In 1940, Albert Zeigarnik was arrested and sent to a prison camp for ten years. Bluma's time in Berlin and cafes in Vienna, her important work on memory which was now being celebrated and elaborated outside of Soviet Europe, all this was a liability. Central European psychology of the 20's with its bourgeois (not to mention, Jewish) flavour could not have been more at odds with Stalinist-Marxist materialism. She did not speak of it. She had two small children. To recall her past was to risk making her children orphans. When Albert was arrested, family papers were seized, the relics of her past disappeared.
She was sent away from Moscow to the Urals. Her grandson, A.V Zeigarnik, wrote a long and loving biographical sketch of his grandmother. In his telling, her life story in the post-war period becomes a series of ellipses and repressions of memory.
"After World War II, Bluma began to prepare a dissertation based on the medical studies she had begun in that period. But just as the dissertation was nearing completion, it disappeared. To put it bluntly, while visiting Bluma at her home, one of her coworkers at the psychiatric institute had stolen it. Bluma then promptly destroyed all the drafts. She was afraid that it might be published, and she would then be accused of plagiarism. Today, such a turn of events may seem implausible, even absurd, but fear is sometimes more compelling than clear thinking.
Other aspects of her research were simply not publishable. For example, among the experimental methods used in attempts at restoring a patient’s motor activity, the following was actually tested: A stand-in, dressed in a military uniform, announces to the sick person that he is a commissar. The commissar gives orders to the patient, the fulfillment of which could lead to the restoration (possibly partial) of lost motor functions. Today, no documentary evidence about such experiments has been preserved; nor is there any data about their reproducibility. But one thing is completely clear: In those years, one could find oneself in prison for conducting such experiments, whereas now it is no longer possible to repeat them, at least not in Russia, since there are no longer patients with such a reverent attitude toward commissars or other political figures.
In 1943, when Bluma returned to Moscow with her sons, she found her apartment had been robbed. While they had been living in Kisegach, the authorities had housed in their Moscow apartment an unknown and unpleasant person. For some reason, this person considered everything his own property, with the result that he had used the home library and much of the furniture as firewood for the stove. It is possible that part of the family archive vanished during this time. During this resident’s struggle for warmth, he tossed into the fire, in addition to the writings of scholars who were unfamiliar to him, all the publications of Marx and Engels to be found in the home. (Does there not seem to be something mystical in this unabashed materialism?) The writings by Lenin, however, remained. Bluma had to endure numerous humiliations, but, after the intervention of a military prosecutor, the apartment was returned, and she was then finally able to resume her normal daily life."
In a final triumph of materialist erasure, Bluma's one reflection that has been translated into English about the Berlin period is hidden behind Wiley's paywall. In 1984 she wrote a memorial for her old teacher Kurt Lewin on the occasion of his death. For 32$ you can read and print the reminiscences of a pioneer of the study of the human mind, fugitive from fascism and prisoner of Stalin about her old beloved teacher and mentor on the occasion of his death. She died four years later, to all appearances a loyal daughter of Soviet communism.
I imagine a ghost, the memory of an unfinished task persisting even after the body that contained it has gone; a waiter at a Viennese cafe, unable to forget, because she left before he could deliver her order, her odd meal, which he seeks to deliver year after year and which she can never receive; four cups of wine, three pieces of flat bread, like the poor people eat, a roasted egg, some bitter herbs, a shank bone, a bowl of salty water.