As the Nazis Closed In, Sigmund Freud Refused to Leave Vienna until It Was Almost Too Late

Like other Jews who shaped and were shaped by pre-World War I Vienna, Sigmund Freud maintained an attachment to the city that was difficult to shake. This attachment explains why the founder of psychoanalysis did not emigrate after Austria descended into fascism in 1934, and was reluctant to leave even after the Nazi takeover in 1938. Patrick Blanchfield reviews a new book about these final years in the life of the most influential Jewish physician of modern times:

“Freud should have been uniquely qualified to understand the dark forces propelling his world to mass murder and destruction,” observes the veteran journalist Andrew Nagorski. “Why had Freud allowed himself to be trapped in this extremely perilous situation? Why had he failed to leave Vienna earlier when it would have been relatively easy for him to do so?” Nagorski’s excellent new book, Saving Freud: The Rescuers Who Brought Him to Freedom, tackles precisely this question, offering partly a narrative of Freud’s last years; partly a group biography of the patients, colleagues, and collaborators who served as his “rescue squad” in 1938; and partly a portrait of a city and a world on the brink of disaster.

[U]ntil the very last moment, Freud seems to have remained “in denial” about what was going on around him. Freud, to be sure, despised the Germans he contemptuously called Hitlerei, but at first clung to the belief that their movement would never succeed, telling [his American friend and disciple William C.] Bullitt, “A nation that produced Goethe could not possibly go to the bad.” Later, he insisted Nazism would never find traction in Austria, reassuring [another intimate, Marie] Bonaparte, “Our people are not quite so brutal.” . . . Yet each and every one of these hopes, grim or otherwise, ran aground on the bleak shores of what Freud elsewhere called “the reality principle.”

For if Freud preferred to avoid thinking too long about the Nazis, the Nazis certainly thought a great deal about Freud. Nazi propaganda relentlessly targeted “the Jewish science” of psychoanalysis, and cartoon after cartoon featured Jewish analysts in the crudest stereotypes imaginable, money-grubbing hucksters and perverts looking to sexualize children and entice pure Teutonic women onto their couches.

In the end, Freud and his family escaped to England, where he spent the final year of his life—thanks to the help of his network of friends and admirers, and of a sympathetic, if viciously anti-Semitic, Nazi official.

When the family finally got their visas, Freud was asked to sign a statement swearing that he had not been treated poorly. He did, and penned an addendum: “I can heartily recommend the Gestapo to everyone.” Once again, this is classic Freud—ironic to the end.

Read more at New Republic

More about: Austrian Jewry, Holocaust, Holocaust rescue, Sigmund Freud, Vienna

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy