By Charles Tanford & Jacqueline Reynolds
Another place of pilgrimage, for the many admirers of Sigmund Freud from all over the world, is the old Freud house on Berggasse 19, which was both his home and the seat of his practice. It has now been converted into a museum, which contains Freud’s consultation room, restored to its erstwhile state. In the entrance hall we find his familiar walking stick and hat, and throughout the museum items are numbered, and corresponding text and commentary is provided by mimeographed guidebooks (available in all major languages), which one can borrow as one walks through the rooms of the house. A printed book with much the same text and copies of some of the photographs is available for purchase.
Part of the exhibit deals with the revolting events of Freud’s last years. There are photos of brown-shirted Nazis burning Freud’s books, a picture of his house defaced with paint, to label the occupant a Jew, and, finally, photos of him as a frail old man, over eighty years old, forced to flee for his life. Four of his sisters, it might be noted, did not leave when he did and died in the holocaust of the concentration camps. This view of the unspeakable depravity of the Nazis is particularly chilling because we know the victim almost as if we had met him in person and we know him to have been innocent of any evil intent. Probably unintentionally, the exhibit focuses on how little we really understand about human psychology, the very field with which Freud was clumsily attempting to grapple. The holocaust was engineered by the legitimate rulers of supposedly civilized countries, and most of the German and Austrian populations unquestionably acquiesced to some degree. How could that happen? Freud would not have been able to explain it, but neither can the professional psychologists of today. We can only hope that it won’t happen again, but no scientific evidence exists to buttress that hope.
Just a few steps away from Berggasse 19, adjacent to Roosevelt Platz, is Sigmund Freud Park, with a statue of Freud. Another monument, erected in 1977, is in the outskirts of the city, in a place called Bellevue, where Freud used to like to take walks. It bears an inscription, which declares: “Here, on July 24th 1895, the secret of dreams revealed itself to Dr. Sigm. Freud.” It is strange to think that we can here identify (so, at least, they tell us) the very instant when the inspiration came that would soon radically alter the popular image of men and women of themselves.