Freud’s Jewish Identity

  • Stephen Frosh


In 1977, whilst inaugurating the Sigmund Freud Professorship at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Anna Freud created a stir by returning to an issue which had troubled the psychoanalytic movement throughout its history: the idea that psychoanalysis is a ‘Jewish science’. For her father Sigmund, the Jewish connections of psycho-analysis were a source of very mixed feelings, ranging from pride in the idea that psychoanalysis might be an extension of Jewish intellectualism, through anxiety over what this might mean for the safety of his creation, to discomfort due to the belief that psycho-analysis could not belong to any one people or share any ideology other than that of science itself, meaning, in his mind, the disinterested pursuit of truth. As time went on, and particularly in the context of ever more extreme anti-Semitism, Freud became more assertive over his own Jewish identity, even though he never accepted the ‘Jewish science’ label for psychoanalysis as a whole. This label became increasingly negative once the Nazis came to power in Europe: ‘Jewish’ science came to mean something corrupt and corrupting, a lying ideology directed at poisoning the health of the Aryan nations. In the post-Second World War period, considerable effort went into maintaining the independence and nonideological nature of psychoanalysis, based both on opposition to any ‘racialised’ claims in the wake of Nazism, and a liberal antagonism to the idea that any ‘race’ or creed could own any properly academic or professional discipline.


Jewish Identity Jewish History Seventieth Birthday Jewish Society Jewish Origin 
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© Stephen Frosh 2005

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  • Stephen Frosh

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