Dr. Max Eitingon was one of Sigmund Freud’s most devoted and valued colleagues. In 1907, he came from Switzerland, where he was studying, to see Freud—the first, as Freud later put it, “to reach the lonely man” from another country.1 Freud did not take to him immediately but once convinced of Eitingon’s dedication he received him into his inner circle.2 In 1919, when that strange “secret council” was formed “composed of the best and most trustworthy among our men,” Freud himself proposed Eitingon as the sixth of the seven members.3 By 1922, after an association of almost a decade and a half, Freud wrote to him that his acceptance in Freud’s inner circle had not come easily but “ever since [I] have allowed you to render me every kind of service, imposed on you every kind of task.”4 Since his death in 1943, Max Eitingon has gone down in the history of psychoanalysis as one of its commemorated “pioneers.”5

The New York Times Book Review of January 24, 1988, published an article by Stephen Schwartz, a fellow at the Institute of Contemporary Studies in San Francisco, entitled “Intellectuals and Assassins—Annals of Stalin’s Killerati.” The chief intellectual member of the “killerati” in the article was Dr. Max Eitingon.

According to Schwartz, “Dr. Max Eitingon was instrumental in preparing the 1937 secret trial in which the highest leaders of the Soviet Army, including the chief army commissar and eight generals, fell before the Stalinist execution machine.” Eitingon is said to have been drawn into the work of a “special unit [which] connived with Reinhard Heydrich of Hitler’s intelligence service.” Even more infamously, Eitingon was “involved in the murder of Ignace Reiss and the disappearance of General Miller” in 1937.

Max is also linked by Schwartz to his “brother,” Leonid Eitingon, “considered to be the KGB’s outstanding expert in operations against Russian anti-Communist exiles.” A book cited by Schwartz is said to “declare flatly” that Dr. Max Eitingon served Leonid Eitingon in the plot to abduct the anti-Soviet General Yevgeni Miller in Paris in 1937. Among the crimes attributed to Leonid is the murder of Leon Trotsky in Mexico in 1940.

If all this is true, Dr. Max Eitingon is one of the most remarkable cases on record of a double life or personality. In one of his incarnations, he was a man who had seemingly devoted his entire life to the advancement of psychoanalysis. In the other, he had belonged to a “special unit” which had carried out some of Stalin’s most murderous missions outside Russia.

My own interest in this case is twofold. When I first read the Times article, it struck me as a mixture of the true, the half true, and the improbable. The story of Dr. Max Eitingon seemed to be particularly suspicious, because no effort was made to explain how he could have lived his two lives at once. The KGB and its predecessors did not entrust the organization of these “killerati” missions to amateurs; they were set up by trained, seasoned professionals.

Leonid Eitingon was such a professional. But was it conceivable that Max was another, particularly if there was no evidence that he was the brother of Leonid except for the similarity of names? Schwartz’s article is not about “Stalin’s Killerati” in general. It is specifically about intellectuals who were also assassins. Max was an intellectual; Leonid was not. Therefore, the main burden of the article struck at Max rather than at Leonid, who was brought in on the ground that Max had allegedly served him.

The first question, then, is: Has an innocent man, Dr. Max Eitingon, been defamed? When I started out I did not know what the answer was, but I was interested in finding out. If he was not one of Stalin’s killers, he deserved to be vindicated; if he was, the mystery of his double life was even more fascinating.

The second question is historical in nature. What was the evidence for this shocking assault on Dr. Max Eitingon’s good name? What sources were used to make the story about him trustworthy? Did the article use its own sources fairly and accurately?

I intend to lay out the evidence and sources in the way that I have found them, with the help of the staff of The New York Review of Books.6 I will begin by examining the evidence and sources presented by Stephen Schwartz in his article in The New York Times Book Review. I was not satisfied, however, with a merely critical approach, and have undertaken independent research in an effort to solve the mystery of Max Eitingon. If Schwartz did not have the answer, what was it and where could it be found? We should be much closer to the truth at the end of our journey.



First, what do we know about Max Eitingon?

He was born in 1881 at Mohilev, Russia, the son of well-to-do orthodox Jewish parents. The family moved to Galicia, then in Austria, where his father acquired Austrian nationality, though after World War I Max Eitingon opted for Polish nationality. When he was twelve, the family moved again to Leipzig, Germany. He studied medicine, first at Marburg, Germany, and then at Zurich, Switzerland; from there he came to Vienna in 1907 with a severely disturbed patient whom he thought Freud might be able to help.7

Eitingon received his medical degree and moved to Berlin in 1909. For the next quarter of a century, he was the chief psychoanalytical figure in Berlin, the founder in 1920 of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Society and financial mainstay of the Berlin Polyclinic, the first Freudian training institute. A decade later he was president of the International Psycho-Analytic Association.

Eitingon was notable among those in Freud’s inner circle as the only one with independent means. As long as he was able to do so, he used his money generously in behalf of the movement. Freud once wrote to him: “You really are the most reckless member of my family.” Freud was referring to a loan in 1919 to himself of 2,000 marks, another of 1,000 to his sister-in-law, and financial assistance to his youngest son, Ernst.8

We happen to know a good deal about Eitingon’s financial fortunes thanks to Ernest Jones’s biography of Freud. Psychoanalytic circles were made aware of Eitingon’s wealth because of their dependence on his largesse or lack of it. We learn that the Berlin Polyclinic was made possible in 1920 by Eitingon’s generosity. When the psychoanalytic publishing house was threatened financially that year, Eitingon “saved the situation a few months later by inducing a sympathetic brother-in-law in New York to make the Verlag the handsome donation of $5,000.” In 1931, however, Jones records: “The family business from which Eitingon drew his income was in America, and the disastrous economic situation there had proved catastrophic for it. Before long Eitingon was for the first time in his life a poor man.”9

Another misfortune struck Eitingon in 1932. He suffered from a cerebral thrombosis which left him with a paresis of the left arm. When Freud learned that Eitingon had to spend several weeks in bed, the tables were turned and Freud offered to come to his financial rescue with a loan of $1,000.10

