Sigmund Freud (1856 –1939), medical doctor, neuropathologist and founder of psychoanalysis.  
(Sigmund Freud)

There are numerous biographies of Sigmund Freud, the best ones I have read include Peter Gay’s FREUD: A LIFE FOR OUR TIMES, Joel Whitebrook’s FREUD: AN INTELLECTUAL BIOGRAPHY, and an earlier work, Ronald W. Clark’s FREUD: THE MAN AND THE CAUSE.  The latest monograph SAVING FREUD: THE RESCUERS WHO BROUGHT HIM TO FREEDOM by Andrew Nagorski is not a complete biography but one that focuses on how Freud and fifteen of his followers managed to escape Austria in 1938 as Hitler and his Nazis achieved their Anschluss with Austria triggering a wave of anti-Semitic violence.  While Nagorski provides biographical details of Freud’s life, his main thrust is the years leading up to World War II.  Nagorski tells an engrossing tale of how there was little margin for error for Freud as he escaped Nazi persecution.

Nagorski a former Newsweek correspondent has written a number of excellent works dealing with 1930s and World II, including HITLERLAND: AMERICAN EYEWITNESSES TO THE NAZI RISE TO POWER, THE NAZI HUNTERS, 1941: THE YEAR GERMANY LOST THE WAR, and THE GREATEST BATTLE: STALIN, HITLER AND THE DESPARATE STRUGGLE FOR MOSCOW THAT CHANGED THE COURSE OF WORLD WAR II.  In all instances Nagorski’s works reflect superb command of his material based on extensive research of secondary and primary materials, including significant interviews with his subject’s contemporaries and descendants.  His latest effort is no exception.

(Sigmund Freud and his daughter Anna)

When the Nazis took over Austria Freud was eighty two years old having spent most of his life in Vienna.  The founder of psychoanalysis found himself in the middle of an unfolding nightmare.  Many have asked why Freud and his family did not leave Vienna earlier as the Nazi handwriting was on the wall and early on it was relatively easy to do so.  After his apartment and publishing house were attacked, his daughter Anna’s arrest and interrogation by the Gestapo, Freud still hoped to ride out the storm expecting “that a normal rhythm would be restored, and honest men permitted to go on their ways without fear.”  Struggling with cancer, Freud was in denial knowing that he had little time left and did not want to go through the upheaval of relocating.  It would take an ad hoc rescue squad to arrange his escape from Vienna that included sixteen people, made up of family members and his doctor and family.

If it were not a true story Freud’s escape to live out his last fifteen months in London would make a superb spy novel.  After presenting useful biographical chapters where Nagorski focused on the development of Freudian theories, he concentrated on his relationships with contemporaries like Carl Jung and Ernest Jones.  This was important to Freud because as he  developed a psychiatric following he worried they were dominated by Jews.  Freud was very concerned that his life’s work was becoming a target for anti-Semites who screamed it was a “Jew science.”  Freud would cultivate promising non-Jewish psychoanalysts as Nagorski points out his relationships with Carl Jung and Ernest Jones were partly fostered because they were  Christians.  Of the two, Jones would become a lifelong friend and colleague and would play a prominent role in Freud’s escape from Austria in 1938.

Ernest Jones Photo
(Sigmund Freud and Ernest Jones)

Nagorski delves deeply into the Freud-Jung relationship which at one point saw Freud anoint his friend the heir to his leadership in the psychoanalytic community.  As time progressed Freud’s opinion of Jung declined believing he had become a man of “mystical tendencies” that prevented a clear scientific approach to his work.  Further he believed Jung had developed a “confused mind,” and may have had anti-Semitic tendencies.  By 1914 their break was complete.

Nagorski provides an important window into what Vienna experienced before, during and after World War I in addition to the 1920s leading to the eventual Anschluss with Germany in 1938.  He delves into the intellectual and cultural life of the city and the important personalities involved.  An additional  key to Nagorski’s narrative is how the lives and beliefs of Freud’s “rescue squad” evolved.  The most important seems to be Ernest Jones, the Englishman who became Freud’s closest friend, biographer, and a psychoanalyst in his own right.  Others include William C. Bullit, an American journalist and ambassador to Russia and France who developed an important relationship with Freud.  Both men despised President Woodrow Wilson seeing him as an egotistical personality whose actions at the Versailles Conference they opposed.  In addition, they co-wrote a psychohistory of the former president which was not published until 1967 long after Freud’s death.  Marie Bonaparte, a former patient of Freud’s plays a significant role as Napoleon’s great grandniece who had many important contacts and funds to help finance Freud’s escape and like many of his patients went on to be a psychotherapist in her own right.  Dr. Max Schur, Freud’s doctor during the last decade of his life and a man who kept him on an even keel.  Anton Sauerwald, a Nazi trustee in charge of dealing with the Freud family after the Anschluss was a rather mysterious character.  Lastly, and most importantly Freud’s daughter Anna, who became his lifelong caretaker and developed her own career in psychiatry focusing on the mental health of children.  All pursued interesting lives and the mini biographies presented enhance Nagorski’s narrative.

