It's hard to imagine Sigmund Freud, often associated with Habsburg Vienna and Biedermeier furniture, standing up to a section of brutal Nazi brownshirts, but that happened.
On March 15, 1938, the same day that Hitler, having completed the Anschluss (the annexation of Austria to Germany), addressed the crowd from the balcony of the Hofburg, the imperial palace in Vienna, a group of armed SA thugs He appeared at the home and office of the father of psychoanalysis (Berggasse, 19), and not precisely because they had a session.
Freud, then 82 years old, was one of the most famous Jews in the city and the Nazis had long wanted to go see him.
His wife, Martha, tried to calm the swastika-wearing madmen by treating them politely and inviting them to leave their rifles in the umbrella stand, but the Nazis claimed all the money in the house and, emboldened, continued in search of more loot and trouble. .
Then Sigmund Freud appeared, stood bravely before them and looked at them with a frown and shining eyes like—as one witness described—“a prophet of the Old Testament.”
The members of the storm troopers were frightened by the appearance of the imposing old man, called him “
” and left the house, but not without threatening that they would return.
Upon learning how much money they had taken, Freud commented with his own sardonic sense of humor: “I have never charged so much for a single visit.”
The scene is described by the Edinburgh-born American journalist and writer Andrew Nagorski (76 years old), author of
(Criticism, 2017), in another splendid book that has just been published by the same publisher,
, an expressively Spilbergian title. which perfectly summarizes what the work is: the story of how the author of
The Interpretation of Dreams
was managed to get out of the nightmare that Vienna was becoming.
Nagorski, who reconstructs the way in which a motley handful of followers and friends freed Freud
from the clutches of the Nazis, is very clear: Hitler would not have hesitated to exterminate the psychoanalyst and if Freud had not escaped he would inevitably have been a another victim of the Holocaust.
In fact, four of his sisters died in the Nazi camps in 1942, three of them, Rose, Marie and Pauline, in the Treblinka gas chambers and the fourth, Dolfi, from starvation in Theresienstadt.
“If Freud had stayed and had not died before the cancer that ended up killing him in London, the Nazis would have murdered him, in the camps or in any other way.
He was a symbol of the most dangerous Jew to them.
And they made very few exceptions.”
Andrew Nagorski and the Nazi hunters: “Eichmann was a better prey than Mengele”
changes Private Ryan for that old soldier from the war to free the subconscious and Captain Miller's
for the psychoanalyst's motley group of helpers (among them his doctor, a Welsh disciple, an American diplomat, the great-grandniece of Napoleon and even a Nazi admirer).
The book focuses on Freud's rescue from Vienna but is at the same time a very entertaining and exciting way to explore the scientist's existence and remember the main events of his life and his time.
The book follows Freud's biography, from his birth in 1856 in the then Moravian Freiberg and today Pribor (Czech Republic), including experiments with cocaine, collaboration with Charcot, hypnosis, Anna O, the rat man, the coining of the terms “psychoanalysis” or “Oedipus complex”, the problems with Jung, Adler and Ferenczi, the relationship with Einstein, the dislike for the United States or the affection for his dog.
as Nagorski calls it, the wise man was able to die in bed in London, on September 23, 1939.
Image of the Freud Museum in its former home and office in London, where it ended up after fleeing Vienna in 1938. FREUD MUSEUM LONDON
“That scene of Freud in front of the SA is one of the reasons why I wanted to tell this story,” explains Nagorski in a zoom interview from his home in St. Augustine (Florida).
“We tend to consider Freud a figure from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and it is less known that he lived through the Anschluss and had that encounter with the Nazis.
How he survived and managed to escape constitutes an almost cinematic story, and in fact they have already bought the rights to the book from me to make a film.
The son of a wool merchant who already had two other boys from a previous marriage, Freud had five sisters and one brother, all younger than him.
When he was four years old, the family moved to Vienna, with which Freud always maintained a love-hate relationship but to which he was very attached, to the point that it took a lot of convincing to finally flee.
He lived there the golden age of the city and also dark years.
He met Hitler when he spent his formative time as an artist in Vienna.
Curiously, Freud spent his summers in Berchtesgaden, where Hitler would install his alpine refuge upon coming to power.
Andrew Nagorski, in Vienna. Reiner Riedler
Nagorski shows a warm and close, luminous Freud, very distant from the image of the dour and serious scientist, immersed in the human mind and its disturbing sexual secrets.
And he comments things like that he was very routine, quite prudish, conceited (he swam breaststroke to avoid getting his well-kept beard wet), and that he didn't like bicycles or telephones.
“It is curious that such an iconic figure is often given such a distorted image.
When researching to write the book, I have seen that in general we know little about Freud as a person.”
He had a very bourgeois life and not at all tormented (except for jaw cancer, since 1923, and the Nazis).
He married Martha Bernays, from a family of German Orthodox Jews, and the marriage, which produced six children (among them Anna Freud, his father's successor and part of the group who managed his escape from Vienna), lasted 53 years, until his death.