Though Freud valued Eitingon highly, it was not for his intellectual contributions. As a memoir of Eitingon puts it, he was rather the “initiator, teacher, administrator, reporter [on activities in the movement] and thanks to a generous nature, quite often financial backer.” He has been described by those who knew him later in Palestine as “calm, courteous, patient,” and also as “shy, modest, and quietly reserved,” traits pro-bably intensified by the coronary thrombosis of 1932 and a more serious heart attack in 1938, after which his health began to fail and his hearing was seriously impaired. He was unprepossessing physically, short and portly, bespectacled, with a Chaplinesque mustache, and he struggled all his life with a speech impediment.11

Eitingon made his first visit to Jerusalem as early as 1910 and decided to move there for good after Hitler took power in 1933. He left Germany for Palestine at the end of 1933.12 One of his first acts in Jerusalem was to found the Palestine Institute for Psychoanalysis.

In Palestine, he was fully occupied with his psychoanalytic mission. He had patients, students, held regular hours for receiving visitors, and even in his last months could not be deterred from coming daily for at least a short time to his Institute. A co-worker of those years tells of the time Eitingon spent trying to obtain employment, opportunities to recuperate, money, “or suitably interceding in certain quarters” for a large number of patients.13

In 1950, the now Israel Psycho-Analytical Society issued a volume entitled Max EitingonIn Memoriam with contributions by Arnold Zweig, the novelist; Anna Freud; S.J. Agnon, the preeminent Hebrew poet; Marie Bonaparte, the distinguished French psychoanalyst; and many others. They portray a gentle, studious, cultivated person. The same sense of him is given by Ernest Jones, who knew him well.

It is possible to get a fairly clear impression of Max Eitingon’s residence in Jerusalem from the letters between Arnold Zweig and Freud. Zweig lived in Haifa and saw Eitingon regularly. It appears from the correspondence that Eitingon stayed in Jerusalem throughout 1934 to 1938 with the exception of three annual trips between 1934 and 1937 to see Freud in Vienna and one trip to the Paris congress of the International Psychoanalytic Association and to see Freud in London in 1938. In 1936, Zweig wrote to Freud: “It is maddening that for the moment I cannot think of going into Jerusalem again to see the Eitingons. Theirs is the most delightful ménage in Jerusalem, and it is wonderful to have people so close who are so intimate with you and who carry out your work so faithfully.” In the very year, 1937, when Max Eitingon is supposed to have been organizing the kidnapping of General Miller in Paris, Zweig mentions him twice, once in May, writing that “at Eitingon’s suggestion I wrote down a joke that had been improvised by me for our meetings in Jerusalem,” and again in October, when Zweig was in Trieste, saying that Eitingon had told him on the telephone that Freud was “really extremely well.”14 It hardly seems believable that the man who was reporting to Zweig on Freud was at about the same time busy arranging a kidnapping in Paris.


Schwartz’s version of Eitingon’s relationship with Freud betrays a glaring ignorance of the two men. His article says:

From 1925 to 1937, Dr. Eitingon became Freud’s factotum and shield against the world…. He was a virtual social secretary to the old man.

Eitingon’s service to Freud long antedated 1925. After 1933, Eitingon, living in Jerusalem, was hardly in a position to be Freud’s “factotum and shield,” let alone a “virtual social secretary.” When this fatuity was pointed out by Peter Gay in a letter to The New York Times Book Review of March 6, 1988, Schwartz brazenly tried to cover his tracks:

My answer is that Eitingon was rich enough to travel extensively and did so, as well as using the telephone. His role as a go-between is described in Ernst L. Freud’s edition of “The Letters of Sigmund Freud and Arnold Zweig.”

After 1931, Eitingon was not rich and did not travel extensively. There is in fact nothing in the Freud-Zweig letters to justify the notion that Eitingon was a “go-between.” The closest to it that appears in the letters is that Eitingon on six occasions reported to Zweig on how Freud was getting along.15 Inasmuch as these letters are easily available, Schwartz must have gambled that no one would ever check up on him.

I have given this brief sketch of Max Eitingon’s life and work because almost all the facts I have been able to gather have a bearing on the problem of whether he was a member of “Stalin’s Killerati.” He appears to have devoted his entire life to the cause and practice of psychoanalysis. He would seem to have had few or even none of the attributes associated with professionals of the KGB or its predecessors OGPU and NKVD. He was known to have lost his financial support in 1931 and to have lived thereafter without the money to which he had previously been accustomed. He was apparently able to come to Paris once to attend a psychoanalytic convention in 1938, when in failing health. He never left Jerusalem again.

Yet this same man is supposed to have been instrumental in arranging the secret trial of Soviet generals in Moscow, the murder of Ignace Reiss in Switzerland, and the kidnapping of the White Russian General Yevgeni Miller in Paris, all in 1937.


Now we can examine the evidence and sources given in the article by Stephen Schwartz in The New York Times Book Review.

Schwartz depends for his information about Max Eitingon on two books. One is Chekisty: A History of the KGB by John J. Dziak, a specialist on Soviet political and military affairs at the US Defense Intelligence Agency.16 The other is High Treason by Vitaly Rapoport and Yuri Alexeev, two Soviet dissidents, who are said to have “fully researched, documented and written” their book in the USSR. 17

It is clear from both books that their authors had no firsthand knowledge or privileged information about Max Eitingon’s activities. They know only as much as their sources told them, and they must be judged on the way they use these sources.

Let us start with Schwartz’s allegation that there is “evidence” that Eitingon was instrumental in preparing the 1937 trial of Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky and seven other Soviet generals in 1937, who were accused of treasonous conspiracy with Nazi officials. What and where is the evidence?

