Freud, Jakob Kolloman (or Kelemen or Kallamon) (1815-1896)

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Jakob Freud, the father of Sigmund Freud, was born on April 1, 1815, (a date arbitrarily chosen by Jakob Freud) in Tysmenitz (Galicia) and died in Vienna on October 23, 1896. Of his father's family Freud wrote, "I believe they lived a long time in Rhenish territory (Cologne), that during the persecution of Jews in the fourteenth or fifteenth century they fled east, and in the nineteenth century returned from Lithuania, through Galicia, to a German-speaking country, Austria" (1925d).

In the "Gedenkenblatt," where he entered the birth date of May 6, 1856, and circumcision on May 13 of the following year of "my son Schlomo Sigmund," Jakob Freud refers to his grandfather "Rabbi Ephraim" and his father "Rabbi Schlomo," who died in Tysmenitz on February 21, two months prior to the birth of Freud, who was given the same first name. The sources of Freud's unconscious identifications (Mijolla, 1975/1981 [1975]) have been traced to the references to honorifics appearing in this genealogy.

The son of Schlomo Freud and Peppi (Pesel) Hofmann, Jakob had, out of admiration for Bismarck, chosen the date of April 1 as his birth date, although in reality the date is assumed to be December 18, 1815. Born in Tysmenitz, Galicia, he was the eldest of four children. His younger brother Josef (1825-1897), arrested in 1865 and condemned in February 1866 to ten years in prison for trafficking in counterfeit rubles (Gicklhorn, 1976), was the "criminal" uncle (Verbrecher ) who appeared in the Interpretation of Dreams and caused so much grief for his older brother.

Freud wrote to his fiancée about another "uncle from Breslau," Abae. "He is a younger brother of my father, a rather ordinary man, a merchant, and the story of his family is very sad. Of the four children only one daughter is normal, and married in Poland. One boy is hydrocephalic and feeble minded; another, who as a young man showed some promise, went insane at the age of nineteen, and a daughter went the same way when she was twenty-odd. I had so completely forgotten this uncle that I have always thought of my own family as free of any hereditary taint. But since I have been thinking about Breslau it all came back to me, and I am afraid the fact that one of the sons of the other (very unhappy) uncle in Vienna died an epileptic is something I cannot shift to the mother's side, with the result that I have to acknowledge to a considerable 'neuropathological taint,' as it is called" (letter of February 10, 1886).

Jakob married young, in 1832. His wife was Sally Kanner and together they had four children, two of whom survived. The elder, Emanuel, was born in 1833 (or 1832), followed by Philipp, born in 1836 (or 1834). A fabric salesman, there are references to a trip Jakob is supposed to have made with his father Schlomo and maternal grandfather Siskind Hoffmann to Freiberg in 1838-1839, then of extended stays in 1844-1845 as "tolerated Jews." He spent several months there before joining his family in Tysmenitz, then received the authorization to settle in Klogsdorf, near Freiberg, in 1848. In the "register of Jews," there is a record from October 31, 1852, that at their home are: Jakob Freud, thirty-eight, with his wife Rebeka, thirty-two, and the children, Emanuel, twenty-one, with his wife, eighteen years, and Filip, sixteen" (Sajner, 1968; Gicklhorn, 1976). Mention of this "Rebeka," rather than "Sally" has led to much wild speculation, but it is possible that because of an administrative error or for reasons of concealment, the entry refers to the wife of his brother Joseph, Rebecca Freud-Rawnial.

Whoever this "Rebeka" may have been, Jakob was no longer married when he met Amalia Nathanson, twenty-one years his junior. They were married according to the Jewish rites in Vienna, on July 29, 1855, before settling in Freiberg in the house at Schlossergasse 117, owned by the locksmith Zajic. In 1857 his wife was referred to as "the wife of the wool draper" (Wollhändlersgattin ).

There followed six births in ten years: Sigmund, on May 6, 1856; Julius, in October 1857, who died the following April; Anna, on December 31, 1858; Regine Debora (Rosa), on March 21, 1860; Maria (Mitzi), on March 22, 1861; Esther Adolfine (Dolfi), on July 23, 1862; Pauline Regine (Paula), on May 3, 1864; and Alexander Gotthold Efraim, on April 15 (or 19), 1866.

Over this period Jakob's situation changed. Poor business decisions forced him to emigrate to Leipzig, and then to Vienna, where he settled permanently. His sons left for Manchester, England, where they became prosperous businessmen; his wife and their two first children joined him in August 1859. Establishing a permanent residence in Vienna turned out to be extremely difficult, and bad memories of this period stayed with Sigmund Freud throughout his life.

From this point on nothing is known of Jakob's activities or the source of his income, which, although modest, allowed him to raise his large family and enabled Sigmundthe talented son he so admiredto attend school without having to earn a living to help the family. This mystery became the source of several malicious assumptions when the counterfeiting operations of Uncle Josef were revealed. The investigation led all the way to Manchester, although no evidence was found incriminating Jakob or his twoémigré sons.

