During the 1930s and 1940s the exodus of Jewish families from Europe in response to Nazi persecution saw other nations scrambling to work out some sort of intake process, for fear, it seems, of inundation. A significant group, some practising members of European psychoanalytic societies, found their way to the Americas, Britain and the Dominions with either support and sponsorship from Ernest Jones then President of both the International Psychoanalytic Association and the British Psychoanalytic Society.  Others travelled independently, relying upon family and personal networks to find sponsors to their particular countries of choice. Ernest Jones’s concentrated work, beginning at the time of the Anschluss in 1933 resulted in the Freud family’s emigration from Vienna to London in 1938 and the relocation of a number of analysts to all parts of the world. So far the influence of Hungarian trained Clara Lazar Geroe, appointed by Jones as Australia’s first training analyst who arrived in Melbourne in 1940. At least two or three other analytically trained medical practitioners travelled independently of Jones’s rescue program and arrived in Australia. Hungarian analyst Andrew Peto who had also been approved for entry at the same time as Geroe did not arrive until 1948. Two German born doctors, Karl Winter who had been trained and analysed by Hans Sachs arrived in Adelaide with his wife in the early 1930s. Dr Siegfried Fink arrived in Sydney on 22 February 1939 with his wife, Lotte and daughter, Ruth. In contrast with Geroe these doctors appear to have faded into the historical record.

The Finks were amongst the fortunate ones: perspicacious enough to see that leaving the country was their best option before the tragedy of Kristallnacht. The family was interviewed – and accepted for Australia by the British Consul on 22 October 1938.  Somehow the family had made contact with a potential sponsor:Dora Birtles  author of The Overlanders and later a film of the same name, and at that time a member of an anti-fascist organisation. Birtles and her husband, Bert, had travelled and lived throughout China, Russia and Europe from about 1932 before returning to Australia in 1938. Birtles, by then living back in Sydney, sponsored the family. Fink listed his intended profession to be “psychoanalyst’.  He stated his race to be ‘White’ – a comment, perhaps, against the persecution against that had driven the family from their home in Frankfurt in Germany. Less than four months before on 11 November 1938, the date of what has since been referred to as Kristallnacht, the Nazis on orders from the central authority attacked Jewish homes, trashed synagogues, rounded up families and sent many of the men to Concentration camps for a short period. Afterward the Nazi advised Jewish people  could leave the country freely. This meant finding a country who would take them: difficult as far as entry into Britain and the United States were concerned. The Dominions were also reluctant. New Zealand closed its borders. The Australian Government eventually agreed to an intake of some 15,000 (London 2003:39). Siegfried Fink eventually worked as a neurologist. He was a regular attendee of its meetings from the early 1940s and, after its founding in the early 1950s, the Sydney Institute of Psychoanalysis. Lotte was an active member of the Jewish Women’s Association in Sydney. From 1947 she was a member of the editorial committee and contributor to of the International Journal of Sexology writing on marital relationships and child development. Her book on child development, ‘The Child and Sex’ was published in 1944.

Hungarian, Andrew Peto, was also approved for entry with his then wife, Elizabeth Kardos, he remained in Hungary. It was not until after Kardos’s death in 1945 followed by the Communist uprising in Hungary, that he applied afresh. This time, in 1946 a family contact, a remote cousin, Dr Nicholas Whealy, then working as a physician in Sydney, agreed to sponsor Peto, his second wife and child. He landed first in Melbourne in 1948 before moving to Sydney in 1950 and with financial assistance from Dr Roy Coupland Winn, founded the Sydney Institute of Psychoanalysis.(Mezaros 2012: 31-32). Peto remained in Australia for less than a decade. In 1956 he resigned from the Sydney Institute of Psychoanalysis and immigrated to New York.  Generally the reasons given for Peto’s resignation concern his qualifications to practice ( Damousi 2005, passim).

