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American Imago 58.4 (2001) 793-812

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Using Oral History about Freud:
A Case in His "Secret Essay"

Paul Roazen

Personal interviews, whatever their inevitable shortcomings, can be a unique avenue of historical knowledge. In the midst of my collecting information from many people who knew Freud, Helene Deutsch--she and I were then living in Cambridge, Massachusetts--became one of my key sources of information. It was a typical part of my routine to ask any of the early analysts I met about the precise details connected with the patients they may have received as referrals from Freud. Various legends about the most famous quarrels in the history of psychoanalysis could be addressed by attending to what exactly any of my informants knew for certain from personal experience. And in dealing with Freud's clinical practices I tried to be as concrete as possible.

On May 22, 1965 Helene Deutsch, during what was becoming a regular Saturday morning interview, happened to mention, in connection with one of Freud's cases, a Swedish millionaire named Ivar Kreuger. 1 Helene, who had been born in 1884, had not yet turned eighty-one at this time. She was in full possession of her faculties, and went on to live until 1982. Although I knew nothing then about Kreuger (1880-1932), I have since learned that he founded a pre-World War I trust for matches and became known as the "match-king"; his international financial agency was later wrecked by fraud, and Kreuger committed suicide. Interestingly, Freud noted "Krueger suicide" in his chronicle, which has now appeared as The Diary of Sigmund Freud, 1929-39. After Kreuger died Lord Keynes said that he had been "maybe the greatest financial intelligence of his time." Kreuger himself had maintained: "I've built my enterprise on the firmest ground that can be found--the foolishness of people." John Kenneth Galbraith was harsher than Keynes: "[Kreuger] was, by all odds, the biggest thief in [End Page 793] the long history of larceny--a man who could think of embezzlement in terms of hundreds of millions." The editor of Freud's Diary, to whom I am indebted for these citations, has also pointed out how intriguing Kreuger was to the public because of his wealth and unmarried state. A Swedish psychoanalyst wrote a study of him, and Graham Greene modelled a character on Kreuger in his England Made Me. But it has remained unknown "what aspect of" Kreuger's suicide "intrigued Freud enough to report it in his diary" (Molnar 1992, 122).

Now, the Swedish millionaire Freud had in analysis, sometime after World War I, was a "partner" of Kreuger's. He, in turn, had a fiancée whom Freud had sent to Helene Deutsch as a patient. My notes record: "That's how they all got their first patients," which would have been a rough-and-ready version of what Helene had said to me. Helene herself was analyzed by Freud during 1918-19, and she would have been referring to her earliest experiences as an analyst. Freud had told her that if there should be clinical "difficulties," he was willing to see her about patients whom he had sent her. There was as yet no formal center of psychoanalytic training in Vienna--Helene became founding Director of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Institute in January 1925 (Roazen 1985, 245)--and she thought in retrospect that Freud's way of proceeding was in a sense the origins of control analysis.

Helene brought up with me this example of the fiancée of the Kreuger partner whom Freud had sent her as part of Freud's great interest and concern for his patients' welfare; she considered him "a great clinician." According to my notes, she said she saw Freud about a typical patient perhaps ten times throughout the course of a treatment. Upon rereading my notes, as I frequently did in the course of my subsequent interviewing as well as in writing various books, her account reminded me of Siegfried Bernfeld's version of his own informal early...


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