Contacts & Sponsor
Colloque with A. W. Freudby Francesco Marchioro
in occasion of our 4th internatinal Congress
"Psychotherapy: tradition and innovation"
(Collalbo - Bolzano, 23. -24. 25. November 2001)
Grandchild of the founder of psychoanalysis, Anton Wallter Freud was born in Vienna 1921. Because of Nazism, in 1938 Freud's family had to emigrate to Paris and then to London. In 1957, Martin Freud, A. Walter's father, wrote a biographical book on Sigmund Freud and Freud's family life in Vienna. In this volume , we read: <<The Sigmund Freud about whom I am writing is not the celebrated scientist in his study or mounted on the lecture rostrum; he is my gay and generous father in the circle of the family, perhaps at home, perhaps tramping with his childrens through the forests, fishing from a rowing-boat on an alpine lake, or climbing mountains.>>
In the same book there is a curious episode concerning A. Walter Freud. That is: <<I can recall me one istance when a grandchild braught upon himself father's severe displeasure, with oblique thunderbolts thrown in the direction of the grandchild's father - in my direction, because it was my son, then about foru years old, who was the centre of the storm.
It had become the custom for the greater part of my grandmother's descendants to meet at her flat on Sunday mornings - her children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She had, incidentaly, moved into a small flat in a much better district of Vienna where she was looked after by Dolfi, her youngest daughter.
I was there with my life and young son one Sunday morning, my small daughter being then too young to be presented. Evidently, my boy, who already displayed great indipendence of character, found the company of so many older people rather boring and, without taking anybody into his confidence, he decided to explore the staircase and finally the street. There was somuch in the street that could be inspected, studied and experimented with.
The street outside grandmother's flat was usually deserted by traffic on Sunday morning and remained peacefully quite. But on this morning I become suddently aware that Sunday's usual peace was being disturbed by somebody's vain attempt to crank up a heavy motor-vehicle. Perhaps instinct, possibly some knowledge of my young son Walter's deep interest in machinery, made me ask myself: "Where is Walter?"
Without answering this question, and now fearing the worst, I rushed out of the flat and down the stairs to the streee followed by a crowd of elderly ladies.
We arrived at the moment of Walter's triumph. After many trials, it appeared that he had at last succeeded in starting the eingine of a heavy lorry, and I found him standing in triumph at his full height or about three feet and apparently expecting applause. Instead of applause, he was promptly deprived of his magnificent toy, carried upstairs and forced to listen to a full and hostile account og his shocking exploit given to father by all the aunts, all talking at once.
This babel of female voices increased father's mild displeasure to anger, the severe form of anger usually shown by men who normally have excellent control of their tempers.
Father said in effect that there was not slightest sense in becoming attached to a boy who must sooner or later kill himself in dangerous escapades, varying his theme in conclusion with a few cutting remarks about parents who were unable to control their children. I think the aunts enjoyed this shocking incident in a sad and deeply prophetic way, but neither my wife nor I found it pleasant.>>
Remembering this episode, a litlle toy, a van, has been presented to A. Walter Freud, in occasion of our speach.
Marchioro: Mr. Freud, what do vou think of your father's book?
Freud: My father was a most devoted son, the oldesst of three sons. Under no circumstances would he utter, and much less write about any criticism of his father. In addition, when my father wrote his book my aunt Anna was still alive and she too would not tolerate any adverse comments about Papa. I do not know for sure, but I am faitly certain that my father gave his sister Anna his manuscript to read ande approve. In my view, this uncritical glorification distracts from the value of the book. It may have been better if some more down-to-earth stories would have been included.
The Freud household was large; at least eleven people lived in the Berggasse. They included the grandparents, grandmother's sister Minna, six children and at least two servants. It would be incredible if occasionally they had been no fritctions in such a large household. Did the children never querrel? Did they never get punished? Which child got on, or did not get on, with which other child? Who was naughty? How did aunt Minna fit in with the rest? Did the children like her? My father once mentioned that he was partly privately educated, mening that a techer came to the house. It would have been most interesting to hear what really happened within the family. In later life, at my time, they kept mum. Neither father, nor my aunt Mathilde, the oldest child, with whom I was in close contact, the only nephew who did so, talked about pre-first-world-war days.
I find this surprising, because whenever I have the opportunity I like to bore my children with tales from Vienna woods, i.e. about my youth. One had the feeling that the family as a whole wanted to hide their lives and keep their youth to themselves. This secrecy distracts from the value of the book as a historical source.
