Sunday, April 08, 2007

"I Can Recommend Them to Everyone"

Reflecting on the British sailors and there testimonials to their hosts in Iran, I remembered the story about Freud trying to extricate himself from Nazi-dominated Vienna just before World War II. Peter Gay provides particulars:

Just before the authorities let the Freuds go, they insisted he sign a statement that they had not ill-treated him. Freud signed, adding the comment, “I can most highly recommend the Gestapo to everyone”—Ich kann die Gestapo jedermann auf das beste empfehlen.

Gay is puzzled:

It is a curious act inviting some speculation. Freud was lucky the S.S. men reading his commendation did not perceive the heavy sarcasm lurking in it. Nothing would have been more natural than to find his words offensive. Why, then, at the moment of liberation, take such a deadly risk? Was there something at work in Freud making him want to stay, and die, in Vienna? Whatever the deeper reason, his “praise” of the Gestapo was Freud’s last act of defiance on Austrian soil.

--Peter Gay, Freud: A Life For Our Time 628 (Anchor Books ed. 1989)

Fun fact: I can’t document this, but I swear it is true: in one issue of The Economist about 25 years ago, there was an ad for Lufthansa Airlines, bearing the subscript: “I can recommend Lufthansa to everyone--Sigmund Freud.”

Wish I had kept it. Never saw it again. I would love to meet the guy who wrote it, and to ask him how he enjoyed his new career, scraping the gum off the bottom of bus seats.

2 comments:

TeeBee said...

I haven’t seen that ad, but I would still recommend Lufthansa to anyone.

Zazz Press Centre said...

My understanding is that the phrase Freud used was actually a code phrase used by the Viennese middle-class when giving a recommendation for a servant who left their employ. It meant "do not hire this person under any circumstances".

That may be fable, but a German historian told me this.