Freud’s War

Written by Helen Fry
Review by Janet Williamson

Sigmund Freud has been extensively written about, but Helen Fry’s book concerns his life as a father to Martin, and his son, Walter.

Their extraordinary stories are written in a clear, readable style, heavily interspersed with extensively-researched archive documents, newspaper articles, letters, journals, and previously unpublished photographs from the family’s private collection. Sigmund’s worldwide reputation afforded his family a privileged life in a Vienna full of etiquette and protocol, which shaped Martin into a man with strong principles. He qualified as a lawyer in 1913, but within months joined the Austrian army, was decorated for bravery twice, wounded, and then captured by the Italians.

He returned to Vienna to his troubled marriage, began a career in banking and managed his father’s Psychoanalytical Press). As political unrest escalated from neighbouring Germany, Walter was born.

The day after the Anschluss, Sigmund had been discharged from hospital after surgery for cancer when the Gestapo raided the Press’s office. Nazi control tightened as anti-Jewish laws took effect; Sigmund’s work was forbidden and his Press disbanded. Every facet of their life was systematically stripped away. They lived in fear under house arrest. Frantic diplomatic appeals from various governments eventually secured their passage out of Austria. They fled to England only to be arrested two years later as friendly enemy aliens.

Martin and Walter were released and immediately enlisted in the British Army. Martin recruited for the Pioneer Corps and Walter trained extensively before entering the Special Operations Executive, where his heroic exploits became legendary. After the war he compiled evidence against known war criminals for the War Crimes Investigation Unit.

The book concludes with them adjusting to a very different world in post-war life. The result is a detailed, absorbing and thought provoking biography. Recommended.