M. Please, tell us something about Your stay and life in London: have You children?
F. By no stretch of the immagination am I an important person or feel that way; I do not wish to repeat the experience I had in Frnce. when I was asked for my name, I said Freud, I was told: You are very famous here, "très célèbre" , You invented the cold water taps! I leave importance to my cousins. The oldest son of an oldest son takes it for granted that he is an important person.
I served for six yars in the British army and when I was demolished in September 1946, I was twenty five years old and anxious, like millions of other ex-solders, to start a normal life. It must be appreciated that since the Anschluss in 1938, when I was seventeen, my life has been one of continous upheaval. First there was the emigration, then the wae, in the army-service, when I partly operated in Austria as a member of SOE, Special Operation Executive, as I spoke fluent German. I was therefore anxious to learn a trade as soon as possible and settle down. My father had been a solicitor in the Austria army, in Russia and Italy; he had studied law, austrian law, a subject that proved to be completely useless in England. I wanted to make sure that wherever fate would deposit me, I would be able to earn a living. Chemical Engineering seemed to answer this specification, and hence I became a Chemical Engineer. Medical study would have taken five years at least, followed by a year in a hospital on a pauper's salary. To qualify as a psychoanalyst would have taken another few years, followed by an indefinite period of getting established. I would almost have reached retirement age by the time I would have been able to maintain a family.
I have three children, one of them is a medical doctor, the first doctor in the family since grandfather, who is here with me. I like to mention an odd coincident. When my daughter started practising in 1975 one of her first patients was the widow of Dr. Ernst Jones, Granfather's biographer. The three children have produced nine grandchildren, who luckily are brighter than their grandfather. The four older ones are at University.
M. And which is your relationship with your sister , Sophie?
F. I have not seen her some years, but we are in regular correspondence. She followed much more closely than I did n grandfather's footsteps, being professor in Psychology in Boston, Massachusetts, Univeriity. She is still working although well over retirement age. She had a much more adventurous emigration than I had, involving a lengthy stay in North Africa, in Casablanca.
M. Had you never the impression that your father or your sister wanted to be a pychoanalyst?
F. I did ask my father why he had not study medicine and chose the, in my opinion less onerous and challenging subject of law. He told me that when he was due to go to university, in 1907, his father was under such vioient attack by the medical establishment of Austria that Papa recommended that he, my father, should not follow in his footsteps. Law was considered a "safe" profession, much taken up by middle-class Jews. Vienna's Jewish population was just 10 % of the total, but well over half the lawyers of Vienna were Jews. After the Anschluss the few lawyers of Vienna must have had a bumper time, without much competition.
I have already mentioned why 1 did not follow a medical career and I believe that similar circumstances applied my sister, she wanted to learn something quickly in order to restart her life and earn her livelihood. The double-nephew of the grandparents, Edward Bernays had emigrated from Vienna to America as a baby. He was a double-nephew because grandfather's oldest sister Anna had married brother Eli Bernays. Edward was a rich, helpful and generous man; he has been called the father of Public Relations, and paid Sophie's college fees. But of course one does not like to live on charity and Sophie wanted to qualify as soon as possible. If times had been more normal, it is quite possible that both of us would have studied medicine and thus continued the family tradition.
M. Could you tell us something about your father's life after 1938?
F. Grandfather died in 1939, a few days after the outbreak of second-world-war. With his death, my father's main prop in life had gone. All his life my father had relied heavly on Papa. It was through him that he became manager of the International Psychoanalytical Publishing Company (der Verlag), grandfather's patients who needed legal help became father's clients. Now that Papa had gone, father was somewhat at a loss in England. He had started a little tooth-paste manufacturing company, but as soon as the war started the chemicals required for toothpaste were needed for more serious purpose and the cmpany folded. In 1940 he joined the British army as a Private in the Pioneer Corps, the only unit that would accept us. "Pioneer" was really a misnomer for this unit, which was only employed on naviing work. He was discharged from the army on medical grounds; he was well over fifty at that time.
At the end of the war, he became an auditor of the Dock Labour Board, a job he thoroughly hated. He had to go from port to port to check on the pay and expences of the dock laboures. It meant staying in dingy uncomfortable hotels and boarding houses in the industrial ports of Britain, such as Grimsby, Hull, sunderland, which were, just after the war, not pleasant places. When he parted company with the Dock Labour board, he bought a newsagent shop near the British Museum, which provided a reasonable living for the rest of his life. He had bought a scooter, a Vespa, to ride to and from his shop and unfortunately one night he fell off his scooter and damaged his head. After that he deteriorated rapidly and was not the same person again. He died at the age of seventy eight.