Hitler is greeted upon arriving at Vienna's Heroes' Square in 1938. Photo Ware
Well aware of his condition as a Jew (although he was neither religious nor observant), Freud refused to be intimidated by anti-Semitism and underestimated the Nazi threat, considering, despite all warnings (and his own vision of the individual's worst drives) , that it was not possible that a nation that had given Goethe like Germany could “head toward evil.”
He also thought that Austrians were different, which is sinisterly funny when you think of Freud's compatriots like Kaltenbrunner, Odilo Globocnik, Franz Stangl or Amon Göth.
Of course, when the Anschluss was consummated, he wrote his famous entry in his diary: “
Regarding the Austrians, most of whom welcomed Hitler with open arms and after the defeat tried to pass themselves off as the first victims of the Third Reich, Nagorski recalls the phrase that they managed to make the world believe that Beethoven was Austrian and German Hitler.
Freud and psychoanalysis, which they considered a “Jewish science,” were particularly hated by the Nazis.
When Hitler came to power, the movement was persecuted in Germany (leaving psychotherapy in the hands of Goering's cousin, which is already a guarantee), and the books of its founder were among those that were publicly burned, in his case to the cry of " against the overvaluation of sexual life, destroyer of the soul!”
Sigmund Freud, in the thirties.Sigmund Freud Museum / AP
In total, Freud and 18 adults and six children from his family environment, in addition to his beloved chow-chow
, managed to escape from Vienna to London via Paris, on June 4, 1938 .
He also took the couch.
Seeing how the yard was in Austria, it was a true miracle to get so many Jews out and with a universal figure like Freud at the helm.
The secret was the stubbornness and devotion of that group of rescuers, as heterogeneous as the Nazi hunters in Nagorski's previous book.
“In both cases it is a cast worthy of a novel;
"That he had such different and dedicated friends and followers says a lot about Freud."
It is surprising not to find Jung in the group, even though they were so close.
“Freud saw him as his successor and he really liked that he was not Jewish, who was the majority in the psychoanalytic movement, so that the two things could not be associated and that would limit the new science.
But they had very different visions and at that time there was a lot of resentment.
Their separation had already occurred before the First World War and when Freud was in danger Jung was no longer part of his circle.
Jung apparently tried to get him money to leave, but Freud rejected him and said, “I refuse to be indebted to my enemies.”
Jung's attitude towards Nazism and anti-Semitism has created controversy.
He “showed certain sympathies and fooled around with extreme right-wing ideas, but he left that to others who know more about the subject.”
There is no doubt, however, about what Hitler thought of Freud.
“He knew of its existence, although there is no direct evidence.
It is clear that he detested psychoanalysis as
a Jewish science
and Freud's books were among the first to burn in the Nazi bonfires.
Freud's conception of the subconscious and sexuality was anathema to the Nazis, who subordinated everything to the nation and racial ideology.
The idea of something uncontrollable in the human mind seemed subversive to them, despite the fact that they themselves were an example of the darkest impulses.
For his part, Freud did not comment, at least in writing, on the possible pathology of Hitler's psyche and the origins of his evil.
Adolf Hitler reads inside an airplane, in an undated image.Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
There has been speculation about what would have happened from psychoanalyzing Freud to Hitler.
“It is difficult to imagine Hitler on Freud's couch.
Hitler would never have allowed it, he was infallible.”
Well, they would have had things to talk about, Undinism with his niece Geli Raubal (although here the rain would be brown), the myth of monorchidism (the single testicle), the topic of Hitler's “original trauma” and that there would be something secret sexual in his anti-Semitism… “There is a lot of literature about that, and it could have existed.
Hitler's radical anti-Semitism flourished, so to speak, in his years as a frustrated artist in Vienna, between 1908 and 1913, where he saw the most atrocious side of the city, where prostitution and misery reigned and where he sometimes had than sleeping on the street.
He could have experienced sexual trauma then and linked it to the Jews.
But Hitler is fundamentally an opportunist, not at all introspective and who uses different wickers to make his political tool.
It is tempting to think that he and Freud crossed paths on the streets of Vienna.
“It is a speculative exercise, but they could have coincided perfectly.”
Sigmund Freud with two of his grandchildren.Associated Press
“Now we are free,” said Freud as they crossed the Rhine on the train in which they fled to France.
He eventually settled in a house at 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead (now a museum, so is his Vienna home), where he spent the rest of his life and continued his practice as long as he could.
There, among others, Virginia Woolf and Dalí visited him, and he liked him very much.
One of the things that has surprised Nagorski in his rescue of Freud is his remarkable sense of humor.
Commenting on his meeting with Einstein, Freud joked: “I don't know anything about physics and he doesn't know anything about psychoanalysis, so we had a very pleasant time.”
And when he had to sign a declaration to leave Austria that exonerated the Nazi authorities, he could not think of anything other than to say out loud: “I can highly recommend the Gestapo to everyone.”
Nagorski thinks that Freud would have hit it off with Woody Allen.
During the escape trip, Freud's train passed through Dachau.
But we do not know if the scrutinizing gaze of the professor of the soul recognized when he looked out the window what horrors and perversions of humanity were unleashed there and how that darkness that prospered and spread saw him pass, gnashing his teeth because he was escaping.
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