It is not in Dziak’s book; he never mentions Max Eitingon in connection with the Tukhachevsky affair. It is not in the book by Rapoport and Alexeev, who also do not mention Eitingon as having any relation to that affair. It is not in the versions of the episode by Victor Alexandrov and Robert Conquest, discussed by Rapoport and Alexeev.18

Schwartz himself seems to have had difficulty believing his own story about Eitingon’s instrumentality in the Tukhachevsky trial. Toward the end of his article, he presents a version that is very different from the first one. He now brings in the former czarist general Nikolai Skoblin, who was alleged to be a double agent involved in a plot with the deputy Gestapo chief Reinhard Heydrich to incriminate Tukhachevsky. It may be argued, Schwartz acknowledges, that Max Eitingon’s participation in the NKVD’s activities

must have been slight, although without his involvement as the link to Skoblin the liquidation of the Soviet generals might not have been carried out so easily. And, not to put too fine a point on it, it is not pleasant to imagine an associate of Freud in league with a henchman of Heydrich.

We will get to this alleged “link to Skoblin” very shortly, but whatever it was, it could not have put Eitingon in a position to participate in the preparation of the secret trial of the Soviet generals. The Skoblin link, as we shall see, is tenuous enough; it becomes ludicrous by stretching it as far as the liquidation of Marshal Tukhachevsky.19 It is surely not pleasant to imagine an associate of Freud in league with a henchman of Heydrich, but that is a problem of Schwartz’s imagination.

Next we come to Schwartz’s implication that Eitingon was part of a “special unit” involved in the murder of Ignace Reiss.

Reiss was a disaffected Soviet secret agent who was shot to death in Switzerland in September 1937. Again Dziak says nothing about Max Eitingon in connection with this case. Rapoport and Alexeev say nothing. Walter Krivitsky, at that time still chief of Soviet military intelligence in Western Europe, who was a friend of Reiss and was alarmed by his murder, makes no such allusion.20 Reiss’s widow, Elizabeth Poretsky (his name was originally Poretsky), wrote a book about his life and death without making the slightest reference to Eitingon.21 If anyone could have exposed Eitingon’s role in Reiss’s murder, it would have been Krivitsky or Elizabeth Poretsky. I have looked through the literature on the Reiss assassination without finding the slightest hint of anything implicating Max Eitingon. This tie-up, too, is nonexistent.

We have here a buildup of at least three cases of Max Eitingon’s alleged contributions to the “annals of Stalin’s killerati.” At least two have absolutely no foundation. If the three were to be believed, they would make Eitingon into a professional NKVD operator on the highest level, with little time or energy for anything else. But the third charge is the real Eitingon mystery, though not the way Schwartz tells it.


On September 22, 1937, General Yevgeni Karlovich Miller left his office at 29 rue du Colisée in Paris and never returned. Miller was the head of the Russian General Military Union, known as ROVS from the Russian name, the leading organization of émigré czarist veterans. His predecessor, General P.A. Kutyepov, had disappeared in somewhat similar circumstances in 1930. Miller’s disappearance was a cause célèbre of the late 1930s.

No one had been charged in Kutyepov’s case, but Miller’s was different. He had taken the precaution to leave a note to the effect that he was going to an appointment with his aide at ROVS, General Nikolai Skoblin, who had arranged a meeting with a German officer. After Miller disappeared the incriminating letter was shown to Skoblin, and, apparently as a result, he also disappeared. It is believed that Skoblin was a double agent, working for both the Soviet and Nazi secret services, and that he was primarily responsible for Miller’s fate.

Skoblin got away, but his wife, Nadezhda Plevitskaya, a popular singer of Russian folk songs, famous in her day, was less lucky. She was picked up by the French police and eventually put on trial in December 1938. At the trial, an “M. Oetingen” (as the name appeared in Le Temps), “Oetington,” “Eitington” (as it appears in other sources), or “Eitingon” was mentioned.22 Virtually the entire case against Max Eitingon as a secret Soviet agent engaged in assassinations is actually based on his mention in this trial.

Let us now go back to Stephen Schwartz’s treatment of the evidence of Max Eitingon’s guilt in the disappearance of General Miller.

In his book, “Chekisty: A History of the KGB” (D.C. Heath & Company), Mr. Dziak reports that one of the group’s key agents in the kidnapping of General Miller was none other than a close personal associate of Sigmund Freud and a pillar of the psychoanalytic movement, Dr. Max Eitingon (sometimes misidentified as Mark), the brother of Leonid Eitingon.

We will leave for the time being the question of whether Max Eitingon had a brother named Leonid. Here is what Dziak says about Max Eitingon’s role in the Miller affair:

[Leonid] Eitingon was one of the more enigmatic figures of Stalin’s state security. His father and brother were doctors in Europe, the brother Mark a psychiatrist and student of Sigmund Freud. Mark apparently was linked to General Skoblin and his wife Plevitskaya; he moved to Jerusalem two days before the kidnapping of General Miller.

. . .

Plevitskaya’s connection to Mark Eitingon apparently involved significant financial support, but whether the money came from the Eitingon family or from Soviet sources is unclear. (The Eitingon family at one time had been well-off but apparently lost much of its wealth in the depression.)23

That is all. It may be noticed that Dziak never uses the name Max Eitingon; he always refers to Mark. Dziak also never uses the name Leonid; he always refers to a Naum. The reason for this curious confusion of names is that Dziak uses as his source the book by Rapoport and Alexeev, who in their turn use a Russian source that makes the same transformation of names.24 One would imagine that the difference in names would have presented a problem to Schwartz. Instead, he covers up the mixup by blithely informing his readers that Dr. Max Eitingon was “sometimes misidentified as Mark.”

There is no authority for this alleged misidentification. Schwartz’s main sources, Dziak and Rapoport-Alexeev, if they were at all well-informed, must have been aware of the existence of a Dr. Max Eitingon, a well-known figure in psychoanalytic history. Max never used the name of Mark. The misidentification, if there was one, itself demands an explanation which cannot be found in Dziak or Rapoport-Alexeev.

