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Maciejewski, F. (2006). Freud, His Wife, and His “Wife”. Am. Imago, 63(4):497-506.

(2006). American Imago, 63(4):497-506

Historical Document

Freud, His Wife, and His “Wife”

Franz Maciejewski

Whoever undertakes to concern himself with the life of the founder of psychoanalysis is veritably bound to concede that Sigmund Freud, that great solver of riddles, has, in Peter Gay's words (1990), “left behind some intriguing private mysteries” of his own that are difficult of decipherment. “Probably the most titillating” of all these enigmas, Gay continues, concerns “the provocative Minna question” (164-65): did Freud have a love affair with his wife's younger sister, Minna Bernays, or not?

Ernest Jones, in his biography authorized by Freud's widow and children, felt compelled to acknowledge the rumors about his hero's extramarital life that had long been in circulation, but he energetically repudiated them: “His wife was assuredly the only woman in Freud's love life…. Freud no doubt appreciated [Minna's] conversation, but to say that she in any way replaced her sister in his affections is sheer nonsense” (1955, 386-87).

In an interview conducted in 1957 that was then published in 1969, however, Carl Gustav Jung—who during the years of his association with Freud had gotten to know him far more intimately than Jones ever did—called Jones's idealized version of Freud's marriage into question. According to Jung's account, during his first visit to Vienna in 1907, Minna Bernays had taken him into her confidence and confessed that “Freud was in love with her and that their relationship was indeed very intimate” (Billinsky 1969, 42).

There is not, and there never has been, any legitimate reason to question the veracity of Jung's testimony. The notion that he simply dreamed up the whole business in order to slander his former mentor is as good as absurd. Nevertheless, two leading members of the “Freud establishment,” Kurt R.

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