Freud colleague's ashes return home

By Robyn Rosen, April 14, 2011
Last resting place

Last resting place

A Jewish consul is to return the ashes of Alfred Adler, one of Sigmund Freud's colleagues, to the psychotherapist's hometown of Vienna, 74 years after his sudden death in Aberdeen.

Dr Adler, son of a Hungarian-Jewish grain merchant, died aged 67 of a suspected heart attack during a trip to Aberdeen in 1937 to lecture at the university.

He is considered one of the three founding fathers of psychotherapy, together with Freud and Carl Jung.

John Clifford, honorary Austrian consul to Scotland, was asked by the Austrian Society for Individual Psychology, founded by Dr Adler in 1911, to locate his remains, after his family lost track of his ashes when he was cremated in Edinburgh. (Edinburgh had the only available crematorium in Scotland at the time.)

In 1907 Adler was invited by Freud to join an informal discussion group, which became known as the Psychoanalytic Society.

Eight years later, after falling out with Freud, Adler broke away, formed the Society of Individual Psychology, and set up his own clinics.

But by the early 1930s, most of his clinics were closed down due to his Jewish heritage, and he moved to America.

"Dr Adler is a very important figure," Mr Clifford said. "Freud dealt with people in the upper middle classes, but Adler came from a different background. He was a social democrat who believed people in the working classes also had problems and needed help.

"It was the Jewish community in Vienna which gave us such towering giants as Adler and Freud."

Mr Clifford's mother housed many Jewish refugees from Europe in her home in Oxfordshire during the war.

"The people I was surrounded with as a child not only brought us Jewish culture, but also central European culture, and it was the Jewish connection which brought Austria to life for me."

Mr Clifford searched through the crematorium records to discover the casket containing Dr Adler's ashes among scores of others stored on wooden shelves.

The urn was identified in 2007 and it has taken a further four years to make provisions for him at the Central Cemetery in Vienna.

"When I was asked to locate Alfred Adler, I felt it was part of my own journey," the consul said. "It was enormously satisfying when I found him."

Mr Clifford will represent the Austrian ambassador in a formal handover ceremony at the crematorium, and Dr Adler's ashes will then finally be returned to Vienna.

Last updated: 11:15am, April 17 2011