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Sandbank, T. (1997). Obituary: ERICH GUMBEL (1908-1994). Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 78:585-586.

(1997). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 78:585-586

Obituary: ERICH GUMBEL (1908-1994)

Tina Sandbank

Dr Erich Gumbel was an innovator, a pioneer. After Max Eitingon, he was the central figure responsible for establishing psychoanalysis in Palestine. Palestine, with its pioneer spirit, might have seemed an unlikely terrain for this highly sophisticated and inner-directed discipline to take root, blossom and give fruit. But it did, and in no small part, thanks to him.

Born and educated in Germany, but being a Jew, it was impossible for him to pursue his psychoanalytic training in Europe. He came to Palestine in 1934 in the wake of Max Eitingon, who received him warmly and accepted him immediately as a candidate. Gumbel was in both analysis and supervision with Eitingon.

Psychoanalytic work was done in a spirit of enthusiasm and devotion. Money was no issue. No one was rejected for treatment because of lack of means. In fact, a small fund was raised in order to provide needy patients with a daily lunch, as an empty stomach was not considered conducive to psychoanalysis (Gumbel, 1978). There were many language difficulties. Both analysts and patients were immigrants and often there was no common language except that of the unconscious. Gumbel wrote of this period:

There were many difficult hours—too many— when I felt that the task which I had set myself was too formidable. But in spite of this, the old question, why Palestine of all places, had become irrelevant. I now saw myself as a pioneer of a new science in a new land. Psychoanalysis was my vocation. I was young and I had found my true calling in life (Gumbel, 1995).

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