Biographies: Paul Federn (Austria, 1871-1950)


Figure 1.--Here we see the Federn family about 1922. The three children are with their mother, Wilma. The clothes of the two boys, Walter and Ernst, are interesting as well as the hair styles. Notice that both wear their hair very long in a style approaching page boy bobs. This reflects the styles of a well-to-do family with a liberal outlook. The clothes are more like many other Austrian boys at the time wore. Ernst is dressed in native Austrian (but quite long) Lederhosen with a Bavarian-style jacket and woolen knee socks. His brother Walter is wearing a Norfolk-style knee pants suit (notice the self-belted feature) with dark brown or black long stockings and high-top leather shoes. The boys' mother was Protestant in a largely Catholic country and brought the children up in her faith. Their father although Jewish was raised a Protestant. German/Austrian Jews rarely converted to Catholicism. During the Nazi era, however, the Protestants prove more willing to accomodate Hitler and the Nazis. "

Dr. Paul Federn was a Viennese psychologist strongly associated with Sigmund Freud. Paul was born in Vienna (1871). His father, Salomon Federn, was an important Viennese doctor who did pioneering work in blood. His mother, Ernestine Spitzer, was from a prominent Jewish merchant family. She became a suffragist. Paul was raised a Protestant in largely Catholic Austria. An uncle was a renowned Prague rabbi. Paul grew up in a family with a liberal outlook. He was a bright boy and a good student. He earned a medical degree (1895). He interned in general medicine under Dr. Hermann Nothnagel. It was Nothnagel who introduced him to ground-breaking works of psychologist Sigmund Freud. He was particularly impressed with Freud's Interpretation of Dreams. He changed his career from general medicine to psychoanalysis (1904). Along with Alfred Adler, Wilhelm Stekel, and Rudolf Reitler, he became one of Freud's earliest and most important disciples. He developed a successful practice. He and his wife Wilma, a Protestant, had three children, Annie (1905- ), Walter (1911- ), and Ernst (1914- ). The boys' mother was not Jewish, but Protestant in a largely Catholic country and brought the children up in her faith. Thus the children were half Jewish--Mischling in Nazi terms. This did not mean much at first, but after the Anschluss became a mater of life and death. Their father, Paul, had been raised in a highly assimilated Jewish family and wavered about his religious affiliation. We see the family here a few years after World War I (1922) (figure 1).

Family

Paul's father, Salomon Federn, was an important Viennese doctor who did pioneering work in blood. His mother, Ernestine Spitzer, was from a prominent Jewish merchant family. She became a suffragist. An uncle was a renowned Prague rabbi.

Childhood

Paul was born in Vienna (1871). He had five siblings, including two older brothers, two younger sisters and a younger brother. Paul was raised a Protestant in largely Catholic Austria. Paul grew up in a family with a liberal outlook. As a boy he was prone to attacks of depression which worried his parents.

Education

Paul was a bright boy and a good student. He wanted to study biology. His father insisted he study to be a doctor. He received a medical degree from the University Vienna (1895). He worked on the staff of the Vienna General Hospital. He began private practice (1902).

Military Service

Austria at the time has compulsory conscription. Federn served in the cavalry.

Psychology

Dr. Paul Federn was a Viennese psychologist strongly associated with Sigmund Freud. Federn interned in general medicine under Dr. Hermann Nothnagel. It was Nothnagel who introduced him to ground-breaking works of psychologist Sigmund Freud. He was particularly impressed with Freud's Interpretation of Dreams. He changed his career from general medicine to psychoanalysis (1904). Along with Alfred Adler, Wilhelm Stekel, and Rudolf Reitler, he became one of Freud's earliest and most important disciples. He developed a successful practice.

Marriage and Children

Federn met his future wife, Wilma Bauer, when she was still a child. He was courting her older sister at the time. They married when Wilma turned age 21. She came from a non-Jewish Protestant family. She loved to write poems, but he did not allow her to publish them. [Lester, p. 63.] She suffered from a heart aliment. They had three children, Annie (1905- ), Walter (1911- ), and Ernst (1914- ). The boys' mother was not Jewish, but Protestant in a largely Catholic country and brought the children up in her faith. Thus the children were half Jewish--Mischling in Nazi terms. This did not mean much at first, but after the Anschluss became a matter of life and death. Their father, Paul, had been raised in a highly assimilated Jewish family and wavered about his religious affiliation. We see the family here a few years after World War I (1922) (figure 1). Both the clothes and hair are notable. Ernst wears Tracht with Lederhosen. This shows how assimilated the family were. Jewish boys in both Germany and Austria were less likely to wear Tracht. Their hair is much longer that was customary for boys this age. We sometimes see boys from well-to-do families with longer hair. We do not know much about the boys' education. They may have been home-schooled, as it's unlikely that they would have been sent to Grundschule (primary school) with long hair as seen here (figure 1). We do know that Ernst graduated from the Academic Gymnasium in Vienna. Freud made Federn his official representative and vice president of the Vienna Society. He worked with Freud's wife Anna.

The Anschluss

Federn held his position with the Vienna Society until the Anschluss (1938). With his international reputation and connections, Federn was able to get out of Nazi Austria (annexed to the Reich) and managed to emigrate to America (1938). The family except for Ernst accompanied their father to America.

Ernst

Ernst had become a Communist in his youth--in his case a Trotskyist. He was arrested by the Gestapo/Einsatzgrupen shortly after the Anschluss because he was involved in radical politics. Like many of the other Austrians arrested, he was transported to the nearby Dachau Concentration Camp in Bavaria which quickly became over crowded. He was subsequently interned in the Buchenwald Concentration Camp where he somehow managed to survive for an incredible 7 years. The fact that he was a Mischling and not fully Jewish probably saved him. Political prisoners had somewhat better survival rates than Jews. This is all the more remarkable because as a Trotskyite, he could not even rely on the Stalinist-dominated Communist inmate support system. One source writes, "It was always some combination of extreme luck, the kind of personality that attracted help from others, and sheer desire to live. But Ernst also credited his psychoanalytic knowledge for helping him survive." [Pick] He was starving when finally liberated by the Americans (April 1945). He was unable to stay in Austria after the War because the NKVD targeted Trotskyites even in the American occupation zone. Ernst eventually emigrated to America. It is surely one of the great ironies of Marxism that Trotskyites were only safe in capitalist countries, even an America in the throws of McCarthyism. Ernst became a noted author focusing on the sociology and psychology of prison life.

Refuge in America

His father committed suicide in New York after the recurrence of what he concluded was an incurable cancer (1950).

Relatives

The family like most Austrian Jewish families was shattered by the Holocaust. [Pick] Some of their family did not manage to escape Austria. For the Nazis, conversion to Catholicism or Protestantism was meaningless. Under the Nuremberg Laws it was was biology/heredity that defined one's ethnic identity.

Sources

Lester, David. Suiside and the Holocaust (Nova Punlishers, 2005), 199p.

Pick, Nancy. E-mail message (February 1, 2014). Nancy is a relative of Paul Federn.








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