Siegfried Bernfeld  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Siegfried Bernfeld (May 7, 1892, Lemberg, Galicia, Austria-Hungary (today Ukraine) – April 2, 1953, San Francisco) was an Austrian psychologist and educator who was a native of Lemberg, which is now Lviv, Ukraine.

In 1915 he earned his degree in philosophy from the University of Vienna, where he also studied psychoanalysis, biology and sociology.

Siegfried Bernfeld was of Jewish ancestry. While still a student, he was involved in the psychoanalytical movement, and later became an important member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. From 1922 until 1925 he practiced psychoanalysis in Vienna, and from 1925 to 1932 worked at the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute. Subsequently he returned to Vienna, and with the threat of Nazism, went into exile in Menton on the French Riviera, where he stayed until 1936. Afterwards he emigrated to the United States, where he worked as an educator in San Francisco.

Bernfeld is remembered for his research in providing a link between psychoanalysis and educational theory. He was interested in the role of education, and how it related to issues such as social change and social inequality. He was an early proponent of Freudo-Marxism, and developed theories regarding the correlation of psychoanalysis with socialism. He regarded educational reformer Gustav Wyneken (1875-1964) an early influence in his career, and was a member of several liberal and "youth culture" organizations. From 1917 to 1921 Bernfeld was in charge of Zionistischen Zentralrat für West-Österreich (Zionist Central Council for Western-Austria), and in 1919 headed a project called Kinderheim Baumgarten, which provided housing and education for 300 Jewish children from Poland, who were displaced after World War I.

Among his written works was an influential book on infant psychology called Psychologie des Säuglings, and a 1925 work on educational theory titled Sisyphos, in which Bernfeld advocates a non-authoritarian educational system that stresses the importance of the instinctual life and the needs of the student. He also published an important work on psychoanalytic interpretation called Der Begriff der "Deutung" in der Psychoanalyse, in which he explains the correlation of psychoanalysis to scientific principles. Later in his career, he published several articles about the early scientific work of Sigmund Freud. He also collaborated with Artur Berger on the screenplay for Die große Liebe, a 1931 film directed by Otto Preminger.


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