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Grotjahn, M. (1988). On Being Born Twice An Attempt to Analyse the Immigration Experience. Brit. J. Psychother., 4(4):431-435.

(1988). British Journal of Psychotherapy, 4(4):431-435

Personal View

On Being Born Twice An Attempt to Analyse the Immigration Experience

Martin Grotjahn, M.D.

In 1936 I was thirty-two-years old, a physician and analyst (a member of the International Psychoanalytic Association since March 1936), and an assistant at the University Clinic for Neuropsychiatry in Berlin. Born in Berlin I was a fourthgeneration physician. Married to another medical doctor. We had a one-year-old son.

I realised it was impossible for us to live under a fascist regime. My situation was complicated by my marriage to a woman who, according to the Nazi rule, was partJewish (and according to Israeli law was gentile). As the son of my socialist father I was also politically suspect. Through unbelievably good luck I was given the chance to emigrate to the United States, specifically to the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas.

I remember how I was overwhelmed by a tidal wave of anxiety when I saw the Statue of Liberty as we approached New York Harbour. I expected to be arrested, separated from wife and infant son, not allowed to leave the boat, and brought back in chains as a deserter. This was partly a realistic fear but mostly an irrational anxiety: I had been brought up in a humanitarian environment but still in the outspoken Prussian tradition. One did not leave one's fatherland. One did not change one's mother tongue. My brother stayed and was killed in the war, as was my mother. Both they and I were what the racists would call ‘pure Aryan’.

My father had told me from earliest childhood: ‘Don't bother with Latin and Greek, French or English.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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