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Publication Year: 1999

In Unfree Associations, Gottfried Bloch, a psychoanalyst and Holocaust survivor, describes his experiences in Auschwitz through a lens at once clinical and personal. For Bloch, unfree associations are haunting and powerful memories that are always painfully on the margin of everyday life. Since the end of World War II, Bloch has been compiling and reliving his experiences, which he now revisits with a sense of clarity and objectivity. In Unfree Associations, Bloch does not seek to be praised for his survival, which he attributes to chance or luck. Instead, he seeks to be understood in human terms.

Published by: Red Hen Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 3-6


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pp. 7-10

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pp. xi-xii

My second editors were James Laveck and Jennifer Stein who had hopes of becoming publishers. James, especially, felt that publishing this book was his special mission, responding deeply to its contents. He and Jennifer devoted much time, energy and creativity to the project including a beautiful book cover design and tried to...

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pp. xiii-xiv

When I got sick, deadly sick, I did not expect to live and was almost destroyed by death anxiety, fear, despair and unwillingness to surrender to what seemed to be the unavoidable. Friedl saw me in the intensive care unit and said little, as is his way. The little he said, however, marked the turning point in my return to the living...

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pp. 1-6

Willy and I sat in the ditch close to the electric fence. The guard on the tower observed us but did not respond with the usual warning shot in the air. Everyone felt the impending changes and nobody cared about rules. We both sensed that this was to be our last time together, the final one of many talks over the six years that we...

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1. My Early Life

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pp. 7-16

It is difficult to write nostalgically now about the warmth and security of my earlier life before the Holocaust, knowing what later occurred. My descriptions of life before those terrible events do not have the intensity and drama that characterize the horrors of war, humiliation and imprisonment. Nothing of ordinary life can...

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2. Foreshadowing the Future

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pp. 17-21

Two days later when we reached Innsbruck we heard that the Austrian Chancellor, Dollfuss, had been assassinated by a group of Nazis and that more violence was expected. Bombing, killing and provoking of other political groups had kindled political unrest in Austria. Our unnamed host, who had taken us over the...

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3. Exiled in Prague, 1938

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pp. 22-24

By 1938, Nazi propaganda had constructed an extreme right wing party for the German population of the Republic (the Sudeten Germans) under the leadership of Konrad Henlein who, after first denying his connection with Nazi Germany, later became instrumental in the political and diplomatic preparation for the annexation...

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4. Institute for Retraining

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pp. 25-29

The founder and director of the Retraining Department was Willy Schönfeld, a young psychologist, an expert in vocational guidance and scientific graphology—the psychological analysis of handwriting as an expression of personality traits. His department was connected with the State Institute for Psychotechnic, center of...

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5. Watching the Betrayal

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pp. 30-32

In the late afternoon on March 14, I was walking slowly down one of the main boulevards of Prague, Na Prikopy, from Andre’s, my favorite bookstore, to the tramway that brought me home. In front of the German House, the social center for Germans living in Prague, there was a scuffle. I heard noisy insults in German...

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6. Panic and Hope

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pp. 33-38

Even in my last years of high school, around 1930, I had found that our German classmates as well as our teachers, though employed by the Czechoslovakian government, were being progressively influenced by the “new” German political outlook. It was an academic discussion, we were assured that much of the radical talk was part...

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7. Horror Spreads

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pp. 39-45

We no longer had radios and could get no information from either the BBC or other countries through underground channels sympathetic to Soviet Russia. Two of my co-workers in the Institute, who had in the past proven to be reliable in their reports, became conspicuously silent when I asked any questions about the new...

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8. Terror From a Smuggled Letter

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pp. 46-61

On June 22, the German offensive against Russia started and changed the general atmosphere. Research documents available after the war revealed that the Soviet intelligence service was informed about the preparation of the German army to invade their country, but that Stalin had refused to accept these reports and had...

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9. Theresienstadt, 1943

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pp. 62-76

The group ambience developed fast, the noise even resembled that of a picnic in a campground. Rage took over every time I focused on the terrible reality. Robbed of the freedom of decision making for the first time, I experienced that helpless passivity that would surround me like poisonous air for the next two...

