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Why Freud Finally Fled Austria After Nazi Germany Invaded

Continued from The Night Freud’s Daughter Spent in Jail 

 Freud and his daughter Anna arrive in Paris en route to London.

Freud and his daughter Anna arrive in Paris in 1938 en route to London.

After German troops invaded Austria in 1938, Sigmund Freud was urged by friends to flee the country as the Nazi occupiers rounded up and deported Austria’s Jewish citizens. Immobilized by cancer, Freud resisted until......Agents of the Gestapo arrested his favorite daughter and disciple, Anna. They held her in jail overnight before releasing her the next day. Anna was the baby of the family and spoiled by her doting father, who seemed more like a kindly grandfather because of his age. The night American philosopher Henry David Thoreau spent in jail after refusing to pay taxes to protest America's war of aggression against Mexico in 1848 is more famous than Anna Freud’s brief time behind bars.

Freud as young man

Before the the scientific community accepted his controversial theories about sexuality, Freud was considered a pornographer and dirty young man.

Her imprisonment had more profound consequences than Thoreau's jailing. Her mistreatment saved her adoring and adored father from certain death.Although brief, Anna’s arrest traumatized her father and almost caused a nervous collapse. It also finally persuaded Freud to accept the pleas of friends to flee to Paris en route to London, where his son, Ernst, had already made the British capital the epicenter of international psychoanalysis.

Freud Pays a Bribe of $117,000 for his Freedom

It took four months after the Nazi invasion and the intercession of powerful foreigners like President Roosevelt, the American ambassador to Paris, and Princess Marie Bonaparte of Greece, a psychoanalyst herself, Freud's patient, and a collateral descendant of the French emperor.Bonaparte and other wealthy friends paid a “refugee tax” of 31,000 Reichsmark ($117,000 today) to obtain exit visas for Freud's immediate family, their chow-chow Lün, who had escaped confiscation, the housemaid, and Freud’s personal physician. The consequences for Freud and his family had they not fled the Holocaust became evident when his four sisters failed to escape and perished in Nazi extermination camps.In London, Freud broadcast on the BBC, “I have come to England where I hope to end my life in freedom.” It was a short-lived hope because a little more than a year later, aged 83, he was dead.

Anna Freud Set up Orphanages for Jewish Children who Survived Concentration Camps

Anna carried on her father's work, becoming the world’s preeminent child psychoanalyst and the most articulate spokesperson for Freud's theories about human behavior.She succeeded her father as leader of the psychoanalytic movement and published seminal works that added to the Freudian canon.As a child psychologist, Anna used her medical practice for practical purposes, founding centers for the treatment of children traumatized by the war and separation from their parents.She opened orphanages for the most victimized of her young charges, children who had survived Nazi death camps.

Sigmund Freud's Other Legacy, His Daughter Anna

Next to psychoanalysis itself, Freud’s greatest bequest to medical science may have been his daughter, who spread the word, kept the faith (in psychoanalytic theory, not in Judaism, which she also rejected), and did the old man proud.But the incarceration of Fräulein Freud (she never married but had a life-long female companion) had more enduring importance than Thoreau's act of civil disobedience.Anna's influence on the treatment of childhood mental illness continues to this day, as perhaps her father's second greatest legacy to the world of medicine and science.


Freud, Sigmund. The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. New York: W.W. Norton, 1960.

Friedländer, Saul. Nazi Germany and the Jews: Volume 1: The Years of Persecution, 1933-1939. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.

Gay, Peter. Freud: A Life for Our Time. New York: W.W. Norton, 1988.

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Thanks for this.

Thanks for this informative and witty article on the great father of psychiatry.

I wonder what Freud might have made of Hitler, if he had psychoanalysed him.