A dramatic true story about Sigmund Freud’s last-minute escape to London following the German annexation of Austria and the group of friends who made it possible.
In March 1938, German soldiers crossed the border into Austria and Hitler absorbed the country into the Third Reich. Anticipating these events, many Jews had fled Austria, but the most famous Austrian Jew remained in Vienna, where he had lived since early childhood. Sigmund Freud was eighty-one years old, ill with cancer, and still unconvinced that his life was in danger.
But several prominent people close to Freud thought otherwise, and they began a coordinated effort to persuade Freud to leave his beloved Vienna and emigrate to England. The group included a Welsh physician, Napoleon’s great-grandniece, an American ambassador, Freud’s devoted youngest daughter Anna, and his personal doctor.
Saving Freud is the story of how this remarkable collection of people finally succeeded in coaxing Freud, a man who seemingly knew the human mind better than anyone else, to emerge from his deep state of denial about the looming catastrophe, allowing them to extricate him and his family from Austria so that they could settle in London. There Freud would live out the remaining sixteen months of his life in freedom.
This book is both an incisive new biography of Freud and a group biography of the extraordinary friends who saved Freud’s life.
Andrew Nagorski served as Newsweek’s bureau chief in Hong Kong, Moscow, Rome, Bonn, Warsaw, and Berlin. He is the author of seven previous critically acclaimed books, including Hitlerland and The Nazi Hunters. He has also written for countless publications. Visit him at AndrewNagorski.com.
"Gifted with a dramatic voice and, equally important, dramatic instinct, Michael David Axtell demonstrates his ability to sustain, balance, and shape a narrative that has a wide reach and many branches. Freud, paradoxically, recognized that savagery is wedded to mankind’s nature but discounted the danger he himself was in as the Nazis took over Vienna. His actual rescue proves relatively uneventful and occupies a small part of this narrative. The rest is a history of psychotherapy and biographies of the many people who contributed to saving Freud, all of interest, all pertinent. Axtell’s steady tone bridges the narrative’s leaps in time and focus while centering on the stately, dying Freud — whose mystique is still powerful today."