Freud and the Motherland

Ahoj! Dobré ráno! For our English speakers, if you are curious to what that means, it is a common greeting of “Hello! Good morning!” in Czech. Czechia, or more commonly referred to, the Czech Republic, is a landlocked country located in Central Europe bordered by neighbors Germany, Slovakia, Austria, and Poland. The Czech Republic has a long, beautiful history with over 10 million residents including its’ capital city of Prague and numerous historical regions such as Bohemia, Moravia, and Czech Silesia.


 
map of bohemia, moavia, and czech silesia
 

 Known for its castles, scientific innovations, dynamic culture, and of course beer, the Czech Republic has engraved its continuous legacy in the history books for generations to come. The Czech Republic has produced tons of composers, scientists, models, and many more; but perhaps the most famous Czech was one of the most unknown Czech products - Siegmund Freud. Known as the father of psychoanalysis, Freud was one of the most prestigious psychologists and social influencers of the 20th century. Freud’s contributions to the field of psychology opened the gateway for a cluster of contemporary psychological studies and proposals known as psychoanalysis, which proved for research of the unconscious mind. Some of his most well known ideas such as the Id, ego, and super-ego, the Oedipus complex, and the Seduction Theory are still widely taught and discussed internationally. Despite being so publicly known for over a century now, there is still so much mystery in the origins of the enigmatic mortal that is Siegmund Freud.


Sigismund Schlomo Freud

Sigismund Schlomo Freud

Freiberg in Mähren

Freiberg in Mähren


Freud was born Sigismund Schlomo Freud (6 May 1856 - 23 September 1939) in Freiberg in Mähren, Moravia, Austrian Empire (now Příbor, Czech Republic) to impoverished Jewish parents Jakob Freud and Amalia Nathansohn, both from Galicia (now modern day Ukraine). Before the Freud family moved to Vienna, Austria in 1860, Siegmund (the eldest of eight children) was born and spent his first few years in a room his parents rented from the town blacksmith.

Freud Museum

Freud Museum

This same building is still here today in present day Czech Republic and has since been decorated as one of three Freud Museums in Europe (the others being in Vienna and London, U.K.). Freud’s childhood hometown, now known as Příbor, is presently located in the Moravia region of the Czech Republic and is home to over 8,000 residents. One may ask the confusion between Freud’s birthplace then and now and why they are two separate entities: From 1804 to 1867 existed the third most populous European empire of this delegated time period.


 
Map_of_the_Kingdom_of_Galicia,_1914.jpg
 

The Austrian Empire. Succeeding the Austrian Empire was the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which lasted from 1867 to the end of the First World War in 1918. This empire served as an amalgamation of the Empire of Austria and the Kingdom of Hungary. This empire was the second largest in Europe at the time and was a multinational monarchy that included current states like Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bosnia, Croatia, and Serbia (and that's just to name a few!)

Vienna in 1860

Vienna in 1860

Anna Freud’s

Anna Freud’s

Martha Bernays

Martha Bernays

Motivated by his daughter Anna Freud’s arrest by Nazi Gestapo and the exponential growth of anti-Semetic attacks. Freud took the plea of a longtime friend and colleague Welsh neurologist Ernest Jones for him and his family to seek exile in London. Through the help of many friends abroad, including President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Freud safely resided in London in 1938, after leaving the love of his life, Vienna, at 82 years old. It was here where Freud would spend his last year, followed by his death in September 1939. He was survived by his six children and his wife of 53 years, Martha Bernays.

It is not with any denial Freud had a deep love for Austria. But how deep was the love Austria carried for Freud? Was Freud’s story a tragedy or a product of its time? A man who takes the nationality of another nation with great pride, only to be ousted out of its gates reminiscent of a fallen angel from the clouds of Heaven. Today, there aren’t any streets, universities, or notable monuments (with the exception of a few statues/busts) in Vienna. Prior to being almost completely genocided in Vienna by the end of the Second World War, the Jewish population contributed to several major components in Vienna’s society. From bankers to dealers to doctors, the Jewish community in Vienna had a presence that was undoubtedly significant. The saddest truth was that Vienna had a long history of anti-Semitic settlements ranging as far as the Middle Ages. Although most had been well assimilated within Vinesseian/Austrian culture, tensions were growing higher after the First World War leading into the devastation yet to come. There was a harsh truth that is unknown if Freud ever came to terms with; that is, that Vienna did not like Freud, and his love for Vienna blindsighted him. Freud was not born in Vienna nor did he die in Vienna; yet his heart was so encaptured by the capital. Freud did not fit in Vienna - the Czech son of Galician Jews. 

Freud’s heart may have been in Vienna, but that being said, his heritage was in the Czech Republic. Freud did not speak any Czech and only spent three years of his life there as an adolescent; does the Czech Republic have a connection to Freud? Freud, like many other popular Czechmen like Ferdinand Porsche (founder of Porsche A.G.) and Gustav Mahler (composer) have developed a bond with the motherland they never distinctively claimed. In his birthplace of Pribor, the local government has named a street in his honor. In Prague, there has been a seven foot statue that hangs off of a five story building honoring the psychologist since 1996. Maybe home isn’t always where the heart is; maybe home is where the start is. 


Ferdinand Porsche

Ferdinand Porsche

Gustav Mahler

Gustav Mahler


In 1899, Freud published The Interpretation of Dreams, a manual on his theory for dreams and how we interpret said dreams during our unconscious state. Freud mentions that our dreams are the result of wish fulfillment - “the satisfying of unconscious desires in dreams or fantasies”. Freud goes into detail to explain the two distinguishing factors for this concept: the manifest content, or what we remember within the dream, and the latent content, the abstract connotation of the dream. Perhaps all of Freud’s dreams were stuck in a bleak reality. His wish fulfillment could be that he is a Jewish Czech longing for acceptance within his assimilated community, willing to forget his heritage. His manifest content could be the world-known prestige and experience of living in Vienna. The latent content could be the desire to be something great, but forgetting what you are and what it took to get there in the first place. We will never know Freud’s shame and fulfillment when regarding his origin, heritage, and heart. We can only interpret the hubris stained cloak he wore to conceal his blood. It is possible that Freud is lost and will never find his motherland; however, there are plenty of ingenious and aspiring Czech psychologists, doctors, and scientists who wear their nation proudly who deserve recognition as well. It isn’t to shame Freud. It isn’t to remind the world he doesn’t appreciate what he is. But to remind the world there are others with great minds who deserve recognition as well. Especially those who represent their motherland.

Devin Brumfield