Posts tagged ‘Nazis’

My New Film: How Sigmund Freud escaped from the Nazis

The Escape Of Sigmund Freud

A film by David Cohen

I’m preparing a new film which tells the story of how the world-famous creator of psychoanalysis managed to leave Nazi-occupied Vienna protected and helped by the Nazi who was meant to make his life a misery.  Anton Sauerwald ignored Berlin’s orders and gave Freud and his family assistance, much to their relief and amazement.

This is a true story based on a book by David Cohen (The Escape Of Sigmund Freud) published in the UK, US, Japan, Brazil and other countries.

Freud managed to leave Vienna with sixteen members of his family, and his overseer, Sauerwald, arranged to sell some of Freud’s art collection to pay for the extortionate exit visas. He then sent Freud’s possessions to England by lorry, and later visited him in London (1938). On that visit Freud asked Sauerwald if he could drive his Viennese surgeon to London to operate on Freud’s cancer of the jaw. But the most striking part of this strange relationship between the second most famous Jew in the world (Einstein was the first) and Sauerwald, a committed Nazi, is the fact that Sauerwald found the Freud family’s hidden foreign bank books. If his superiors knew they existed, Freud would have been immediately arrested.

Sauerwald kept the bank books to himself, never reported them, and gave them back to Freud, without asking for a penny for himself.

After the war Sauerwald was arrested and tried for stealing from the Freuds. He asked Anna Freud to write a letter explaining what had happened. Perhaps influenced by the fact that her four aunts (Freud’s elderly sisters) all died in concentration camps, Anna hesitated for some time before finally writing a letter which declared Sauerwald’s innocence.

The events the Freud family endured are alarming and terrifying, yet strange and surprising twists of character and fate take place, leading almost to a sense of disbelief. Could this really have happened? Did a deep-dyed Nazi actually help Freud escape? Many Holocaust stories defy belief, but this one is different. It exposes the contradictory nature of the human mind, and it seems in keeping for this to happen to Freud, whose fame derived from studying the mind.

David Suchet is attached to play Freud, and there are other great parts. If we succeed, The Escape of Sigmund Freud could become one of the great Shoah films of our time, showing the horrific change that fell upon the Jews of Europe once the Nazis took control of their homelands. This is a sad, terrifying and moving story, but it still has moments of dry humour, since it was Freud’s sense of gallows humour which kept him sane.

Freud’s escape shows how complicated relations between Jews and Nazis could become. Who could imagine that a strange friendship like this could develop?  Although Freud was world famous for understanding the human mind, he was at a loss to explain why Sauerwald helped him, and Sauerwald too could not understand it.

The film will be shot largely hand-held, so that the sense of actuality will be preserved. The intention is to help the audience see the events unfolding in front of their eyes as events happening to the Freud family, and not as an ‘historical’ film.

It is really an amazing story and I am looking forward to making it.

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March 21, 2014 at 5:31 pm Leave a comment

When Did You First Learn about the Holocaust?

A friend of mine read the manuscript of my new book, I Survived A Nazi Extermination Camp, and said that three things struck him most forcefully. One was the sheer grimness of Rudolf Reder’s first hand account of the death factory that was Belzec. He couldn’t understand why the Nazis felt it necessary to so degrade and dehumanise the people that they were about to kill. They planned to kill them, they knew the victims would be dead in a couple of hours, and yet they had the need to make these last hours as unpleasant and gruesome as possible. The level of cruelty really shocked him. Secondly, he hadn’t realised that the Nazis knew that their action in killing the Jews was a totally criminal activity, and that they had made so many efforts to hide and obliterate the evidence of these atrocities. He thought that they would cover this with ideology, but in fact it was clear they knew themselves to be practising criminality on a grand scale, a crime against humanity. Finally, the book reminded him about when he had first heard about the Holocaust, and the first book he read about it. He recognised one of the photos in my book, one of women prisoners running naked through a concentration camp, watched by uniformed SS guards. I’m sure many people must have a strong memory of when and where they first learned about this atrocity. I was quite young, maybe 5 or 6, when I became aware that ‘Hitler killed 6 million Jews’. How he killed them I did not know at the time, and the word Holocaust was not then in common use, although I was aware that there had been concentrations camp where Jews were gassed to death.

March 1, 2013 at 12:29 pm 2 comments


The Blog That Fell From The Sky

Reflections on an age of anxiety.

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