You will note that after Vienna he was never again concerned with the "Verlag" or any other aspect othe psychoanalytical movement. The management of grandfather's affairs past over to his brother Ernst and sister Anna. My father wasnot an "Action Man"; he was more of a dreamer and much used to be fathered by his parents. I would also guess that he never quite got over the shock of the enforced emigration at the age of fifty, after having served as an officer in the Austrian army for the whole of the first-world-war.
M. And how was his relationship with Anna Freud?
F. Anna was a determined person and although she had been the youngest of six sibling, she took over her father's mantle after his death. With the possible exception of her brother Ernst, nobody else, certainly not my father, got a look-in into any arrangoments regarding psychoanalysis. As you will know, she was a much-acclaimed successor of her father and as such able to accomplish this take-over. She was generous towards her siblings, I know that she paid my father's hospital bills in Vienna. She, being the youngest, died last and she made a point of burying them all. I recall that when her brother Oliver died in America in 1960, she flew to his funeral although she was. at 1974, quite elderly herself and far from well. Already in Vienna she looked after her father's interests and if she thought that any of her siblings were not 100 % in accord with Papa, she would not hesitate to let them know her displeasure. I am afraid that I did not have a very elose relationship with her; Anna's family was the psychoanalytical movement, and her whole life was dedicated to the memory and work of her father. She did look after her nephew Emst Halberstadt - Freud, the son of her sister Sophie who had died of the the Spanish flue soon after the first-world-war. As far as I know, the rest of the family, including myself was kept at a distance.
I have never heard my father speak of any contact with the psychoanalytical mevement after leaving Vienna, and he was not strong or determinate enough to again involge himself in that world.
M. And which are your memories of Sigmund and Martha Freud, of Berggasse 19?
F. I was eignhteen years old when grandfather died and seventeen when we left Vienna. In our childhood it was customary for us to visit the grandparents in the Berggasse on Sunday lunchtime. Our "Fraulein" would take my sister Sophie and me to the Berggasse; later on of course we couid walk the short distance by ourselves. Sunday before lunch was open hous in the Berggasse where one met other members of the family. Grandfather would probably not appear much beforelunch; he took every opportunity of working. At my time he was already suffering from the cancerous mouth caused by his habitual smoking of cigars. He could mly eat soft food and that with difficultics, and as a result he looked emaciated. He would talk to us children gave us pocket money but we were too young to be involved in any serious conversation. When I got older, I would on occasions visit the Berggasse in the evenings to watch him play cards - Tarot - with my father. This was the only relaxation he allowed himself at that time. He was an undisputed leader and the idea of contradicting him was ludicrous. Anything that in his, grandfather's life, was always important news in the family.
I was closest to my grandmother who would take me shopping for my new school-outfits. "Lederhosen" were the preferred and very practical school-uniform of the day. One knew exactly where one was with grandmother. She did not harbour any grudges; if one misbehaved one was told off and with that the matter was forgotten. One could talk seriously with grandmother and she had time for one. Quite frequently she would mention her past unhappiness about the necessary long engagement to her future husband. Wherever she heard of some couple marrying in haste after only a short acquaintance, she would tell of her long wait. She lived long enough to see the arrivl of my firstborn David in 1950.
M. Why so many writings of Sigmund Freud are yet unpublished (they must wait till 2012) and what do You think about?
F. I am afraid that I cannot answer this question. I did not even know that unpublished manuscripts existed. I have no idea what they contain and why the publication year was set at 2012, seventy three years after Freud's death. I hope but doubt that I shall still be able to read these documents.
M. Which is your personal vew on psychoanalysis today?
F. I am a layman in this field; hence my views can only have as much value as that of any other layman. I shall therefore not enter into a lengthy monologue about this subject, which is covered by the lerned partecipants of this congress. Personally, I think that psychoanalysis is of great value in explaining human behaviour, particulary irrational behaviour, rather than in curing neuroses.
M. Thank you, Mr. Freud, thank you very much!
FREUD, M. (1957), Glory reflected, Angus & Robertson, London. [Now it is possible to read it into italian (esitor, F. Marchioro edition): Mio padre Sigmund Freud, Il Sommolago edit., Arco-Trento].
Further informations about Freud's family are eplained in my footnotes in the above mentioned book.
FREUD, S. (1988), My three mothers and other passions, New York University Press, N.Y.