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10. Arrival at Auschwitz

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pp. 77-88

I clearly recall wondering whether they would give us something to drink before they killed us. This was certainly my only wish at that moment. Nothing was as tormenting as that thirst. The idea of being dead became an attractive fantasy. If only it were quick. Nearby I saw inmates carrying bricks to a construction...

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11. The Day of Atonement, 1943

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pp. 89-91

The leaders of the camps whistled, the sign to close the gates, screaming crude threats to anyone who remained in sight. I left the hospital door slightly ajar. It was dark in the small anteroom, separated from the main part of the building. I was sure I was unobserved...

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12. In Joseph Mengele's Hospital

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pp. 92-102

We wondered whether this change in the management of the medical organization of our sector of the camp would influence our chances of survival. All of us had the impression of a tremble in the voice of the medical technician whenever he mentioned the name Mengele, his new superior. A cloud of dread radiated around...

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13. My Parents Arrive in Auschwitz

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pp. 103-113

I returned to the hospital and asked our block-leader for help. His privileged position had supported getting his parents a better place and I thought he might have had some compassion for me along with the grandiosity of his power. He lent me one of his “elegant” hand-tailored prisoner-jackets and a cap so that I could...

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14. Disaster on March 7, 1944

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pp. 114-127

As miserable as our existence in the family camp had been, we clung to the idea that we had a better chance than the many other transports that we saw arriving and disappearing. We heard confidential descriptions of killing in the gas chambers, we saw the crematoriums smoking and yet even in the hospital, where we had more...

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15. Life After the Mass Murder of March 1944

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pp. 128-135

The last six months seemed like a lifetime. It was a period in which we dealt with narrowing circles of death, coming closer until they cut deeply into our numbers, touching each of us. None of us were normal any longer, but then it would hardly have been normal to be one’s old self in these irrational surroundings...

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16. Massacre of the Hungarian Jews

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pp. 136-145

Some Jews in that part of middle Europe were still living under more reasonable conditions. They arrived tired and frightened, but not as worn out as the families who had been transferred from previous camps and ghettos. As we saw them walking in the distance, we noticed that these people differed in their appearance from...

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17. Mothers With Children

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pp. 146-147

The night was very warm when I met with a young woman, Sonia, of whom I had become very fond. Her husband had died of pneumonia in the beginning of the winter and I had helped her and her daughter whenever I could. She knew that she would have to follow this order and leave the next day with her child. The...

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18. End of Our Czech Family Camp

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pp. 148-151

The elder of the camp called for a final selection based on Mengele’s order that all those from age sixteen to forty-five appear. We watched the last examinations. An SS officer, whom I had never seen before and did not think was a physician, presided. He was highly impatient and hit people with his truncheon when they tried...

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19. Central Hospital Camp

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pp. 152-162

I was numb and confused and perceived only a part of what I heard. I began to realize that we had received another grace period. I recall these first moments in this new camp in the same way that one remembers a significant dream. I was physically, as well as emotionally, exhausted and my new surroundings appeared unreal...

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20. Rebellion at the Crematorium

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pp. 163-164

We had heard rumors that the special units (Sonderkommando), prisoners who worked in the crematoriums, were preparing to break out. They had witnessed so much that they did not expect to leave this camp alive. They must have received some alarming information and made their desperate attempt by setting...

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21. My Sister Arrives

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pp. 165-168

The expected transport arrived in the second week of October. It was to Jo, the Czech Jewish chief surgeon of the next hospital barracks, that I turned for help in looking for my sister. I knew that Jo had some secret way of visiting his wife, a veteran prisoner in a privileged position in the women’s camp. If Hanna were...

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22. End of an Interminable Epoch

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pp. 169-172

We suspected that this was the beginning of the pending liquidation. We had also seen too much and might have to be removed. I had heard how groups of prisoners who had worked at the crematoriums had been sent away only to be killed on arrival at a different place. It was expected that the SS would want to...

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23. My Trip to Berlin

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pp. 173-177

We passed countryside that was similar to that part of Bohemia in which I had grown up. As we moved, we talked about Prague. Since my deportation I had hardly dreamt of Prague, where I had spent the last ten years of my free life, those exciting years at the university that had been most important to me. However, during...