In any case, there is more trouble with Dziak’s version. He has Mark’s father a doctor in Europe. Max’s father was not a doctor. Mark is supposed to have moved to Jerusalem two days after the kidnapping of General Miller. Max had moved to Jerusalem for good in 1933.

In a note, Dziak makes matters even less credible.

There is considerable confusion over the activities of the two Eitingon brothers. Mark was linked to Nadezhda Plevitskaya and her husband General Skoblin. However, a Soviet dissident work has Naum as the one who probably recruited Plevitskaya in 1919 and directed the kidnappings of Generals Kutyepov and Miller.25

And what is this dissident Soviet work? None other than the book by Rapoport and Alexeev.

In fact, then, Dziak is hardly in a position to “report” with any independent authority that Dr. Max Eitingon was one of the “key agents in the kidnapping of General Miller.”

We now come to Schwartz’s other main source, High Treason, by Rapoport and Alexeev. This is how Schwartz works it into his article:

In his book, Mr. Dziak concludes that it was Dr. Max Eitingon who recruited Skoblin and Plevitskaya into the special unit. That charge is supported by other historians. At the time of the kidnapping of General Miller, Dr. Eitingon decamped for Palestine, where he had previously established a psychoanalytic institute. The dissident Soviet historians Vitaly Rapoport and Yuri Alexeev declare flatly in their book, “High Treason” (Duke University Press), that Dr. Eitingon, serving his brother Leonid, was the control agent for Skoblin and Plevitskaya. Plevitskaya described him at her trial as her financial angel. Soon after Dr. Eitingon left Europe, so did his brother.

If we turn to Rapoport-Alexeev to see what kind of support they give Dziak, we find, as I have noted, that Rapoport-Alexeev never mention Max or Leonid Eitingon; they make the confusion of names all the worse by always referring to Mark and Naum Ettingon. But it is here that we approach the source of the story picked up and distorted by Schwartz.

This is from Rapoport-Alexeev:

Most likely Skoblin had been recruited by the NKVD through his wife, the famous Russian singer Nadezhda Plevitskaya. Plevitskaya’s superior in the NKVD was the legendary Naum Ettingon. Her contact and bagman was Ettingon’s brother Mark.26

All this appears to be authoritative, even if it is about Mark, not Max, and about Ettingon, not Eitingon. It has, however, not the slightest authority of its own. A note after the first sentence tells us to go to the book by Boris Prianishnikov, published in Russian under the title The Invisible Web, to learn about Skoblin and Plevitskaya. A note after the third sentence plaintively instructs us that “very little is known about the evil figure of N. Ettingon.” It then sends the reader to a two-page appendix on Naum Ettingon, the alleged misidentification for Leonid.

This appendix begins with the equally discouraging words: “Information about Naum lakovlevich Ettingon is laughably scarce.” Nevertheless the authors go on for almost two pages with what they think they know about Mark and Naum. About Mark they say:

Mark Ettingon was a psychiatrist, a student of Sigmund Freud, and a friend of Princess Maria [sic] Bonaparte. For many years he was a generous patron of Nadezhda Plevitskaya. She said at her trial that “he dressed me from head to foot.” He financed the publication of her two autobiographical books. It is unlikely that he did so only for the love of Russian music. It is more likely that he acted as messenger and finance agent for his brother Naum.27

This, then, is the source of the story that Max Eitingon was “the control agent for Skoblin and Plevitskaya,” as Schwartz put it, and that “Mark Ettingon” was the “messenger and finance agent for his brother Naum,” as Rapoport and Alexeev have it. But Rapoport and Alexeev had merely surmised—“It is more likely”—that Mark Ettingon had played such a role for his brother Naum. By the time this bit of pure speculation came out in Schwartz’s version, Rapoport and Alexeev were made to declare “flatly” that Dr. Eitingon, “was the control agent for Skoblin and Plevitskaya.”

In fact, Rapoport and Alexeev make clear that they have been drawing on and embellishing the Russian book by Prianishnikoff which is the real source of their story, even to the use of the name Mark instead of Max, though they change Prianishnikoff’s “Eitington” to their “Ettingon.” So far the core of the mystery is in Prianishnikoff’s book.


Prianishnikoff’s book is wholly the result of research in public libraries and private archives. His information about “Mark Eitington” comes from the trial of the singer and wife of General Skoblin, Nadezhda Plevitskaya, in Paris in December 1938. Prianishnikoff introduces the testimony of one witness, Leonid Raigorodsky, in the following way:

Raigorodsky and the well-to-do M. Ya. Eitington, who was then living in Berlin, were married to two sisters. Both men admired the talented Plevitskaya. A close platonic relationship even developed between Eitington and Plevitskaya. In 1930, after the kidnapping of General Kutyepov, Plevitskaya’s book, My Road With A song, was published by the “Tair” publishers with a moving inscription: “Dedicated to my loving friend, M. Ya. Eitington.”

The name “M. Ya. Eitington” should have been a signal that something was wrong in the identification with Max Eitingon. The latter’s patronymic could not have been “Ya.” No effort was apparently made to check on the name of Max Eitingon’s father. In addition, Raigorodsky and Max Eitingon were not married to two sisters. We will come to their relationship later; meanwhile, it is enough to note that Prianishnikoff was misled by references to Raigorodsky at the trial of Plevitskaya.

Plevitskaya herself testified about her friend Eitingon in Berlin. Prianishnikoff gives this exchange at her trial:

Q. What was the source of income of you and your husband?

A. I gave concerts, I made money, my concert performances paid very well, especially on my tour of the Baltic countries, Finland, and the Balkans.

Q. But we know that you lived above your means.

A. No, no. And whenever we were short of money, we could count on my friend Eitington’s support. A wealthy man, he sent us money from Berlin. Just how much—I don’t remember exactly. My husband knew about that; he was in charge of our family’s finances.