Marie Bonaparte, © IMAGNO/Sigm.Freud Priv.Stiftung
(Marie Bonaparte)

Most people are unaware of Freud’s disdain for the United States.  He visited America in 1909 and was taken aback by American materialism and lack of intellect.  As noted previously he opposed the policies of Woodrow Wilson, and he would not consider the United States as a place to emigrate after the Anschluss.  Nagorski points out that Freud was a German nationalist whose predictions pertaining to World War I were off base.  He believed it would be devastating to both sides, but for him it became more bloody and destructive than anyone could have imagined.  Freud came to realize the consequences of the war and was rather prophetic in his comments based on events in the 1930s.

William C. Bullitt
(William C. Bullit)

Rachel Newcomb in her September 2, 2022 , Washington Post review of Nagorski’s work addresses why it took Freud so long to agree to leave Austria arguing, “Freud continued to believe that Austria would maintain its independence from Germany, right up until March 1938, when Hitler made his final push into Vienna, cheered on by a mob of rabid supporters. Gangs ransacked Jewish businesses, including the psychoanalytic publishing house managed by Freud’s son Martin, while brownshirts paid a visit to the Freud household and had to be bribed the equivalent of $840 to leave them alone. Yet Freud continued to refuse his colleagues’ entreaties to leave. Suffering from cancer of the jaw, acquired from a habit of smoking 20 cigars a day, he was already in his 80s and knew he did not have much time left. When asked later why he had delayed his departure so long, his daughter Anna Freud blamed his illness as well as his inability to “imagine any ‘new life’ elsewhere. What he knew was that there were only a few grains of sand left in the clock — and that would be that.” But once Anna was arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo, Freud realized that to ensure her future, he would have to leave Austria.” 

(Dr. Max Schur)

Newcomb is correct in her analysis and nicely sums up the overall impact of the book writing, “readers looking for an in-depth exploration of the tenets of psychoanalysis will not find that here, but SAVING FREUD contains just enough about the central themes of Freud’s professional life to give a sense of his impact on the discipline he is largely credited with inventing. Unlike other, more critical biographies, the Freud that emerges from these pages is warm, avuncular and excessively fond of Anna, who he knew would carry on his legacy. The narrative pace and Nagorski’s fluid writing give this book the character of an adventure story. It is an engrossing but sobering read that reminds us how many others without the resources of the Freud family had no similar options to make an exodus.”

Sigmund Freud
(Sigmund Freud)


Donald Trump and Fred Trump in December, 1987.
(Donald Trump and Fred Trump in December, 1987.)


As a retired educator last Fall, I taught a Psychohistory course for Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Granite State College in New Hampshire.  One of my topics was an analysis of Donald Trump exploring personality issues trying to determine what lay behind his decision making and behavior.  After conducting my research what emerged is the picture of a deeply flawed individual and a fifty-slide power point.  As a fellow New Yorker, I have watched Trump for decades and I wondered how my analysis measured up to the views of psychology professionals.  After reading Mary L. Trump’s new book, TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH: HOW MY FAMILY CREATED THE WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS MAN I found that my perspective and insights dovetailed nicely  with those of Trump’s niece.

It is clear from Mary Trump’s title that her conclusions reached in analyzing her uncle’s behavior were to be expected.  In a clear and concise manner, with little technical verbiage she recapitulated what it was like growing up in the Trump family in Queens, New York.  After witnessing her uncle’s behavior up close she concludes that he does not have the temperament and ego to serve as President.  The key component to Donald Trump’s development is his relationship with his father Fred.  In fact, if one compares the two men the “apple does not fall far from the tree.”

Mary Trump spends an inordinate amount of time describing and analyzing Fred Trump as a father and businessman.  Her conclusion is that he is a psychopath based on evidence reflected in how he interacted with his wife and children.  He was a cold and nasty individual who was cutthroat in real estate dealings, and a person who elicited little emotion or empathy for family members.  One must consider that Mary’s father Freddy, who was to be molded by Fred senior to become a ruthless real estate type.  Freddy did not fit into the mold and was eventually driven to alcoholism and an early death because of the treatment by his father.  His entire life he tried to please his father, but nothing that he did was satisfactory and eventually he was cast aside with little emotional support from his parents.  Once he rejected the life his father had created for him his younger brother Donald who carried personality traits similar to his father would be the heir apparent to the family real estate empire.

