Judy Mandelbaum

Judy Mandelbaum
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FEBRUARY 15, 2010 10:46AM

Did Hitler and Freud know each other in Vienna?

Rate: 13 Flag
This is one of those crazy news stories that start you asking “what if?” - and no, it isn't just another lousy thriller premise. It turns out that a small painting by Adolf Hitler that is about to be sold at auction in Britain may have once hung on Sigmund Freud’s office wall in Vienna, Haaretz reported today. A GI bought the painting in Italy and took it to the US after he was told that it had once belonged to the celebrated psychoanalyst. Whatever the truth of that claim, the painting of a mountain church is signed “A. Hitler” and inscribed with the words “Studio Medico Sigmund Freud Vienne” on the back. Auctioning will start at 10,000 pounds. 

 

Hitler painting

 

If this turns out to be true, and not just a ruse to drive up the price, it would indeed represent a bizarre irony of history, but there’s nothing unbelievable about it. Back in his Viennese artist days, the future dictator and instigator of the Final Solution sold hundreds of watercolors and oil paintings through Jewish dealers and received generous support from Vienna’s Jewish community, which even funded one of his flophouses. (His later depiction of himself in Mein Kampf as an early and radical anti-Semite doesn't fit the recorded facts about his life in the Austrian capital.) In purely statistical terms, the idea that Sigmund Freud might have purchased one of them is not all that outlandish. Hitler moved to Munich in 1913. Freud fled Vienna for London in 1938. Despite their obvious differences, the man of war and the man of science were both products of the same cultural hothouse. 

 

If Freud really did buy the painting from Hitler, you have to wonder if the two men ever met. And if they did, what if Freud had invited an obviously disturbed Adolf to have a lie down on his couch and try a little free association? Just think of all the suffering that single consultation might have prevented. I’d like to think he at least asked.  

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Interesting intellectual exercise to imagine "what if?" But there's just too many variables to consider to really think that their meeting changed the course of history. If the meeting occurred before Hitler began his conquest of Europe and before Freud began his journey into psychology,, then you can't extrapolate what would have happened if they had met after both men became infamous in their respective fields.

Even if they had met, it would have been a simple case of patron meets artist, nothing more.

But, as I said, itneresting intellectual exercise.
Placebostudman,
I agree, since Hitler apparently didn't even become "Hitler" until he experienced World War I and defeat. But it's an interesting story because it shows how much more complicated reality is than our simple made for TV image of it. It also makes me more excited about my upcoming trip to Vienna!
~sneaking in another comment~

I visited Freud's home in London when I was there in the 90's. It was like a Middle Eastern acid trip LOL
The thought that Hitler's anti-Semitism was opportunistic and calculated is chilling.
Zyskandar
Quite possibly, and I can't imagine anyone will ever prove the painting belonged to Freud, considering how worthless it was at the time - it's not as if he'd be likely to insure it or anything. I also don't really believe Freud could have "cured" Hitler of anything, but counterfactual history is always intriguing.
I seem to recall that Stalin spent some time in Vienna in 1912. Maybe he also bumped into young Adolf from time to time.
this is a tough one to wrap my head around..
fascinating. There's also that old speculation about what would the world be like if only Hitler's teachers in art school had been encouraging rather than critical....we would have been spared WWII and the Holocaust, and who knows what else.
David, Hitler moved to Vienna in 1907.

Rwnutjob, yes, it's very mediocre. Today we'd say "motel art."
I doubt Freud could have helped Hitler.
Calling Freud a 'man of science' diminishes the notion of science. He had some interesting theories.
A very interesting and provocative article. What would have happened if...

I agree with Curle: "Calling Freud a 'man of science' diminishes the notion of science. He had some interesting theories." But that pretty much sums up posychology (and/orpsichiatry). Freud had some serious problems. One of them was that he couldn't admit that he was abnormal, and so based his whole theory of analysis on a flawed principle. Sort of like Hitler. Hm.
Forgot to tell you: It's a good post. Thanks. Rated.
A marketing ploy, a good one to be sure if not actually the truth. Oddities abound in life and the longer I seem to live, the more I realize it. Thanks for posting and keep finding such interesting stuff. I am particularly interested in this, especially stolen and appropriated art during WWII. The role of art in conquest is very interesting. Also the idea of degenerative art and that classification by Hitler, unrelated subjects, but related to my interest.
Rated.
Fascinating. I wish Freud could have given him some free association! Thanks for the post.
Freud and Jung were walking in Vienna one fine spring day when Sigmund turned and said, "Carl, I think this collective consciousness stuff of yours is a load of crap."

Jung just smiled and said, "I knew you'd say that."
Alas, the notion that a little psychoanalysis could have staved off Hitler's genocidal ambitions is an old canard that goes back to Alice Miller, the Swiss psychoanalyst who wrote that Hitler was the product of bad parenting. There are historical and moral dangers in asserting that this or that mass murderer would have been a good citizen if only his Mutter or Vater had been nicer.
I believe that we are all more closely connected than we might think.
I don’t know about the painting connection but according to John Toland Hitler did read Feud and learn from him before writing Mien Kampf.

BTW in Mien Kampf he doesn’t describe himself as an early anti-Semite in fact he claims he wasn’t one and talks about how he became an anti-Semite. It is of course prejudice and part of it may be to cater to an anti-Semitic crowd that he wanted to manipulate. He wouldn’t have been able to do this if he stood up for the Jews instead he manipulate their hatred.