Prianishnikoff soon tells us more about his Mark Eitington:

In Skoblin’s office, among other papers, there were also letters addressed to Plevitskaya from Mark Eitington and members of his family. Eitington was that same patron who, in Plevitskaya’s own words, supported the Skoblins during hard times. A well-to-do physician-psychiatrist, Eitington lived in Berlin and was financially connected to the Soviet fur trade; his brother sold furs and thus contributed to the USSR’s amount of currency. In September 1937, he and his wife, the former actress of the Moscow Art Theater, arrived in Paris on business and stayed at the George V hotel. From the hotel he telephoned to Ozoir [-la-Ferrière, where the Skoblins had a house] and talked with the Skoblins. On September 20, at 6 AM, two days before Miller’s disappearance, Eitington left for Florence, and then for Palestine. The Skoblins saw him off at the Lyons train station.

Eitington is identified as a “physician-psychiatrist,” which would fit Eitingon. But he is put in Berlin again, which suggests that the reference is to Eitingon’s Berlin period, not to any time after 1933. Moreover, Eitington is here made to leave for Palestine at this time, in 1937, as if to make his getaway, more than three years after Max Eitingon had already settled there.

We then get more of Plevitskaya’s testimony, in Prianishnikoff’s version:

Q. You used to receive money from M. Eitington. Who is he?

A. He is a very close friend, a scholar-psychiatrist. His wife is a former actress of the Moscow Art Theater.

Q. Were you intimately involved with Eitington?

A. I never sold myself. I accepted gifts from both of them. But whether my husband received any money, that I don’t know.

Q. How can that be true? Didn’t you yourself say that Eitington provided you with clothing?

A. No…I said that accidently. Madame Eitington gave gifts to others too…. I have never stained my womanly honor, and I have never received gifts for any intimate deeds. Whoever knows Eitington would never believe that there could have been any improper incidents.

We have from this testimony reason to believe that Plevitskaya knew an Eitington or Eitingon. We have nothing here or elsewhere in Plevitskaya’s testimony that the relationship had anything to do with General Miller’s disappearance.

A French financial auditor, M. Février, who went through Plevitskaya’s accounts, testified, according to Le Temps of December 12, 1938: “The concerts, records and books of Plevitskaya amount to little; the generosity of M. Oetingen, psychiatrist of Jerusalem, are not verifiable.”

That “psychiatrist of Jerusalem” could only have referred to Max Eitingon, whatever the confusion of names may have been. Février, however, had found no evidence of “generosity” in the Skoblin-Plevitskaya papers that were available in Paris.

We get much closer to Eitington or Eitingon in other testimony by Leonid Raigorodsky, as given by Prianishnikoff:

Q. Where is Mr. Eitington now, your brother-in-law?

A. He lives in Palestine.

Q. Is it true that he used to clothe Plevitskaya from head to toe and gave Skoblin large sums of money?

A. Mark Eitington is a rich man of independent means. How he helped Plevitskaya with money, I don’t know. That money never passed my hands. But Eitington helped many people. His father founded a hospital in Leipzig, and a street is named in his honor. After his death he left his sons 20 million marks. Mark Eitington is a respected man, an esteemed scholar, a student of Freud, and a friend of Princess Marie Bonaparte. He is as clean as snow.

Q. Is he not the one who, in London and Berlin, used to sell Soviet furs?

A. It was not he, it was his brother. In this type of trade there is nothing reprehensible, but Mark had nothing to do with it.28

On close examination, Février and Raigorodsky tell us nothing about what we want to know about General Miller’s disappearance and any part that Max Eitingon, Mark Eitington, or M. Oetingen may have played in it.

Raigorodsky in turn was asked personal questions about his brother-in-law, “M. Eitington,” who certainly seems to be Max Eitingon. But otherwise he says nothing and knew nothing about the main issue—what did his brother-in-law have to do with General Miller’s disappearance? Raigorodsky’s statement that Eitington-Eitingon was a rich man could only have referred to years past, not to the circumstances of 1938. He did not know anything about money given to Plevitskaya, which was the main reason for his testimony. Yet he knew that there was some sort of Soviet connection with the fur business, through a brother, although that was not quite right—he was a first cousin. He was right about the father’s past connection with Leipzig. In the end, Raigorodsky merely testified that he knew Max Eitingon and he showed that he had a general, not altogether accurate, notion of his circumstances and background.


The next exhibit in the Eitingon dossier is not in any of the sources we have so far mentioned.

General Miller’s followers in Paris published the plaidoirie, or argument, of the chief counsel for the Miller family, Maître Maurice Ribet.29 He first sketched the relationship between General Skoblin and Plevitskaya. They had met in Russia during the civil war. Plevitskaya was then married to her second husband, an officer in the Soviet army. Skoblin became her lover and then her third husband.

According to Ribet, they had been Soviet agents since 1927. But they were also double agents, for the Germans as well as the Soviets, and needed a cover to account for their livelihood. This cover was said to have been provided by Plevitskaya’s earnings from her concerts. Yet a French auditor, M. Février, had found that her earnings could not have been enough to pay for their lavish style of life.

At this point Ribet introduced the name of Eitingon. It first appeared in a passage dealing with Plevitskaya’s movements on the night of September 23, 1937, after the disappearance of her husband, General Skoblin, had alarmed her. Here, according to Ribet, is what happened next:

The night of the twenty-third? You know where she passed it! First, she went to see her doctor who did not wish to keep her at his home and took her to that of the brother-in-law of M. Eitingon, who took her in and who, for fear of compromising himself, brought her the next morning to [the] Gallipoli [Association, made up of White Russian émigrés]. It is there, Messieurs, that [Commissaire] M Roches took her in charge and turned her over to the police who have been holding her ever since.

The brother-in-law, as we have seen, was Leonid Raigorodsky. This was how, in this version, he was drawn into Plevitskaya’s story—Plevitskaya’s doctor had brought her to him. In any case, Raigorodsky turned her over to the police.

