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

Sept. 23 2022

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


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount