Biographical Note: Wilhelm Reich was born on March 24, 1897 in Dobrzanica, Galicia in a family of prosperous farmers Leon Reich and Cecilia Roniger. He studied in the Czernowitz gymnasium, where he was sent after the tragic suicide of his mother. When his father died in 1914, he had to manage the farm while continuing with his studies. Wilhelm and his brother Robert fled to Vienna in 1915 after the Russians invaded Bukovina. When the war and his Austrian military service were over, Reich entered the medical school at the University of Vienna, which he graduated in 1922. In school he got drawn to the works of Freud, attended his seminar on sexology, and joined the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society in 1920. His early career combined neuropsychiatry and psychoanalysis both at the Vienna University Hospital and Freud’s Psychoanalytic Polyclinic. In the 1930s Reich became a prolific writer for psychoanalytic journals, advocating his principles of vegetotheraphy and character analysis. He joined Austrian and later German communist parties, and established the Socialist Association for Sexual Councelling and Research, teaching sexual education to working class people and writing The Mass Psychology of Fascism (1933), a book banned by the Nazis. Endangered by the fascism, and expelled from the communist party in 1933 and the International Psychological Association in 1934, Reich fled first to Scandinavia and finally to the United States in 1939. While remaining a respected psychoanalyst and researcher focused on character structure, Reich also became a controversial figure for his theories of “orgastic potency” and his discovery of the “orgone” energy. In 1947, after a series of critical publications of Reich’s theories and activities, the US Food and Drug Administration began an investigation into his claims, and won an injunction against the intestate sale of his orgone accumulators. He was eventually sentenced to two years in prison, and several tons of his publications were burned by the FDA. Wilhelm Reich died of heart failure in a federal prison in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, on November 3rd of 1957.

Summary: one manuscript box of Wilhelm Reich’s papers and publications cover the years 1947-1956 and are accompanied by a small collection of books by and about Wilhelm Reich, donated to BPSI by Robert Koff. The papers include Reich’s response to FDA charges, the US Court complaint, William Steig’s correspondence on behalf of the Orgone Legal Fund, the Orgone Bulletins and other printed matter. The latest additions are the Reich exhibit publications by the Jewish Museum in Vienna. Please note that our Bibring Photograph Collection contains photographs of Wilhelm and Annie Reich from 1919 through the 1940s.

Finding Aid for this collection is available here (viewing it requires Adobe Acrobat Reader).

Related BPSI Collections
Bibring Photograph Collection
Vienna Psychoanalytic Society Records, 1922-1994

Related Archives
Wilhelm Reich Archive in the Library of Congress

Related Sites
The Wilhelm Reich Museum in Maine
Wilhelm Reich (Wikipedia Entry)
Wilhelm Reich Exhibition at the Jewish Museum in Vienna
Public Orgonomic Research Exchange (PORE)
FBI file on Wilhelm Reich
Reich, Annie (International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis Entry)
Robert Koff’s Obituary