Did Freud really say this, or was it made up by a prankster?
In 1938, after much harassment by the Gestapo, Sigmund Freud was permitted to leave Austria on the condition that he sign a document stating that he’d been treated with all the respect and consideration due to my scientific reputation, that I could live and work in full freedom.
|“What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now they are content with burning my books.” ― Sigmund Freud, Letter to Ernest Jones (1933)|
First reported in Ernest Jones: Sigmund Freud. Life and work. (1957) p. 226:
One of the conditions for being granted an exit visa was that he sign a document that ran as follows, "I Prof. Freud, hereby confirm that after the Anschluss of Austria to the German Reich I have been treated by the German authorities and particularly the Gestapo with all the respect and consideration due to my scientific reputation, that I could live and work in full freedom, that I could continue to pursue my activities in every way I desired, that I found full support from all concerned in this respect, and that I have not the slightest reason for any complaint." When the Nazi Commissar brought it along Freud had of course no compunction in signing it, but he asked if he might be allowed to add a sentence, which was: "I can heartily recommend the Gestapo to anyone".
Freud's eldest son Martin told a similar story in his Book Glory Reflected. Sigmund Freud - Man and Father (London 1957; Sigmund Freud - Man and Father, New York 1958, p. 217):
[...] an S.S. party had come to ask father to give a certificate proclaiming that he had been well treated by the authorities. Without hesitation, father wrote "Ich kann die Gestapo jedermann auf das beste empfehlen (I can recommend the Gestapo very much to everyone)," using the style of a commercial advertisement. The irony escaped the Nazis; although they were not altogether sure as they passed the certificate from man to man. Finally, however, they shrugged their shoulders and marched off, evidently deciding it was the best the old man could think of.
In 1989 the original text turned up in an auction of documents concerning the emigration of Freud's family. It contained no "recommendation" but only a very sober confirmation of not having been harassed but treated decently by the authorities, written by Freud's lawyer Dr. Alfred Indra and signed "Wien, den 4. Juni 1938. Prof. Dr. Sigm. Freud." (Alain de Mijolla: A Sale in Vienna. Journal de l'association internationale d'histoire de la psychanalyse, vol. 8 (1989), enotes.com).
Martin Freud's daughter Sophie commented in her book Living in the Shadow of the Freud Family (Praeger, Westport CT 2007, p. 137):
This document was later found by historians, and no such sentence appears in it. I can imagine a scenario in which Freud told his family what he almost wrote. It would indeed have been unthinkable for Freud to jeopardize the lives of 17 people for the sake of a clever joke.
|Safely in Paris, New York Times, June 1938|