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Tymon Smith

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Footnotes: Sigmund Freud

Sigmund Freud had been living in London for just over a year when he died there on 23 September 1939 at his home at 20 Maresfield Gardens in Hampstead.

Having fled his native Vienna due to persecution by the Nazis, the father of modern psychoanalysis had been suffering from cancer of the mouth, first diagnosed in 1923, the result of his love of cigars.

Honouring an agreement they had made years earlier in the event of Freud’s illness becoming unbearable, his physician, friend and fellow refugee Max Schur, after consultation with Freud’s daughter Anna, administered heavy doses of morphine, which resulted in Freud’s death.

Although he had spent most of his life in Vienna, Freud was cremated at London’s Golders Green Crematorium. Later his ashes were placed in the crematorium in an ancient Greek urn, given to Freud by Princess Marie Bonaparte, who had helped him leave Vienna. Bonaparte had also tried to help Freud’s four sisters leave the Austrian city but she was unsuccessful and all four died in Nazi concentration camps.

In the year before his death, Freud was visited by London’s famous artists and literary set, including Leonard and Virginia Woolf, Stefan Zweig, HG Wells and Salvador Dali – whose meeting with Freud forms the basis for playwright Terry Johnson’s farce Hysteria. Zweig, a popular Austrian writer, was also present at the cremation.

When Freud’s wife, Martha, died in 1951, her ashes were placed in the urn with her husband’s. Their daughter Anna, who was also a psychoanalyst, was cremated at the same crematorium in 1982 and her ashes rest on a shelf next to those of her parents.


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