Another version of Raigorodsky’s role indicates that Plevitskaya’s visit to him can in no way suggest that he or the Eitingons were involved in the Miller affair. Geoffrey Bailey has a chapter on the kidnapping of General Miller in his book The Conspirators, which is detailed but lacking any indication of its sources. According to Bailey, Plevitskaya allegedly went to get a sedative from her doctor, whose name was Chekunov. Later, the doctor’s wife had telephoned Raigorodsky to inquire whether she could see him right away. This account then follows:

Shortly thereafter she had appeared in the company of Plevitskaya, with whom he was, he said, “but slightly acquainted.” At this point—or at least that is what he claimed—Raigorodsky knew only what he had read in the evening papers, namely that both Miller and Skoblin had vanished. Plevitskaya, he said, was in a state nearing hysteria and so despite their “slight acquaintance,” he suggested that she stay overnight. After reading the morning papers, however, he had realized that he was, in fact, giving hospitality to a fugitive from justice and in the end he had succeeded in convincing Plevitskaya that the best thing she could do under the circumstances was to give herself up to the police. She had begged, however, that she be first taken back to the Gallipoli Association. Only when, on her arrival there, she learned that there was still no news of her husband and no message for her, did she finally agree to be driven to Paris police headquarters, Quai des Orfèvres.30

I do not know where this account comes from, but it does not conflict in essentials with that given by Ribet. If so, the connection of Raigorodsky with the Eitingons and his behavior when Plevitskaya stayed with him have nothing incriminating about them. A co-conspirator would not have behaved that way.

Next Ribet turned his attention to the Skoblin-Plevitskaya finances. How did they make up the difference? What were their mysterious “resources”?

Ribet now summoned up all his considerable powers of ridicule and scorn for the benefit of the jurors:

Mysterious resources? Plevitskaya, Messieurs, has a fertile imagination; a man, a scholar, an old friend, a psychoanalyst, Dr. Eitingon, who lives in Jerusalem, came with the most honorable intentions to the assistance of her ménage; he considered his protégé as if she were a holy icon, dressed her “from head to foot” and from time to time made little payments to her.

There is the explanation that has been offered to take advantage of your naiveté.

Ribet obviously thought that the Eitingon connection was a product of Plevitskaya’s “fertile imagination” and had been concocted to cover up the real source of her apparent wealth. He went on:

So you see that from this point of view everyone agrees with the expert, M. Février: there were mysterious resources. Where did the money come from? It has been impossible to discover the exact source. It comes, if we believe the avowal of the accused, in part from M. Eitingon. On the other hand it is said that Dr. Eitingon is an honorable man. I can affirm that there is a doctor who formerly lived in Berlin and who decided to leave for Jerusalem. He is the son and nephew of the Eitingons who settled themselves in London and Leipzig, and I can say that the activity of his father and his uncle consisted of selling, on behalf of the Soviets, “requisitioned” furs in Siberia, and when I say “requisitioned,” you know that I am employing the Soviet word which is only a euphemism. Have they made a very great fortune? But all this is natural: the profit was all the greater since the furs did not cost anything.

After which Ribet summed up his view of Eitingon’s role:

I can say that Dr. Eitingon, if we do not have absolute proof that he is a Soviet agent, has a source of money which is clearly impure.

Thus Ribet cast doubt on the story that an M. Eitingon was the main source of Plevitskaya’s mysterious financial resources. He denied that there was definite proof that this Eitingon was a Soviet agent. Finally, he settled for the general imputation that it was “impure” to do business in Soviet furs. On this reasoning, no one in France should have imported anything from the Soviet Union, since everything had been “requisitioned” by the Soviet state and there was no other way to do business with it. By 1937–1938, moreover, Max Eitingon had been getting very little from his relatives in the fur business in New York, who were just beginning to recover from the crash earlier in the decade.

Ribet made one other significant allusion. He referred to a green Bible that Plevitskaya had asked for at her judicial examination. In this Bible, he charged, there was “a key to a cipher with which to translate certain secret letters.”31

In his reply to letters in The New York Times Book Review of March 6, 1988, Stephen Schwartz alleges:

According to French police files at the Hoover Institution in California, French officials discovered in Plevitskaya’s home a Bible sent to her by Max Eitingon from Palestine, which the police concluded was used for encryption.

Police files are not the most reliable of historical sources; they are usually a mixture of fact, gossip, and speculation. Such files are even more suspect when they contain raw data from informants who never need to appear in public or face cross-examination.

The relevant portions of the file to which Schwartz alludes, and which I have examined, contain two references to the Bible in question. The mentality behind the first reference may be gathered from an introductory remark:

It is, moreover, a constant rule in all countries that spies are recruited among the women of the theater, singers, stars, or demimondaines. Thus Troukhanova, the celebrated dancer and wife of Count Ignatieff (who went over to the Soviets), and friend of the singer Plevitskaya, had been a Bolshevik spy (which the latter denies).

The following is then based on the testimony of one Simenoff:

To justify a part of her income, Plevitskaya claimed to have a patron in the person of Mr. Eitingon, who had lived in Berlin and was now settled in Jerusalem. This same Eitingon presented Plevitskaya with the famous Bible, which the prisoner so much demanded and which contained, it appears, the key to the cryptographic language used by Skoblin to correspond with his collaborators of the “interior line” [a special group headed by Skoblin within the émigré military organization]. Now, Eitingon was a high Soviet functionary in Berlin, assigned to sell off Siberian furs for the government of the USSR [Hearing, Simenoff].

The second reference occurs in a summary of the information gathered in the course of the police investigation. It states that the investigators came to an early conviction that Plevitskaya knew all about the political activity of her husband, General Skoblin. It then goes on:

Certain incidents during the search made at Ozoir-la-Ferrière, especially the Bible which Plevitskaya insistently asked for and which—a fact established previously—furnished the key for the cryptography of the documents, certain letters written by various correspondents to Skoblin about which his wife has not yet been interrogated, in some way confirm the first impressions of the investigators.