A tall man, who according to his son resembled Garibaldi, Jakob was a calm and respected patriarch. An observant Jew close to the Haskala movement, he appears to have been more traditional than Freud claimed. Although it is not known if Sigmund himself was bar-mitzvahed, he learned to read with the Philippson Bible, which was presented to him on his thirty-fifth birthday with a dedication in Hebrew: "My dear son Schlomo (Salomo), in the seventh . . . [illegible] of your life, the spirit of the Lord began to move you [cf. Judges, 13:25], and said to you: Go, read in My book that I have written, and there will be opened to you the sources of wisdom, or knowledge and understanding . . .. For a long time the book has been hidden [kept safe] like the fragments of the Table of the Law in the shrine of his servant, [yet] for the day on which you have completed your thirty-fifth year I have had it covered with a new leather binding and given it the name 'Spring up, O Well! Sing ye unto it' [cf. Numbers 21:17), and offer it to you for a remembrance and a memorial of loveFrom your father, who loves you with unending loveJacob son of Rabbi [probably "Reb," meaning Mr., M.K.] Sch. Freud. In the capital city of Vienna, 29 Nissan 5651, May 6, 1891" (Krull, 1979, p. 160).

Martin Freud, his grandson, recalls his amiable nature, and his granddaughter, Judith Bernays-Heller, recalls, "[He] divided his time between reading the Talmud (in the original) at home, sitting in a coffee house, and walking in the parks. . . . Tall and broad, with a long beard, he was very kind and gentle, and humorous in the bargainmuch more so than my grandmother....It was not a pious household, but I do remember one Seder at which I, as the youngest at the table, had to make the responses to the reading of the song about the sacrifice of the kid. I was greatly impressed by the way my grandfather recited the ritual and the fact that he knew it by heart amazed me." (1973, p. 336).

For Sigmund, the son, things were less simple. There are references in The Interpretation of Dreams to his reprimands, his irritated comment, "Nothing will ever come of this boy," the reproaches for his expenditures on books. On several occasions he attributes his father's compulsion for earning money to his poor financial management. For example, on December 18, 1916, he wrote to Karl Abraham, "I have little to do, so that at Christmas, for instance. I am again faced with a blank. Leisure is not good for me, because my mental constitution urgently requires me to earn and spend money on my family as the fulfillment of my well-known father complex" (1965a).

He also remembered being terribly disillusioned by the sight of his father, without saying a word, picking up a hat thrown into the mud by an anti-Semite. But during the republication of the book in 1908, Freud recognized, "I understood that it was part of my self-analysis, my reaction to the death of my father, the most important event, the most terrible loss in a man's life."

In fact, after his father's illness, which began in June 1896, and his death on October 23, Freud wrote to Wilhelm Fliess, "He bore himself bravely to the end, just like the altogether unusual man he had been" (letter dated October 26, 1896), and "By one of those dark pathways behind the official consciousness the old man's death has affected me deeply. I valued him highly, understood him very well, and with his peculiar mixture of deep wisdom and fantastic lightheartedness he had a significant effect on my life. By the time he died, his life had long been over, but in [my] inner self the whole past has been reawakened by this event. I now feel quite uprooted" (letter to Wilhelm Fliess, November 2, 1896).

However, on February 8, 1897, he remarked, "Unfortunately, my own father was one of these perverts and is responsible for the hysteria of my brother (all of whose symptoms are identifications) and those of several younger sisters. The frequency of this circumstance often makes me wonder." We know that the doubt would disappear during his self-analysis, which began in July, and Freud could write, on September 21, "I no longer believe in my neurotica [theory of the neuroses]" after being confronted by his "surprise that in all cases, the father, not excluding my own, had to be accused of being perverse." On October 3, shortly before the anniversary of Jakob's death, he confirmed, "the old man plays no active part in my case."

But the history of psychoanalysis bears witness to the fact that Jakob Freud did play a role in the genesis of Freudian theory and the place given in it to the representation of the father. And it was to him that, in 1904, standing on the Acropolis with his brother Alexander, Sigmund Freud's thoughts turned, "It must be that a sense of guilt was attached to the satisfaction in having gone such a long way: there was something about it that was wrong, that from the earliest times had been forbidden. It was something to do with a child's criticism of his father, with the undervaluation which took the place of the overvaluation of earlier childhood. It seems as though the essence of success was to have got further than one's father, and as though to excel one's father. . . . Our father had been in business, he had no secondary education, and Athens could not have meant much to him. Thus what interfered with our enjoyment of the journey to Athens was a feeling of filial piety " (1936a).

Alain de Mijolla


Bernays-Heller, Judith. (1973). Freud's mother and father. In Freud as we knew him (pp. 334-340). Detroit: Wayne University Press.

Bernfeld, Siegfried, and Cassirer-Bernfeld, Suzanne. (1944). Freud's Early Childhood. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, VIII, 107-115.

Freud, Sigmund. (1900a). The interpretation of dreams. Part I. SE, 4: 1-338; The interpretation of dreams. Part II., SE, 5: 339-625.

. (1936a). A disturbance of memory on the Acropolis (An open letter to Romain Rolland on the occasion of his seventieth birthday). SE, 22: 239-248.

Freud Sigmund, and Abraham, Karl. (1965a). A psycho-analytic dialogue: The letters of Sigmund Freud and Karl Abraham, 1907-1926 (Hilda C. Abraham and Ernst L. Freud, Eds.; Bernard Marsh and Hilda C. Abraham, Trans.). New York: Basic Books.

Gicklhorn, Renée. (1976). La famille Freudà Freiberg. Études freudiennes, 11-12, 231-238.

Krüll, Marianne. (1979). Freud and his father (Arnold J. Pomerans, Trans.). New York: W. W. Norton.

Sajner, Josef. (1968). Sigmund Freuds Beziehungen zu seinem Geburtsort Freiberg (Pribor), und zu Mähren. Clio Medica, 3, 167-180.