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Another Jew Exiled!

Hampstead is an affluent residential community in northern London, long favoured by academics, artists and media personalities. A visitor would have to walk through the downhill, upon her/his arrival at the Hampstead Metro Station first… and then, s/he would have to take a right turn to reach Fitzjohn’s Avenue. A little ahead, the person will find 20, Maresfield Gardens, the building that houses the Freud Museum. Noted Austrian Neurologist and founder of Psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud (May 6, 1856 – September 23, 1939) had spent the final year of his life in this building… far away from his workplace and favorite city, Vienna. The world-famous psychologist decided to leave Austria after the Nazis detained his daughter. For the Nazis, his only identity was that he was a Jewish. So, Freud had to go for a self-imposed exile after Adolf Hitler came to power for the second time.

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Freud had become a legend in the time between 1900 and 1930. During this period, he had his major theories published that surprised not only psychologists, but also the people belonging to the Middle Class. Freud’s concept of Subconscious Mind stunned the people who had no idea that terrific sexual desire, fear and the tendency of violence lie in their subconscious mind! Yet, the Freudian theory highly attracted people. The handsome psychologist used to spend long hours with his patients at Berggasse 19, Vienna, his official residence and chamber in Austria, where people arrived from different parts of the globe and were impressed by his charisma. Freud loved to describe himself as a conquistador, an adventure-loving person who overcomes obstacles one after another, and not a scientist. For nearly four decades, the Viennese had considered him as a sympathetic, cultured, wealthy and sharp-minded man, who was well aware of his social status.

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Sigmund Freud

The scenario began to change with the rise of Hitler in Germany in 1933. When Freud received the news that Nazis had burnt his books, along with the works of Karl Marx, Thomas Mann, Franz Kafka and Albert Einstein, he was heard saying: “What progress we are making. In the Middle Ages, they would have burned me. Now, they are content with burning my books.” Freud never thought that the Nazis would kill millions of Jews in the coming years.
Initially, Freud rejected his friends’ advice to leave Vienna as soon as possible. He said that it would be impossible for him to leave the city, as he would not like to stay in a different country with the status of a refugee. He was confident that Austria, unlike Germany, would never accept Hitler’s rule. Freud realised his mistake on March 14, 1938, when thousands of people greeted the Führer in Vienna. After Hitler’s trip to Austria, the Nazis started torturing the Jews in Vienna and other major cities. Still, Freud had no plan to leave his country!

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Hitler in Vienna

Once, the Nazi officers visited Freud’s residence. The psychiatrist, who was in his study room at that time, did not realise their presence at first. Then, he opened the door and looked straight at the officers. The way he looked at them forced the officers to leave the place. However, Freud decided to leave Austria on March 22, when the Nazis detained his daughter, Anna. Anna was not only his daughter, but also his favourite disciple and secretary. Although the Nazis released Anna that night after interrogating her, Freud, by that time, had made his decision!
Freud had so many well-wishers in the US… however, he decided to not leave Europe… Ernest Jones, the then President of the International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA), helped Freud and his family members arrange an accommodation in London. The Freud family left Vienna on the Orient Express on June 4, accompanied by their housekeeper and a doctor. They arrived in Paris the following day where they stayed as guests of Princess Marie Bonaparte, the most eminent and wealthy of Freud’s French followers. Then, they travelled overnight to London, arriving at Victoria Station on June 6. Among those soon to call on Freud to pay their respects were Salvador Dalí, Stefan Zweig, Leonard Woolf, Virginia Woolf and H G Wells.

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Anna with her father

On June 6, 1938, thousands of Londoners gathered at Victoria Station to welcome the Founding Father of Psychology! Their love changed Freud’s mind, and he decided to spend his final years at his new home, 20 Maresfield Gardens, Hampstead, North London. He continued to see patients there till the terminal stages of his illness, and also worked on his last books, ‘Moses and Monotheism‘, published in German in 1938, and in English the following year, apart from writing his uncompleted book ‘An Outline of Psychoanalysis‘ that was published posthumously…
The museum houses hundreds of items used by the noted psychoanalyst, as well as refrigerator-magnet, T-shirts, coffee mugs, English translation of his works, sofa, carpet, wooden cabinet, etc. In his study room, one can lay eyes on the collected works of noted Indian polymath, philosopher, poet, musician, author and Nobel laureate (in Literature) Rabindranath Tagore, and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘Prometheus Unbound‘. The next room to the study room on the first floor is now a video room. The museum authorities arrange film shows there, mainly to inform the visitors about the scenario in Europe during the Second World War, the episode of history that led to a crisis of civilisation… and, in the epicentre of the series of events, there was Holocaust! It is surprising that many people used to adore Hitler, the creator of the Holocaust! However, Freud had analysed this psychology long ago… during the rise of Hitler in 1921… in his publication ‘Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego‘! He had realised that many people would back such a determined and confident leader. Even, people show unconditional loyalty to a cruel and brutal leader, and love him in order to satisfy their own ego. And, their loyalty makes the leader most powerful one…

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Freud Museum, Hampstead

When patients visited Freud, they used to lie on a couch and he sat on a chair… out of their sight. He listened to their problems while enjoying his pipe. From 1890 to 1939, Freud analysed at least 500 people, including his daughter Anna! It is difficult to find such an attentive listener in history. In this way, the Freudian Psychoanalysis was created! Maybe it is not wise to find the truth through psychoanalysis… even if it is assumed that the Freudian theories are imaginary or fictitious… maybe, dreams have no secret meaning… still, the importance of this couch and Freudian theories is immense! It represents the infinite courage of human beings… an attempt to get to know the self and to gain knowledge through that process.

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The Couch

Sometimes, Freud used to look at the sky while roaming in his garden. Perhaps, he could see the horrible fate of society, whose roots could be found in the past and also in the inhuman human minds!

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