Saving Freud

Historically Thinking

On March 15, 1938, Adolf Hitler addressed 250,000 Austrians in Vienna, announcing the end of the Austrian state. Close by on that same day, Nazis entered the apartment of Dr. Sigmund Freud and his family. They were literally bought off when first his wife Martha offered them cash, and then daughter Anna Freud opened a safe and gave them the equivalent of $840. At this point “the stern figure of Sigmund Freud himself suddenly appeared,” writes my guest Andrew Nagorski, “glaring at the intruders without saying anything…They addressed him as Herr Professor, and backed out of the apartment… After they left, Freud inquired how much money they had seized… He wryly remarked, ‘I have never taken so much for a single visit’.”

It seems astonishing that the author of Civilization and Its Discontents, who seemed to have so few illusions about mankind and its “aggressive cruelty”, should have been there to witness the Anschluss. It’s even more astonishing that even after the Anschluss he continued to insist that his life was safe, and that it was possible to “ride out the storm.” But a circle of friends and disciples not only persuaded Freud to leave, but then arranged his emigration to England, where he lived he last sixteen months of his life.

Andrew Nagorski was bureau chief for Newsweek in Hong Kong, Moscow, Rome, Bonn, Warsaw, and Berlin. Author of seven books, his latest book is Saving Freud: The Rescuers Who Brought Him to Freedom, which is the subject of our conversation today.

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