The intelligence based on Simenoff is a typical jumble. It makes Max Eitingon into a high Soviet functionary in Berlin who spent his time selling furs for the Soviet Union. Ribet and the police intelligence summary did not see fit to mention Eitingon in connection with the Bible. We are told that there was a cryptographic cipher in the Bible, but not how it got there or who put it there.

In this case, however, Schwartz was right about a fact but wrong about the source—and what it signifies. There is indeed reason to believe that Max Eitingon had sent a Bible to Plevitskaya from Palestine.


Plevitskaya was convicted of complicity in the disappearance of General Miller and given an unusually harsh sentence of twenty years at hard labor. She died in prison at Rennes in 1944.

While awaiting trial in 1937–1938, Plevitskaya wrote a so-called diary, which is more like a collection of random memories.32 Somehow it found its way to the Rare Book and Manuscript Department of the Columbia University Library. It consists of six notebooks of about two hundred pages in her scribbled handwriting. Three pages are devoted to “my friend Eitingon.” She evidently set down her thoughts whether they made sentences or not and some words are virtually illegible. Nevertheless, the sense is unmistakable and helps to solve the mystery of Max Eitingon.

Here is the excerpt on Max Eitingon from Plevitskaya’s diary in full:

Max Eitingon, a well-known psychoanalyst doctor, chairman of the international psychoanalyst society, personal friend of Professor Freud, son of a rich furrier, inherited everything after the death of his father. He does not concern himself with politics, does not subscribe to parties, especially to the Communist. Scholarly, rich. What does he need Communists for?

His wife is a former actress of the Moscow Art Theater. Both are cultured, art-loving—always helping artists. Our friendship lasted for fifteen years. They helped us materially.

The writer, I.S. Lukash, edited my memoir, Dyozhkin Karagod, and the second part Moy put’s pesney.33 The first book, “D.K.,” begun in Paris was continued in Berlin in the Eitingons’ apartment. M. Eitingon published “D.K.,” paid for the printing—timing the gift for my fifteenth anniversary [of the beginning of her career].

Lukash used to come to the home of the Eitingons, and knows that they were not busy there with politics and commerce. Anyway the content of my book itself shows that an “admirer” or a “worker” of the Communists would not publish such memoirs which eulogize what came before the Bolsheviks.

When Hitler was enthroned in Germany, the Eitingons went to Palestine. From there they used to come to Europe, we saw each other. From Jerusalem they sent me a holy book, the Bible, which came up in court. The Eitingons knowing that it would give me special joy sent me the Bible. And through Dr. I.A. Goldenshtein they sent me an icon of Nikolai the miracle worker. They sent me holy water from Jordan and candles from the Lord’s sepulchre. So where is Communism?

The writer I.S. Lukash could say what he saw at the home of the Eitingons in 1925.

Dr. I.A. Goldenshtein brought me the icon from Jerusalem in 1936. (My views and tastes have not changed since that time.)

The numerous letters of Mira Yakovlevna Eitingon show that the friendship continued and the help was also there whenever it was needed.

These rather artless jottings by a probably distraught woman in prison provide the missing link in the chain of circumstances that has led to the Eitingons. Plevitskaya came from a simple peasant background, her education was apparently limited, and her head was full of primitive religiosity. That her husband, Skoblin, managed to escape and that she does not seem even to have tried to get away suggests that he may have been the prime Soviet agent and that she was caught in the net as his wife.

It is clear that Plevitskaya knew the Eitingons in Berlin during the period when they were more affluent. This acquaintance is not surprising; the Eitingons were known for their hospitality and assistance to intellectuals and artists of all kinds. Plevitskaya was then a beautiful singer and something of a celebrity. She was so famous that a book was put out in Moscow in 1970 about three of the most famous “stars of the Russian stage,” of whom she was one.34 At her trial, Plevitskaya seemed to hark back to her friendship with the Eitingons in Berlin, as if she remembered them best from that period.

One also gets the impression that Plevitskaya was closest to Mira, Max Eitingon’s wife. They had most in common, one being a former actress and the other a singer; Plevitskaya significantly mentions the letters from Mira Yakovlevna Eitingon. It has been somewhat of a mystery why Plevitskaya should have dedicated her 1930 book to “M. Ya. Eitingon,” if she had intended to pay tribute to Max Eitingon. The answer seems to be that she was dedicating the book to Mira Yakovlevna and not to Max, who could not have used the patronymic “Ya.”

They seem to have seen Plevitskaya on their occasional trips from Palestine to Europe. She said at her trial, according to Prianishnikoff, that she saw them in Paris in 1937 two days before the disappearance of General Miller and that they had been escorted to the train by her husband and herself.

We also know that Max Eitingon attended the Paris congress of the International Psychoanalytic Association in 1938, from which he had gone to see Freud in London for the last time.35 In that year he had suffered a severe “coronary condition.” In the same year the French police were busily conducting their investigation into the disappearance of General Miller for the trial of Plevitskaya at the end of the year.

It seems strange that Eitingon should have visited Paris at the very time that this investigation was going on without being troubled by the French authorities. It seems even stranger that a veteran Soviet agent would have put his name in or in some other way have permitted himself to be linked to a Bible sent to Plevitskaya with a secret cipher.36 There is no telling who put the cipher in the book or why Plevitskaya would have drawn attention to it by asking for it in prison. If this cipher in the Bible is attributed to Eitingon, it would imply that he was running a secret Soviet ring in Paris from faraway Jerusalem—an aspect of the story that surely strains credibility. There is also no reason why Max and Mira Eitingon should have known of Skoblin and Plevitskaya as secret Soviet agents; the Skoblins had not been suspected by the White Russian émigrés with whom they had worked for years, in a quasi-military organization, and who were most suspicious of anything faintly pro-Soviet.

There remains the question of Max Eitingon’s alleged brother Leonid who was almost certainly a high officer in the OGPU and later the NKVD. There is a considerable literature on Leonid, epecially his role in the assassination of Trotsky. What is at issue here is whether there is any evidence that he was the brother of Max Eitingon.

