Photograph of Berlin in 1920
View over Berlin in 1920.

At the beginning of 1921, Klein leaves her in-laws in Rosenberg and, rather than return to Budapest, moves to Berlin. Arthur is still working in Sweden. Several Jewish psychoanalysts have already left Hungary – whether temporarily or for good – due to the violence of the White Terror and an increasingly anti-Semitic climate, including Sándor Rádo, Franz Alexander and Michael Balint. By the outbreak of the Second World War, all will have emigrated to the USA or Britain.

After a few weeks spent in a pension in Grunewald, Klein moves to Cunostrasse, a street in a drab, dull area. She has Erich with her, now six years old. Melitta, aged 17, is finishing her studies in Budapest, and Hans, aged 14, is at boarding school. At the beginning of the 1920s, Berlin is at the very centre of psychoanalytic activity. The first psychoanalytic clinic was opened in 1920, and training is becoming increasingly rigorous and structured, including obligatory training analyses and supervision.

Drawing by one of Klein’s child patients, probably from the 1920s.

In February, Klein delivers her first psychoanalytic paper to the Berlin Society on ‘Felix’s’ learning inhibitions. It is possible (though uncertain) that ‘Felix’ is in fact her son Hans.

Klein publishes an expanded version of her 1919 paper on Erich, her son now disguised as a young patient called ‘Fritz.’


Klein delivers another paper on early analysis at the 1922 International Congress. On the back of this and her paper of the previous year, she is made an Associate Member of the Berlin Society.


After becoming a full member of the Berlin Psychoanalytic Society in February, Klein embarks upon her first analysis of a child. This marks the start of a bold new approach to analytic treatment and theory, and the true beginning of Klein’s career. The sense of now being established as an analyst is no doubt strengthened for Klein when her paper, ‘The Development of a Child,’ is published by Ernest Jones in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis.

Painting of a house by 'Edgar', one of Klein's child patients in 1923
Painting by ‘Edgar’, one of Klein’s child patients in 1923.

The child Klein names ‘Rita’ in her notes enters analysis with her; she is only two and a half years old. In November Abraham, at this time supervising Klein’s clinical work, writes to Freud:

In the last few months Mrs Klein has skilfully conducted the psychoanalysis of a three-year-old with good therapeutic results. The child presented a true picture of the basic depression that I postulated in close combination with oral erotism. The case offers amazing insights into instinctual life.”

A Psycho-Analytic Dialogue, The Letters of Sigmund Freud and Karl Abraham, 1906-27 (Hogarth Press, 1965); p. 339.

Meanwhile, in her personal life, Klein and her husband Arthur make an attempt at reconciliation, moving into a large house built by him on his return from Sweden, Auf dem Grat 19, Dahlem.

Freud publishes The Ego and the Id, his second and definitive structural theory of the mind. It marks a turning point in his theory.


Drawing by one of Klein’s child patients in the 1920s.

Eager to learn from one of the great pioneers of psychoanalysis, and to have further treatment for her own emotional difficulties, Klein asks Abraham to analyse her. She manages to persuade him, despite his reservations about analysing a Berlin colleague. They begin in early 1924.

After several months of trying to repair their marriage, relations between Melanie and Arthur fail to improve. Melanie realises the marriage is over and leaves her husband in April, shortly after her daughter Melitta’s marriage to Walter Schmideberg, a Viennese doctor and friend of the Freuds.

Following the breakup of her marriage, Klein moves into a pension at Augbwigerstrasse 17, where she struggles to keep custody of Erich against Arthur’s opposition.

Six months into Klein’s new analysis with Abraham, the psychoanalyst, translator of Freud and member of the Bloomsbury group, Alix Strachey, arrives from England. She will become a great admirer of Klein’s theories, and a key catalyst in the development of her career.

Klein begins several analyses of young children, notably those she refers to as ‘Peter,’ ‘Ruth,’ ‘Trude,’ and ‘Erna’ in her notes. (She will present an important paper based on these cases at the Berlin Society on 12th December.) At the 8th International Congress, held in Salzburg in April, Klein reads a paper on the technique of child analysis that causes great controversy. It will later appear as the second chapter of The Psycho-Analysis of Children. She meets British analyst Joan Riviere for the second time, and they strike up a close friendship and professional alliance.

Drawing by one of Klein's child patients, 1925.
Drawing by one of Klein’s child patients, ‘Rolf’ in 1925.

On 11th October, Klein presents her paper on ‘Erna’ at the first German Conference of Psychoanalysis, held in Wurzburg. This paper will reappear as the third chapter of The Psycho-Analysis of Children. Abraham declares that, ‘the future of psychoanalysis rests with child analysis’. This is of enormous significance to Klein personally, and to the development of psychoanalysis in general.

However, Klein’s new theories do not receive universal support. Abraham’s belief in her, as president of the Berlin Society, carries great weight, so hostility toward Klein and her ideas remains under wraps – though it is certainly present.

Shockingly, in September Hermine Hug-Hellmuth, head of the Viennese Child Guidance Centre, is murdered by her 18-year-old nephew Rudolph. She brought him up and analysed him as a child, and her murder fuels anxieties about the dangers of child psychoanalysis.

Klein moves again, this time to an apartment on Jenaer Strasse in the Bavarian Quarter. Helene Deutsch, a fellow psychoanalyst – born in Poland, and a former analysand of Freud – lives in the same building. On 17th December, Klein presents her Berlin paper to the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society, where it is received with hostile resistance.


Photograph of psychoanalyst Karl Abraham
Psychoanalyst Karl Abraham.

A letter from Alix Strachey to her husband (and fellow analyst) James, outlining Klein’s 1924 Berlin Society paper, stimulates great interest when read to the British Society on 7th January 1925. Klein subsequently plans to give a series of lectures in London, with the enthusiastic encouragement of Ernest Jones. The Stracheys are greatly supportive of Klein’s visit, translating her papers, tutoring her in English, and preparing the ground for her ideas in the British Society.

During the spring, Klein meets Chezkel Zvi Kloetzel, a married man and father of one, at a dance class (Klein is a great lover of dancing). They begin what, at least for Klein, is a deeply significant, though interrupted, love affair. From her letters and diary, it is clear that she feels passionately about Kloetzel.

In July, Klein travels to London for her lecture series, which is hosted at the home of psychoanalysts Adrian and Karin Stephen (the younger brother and sister-in-law of Virginia Woolf) in Gordon Square. She gives two lectures per week over three weeks, to a rapt audience. During her time in London Klein meets Susan Isaacs, and they begin a very important and enduring professional and personal relationship.

Alongside these exciting developments in her career, Klein suffers a heavy loss. Karl Abraham falls ill in May, deteriorating steadily over several months until he dies on Christmas Day 1925. Klein has been in analysis with him for only a year and a half. She later describes the premature termination of her analysis and Abraham’s death as ‘very painful’.