Berggasse 19, Salzgries 16: It’s All about Freud!

Thomas Kramer

Die Presse (03/12/2008)

Vienna – The five treatment rooms are not furnished with the traditional couch in oriental pattern but rather very simple beds, and  the lecture hall has only a very plain  chair. The new Psychoanalytical Center in Vienna’s Salzgries 16 was ceremoniously opened on Monday. The year was doubly historical in that 1908 marked the founding of the Vienna Psychoanalytical Association and 1938 the expulsion of psychoanalysis from Austria by NS terror.

Mayor Michael Häupl spoke of an “enormous intellectual bloodletting:” It is a very ambitious goal of this city government to restore the unique intellectual life of Vienna. In the area of “Life Sciences,” this has already happened; now one must “remember Freud, Schumpeter and Kelsen.”

Martin Engelberg of the Psychoanalytical Academy praised “the reestablishment of psychoanalysis in Vienna,” which will be headed by two organizations that will share the Center – the Vienna Psychoanalytical Association (WPV) and the Vienna Working Group for Psychoanalysis (WAP), established in 1947. It is rare thing that, in light of their divisions during the rich history of psychoanalysis, the two groups have come together after having quarrelled for many years.

Excluded from the picture is the private, Sigmund Freud University of Vienna which has conflicted with WAP. Their founder, Alfred Pritz, refused to even attend the Center’s opening.  Inge Scholz-Strasser, however, director of the Sigmund Freud Private Foundation, who runs the museum in Freud’s home in the Berggasse 19, did come. At least between the museum and WPV, some peaceful, friendly coexistence appears finally to prevail.

The rooms of the Wilhelminian-style house in the Salzgries appear quiet and friendly. The cabinets are white, and the walls are hung with sketches of the unorthodox, French analyst Jacques Lacan, whom director of WAP August Ruh holds in high esteem, much to the disliking of the WPV. In one of the treatment room therapists and/or patients can look at Egyptian scenes with hieroglyphics and drafts. At the entrance, a model of one of Peter Kogler’s brains is displayed.  

Central to the program of events (info: are the traditional Freud lectures. On April 4 Bettina Reiter will speak on “It’s All about Freud;” on May 16-17 there will be a discussion held on Lacan; and on May 28 Diane O’Donoghue talks about Freud’s “Topographical Constructions.” One will commemorate the founding of the WPV at a festive event to take place on April 15; a book by Andrea Bronner published by Brandstätter depicts the first 100 years.

Deathly ill and a mere two-and-a-half months before Freud left Austria, which in the meantime had turned hostile, Freud reacted to the news of Schuschnigg’s abdication on March 1938 with a laconic, “Finis Austriae.”  Seventy years later it has made more room possible for his teachings than ever before.