One wonders whether the reasons given for this move are entirely accurate.Perhaps there was some rivalry from Melbourne and Dr Geroe. Peto appears to have been a senior analyst in Hungarian circles; he had published widely and with a special interest in early childhood development. I can find little, if anything published by Geroe who appears to have qualified two years before her departure from Hungary in 1938. Nevertheless there was, for European born doctors, a long process of application and study to be undertaken before the Australian Government allowed them to practice.  Although Karl Winter was a qualified doctor with a special interest in psychoanalysis, it was not until the mid to late 1950s that he was granted status as a psychiatrist. He was influential and respected by South Australian colleagues in the psychiatric field: Harry Southwood who was trained as an analyst by Clara Geroe recognises his influence and training by Hans Sachs. Nevertheless by the late 1950s when his name was suggested for possible membership, Geroe insisted that he completed the Australian training.

Andrew Peto appears to have been extremely productive. In 1957 the Bulletin of the International Psychoanalytic Association (No 122) recorded his work as a faculty member and group leader of the Seminar on Mental Health in Childhood organized by the World Health Organization and Commonwealth of Australia held in Sydney from 10-27 August 1953. In his annual report to Dr Hellman at the British Institute of Psychoanalysis Peto reported that he had given two lectures at this Seminar: the ‘Psychoanalytical Theory of Early Childhood Development’ and ‘The Effects of Separation on Childhood’ (1). These were published in the Report of the Seminar on Mental Health in Childhood by the WHO and the Commonwealth Department of Health ( 1953). In 1954 Peto also published an article in the British Journal of Medical Psychology:’The Interrelations of Delinquency and Neurosis’  ( Vol. XXVII, Parts 1&2, pp.1-14). This was in addition to activities such as holding theoretical and clinical seminars for members and students of the institute, holding seminars for Institute members, numbering 11, and holding an introductory seminar for paediatricians at the Institute of Child Health. Fink, of course, as a regular attendee and, no doubt discussant. It is quite striking, a sign of the times and newspaper editors’ estimation of the importance of child development matters in the wider community that there was little coverage of this event. A brief look at the Sydney papers of the day shows that the conference was given a small space in the Women’s Pages. Rather more was given, some 2000 words, or so, to an article calling for a rethinking of children’s’ needs in hospital, in the Australian Women’s Weekly. Citing John Bowlby’s Attachment theories amongst others, the writer criticised practices where the rigidity of hospital procedures saw children catapulted from ‘the security of home to a world in which his two paramount fears are realised – desertion by his parents, injury at the hands of strangers’. Allowing parents to be with their children in hospital, the writer argued, enabled better and quicker healing and psychological health.

Overall though one wonders whether there is a deeper if not more disturbing story as psychoanalytic practice struggled to establish itself during the 1950s. It may be that rivalries between the Sydney and Melbourne groups, may have had something to do with it.Or it may be that Clara Geroe, as an appointee of the IPA/British Institute felt she should be in charge. Archival material available so far suggests that the younger newly trained analysts from the Melbourne group were coming to the forefront, while the Europeans in Sydney remained in the background. Was it that the European influence was eschewed in favour of the British? Australia in the 1950s, rested under the leadership of Anglophile Prime Minister, Robert Menzies and would do so until his retirement in 1966 and beyond, until 1973 after the election of the first Labor Government for twenty-three years.



(1) Andrew Peto to Dr Hellman 21 May 1954, Archives of the British Institute of Psychoanalysis, (G07/BH/F01/16).

Joy Damousi( 2005), Freud in the Antipodes: A Cultural History of Psychoanalysis in Australia, Sydney, UNSW Press, passim.

Louise London (2003), Whitehall and the Jews, Oxford, Oxford University Press, p.39.

Judit Mezaros,( 2012) ‘Effect of Dictatorial Regimes on the Psychoanalytic Movement in Hungary Before and After World War II’, in Mariano Ben Plotkin and Joy Damousi, (eds.), Psychoanalysis and Politics: Histories of Psychoanalysis Under conditions of Restricted Political Freedom, USA, Oxford University Press, 2012, pp.30-31.