Freud, Oliver (1891-1969)

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FREUD, OLIVER (1891-1969)

Oliver Freud, named after Oliver Cromwell, was the third son of Sigmund and Martha Freud. Born in Vienna on February 19, 1891, he died in Williams-town, Massachusetts, in February 1969. His mother's favorite, Oliver's life was less tied to that of his parents than his other brothers and sisters, in spite of the compliments paid to him by Freud for his precocious interests in mountains and railways and his gift for construction.

After completing his "matura" (equivalent to the first year of college), in 1909 he entered the Vienna Polytechnic, a private school. He graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 1915. He was not enlisted when the First World War broke out but was put to work building a barracks, then a tunnel, until December 1916. After this he was inducted as an officer in an engineering regiment.

Married in December 1915, he was divorced by September 1916. Sent to Galicia in 1916, then Hungary, he returned at the end of hostilities and was discharged on December 2, 1918. In July 1919 Freud remarked that Oliver was the only one of his three sons who found work after his return. He lived in Berlin, like Ernst, and both brothers traveled to Hamburg for the funeral of their sister Sophie in January 1920.

But the boy was a problem for Freud. He confided in Max Eitingon on October 30, 1920, that he was often worried about this son, who "had been his pride and secret hope," and suggested that Oliver "would need to be analyzed" because of the symptoms of obsessional neurosis. In 1921 Oliver, upon the advice of Hans Lampl, a fellow student and friend of Martin, began analysis with Franz Alexander (Roazen, 1993).

After a stay in Romania, he married Henny Fuchs (born February 11, 1892, in Berlin, died 1971 in North America) in Berlin on April 10, 1923. His mother, Martin, and Anna, after returning from Göttingen to visit Lou Andreas-Salomé, were present for the marriage. On September 3, 1924, their daughter Eva Mathilde Freud was born. Freud warmly greeted the family on Christmas 1924, not wishing to "delay any further making the acquaintance of the adorable new grandchild."

While living in Berlin, Oliver went without work from 1932 until April 7, 1933. Freud wrote to Ernest Jones, "My unemployed son Oliver, whom I have been supporting for a year, is coming to Vienna tomorrow to discuss his future. There is little doubt that he will never find work in Berlin again (he is a civil engineer)."

Oliver emigrated to France that same year, 1933. He first lived in Brittany, near Dinard, then in Paris, where Freud sent a letter of introduction to Arnold Zweig on October 25, 1933, "But I have a son in ParisOliver, who with his wife and child lives in 16me, rue George Sand. He is a civil engineer, a very talented man [ein hochbegabter Alleswisser ], knows everything, excellent at his job; nice wife and charming little daughter. I'm afraid he will not achieve anything in Paris. I'd be very pleased if you could meet him."

In 1934 he went to Nice, where he began working as a photographer, about which Freud remarked, "At least he has found a job that satisfies his passion for tinkering" (letter to Zweig, June 13, 1935). Oliver remained in Nice, aside from a visit to Vienna in November 1936, until 1943.

After obtaining a visa for America in 1942, Oliver, Henry, and Eva tried to leave France through Spain, but fear of deportation led them back to Nice, now under Italian occupation. René Laforgue, whose property of Garéoult was nearby, is said to have helped them obtain forged papers and leave France for the United States in 1943.

But their daughter Eva, who was nineteen years old at the time, refused to go with them and remained with her fiancé on the Mediterranean coast. She was later analyzed by René Laforgue and then by Henri Stern. She died tragically from septicemia contracted after an abortion, complicated by a cerebral abscess, in the Hospital of La Timone in Marseille, on November 4, 1944.

Her parents reached Philadelphia, where Oliver found work as an engineer with the Budd Company. He and Henny retired in Williamstown, in western Massachusetts, where he died in February 1969.

Arnold Zweig wrote to Freud from Haifa on January 21, 1934, "And since I've been here I have been thinking very much about this son of yours, who is also too decent to find it easy to adapt himself to life. It was shattering to observe how he talked most vividly and warmly when speaking about his wartime service. Just like all other men of his generation and of his circumstances who now find that they have to begin all over again at a time when they are firmly set in their ways of thought and feeling, habits and ambitions. No one can take it amiss if these men do not wish to have anything to do with the contemporary business scene and prefer to take refuge in memories of a time when a man (especially a young man) merely needed to risk his life to be fulfilling all the demands that society made upon him."

Alain de Mijolla

See also: Berggasse 19, Wien IX; Freud-Bernays, Martha.


Gay, Peter. (1988). Freud: A life for our time. London-Melbourne: Dent.

Jones, Ernest. (1959). Free associations. Memories of a psycho-analyst. London, New York; Basic Books.

Roazen, Paul. (1993). Meeting Freud's family. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

Second, Pierre. (1993). Eva Freud, une vie: Berlin 1924, Nice 1934, Marseille 1944. Trames, 75, 16.