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Käte Frankenthal


FRANKENTHAL, KÄTE (1889–1976), German physician and socialist politician. Born in Kiel, Frankenthal attended university against her parents' wishes. After passing her Abitur examination at the age of 20, she matriculated at the University of Kiel, and then studied in Heidelberg, Erlangen, Munich, and Vienna, before completing her doctorate in medicine in Freiburg in 1914. After the war broke out, she accepted a residency at a large Berlin hospital, but soon decided to take a position as a rural doctor, replacing a man who had been drafted into the army. Frankenthal applied for a job as a military physician; since the German army accepted women only as nurses, she volunteered for the Austrian army instead and served in the Carpathian Mountains and then on the Balkan front, where she was the only woman in the barracks. Towards the end of the war, Frankenthal returned to Berlin, where she worked at the Charité Hospital as an unpaid research assistant at the Institute for Cancer Research and as a resident directing a women's ward and treating tuberculosis patients in a clinic. In 1924, when women physicians were dismissed from their positions at the Charité to make room for war veterans, Frankenthal continued to do research in the Pathological Institute and to work in the University Women's Clinic as well as run a private practice.

An active member of the Social Democratic Party, Frankenthal ran a first aid station helping the injured in the 1919 civil war, working with other medics under a Red Cross flag. She campaigned for sex reform legislation in Germany, advocating rescinding the laws against abortion and homosexuality and promoting the establishment of marital counseling bureaus to provide sex education and birth control advice. In 1928, she gave up her busy medical practice to become the municipal physician for the working-class district of Berlin-Neukoelln. Frankenthal played a prominent role in both the Federation of Women Physicians and the Association of Socialist Physicians in Germany. She served as a Social Democratic municipal deputy representing the Tiergarten district in the Berlin City Council from 1925 to 1931 and was elected to the Prussian Landtag in 1930. In 1931, she left the German Social Democratic Party and joined the more leftist Socialist Workers Party, briefly serving on its executive board. Dismissed from her job in March 1933, Frankenthal escaped arrest for her political activities by fleeing to Prague, and later to Switzerland and Paris, before immigrating to the United States in 1936. After requalifying as a physician and training as a psychoanalyst, she eventually set up a private psychoanalytic practice in New York, specializing in marriage counseling and family therapy. In 1974, the City of Berlin honored Käte Frankenthal on the occasion of her 85th birthday. Her autobiography, Der dreifache Fluch: Juedin, Intellektuelle, Sozialistin, was published in 1981.

Sources:Encyclopedia of Jewish Women (CD-ROM, 2005); H. Pass Freidenreich, Female, Jewish, and Educated: The Lives of Central European University Women (2002).

[Harriet Pass Freidenreich (2nd ed.)]

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