Review of Saving Freud


In SAVING FREUD, acclaimed author Andrew Nagorski has brought together the team of people who resolved to rescue psychology progenitor Sigmund Freud as the evils of the Nazi regime became increasingly obvious and the danger to all Jews in its purview an undeniable fact.

Freud had lived most of his life in the storied city of Vienna, Austria. He was old, suffered numerous painful illnesses, and had no inclination to move. Furthermore, he was essentially apolitical, believing far more in one’s inner life as one’s prime motivator and less concerned about overt differences. But there were those around him who, loving and respecting this man of genius who gave the term “psychology” to the world, quietly planned his emigration to England. Although he respected the country, he never had anticipated living there.

The team, as depicted in deft detail by Nagorski, included Anna, Freud’s youngest daughter and his most devoted family follower in the practice of psychology; Ernest Jones, who wrote Freud’s first biography; Max Shur, the great man’s physician and a Jew who clearly perceived the dangers that he and his patient faced if they did not leave Austria; royal Marie Bonaparte, herself a brilliant proponent of Freud’s profession; William Bullitt, an ambassador and former patient of Freud’s; and Anton Sauerwald, a Nazi trustee who aided the family at great risk to himself.

SAVING FREUD mixes almost minute-by-minute events among this widely divergent group with lengthy, fascinating and at times tender recollections of Freud’s long, colorful life and rich mental conceptions. They are innovative in ways that are still today being recalled and refined as his new science has taken strong hold on how we think about ourselves. Freud met and shared ideas with some of the other great minds of his era; details of his communications with Albert Einstein offer an enjoyable sidebar.

Nagorski has personal family history that links him to this vibrant subject matter. Noting the fate of some of Freud’s family members who were left behind underscores the crucial importance of his team of saviors. Nagorski’s attention to one of the 20th century’s greatest men --- his private attitudes, his public acclaim, his revolutionary mental acumen --- provides rich material for an intelligent audience to ponder.

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on August 26, 2022