Outwardly, Alice Miller stood for the empathetic and non-violent education of children, thereby becoming a star of pedagogy. Her own son came to know a very different woman. The book, which he now has written at the age of 63, is not an accusation. But rather the attempt to understand deeply ingrained traumas.
© Courtesy of the Miller family
Alice Miller, in the late 1970s.
Zurich, April 1950. A child, who just has come into the world, won't breastfeed. The newborn had "refused" her breast, the mother later complains, she had felt rejected, her feelings had been hurt by her own child. Shortly after his birth, the parents gave their son away. For two weeks, he lived with a female acquaintance, who was skilled at child care. Finally, an aunt takes pity on him and accommodates him for half a year.
When the son is six, a daughter is born, a child with down syndrome. The horrified mother accuses the father of having concealed genetic risks in the family.
The son, the troublesome bed-wetter, is taken to an asylum for children. There, on the peninsula Au by Lake Zurich, hardly 30 kilometers away from home, his parents do not visit him a single time. Even on his first day of school, the mother stays away. Back in his parents' house, the eight year old feels like a stranger because his parents talk Polish among themselves, which he does not understand. The son is beaten by his father and coerced into compulsive washing rituals, which he perceives as sexual assaults. In every nanny, whom the son comes to trust, the mother scents a rival and dismisses her. When he is seventeen, the adolescent pushes through that he can go to a boarding school. Although things are regimented and catholic there, it is for him a recovery from the parental madhouse.