1938: Sigmund Freud Arrives in London as Refugee

Sigmund Freud arrives in London, 6 June 1938.

In 1930 Freud was awarded the Goethe Prize in recognition of his contributions to psychology and to German literary culture. In January 1933, the Nazis took control of Germany, and Freud's books were prominent among those they burned and destroyed. Freud quipped:

"What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages they would have burned me. Now, they are content with burning my books."

Freud continued to maintain his optimistic underestimation of the growing Nazi threat and remained determined to stay in Vienna, even following the Anschluss of 13 March 1938, in which Nazi Germany annexed Austria, and the outbreaks of violent anti-Semitism that ensued. Ernest Jones, the then president of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA), flew into Vienna from London via Prague on 15 March determined to get Freud to change his mind and seek exile in Britain. This prospect and the shock of the detention and interrogation of Anna Freud by the Gestapo finally convinced Freud it was time to leave Austria.

Freud and Anna, on the train taking them to France and freedom, some time during June 4-5, 1938.

The departure from Vienna began in stages throughout April and May 1938. Freud's grandson Ernst Halberstadt and Freud's son Martin's wife and children left for Paris in April. Freud's sister-in-law, Minna Bernays, left for London on 5 May, Martin Freud the following week and Freud's daughter Mathilde and her husband, Robert Hollitscher, on 24 May.

On arrival at Victoria Station the train was rerouted to a different platform to avoid the hundreds of journalists who had gathered to see Freud disembark and make his way to his new home in London.

Many famous names were soon to call on Freud to pay their respects, notably Salvador Dalí, Stefan Zweig, Leonard Woolf, Virginia Woolf and H.G. Wells. Representatives of the Royal Society called with the Society's Charter for Freud, who had been elected a Foreign Member in 1936, to sign himself into membership. Princess Bonaparte arrived towards the end of June to discuss the fate of Freud's four elderly sisters left behind in Vienna. Her subsequent attempts to get them exit visas failed and they would all die in Nazi concentration camps.

Princess Marie Bonaparte—here shown with her chow, Topsy—Freud’s friend, confidante, and benefactress, who provided vital help in the dangerous days after the Anschluss.

Ling, the four and a half year old chow who arrived in London with her famous master, Professor Sigmund Freud

In the Freuds' new home—20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead, North London—Freud's Vienna consulting room was recreated in faithful detail. He continued to see patients there until the terminal stages of his illness. He also worked on his last books, Moses and Monotheism, published in German in 1938 and in English the following year and the uncompleted Outline of Psychoanalysis which was published posthumously.

A recreation of Sigmund Freud's Vienna consulting room with his original couch,at the Sigmund Freud Museum in London.

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