founded the Palestine Psychoanalytic Association in Jerusalem and later the Psychoanalytic Institute.
The first entry in this book is by SIGMUND FREUD, in German, on being a guest in the Eitingon home: "I am not qualified to simply, freely render a verdict upon the hospitality, as I have lived here like a father among his beloved children. 28 Sept 1922. Sigm Freud." This warm inscription is immediately followed by one by his daughter, ANNA FREUD, also in German: "Someone who was very much at home in the guest room here and in front of the guest book and hopes always to be so. 28.9.22 Anna Freud." Contains other inscriptions by the German novelist ARNOLD ZWEIG and his wife Beatrice, who provides an original drawing; the Italian dramatist LUIGI PIRANDELLO ("Congnocersi è morire!"); the psychologist THOEDORE REIK; several by the Russian Jewish philosopher and existentialist LEV SHESTOV; the Viennese musician and composer RUDOLF RETI; Freud's friend, the Viennese psychoanalyst WALTER SCHMIDEBERG, who includes a poem; the Polish composer LEOPOLD GODOWSKY; and many others, including musical inscriptions by a variety of musicians. Especially noteworthy is the inscription at a memorial in honor of Freud in Jerusalem shortly after his death: "Freud -- Gedachtnisfeier 30 September, 1939." Then follows the signatures of all who attended the service.
Not only is this guest book of primary significance to the history of psychoanaysis in Berlin and later Jerusalem, it also touches on the Soviet intrigues of the time. Perhaps its most important aspect is that it shines new light on the warm, close relationship between Dr. Eitingon and the singer NADEZHDA PLEVETSKAYA [1879-1940] and her husband, General NIKOLAI VLADIMIROVICH SKLOBIN [1892-1938?], who were both implicated in one of the most notorious kidnapping cases of the 1930s. Although Vladmir Nabokov thought Plevetskaya was "a corny singer," she was the most popular one of the White Russian émigrés. Reportedly Tsar Nicholas II himself had nicknamed her "the Kursk nightingale." She sang with Chaliapin and recorded with Rachmaninoff. Alexandre Benois recalled that she "captivated all from the monarch down to the pettiest bourgeois, with her Russian beauty and the brilliance of her talent." Nabokov was less generous: "But the kind of people for whom music and sentiment are one, or who like songs to be mediums for the spirits of circumstances under which they had been first apprehended in an individual past, gratefully found in the tremendous sonorities of her voice both a nostalgic solace and a patriotic kick." General Skoblin, however, was a Soviet double agent who acted as courier between the Russian and the German secret police. On September 22, 1937, General Evgenii Karlovich Miller, the highest ranking White Russian officer in Europe, disappeared. He met Skoblin at 12:30, under the pretense that he would be introducing the general to two German agents involved with the overthrown of the Soviet Regime. They turned out to be members of the Soviet secret police who drugged the general and smuggled him into Russia, where he was tortured and finally shot on May 11, 1939. He left behind a note detailing his suspicions that Skoblin might be leading him into a trap. But Skoblin sought asylum at the Russian Embassy in Paris and was later smuggled into Spain. The Second Spanish Republic refused to extradite him to France. Plevetskaya was arrested; and despite Dr. Eitingon's sending an emissary to attest to her good character, she was convicted in the French courts for her part in the abduction, torture and murder of General Miller. She was sentenced to twenty years hard labor; she died two years later in prison. The final fate of her husband remains a mystery.
In 1943, Nabokov wrote his first short story in English, "The Assistant Producer," based on the incident. Érich Rohmer's Triple Agent brought the story to the screen in 2004. The case was reconsidered by Stephen Schwartz in an article, "Intellectuals and Assassins: Annals of Stalin's Killerati," that appeared in The New York Times Book Review (April 14, 1988), in which he accused the psychiatrist of being a double agent. This charge was challenged by Theodore H. Draper in The New York Review of Books on April 14; and Schwartz responded on June 16. The most extensive recent discussion of the case appears in The Eitingons: A Twentieth Century Story (London: Faber, 2009) by a member of the Eitingon family, London Review of Books editor Mary-Kay Wilmers. She concludes that the recent charges against Dr. Eitingon are absurd, but expresses concern over the complexity of certain contradictory circumstantial evidence. "Does it seem odd or merely Max-like that he didn't mention what happened to either Freud or Zweig?" Wilmer asks in her book. "Was he guilty? Embarrassed? Did he not want to say that these people were his friends" (p 249)? Two of the warmest inscriptions in the guest book are from Plevitskaya to the Eitingons in 1923 and 1925. Skoblin signs twice: once with a simple signature; and again next to his wife's lengthy note of 1925. The jury is still out on Dr. Eidingon's alleged compliance in the kidnapping of General Miller.