Freuds Lost Neighbors
26 March through 28 September 2003
Sigmund Freud Museum
Berggasse 19, 1090 Vienna, Austria

Lydia Marinelli

Rainer Pirker

At the center of the exhibition stands a house and its former inhabitants. Today the building at Berggasse 19 immediately calls to mind Sigmund Freud and the development of psychoanalysis, but beyond its function as a museum it contains both rental apartments and businesses as it did in Freud's day. The exhibition takes the tensions between the house's roles as the symbolically charged scene of historic events and an everyday living space as its point of departure. The combination of a mythical place of origin and its seemingly banal everyday use often causes visitors to the Sigmund Freud Museum to raise questions regarding who has lived in Berggasse 19's numerous other apartments and what has happened to these residents.

The exhibition provides an answer to these questions and outlines the history of the house and its former residents by delving into the histories of eight apartments. Attention is diverted away from the Freud aura toward the interior of a Viennese apartment house. From this different perspective, the house's rooms make apparent a labyrinth of strands of contemporary history. Insight is given into the lives of the people who lived at Berggasse 19 around 1938, many of whom were murdered or driven into exile by the Nazis. The path through the house leads to the office of the psychoanalyst Dorothy Burlingham, who lived and worked here until 1938, and to the apartment of Dorothea and Emil Humburger, whose emigration was aided by the writer Leo Perutz.

Freud's Lost Neighbors does more than just catalog individual destinies: By tracing the biography of a Viennese apartment house, it illustrates the degree to which entanglement in the history of National Socialism continues beyond the year 1945. The tenants of eight apartments serve as the basis for case studies on "Aryanization" and National Socialist housing policy, which created new ghettos in the midst of Vienna through the expulsion and resettlement of Jewish residents. Reporting on the public discussion regarding material and financial restitution has steered attention toward accounts of stolen artworks and famous names. Using the less spectacular example of the loss of tenancy rights, which affected a large segment of Vienna's Jewish population, the exhibition sketches the Second Republic's lagging restitution policy. The journey through Berggasse 19 thus leads both into the past and into the present: It opens doors to current debates concerning restitution for National Socialist expropriations, to the connections between bureaucracy and memory, but also to the rituals of remembering that museums make use of.

Numerous files are shown that have only recently been opened to the public by Austrian archives. Through them, the group of tenants that lived in Freud's building at Berggasse 19 can be pieced together. The house lists for the ninth district preserved in the records of the Viennese Israelitische Kultusgemeinde have been specially restored for the exhibition. A contrast to the exhibition's "archival" aesthetic is provided by sound collages featuring clips from interviews. These passages from conversations with tenants' descendents, psychoanalysts, museum visitors, and the house's residents transform the house at Berggasse 19 into a space that resonates with competing remembrances, experiences and imaginations.

A publication with numerous illustrations is being published by Turia + Kant on the occasion of the exhibition:
Lyida Marinelli (Hg.): Freuds verschwundene Nachbarn. Wien: Turia + Kant, 2003. p. 127, ISBN 3-85132-365-3)

Press Review