Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Daniel Widlöcher is dead

Born in Paris on June 8, 1929, Daniel Widlöcher, from a Catholic family of Alsatian origin, died on December 14, at the age of 92, in Paris. He turned very early on to medicine and psychiatry. An excellent clinician, he had a dazzling university-hospital career, in particular as a professor at the CHU de la Pitié-Salpêtrière between 1972 and 1995. And, similarly, in the field of psychoanalysis, as a member of the Association psychanalytique de France (APF ), then as secretary and president of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA), in 1973 and between 2001 and 2005.

Author of numerous books – The Logics of Depression (Fayard, 1983), New maps of psychoanalysis (ed. Odile Jacob, 1996) – he was both an Orthodox Freudian, close to Anna Freud, a committed social democrat and a remarkable organizer of mental health, anxious to establish a dialogue, not only with representatives of different psychotherapies, but also with specialists in cerebral diseases.

In 1953, after having been a student of Jenny Aubry, he entered analysis with Jacques Lacan, whose culture and intelligence he admired. But resisting the character’s extravagances badly, he followed his friends Jean Laplanche and Wladimir Granoff at the time of the 1963 split, which resulted a year later in the creation of the APF.


In July 1973, during the 28e IPA congress held in Paris, he discovered the tensions between European and North American psychoanalysts. Magnificent renovator of the German school, Alexander Mitscherlich proposed his candidacy for the presidency, from which he was dismissed: no one at that time wanted to elect a German at the head of the empire founded by Freud, as if it was necessary to charge to this early anti-Nazi the policy of collaboration led by the IPA between 1935 and 1945. It was not until 1985 that such a congress was held on German soil.

It is therefore Serge Lebovici who is elected, thus becoming the first French president of the IPA. He immediately appointed Widlöcher secretary general, who then initiated himself into the international politics of the movement, combining his Parisian hospital functions and his new role as leader, which forced him to travel the world.

In July 1974, he was seized of a formidable case when Leao Cabernite, president of the Psychoanalytic Society of Rio de Janeiro, was accused of having knowingly protected a torturer he had in training. The case will have a worldwide impact. In 2010, Widlöcher will recognize the lack of vigilance of the leadership of the IPA: “I must say, despite my efforts, we have never been able, Serge and I, to wash away the accusation of having lacked rectitude in this affair. “ (How do you become a psychoanalyst and how do you stay that way, ed. Odile Jacob, 2010).

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Psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Daniel Widlöcher is dead