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When Did Sigmund Freud Die?

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Sigmund Freud death

Sigmund Freud in 1938, one year before his death.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Question: When Did Sigmund Freud Die?

Answer:

Sigmund Freud died in London on September 23, 1939 at the age of 83.

The final year of Freud's life was a time of upheaval and struggles with illness. He had spent most of his life living and working in Vienna, but all this changed when the Nazi's annexed Austria in 1938.

In addition to being Jewish, Freud's fame as the founder of psychoanalysis made him a target. Both Sigmund Freud and his daughter Anna were interrogated by the Gestapo, and many of his books were burned. In his final interview with the Gestapo, Freud was forced to sign a statement saying that he had not been mistreated. Freud sarcastically commented, "I can most highly recommend the Gestapo to everyone."

Shortly after, a family friend secured the safe passage of Freud, his wife Martha and daughter Anna to England. One of Freud's sisters had moved to the U.S. many years previous and his brother also managed to leave Austria in 1938, but some of Freud's family members were not so fortunate. Despite several attempts to get his four sisters, Dolfi, Mitzi, Rosa and Pauli, out of the country, none were successful and all four women later died in concentration camps.

Freud left Vienna on June 4, 1938, arriving two days later in London, England. "The triumphant feeling of liberation," he wrote, "is mingled too strongly with mourning, for one had still very much loved the prison from which one has been released."

Once they arrived in London, Sigmund and Martha settled into a new home at 20 Maresfield Gardens. A heavy cigar smoker, Freud had been suffering from mouth cancer since 1923 and had already undergone several operations. After the cancer returned, his doctor's declared that the tumor was inoperable. While talking became painful and difficult due the the cancer, he recorded a brief message for the BBC on December 7, 1938, which you can listen to at the Internet Archive.

On September 21, 1939, Freud asked his doctor to administer a fatal dose of morphine and he died on September 23, 1939.

Learn more about the later years of his life in this photobiography and explore other important dates in this timeline of Sigmund Freud's life.

References:

Freud: Conflict and Culture. (2010). Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/freud/

Hothersall, D. 1995. History of Psychology, 3rd ed., Mcgraw-Hill:NY

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