This is a guest post by Katherine Madison, archivist in the Manuscript Division. Of Note is an occasional series in which we share items that have caught our eye.
Ninety years ago, with the Nazi Party rising to power in Germany, psychoanalyst Frieda Fromm-Reichmann joined scores of other middle- and upper-class Jewish intellectuals who fled their country of birth. Fromm-Reichmann was one of many psychoanalysts and psychologists who left Germany in the 1930s; others included Sigmund Freud, Ernst Kris and Marianne Kris, and Frieda’s husband Erich Fromm. A collection of Frieda Fromm-Reichmann’s papers are newly processed and open for research in the Manuscript Division. Among them rests a small green booklet that tells her story of finding refuge – however temporarily – on her way to a new home in the United States.
Frieda Fromm-Reichmann was born in 1889 in the German city of Karlsruhe. She was the oldest of three children born to Orthodox Jewish parents Adolf and Klara Reichmann. She obtained her medical degree from the University of Konigsberg in 1913. In 1926, she married her former patient Erich Fromm, and in 1933, she fled Germany for Switzerland and then France. Two years later, she fled again, this time to the United States, where she lived and worked as a practicing psychoanalyst at Chestnut Lodge Sanitorium in Rockville, Maryland. (Famously, she is the inspiration for the character of Dr. Fried in the 1964 novel I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg.)
The small green booklet is Fromm-Reichmann’s carte d’identité of the French Republic. Issued April 14, 1933, it served as her identification document as a foreigner residing in France, to be carried with her at all times and available for presentation to any local authority. It lists the standard information one would expect from such a document – her name, date and place of birth, nationality, and a head and shoulders photograph. It also lists the names of her parents (as Adolphe and Clara, the French spellings) and, though they were by then maritally separated, Erich Fromm as her spouse. A dark pen line crosses out the space to name any children. Her French address is listed as 4 Rue des Francs-Bourgeois in the city of Strasbourg. Since none of the change-of-address pages are filled in, it is likely that Fromm-Reichmann lived in the same building her entire time in France.
Before the carte’s expiration date in April 1935, Fromm-Reichmann was already on her way to the United States. Other documents in the collection briefly flesh out her transatlantic journey: a visa from Zurich permitting her entry to France in April 1933; a copy of her marriage certificate with a stamp in the corner signed by the American Consul in Strasbourg in May 1934, validating that her husband was already in New York; and a medical certification from March 1935 indicating her “fitness to enter the United States under the provisions of the Immigration Act of February 5, 1917.” Additional documents show her efforts to help her mother and sister Grete gain entry to the United States in the late 1930s; they ended up immigrating to England. (Her other sister, Anna, later settled with her husband in Israel.)
Frieda Fromm-Reichmann died of a heart attack at her Maryland home in 1957. The Library’s collection of her papers consists mainly of documents that she had stored in her desk at Chestnut Lodge, including letters to and from family members, drafts of her many articles on psychoanalysis and psychosis, and prints of paintings done by her close friend (and fellow German Jewish refugee) Gertrud Jacob. Her carte d’identité from twenty-four years earlier was among these papers – preserving a memory of her flight from her country of origin and her journey to a new life.
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