Obituary: Baroness Vera von der Heydt

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The Independent Online
Vera von der Heydt was the leading light in Jungian circles in Britain for over 30 years. She herself was one of the last to analyse in Zurich with Carl Jung and throughout her long years of analytical work she was acutely aware of handing on the true spirit of the master's wisdom and methods.

Born in Berlin in 1899, she was the second daughter of Paul von Schurabach and Eleanor Schroder. Her father was a prosperous merchant banker and a Jew, while her mother - Vera would boast - had Irish blood. She was well educated and to the end of her life retained a sharp and inquiring mind. On the day after Armistice (11 December 1918) she was married to Baron Eduard von der Heydt. She was not yet 19, and he was her senior by over 10 years and the Kaiser's banker. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1927 and Vera returned to her family home.

In 1933, as Hitler came to power, she took the reluctant step of leaving her family and moving to England. She first earned her living in the film world and as reader for a literary agency; but her energies were slowly turning to her two great lifelong quests, religion and the inner world. In 1937, she was received into the Roman Catholic faith by Father Martin D'Arcy. Later as war came she moved to Oxford and began analysis with John Layard. In 1943, she moved to Edinburgh. Here Winifred Rushforth was engaged in pioneering work at the Davidson clinic. Von der Heydt joined the team, staying through the war years and into the early Fifties.

At the invitation of Carl Jung, von der Heydt was to spend three years in Zurich. She analysed with Joland Jacobi as well as with Jung himself. In 1951 she returned to London and set up in practice. She soon established herself as a leading figure in Jungian circles.

Vera von der Heydt was every inch the baroness; indeed her whole manner and bearing derived from pre-First-World-War Berlin society, and there was a part of her that resented her exile and her role as refugee. She was a woman of dramatic opposites; she could be kind and breathtakingly generous, yet she could cut a person down in public with a whiplash remark. In public, she was a formidable and commanding chair, in private, she was an excellent cook and generous hostess.

In a remarkable television statement - part of the Light of Experience series - von der Heydt described her life's journey as a quest. There was the need to heal the "split between my Jewish and my Aryan heritage"; but there was also the daily search - "each day a new day, a new starting point; one finds, one loses; one knows, one does not know".

In her clinical work, von der Heydt was tireless, working with clients until she was well into her eighties. Her influence upon the Jungian scene in Britain was profound and extended over three decades. As chair and later honorary Fellow of the Guild of Pastoral Psychology (the think-tank of the Jungians) she found professional satisfaction in proclaiming and nurturing for her future the techniques and teachings which Carl Jung had handed on to her.

John Skinner

Vera von Schurabach, psychoanalyst: born Berlin 11 December 1899; married 1918 Baron Eduard von der Heydt (marriage dissolved 1927); died London 14 November 1996.

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