Letter revealing a soft side to Freud's personality to be sold at auction

In the letter, Freud refers to the personal tragedy that had just befallen a woman - the suicide of her ex-husband. He writes in a tone of sympathy and concern, and even offers her a brief "diagnosis

Letter revealing a soft side to Freud's personality to be sold at auction (photo credit: KEDEM AUCTION HOUSE)
Letter revealing a soft side to Freud's personality to be sold at auction
(photo credit: KEDEM AUCTION HOUSE)
A handwritten letter by the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud, sent just weeks after fleeing Vienna to England with his family, has now been revealed. In the letter, dated June 21, 1938, an 82-year-old Freud describes his arrival in England and gives details of the Anschluss commander, Josef Birkel. The letter will be auctioned soon at the Kedem sales office in Jerusalem.

Although Freud refrains throughout the letter from explicitly mentioning the situation in Vienna, one of the lines makes an implicit, venomous and humorous reference to the change his country was going through at the time. 

"The garden and landscape in the park at Primrose Hill are more than a suitable replacement for Grintzing, where the Gaulleiter Birkel was now a neighbor." Freud used to spend his summer vacations in the pastoral suburb of Vienna, Grinzing, alongside many of the German intellectuals of his era. After annexing Vienna to Nazi Germany, Birkel, the new governor and commissioner for the execution of the Anschluss, made his home in this suburb.

The newly unveiled letter was sent to Freud's Jewish patient and friend, philanthropist Margaret Stoneborough-Wittgenstein, sister of philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein and pianist Paul Wittgenstein. For two years, Freud treated her with his method of psychoanalysis, and the two remained in contact until Freud's death. Her marriage ended in divorce. A short while later, just six days before Freud sent the letter, her ex-husband took his own life.

In the letter, Freud refers to the personal tragedy that had just befallen her - the suicide of her ex-husband. He writes in a tone of sympathy and concern, and even offers her a brief "diagnosis." 

"For a long time now, I have been thinking of sending you a letter [...] The black-margined bond [obituary notice] of course hastened me to do what I meant. I think of melancholy [...] I can imagine what a troubled and painful state of mind this event has set you in. Will something in the external circumstances of your life change now? Will you stay in Vienna? I have so many other questions."

Freud even records his early days in London. He refers to a souvenir that Stoneborough-Wittgenstein gave him before he left - a new amulet for his antique collection that included amulets and artifacts from the Middle East and Asia. 

"The amulet has proven itself so far. The ride was pleasant, the reception in England was flatteringly warm, the weather surprisingly fine, and the house the architect chose for us for temporary living – comfortable."

Freud was one of the most infamous thinkers in Nazi Germany. As early as 1933, public burnings of his books were held there. A few days after the annexation of Austria in 1938, Freud's house was looted and his daughter Anna was arrested by the Gestapo. Fortunately for him, one of the high-ranking Nazi officers in charge of Jewish properties in Austria was Anton Sauerwald, a sworn fan of his writings, who helped Freud and his family escape from Austria. On June 4, 1938, Freud, his wife Martha and his daughter Anna crossed the border into France and from there moved to England, where they were welcomed with open arms.

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), was the father of psychoanalysis, one of the greatest intellectuals and most influential figures of the 20th century. At the age of 17, he was accepted to study medicine at the University of Vienna and in the following years he published a number of medical studies in an array of diverse fields. In 1895, together with his teacher, Joseph Breuer, he published the book "Studies on Hysteria" in which he first described a method of treatment through conversation with the patient, when the patient recounts his distress while lying on a couch. Following the book, Freud published a series of groundbreaking studies on mental health: Totem and Taboo, The Interpretation of Dreams, Beyond the Principle of Pleasure, and many other essays that revolutionized the Western concept of the mind.

Freud died in September 1939 after a long battle with cancer. Following the intense pain caused by his illness, he asked his personal physician to end his anguish and died of a morphine overdose.

Meron Eren, co-owner of the Kedem Auction House, states that "this is a historical item of extraordinary value that has fallen into our hands. The words were written in Sigmund Freud's twilight years, shortly after arriving in London. The letter reveals soft and thoughtful sides to the father of psychoanalysis, who is often perceived as a strong and tough genius – but there was another side to his actions. "