Tuesday, 15 December 2015

The Flight of the Enchanter

I have just added ‘The Escape of Sigmund Freud’ by David Cohen to my bedtime reading shelf. This tells the story of Freud’s leaving Vienna — only just in time, and variously helped and encumbered by daughter, sister, wife, dog etc. — and, after a week or two in Paris with Princess Marie Bonaparte, finally getting to London and settling in — where else? — Hampstead. Well, actually the southern end, where Belsize Park merges into Chalk Farm, but NW3 has ever since been the home of psychoanalysis.

It would by any account be an adventure story, and it has been told before — my favourite bit is when SS officers came to him in Vienna and made him sign a paper declaring that they had not ill-treated him, and he added — confident that SS officers would not understand irony — the P.S. ‘I heartily recommend the SS to everybody.’ But what distinguishes Cohen’s account is that he examines the neglected sub-plot of the rôle of Anton Sauerwald, appointed by the Nazis to take over Freud’s Vienna practice.

I was surprised to find recently, courtesy of ‘Karnac News’, (an e-mail newsletter on psychoanalysis and related matters), about twenty minutes of home-made film, taken by Anna and others, and with a commentary by Anna, of the flight across Europe, and Freud’s last birthday party in London.

Of course, this was back in the days when England had a civilized and humane attitude to those seeking refuge from persecution.

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