Starred review of Saving Freud: The Rescuers Who Brought Him to Freedom

Kirkus Reviews

A richly contextual look at Freud’s escape to London.

A lifelong resident of Vienna, Freud had no intention of leaving when Hitler annexed Austria in 1938. In the end, he left because a team of admirers convinced him it was necessary. They persuaded Nazi authorities to let him go and got the reluctant British government to accept him and his entourage, 16 people in all. Though veteran journalist and author Nagorski delivers a riveting page-turner, German troops don’t enter Austria until Page 230, and Freud leaves on Page 254. Few readers will complain once they realize that the narrative is a fine biography of Freud. The author pays close attention to his subject’s early life and struggles and the development of psychoanalysis, which, focused on childhood sexuality and the unconscious, enraged as many as it fascinated and made Freud an international celebrity by 1900. Nagorski doesn’t ignore Freud’s early followers (Jung, Adler), many of whom who were out of the picture by the 1930s, but he maintains a sharp focus on a small group who remained loyal, again delivering complete, satisfying biographies that don’t emphasize the rescue. Perhaps the most significant of these characters was the Welsh physician Ernest Jones, Freud’s “most fervent disciple in the English-speaking world. Jones personally lobbied the British government which, like most governments at the time, was unwilling to accept refugees from Nazism. Other members were Anna Freud, his youngest daughter, who became a leading child psychoanalyst but also devoted herself to his care throughout his long, ultimately fatal battle with cancer; Marie Bonaparte, a wealthy Parisian acolyte and analyst; William Bullitt, U.S. ambassador to France and a former patient and intense admirer; and Max Schur, Freud’s personal physician. The oddball addition Anton Sauerwald, a Nazi bureaucrat assigned to confiscate Freud’s assets, grew to admire and protect him.

Excellent biographies of Freud and some contemporaries.