According to Mary the 2016 election “turned the country into a macro version of my malignant dysfunctional family.”  Before Mary offers opinions about her family be it developmental or a personality disorder, she first provides a clinician’s explanation for the reader then applies psychological principles to her grandfather, grandmother, father, and her uncle.  “Just as a secure attachment to a primary caregiver can lead to higher levels of emotional intelligence, mirroring (a parent) is the root of empathy.”  In Donald Trump’s case the parent he mirrored exhibited no empathy and it is not surprising that his son cannot seem to offer any empathy during our current Covid-19 pandemic.  As far as Donald’s mother is concerned, she was the kind of mother who attended to her children when it was convenient for her, not when they needed her.  “Often unstable and needy, prone to self-pity and flights of martyrdom, she often put herself first….especially when it came to her sons.”  Mary Trump was a needy person and Fred, a high-functioning sociopath seemed to have no emotional needs at all.  If one accepts the principles of developmental psychology, it is not surprising that Donald turned out the way he did due to his upbringing.

trump siblings young

(Donald Trump as a boy on the far left and his siblings) 

Donald Trump had issues as early as age two.  He had grown overly attached to his mother but felt abandoned when she suffered from medical problems requiring surgery and was mostly absent from his life for a year.  Donald would act out his self-centered negative behavior as a toddler with temper tantrums and bullying other children.  When his brother Freddy did not meet his father’s expectations the result was constant humiliation in front of strangers and family members. Donald would witness the type of behavior exhibited by his brother that led to his rejection and assumed a persona that was opposite to ingratiate himself with his father.

For some of the Trump children lying was a way of life.  For Freddy it was a means of survival with an emotionally abusive father.  For the Trump children exhibiting weakness was the greatest sin of all.  According to Mary Trump, Fred dismantled his eldest son by devaluing and degrading every aspect of his personality and abilities until all that remained was self-recrimination and a desperate need to please a man that had no use for him.  Donald escaped the same plight as his personality served his father’s purpose.  Fred “destroyed Donald, too, but not by snuffing him out as he did Freddy; instead he short circuited Donald’s ability to develop and experience the entire spectrum of human emotions….His capacity to be his own person, rather than an extension of his father’s ambitions, became severely limited.”  Fred came to admire Donald’s arrogance and bullying and dubbed him “the Great I-Am.”

Mary Trump delves into intricate details of the paradigm that was the Trump family.  She highlights family dinners, holidays, the education of the children, the early careers of each in her analysis and provides fascinating insights to why a ruthless father was not able to instill his values in one son, but was able to do so in another.  Throughout the narrative Mary Trump reinforces the fear the Trump children felt for their father whether he was present or not.  His vindictiveness drove Freddy to alcoholism and death, while Donald thrived.

Donald Trump and his mother, Mary, at his 50th birthday party at Trump Tower in 1996.

(Donald Trump and his mother Mary in 1996)

As is pointed out in many books dealing with Donald Trump, he did not become a self-made man using a small loan from his father.  Mary Trump presents the same argument as other authors in explaining how Donald’s wealth is based on his father’s repeated support, investment, and a constant flow of money for his schemes.  Even when he went bankrupt in three Atlantic City casinos, daddy would always bail him out.  Donald has never had to accept responsibility for his actions be it personal or public.  No matter how poorly he behaves and how poorly his business ventures develop he always seems to come out on top.  Roy Cohn was his mentor and one can see his methodology every day on the news, be it Covid-19, not standing up to Vladimir Putin, and using his authoritarian tendencies to destroy the Justice Department.

Mary Trump presents the horror and dysfunction of her family fully in describing how her father Freddy’s death was handled.  Her grandparents seemed uninterested and paid no attention to their granddaughter’s needs.  Their behavior at the funeral reflects how emotionally stunted most family members were.

President Donald Trump's niece, Mary L. Trump, has written a tell-all book about her uncle and her family – but will it be released? Photo: AP/Twitter

(Donald Trump and Mary L. Trump)

Mary Trump is accurate in describing Donald; “over time that attitude-that he knew better-would become even more entrenched; as his knowledge base has decreased (particularly in the area of governing), his claims to know everything have increased in direct proportion to his insecurity, which is where we are now.”  It is clear that Fred Trump’s evaluation of his son Donald was completely wrong and even when he knew it, he continued to lavish money on him.  When Fred Trump’s dementia developed the lack of empathy and care that he exhibited was fully returned in how he was treated – in a sense he got what he deserved.

It is clear that Mary Trump carries with her the scars of being a Trump.  The death of her father is a deep wound and her blame for his short life falls in the lap of Fred Trump, a man whose legacy is not building a real estate empire in New York City, but raising a demented child who through an accident of history has become president to the detriment of the American people.  Mary Trump’s book really does not break new ground apart from certain internal family competition and relationships which she observed and now has provided for the general public.  It is a fast read, clearly written and not encumbered by psychological jargon.  With the plethora of “Trump books” that have emerged the last three years, Mary Trump’s contribution is one of the better ones.

(Donald and Fred Trump)