Germany Bids Farewell to Famed Therapist and Feminist Margarete Mitscherlich-Nielsen
Margarete Mitscherlich-Nielsen, a renowned German psychoanalyst, feminist and author, died on June 12 in Frankfurt. She was 94.
In 1967 she co-authored a groundbreaking book with her psychoanlayst husband, Alexander Mitscherlich (1908-1982). In "Die Unfähigkeit zu trauern" (The Inability to Mourn) they suggested that the German people had not yet adequately processed the horrors of the Second World War. So they called upon Germans living in democratic postwar Germany to engage in more collective attempts to work through the terror and trauma of the Nazi era that hat brought so much death and destruction to the world. The book was a bestseller in Germany and was popular among the student activists involved in the 1960's protest movement at universities across the country.
Mitscherlich also became a leading figure of the feminist movement in Germany. In "Die friedfertige Frau" (The Peace-Loving Woman), published in 1985, she researched the role of women in politics and posited that women were not necessarily less aggressive than men, but were by contrast conditioned to become more passive participants in society.
Enlarge image Margarete Mitscherlich-Nielsen in 1987 (© picture-alliance/dpa)
"I have always said that women need to assert themselves not just against men, but also against themselves," she has been quoted as saying. "An emancipated woman is able to distance herself from preconceived values and ideas concerning her role."
Mitscherlich was born Margarete Nielsen on July 17, 1917 in Grasted, Denmark, near the German border. Her father was a Danish doctor and her mother was a German schoolteacher. After finishing high school in Flensburg, Germany's northernmost city, she studied medicine and literature in Flensburg, Munich and Heidelberg. She later worked with one of her teachers, the psychoanalyst Alexander Mitscherlich, at his Heidelberg clinic. The couple, who had a son together in 1949, wed in 1955.
After several years spent honing their craft in various venues at home and abroad (including London), they moved to Frankfurt, where she taught at the Sigmund Freud Institute. She treated both men and women in her Frankfurt practice, reportedly still seeing some patients until very late into her life.
Mitscherlich was a prolific writer. Among her many other works are "Müssen wir hassen?" (Must We Hate?), "Das Ende der Vorbilder" (The End of Preconceptions), "Die Zukunft ist weiblich" (The Future is Female), and "Die Radikalität des Alters" (The Radicality of Age). The latter book was published in 2010, when she was 93 years old.
She died in a Frankfurt clinic just a few weeks shy of her 95th birthday.
- "Mit Margarete Mitscherlich-Nielsen ist am Dienstag in Frankfurt am Main einer der klügsten Denkerinnen des Nachkriegs gestorben, ein Vorbild in jeder Hinsicht. (With Margarete Mitscherlich-Nielsen one of the wisest thinkers of the postwar era has died on Tuesday in Frankfurt am Main, a role model in every respect.)" - Der Spiegel (June 13, 2012)