A LIFE OF CARING
I do not consider myself special vis-a-vis fate. I am well aware that, beyond the suffering and hardship, I have gained a rich and deep understanding of human nature that has given me satisfaction and stood me in good stead.

Erna Furman, "To Japanese Exhibition Spectators". Cleveland, Ohio, USA, March 4, 2002


Erna with Parents. Photo, 1938.
            Erna Furman (nee Popper), one of the most gifted students of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis in KZ Terezin and later an outstanding child psychoanalyst, was born June 14, 1926 in Vienna. The Poppers owned real estate in Czechoslovakia and a business in Austria. Erna was the only child of a family that loved her dearly and expected much of her. In 1938, after Hitler's annexation of Austria, the family fled from Vienna to Prague since they held Czechoslovak citizenship. Erna's father, Karl Popper, immigrated to Britain from Prague. The family, however, could not follow him due to the Nazi occupation, and remained in Prague penniless, as all the assets had been transferred abroad. Erna's mother Margarete broke down mentally and Erna had to care for her. Introduction of Nazi laws forced Erna out of school. She then earned a living by tutoring and cleaning. In 1940, she moved to the Prague Jewish orphanage.
 
In October 1942 Erna Popper, her mother, and later also her aunts and grandmother were deported to the transit camp of Theresienstadt (Terezin). Her mother, grandmother and one of the aunts died there. The other two aunts were deported to Auschwitz where they were killed. Young Erna suddenly found herself alone in this strange place, where life that tested the very limits of physical survival was lived in an atmosphere of opulent artistic and intellectual activity. Her intellectual hunger, however, was stronger than the hunger of her body: quite a few times she traded her quarter-loaf of bread - two days' ration - for a lesson of psychology, history, or economics.
Erna's experience was twofold. On the one hand, she was a tutor for boys aged 6-9 in Children's House L 318, to whom she devoted herself entirely. On the other hand, she was a diligent student of art and participant of hundreds of lessons, lectures and seminars.
In lessons received from Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, Erna did exercises in the Bauhaus style, free compositions, drawings from nature and so on. Years afterwards, Erna wrote about Friedl: "Friedl's teaching, the times spent drawing with her, are among the fondest memories of my life... She gave of herself without reserve."
It was hardly coincidence that, on liberation, Erna dedicated the rest of her life to children's care. For a few months in 1945, Erna worked in Oleshovice, Czechoslovakia, at the famous Premysl Pitter Rehabilitation Center for orphaned Terezin child-prisoners. She then joined her father in Britain, where she took Anna Freud's child therapy course at Hampstead, and completed her academic studies at the University of London.
In 1952, Erna joined the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry, Case West Reserve School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. There she met and married her colleague Robert A. Furman, a notable children's psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, and later gave birth to two daughters. Her primary fields of expertise were the study of parental bereavement, normal and pathological child development, parenting and early personality growth. She has published eight books (A Child's Parent Dies, Helping Young Children Grow, Toddlers and Their Mothers, and others), and over 200 articles, translated into many languages. The last of her books, On Being and Having a Mother, was issued in 2001.
For nearly 50 years, she has been heart and soul of the Hanna Perkins Center of Child Development, treating both children and parents, teaching students, supervising child analysts in training and consulting for social service agencies and children's hospitals. Dr. Erna Furman received the Heinz Hartmann, Marianne Kris and other high awards. In 1998, she became an Honorary Member of the American Psychoanalytic Association. She recently served as President of the international Association of Child Psychoanalysis.
Erna Furman passed away on August 9, 2002.
At the memorial service held in her honor, Dr. Thomas Barrett, the director of the Hanna Perkins Center, said: "To the end of her life, Poppy [a private name of Mrs. Furman] maintained her zest for living. Though she thought of herself as a survivor, she strove throughout her life to do more than just survive. This afternoon, it is fitting that we share our sorrow as we reflect and remember this unique human being. As we go forward, I believe that Poppy would want to be remembered by the words, 'It's the caring that counts.'"

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