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24. A Lost Piece of Bread

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pp. 178-185

During the month that we spent here, no one cared what we did. At night we slept in the large hall on straw mattresses that covered the floor. I cannot even remember whether we had blankets. However, I do remember that it was very cold in that enormous unheated place. Early in the morning we had to leave for the...

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25. Deadly Slave Work in Ohrdruf

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pp. 186-189

The Hungarians, mostly Jews, had recently come from the selections in Auschwitz, where many of their families had been killed. They were the younger and healthier men who had been deported here to the west to be used for slave labor, as was my transport. There were also some Jews among the...

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26. An Apple Core

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pp. 190-191

I started to work when the man next to me called in a friendly voice to help him move aside a heavy rock so that he could continue the ditch he was working on. We recognized each other; I knew him from Prague. Kurtl had been a jazz pianist in one of the fine bars and I had always enjoyed his playing. We worked...

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27. Cold, Hunger, Hard Labor

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pp. 192-195

The guard leading our work unit ordered us to march in the direction from which the trucks would come. To keep myself going, I drew a cartoon in my mind. The scene had a certain absurdity. I tried to observe, as if I were an outsider, our bizarre, waddling figures, so miserable in our heavy, soaked clothes, being urged...

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28. A Turning Point

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pp. 196-203

There was a turning point for me the next night. We were in our barracks just after finishing our soup and bread. Some of the Hungarians had “organized” a few potatoes and started to bake them on the open fire. When there was no more wood, they began to burn the slats from their beds while the more experienced...

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29. I am a Doctor Again

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pp. 204-206

The improvised hospital was a former school building that had many rooms, probably former classrooms. I was shown to a small chamber, which I imagined had been the office of the principal, but was now filled with straw mattresses for medical personnel. I fell exhausted onto a free bed. I remember that I had an impressive...

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30. Various Encounters

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pp. 207-223

The next day he brought me a warm coat, a kind of car coat with a fur collar. I thanked him, touched by his generosity but I knew that I could not walk around a German concentration camp in a fur-trimmed coat. I told him this. He looked at me and I grew frightened that I had made an enemy with my...

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31. A Forced March

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pp. 224-226

I ran to the hospital. All of the personnel were gone. Some of the patients were very anxious; others were apathetic, stretched out on their beds. There was hysterical crying and calling for help when one patient tried to get out of bed and fell down out of weakness. Outside the hospital, SS guards, with rifles in their hands...

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32. Joining the Czechs in Buchenwald

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pp. 227-231

We were packed into an already overcrowded barracks, but were so tired that all we wanted was to rest. Several of us were on one mattress. The noise of the fighting became louder and more intense. Airplanes buzzed around including small fighters, called in the slang of that time “mosquitos.” We assumed that...

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33. Awakening From the Nightmare

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pp. 232-234

More fireballs surrounded us, accompanied by whistling sounds. One of my friends shook my arm and screamed, “Look!” The SS guards who had accompanied us were undressing. They could not get rid of their SS uniforms fast enough and beneath them, to our surprise, they already wore regular military uniforms...

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34. The First Weeks of Freedom

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pp. 235-239

Fritz had arranged beds in a neighborhood hospital for our more severely ill patients where I visited them daily. He also stayed in contact with the hospital in Buchenwald. With the help of special United States Army units, we desperately tried to save the lives of prisoners who had been found in the most abominable...

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35. Return to Prague

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pp. 240-241

We passed large camps belonging to the Russians that were only improvised stables; thousands of horses and heavy motorized equipment flanked the road, sometimes forcing us to detour. By the end of the day, Fritz had grown very tired and sleepy. Honsa and I could not drive. I was sitting next to the driver’s seat, also...

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pp. 243-251

After having withstood the last seven years, from the occupation of the Sudets to the death march in Thuringia, I had tried to reassure myself that nothing more could happen in my life with which I could not cope. But it was an illusion. As a matter of fact, I had become more sensitive than ever to hardship because I was...


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pp. 253-255


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pp. 257-274

Appendix I. Psychology of Nazism and the Survivor

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pp. 259-275

Appendix II. Further Notes on Survivors

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pp. 277-280

Selected bibliography

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pp. 281-285

General Index

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pp. 287-299

Selected Index - Psychoanalytic

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pp. 301-304

E-ISBN-13: 9781597097925
Print-ISBN-13: 9781597090117

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 1999

Edition: Second