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From Despair to Hope: The Holocaust, Immigration, and Psychoanalysis in North America

Aaron M. Beatty, MA|
March 2, 2023
On March 12, 1938, German troops crossed the border into Austria and annexed their neighbor with no armed resistance from the Austrian people. On that weekend in March, Sigmund Freud wrote three diary entries, “Finis Austriae (the end of Austria),” “13/3 Anschluss with Germany,” “13/4 Hitler in Vienna.” Over the next days, Freud’s home was searched, and his passport was taken. On the 22nd, Freud wrote “Anna with Gestapo.” On the 85th anniversary of that time, we look to the story of the psychoanalytic community in Vienna and Europe and their flight from their home.
The Erikson Institute of the Austen Riggs Center has collaborated with the Sigmund Freud Museum, Vienna, on a series of virtual roundtables (which began in January and conclude in April) exploring legacy, loss, genocide, and the impact of emigration on psychoanalysis. The series will culminate in the opening of an exhibition that will open in June and run through the summer and fall of 2023 for visitors to Stockbridge.
This collaboration was undertaken in honor of the late Anton O. Kris who served as the Executive Director of the Freud Archives and worked tirelessly to build relationships across oceans and generations of psychoanalysts.

EXHIBITION “Organized Escape: Psychoanalysts in Exile”

The exhibit is closed for the season. If you would like more information or an appointment please contact Alison Lotto.
This exhibition, which travels to the Corner House community exhibition space at the Austen Riggs Center from the Sigmund Freud Museum in Vienna, tells the unique history of the collective escape of these Jewish Viennese psychoanalysts through selected biographies, numerous images, and original, written documents. From the detailed lists and plans laid out by Anna Freud and the leaders of the Viennese Psychoanalytic Society (WPV), to their joyous reunion at the Austen Riggs Center’s “First Stockbridge Congress on Child Analysis” in 1950, we learn that many succeeded in finding professional fulfilment in exile, and some of them went on to have impressive careers.
Austen Riggs former Medical Director (1947-66) Robert Knight, MD, and émigré psychoanalysts Ernst and Marianne Kris played a key role in the organization of this congress and in the development of psychoanalysis in the United States. Later, the Kris’ son Anton O. Kris became an important figure in psychoanalysis, building bridges between psychoanalysts in Europe and the United States.
Director of the Erikson Institute Jane G. Tillman, PhD, states, “American psychoanalysis in the 20th century was considerably enriched and shaped by the émigré psychoanalysts from Central Europe and this exhibit tells the story of the concerted effort by psychoanalytic organizations around the world to aid in the lifesaving escape of Jewish psychoanalysts from Vienna as the Nazis invaded Austria.”
Beginning with the roundtable series and continuing in the exhibit, the collaboration looks at migration to the United States and the impact on the field of psychoanalysis and the larger world of mental health. By expanding this historical story to look at the experience of current immigrants, the exhibition and roundtable series will examine the commonalities and differences between then and now and what the two places, Vienna and Stockbridge, brought to those stories. 


Refugees and Immigrants: Their Experience and Contribution to Psychoanalysis in North America
Hosted by Thomas A. Kohut, PhD, President of the Freud Foundation US and Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Professor of History at Williams College, this virtual roundtable series looks at the legacy, loss, genocide, and the impact of emigration on psychoanalysis.
  • Roundtable 1: "After Vienna: A conversation with Otto Kernberg, MD, and Thomas Kohut, PhD"
    View Recording 
  • Roundtable 2: "Refugee Psychoanalysts 1920-1955: Enriching Psychoanalysis in the Americas"
    View Recording 
  • Roundtable 3: "Genocide: What Psychoanalysis Lost in the Holocaust"
    View Recording
  • Roundtable 4: "Beyond Forced Emigration: Contemporary Émigré Experience in Psychoanalysis"
    View Recording


The Erikson Institute is collecting stories of emigration to include in this upcoming exhibition. We invite you to participate by contributing a written story, short video, or audio account of your family or personal experience of immigration. Use the link below to record or submit your story.
This project is supported in part by Steven C. Ackerman and grants from the Stockbridge Cultural Council and the Lee Cultural Council, local agencies that are supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.
For more information, please contact Alison Lotto, MA, MLIS, Manager of the Erikson Institute Library, Archives, and Operations at