05/21/2019, 09:15, Vienna  DEUTSCH / ENGLISH

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Anton Walter Freud: A Life in Exile

Author: Peter Pirker / Sabrina Zehetner


The historian and political scientist Dr. Peter Pirker tells the story of Sigmund Freud´s grandchild Anton Walter Freud and his adventurous life as a refugee and SOE agent.

How did you learn about Anton Walter Freud and what made you interested in the topic?

Peter Pirker: I came across Anton Walter Freud while doing research about the role of Austrians in British Intelligence, namely the Special Operations Executive. This included deserters of the Wehrmacht as well as Jewish people, and political opponents that were driven out of Austria by the Nazis in 1938. After detention and deployment in the pioneer corps of the British army, they were recruited by the SOE as they had agreed to undertake dangerous missions behind German lines to support the fight against the Nazis. I was particularly interested in the history of resistance – both from deserters of the Wehrmacht and refugees in exile who decided to make an active contribution towards crushing National Socialism. Initially, I had a list of Austrians who were part of the SOE. Most of them used pseudonyms – cover names they had adopted In British exile for their own safety, so that they wouldn´t be identifiable in case of being taken captive. Among the few agents who didn´t change their names was Anton Walter Freud. For me, he was one of those easiest to identify, and with the help of another refugee, Eric Sanders, I got in touch with Anton Walter Freud. Eric Sanders is now 97 years old and the last living Austrian refugee who was part of the SOE. After 1945, Eric Sanders organized the reunions, if you will, the annual veterans´ meeting, and ran a small archive on the Austrian division of the SOE. That´s how I got in touch with Anton Walter Freud through Eric Sanders in 2003. At the time, I was preparing for a trip to England to interview a number of Germans and Austrians who had joined the SOE. I didn´t get a chance to meet Walter Freud as he had passed shortly before our arranged appointment in 2004. However, after writing him a letter, we had a long phone conversation. Essentially, he tried to assess who I was, my background and my reason for being interested in his story. Both the questions he asked and his opinion on Austria and Austrian society were quite interesting....

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