Schwartz, following Dziak, makes the flat statement that Max and Leonid Eitingon were brothers, and based on Rapoport-Alexeev, the additional assertion that Max “serving his brother Leonid, was the control agent of Skoblin and Plevitskaya.” So we again have to turn to their books to find out whether there is any truth in these allegations.

Dziak, as usual, made Max and Leonid Eitingon brothers on the authority of Rapoport and Alexeev.37 They in turn made “Mark” the brother of “Naum”—their stand-ins for Max and Leonid—by referring to Prianishnikoff.38 The testimony in Prianishnikoff’s book from the trial of Plevitskaya never alludes to a link between “Mark Eitington” and a Naum or Leonid.

Thus Schwartz leads to Dziak who leads to Rapoport-Alexeev who lead to Prianishnikoff who leads to nowhere. The only apparent reason for making Max Eitingon the brother of Leonid is that they had similar family names, as if every male with the name of Eitingon must have been a brother of Max.

A book by a French specialist in Soviet espionage, P.F. de Villemarest, suggests that there had been some confusion, even among experts, between Max and Leonid Eitingon. Villemarest refers to a “Dr. Oettingen, an alleged importer of Soviet furs, via Leipzig, in Germany.” After stating that this Oettingen “disappeared” two days after the kidnapping of General Miller, Villemarest identifies him as “a strange personage whom several witnesses will be sure to recognize the following year at the Soviet embassy bearing the features of the assistant military attaché, Leonid A. Eitingon.” One wonders how much of the case against Max Eitingon has rested on this type of mistaken identity.39


There was a branch of Dr. Max Eitingon’s family in America. Years ago I happened to know the head of the family. When I found myself embroiled in the Eitingon mystery, I decided to get in touch with the present generation of the family and learn as much as possible about the connection with Max Eitingon.

This is what I have learned:

There were two Eitingon families that intermarried and thus produced a rather complex family tree.


One branch went back to Chaim Eitingon, originally the owner of a sugar beet factory in Russia. He left Russia in the late nineteenth century and moved to Leipzig, Germany, where he went into the fur business. Chaim had two daughters, and two sons, Vladimir and Max. Vladimir, the elder, came to New York, where he ran the American end of the business and died in 1920. His brother Max became the psychoanalyst Dr. Max Eitingon.

The other branch derived from Isaac Leo Eitingon, a banker in Russia. He had four sons, Boris, Naum, Max, and Motty. Boris died early in the century. Naum owned textile factories in Lodz, Poland. This other Max was a furrier in Leipzig, who then came to New York and worked in the family fur business.

Motty Eitingon married his first cousin, Fanny, Chaim’s daughter. When her brother Vladimir died in 1920, Motty and Fanny came to New York to carry on the fur business. Motty was an exceptionally successful businessman; he was the one who gave financial support to Dr. Max Eitingon, depending on how profitable his business was. The latter was thus both his first cousin and brother-in-law; he was also the chief intellectual ornament of the family. Dr. Max Eitingon never had any direct connection with the fur business. After 1931, as Ernest Jones noted, Max Eitingon was far from rich; Motty Eitingon was the rich one.

Some of the testimony at Plevitskaya’s trial has proven to be reliable. Dr. Max Eitingon had married an actress who had worked before the Revolution at the Moscow Art Theater. There was a family story that Max’s father had been rich, had built a hospital in Leipzig, and had had a street named after him. His money must have supported Max during the latter’s medical career and the early years of the psychoanalytic movement. When he died in 1932, however, his money was largely gone and he left little or nothing to his children. Dr. Max Eitingon, as Jones noted, was hard up for money after the American branch of the fur business declined in the early 1930s.

There was no Leonid Eitingon in any known branch of the family. But there were other Eitingons in Russia and it is hard to say just where Leonid—if that was his name—belongs.40 Raigorodsky was the brother of Mira, Dr. Max Eitingon’s wife; Raigorodsky and Max Eitingon were not married to two sisters. Raigorodsky did not testify to anything more than what he knew as a result of this relationship, which had little or nothing to do with the main issue.

What we know of Dr. Max Eitingon taken as a whole makes it virtually impossible to believe that he was the murderous Soviet agent that he has been made out to be. His life must be viewed in its entirety and the charge that he was a Stalinist killer fitted into it before a denunciation of such gravity is permissible. About all we can say is that Max Eitingon and his wife knew Plevitskaya as a well-known singer in Berlin, that he helped her financially as he helped many others when he was able to do so, that he saw her when he came to Paris, and that he sent her a Bible from Palestine. We also know that he devoted his life to psychoanalysis, that there is no evidence that he had any involvement in secret Soviet activities, that he did not have much money after 1931, and that his brother was not Leonid Eitingon.

Can these few circumstances from long ago conceivably justify the unequivocal assertions of Stephen Schwartz that Max Eitingon was “one of the [secret Soviet] group’s key agents in the kidnapping of General Miller,” that he “recruited Skoblin and Plevitskaya” on the dubious authority of Dziak’s book, that he was “the control agent for Skoblin and Plevitskaya” on the equally dubious authority of the Rapoport-Alexeev book, that he helped to prepare the liquidation of General Tukhachevsky and was involved in the murder of Ignace Reiss on no authority at all?

There would appear to be a monstrous disparity between the gravity of the charges and the seriousness of the evidence. The least that can be said of this article is that it betrayed an unconscionable lack of scruple in its handling of the very sources on which it is based and in its failure to make use of all the evidence that might have been brought to bear on the case.

The mystery of Max Eitingon has now become the mystery of the publication of the article about him in The New York Times Book Review. The author systematically distorted and misrepresented the very sources on which he relied. The sources themselves cannot stand the test of critical examination. Other key sources were not consulted.

The article was not so much about intellectuals and assassins as it was an intellectual assassination of Max Eitingon, forty-five years after his death.

This Issue

April 14, 1988