Walter Freud – from Loughborough College to the Special Operations Executive

29 September 2014

In 1938, after Austria had been absorbed into the Third Reich, international pressure persuaded the Nazis to allow the famous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud and his family to leave Vienna for London. Among them was Freud’s sixteen year old grandson, Anton Walter Freud. After a year of private tuition, Walter Freud entered Loughborough College in September 1939 to study Aeronautical Engineering. During the summer term, when he was in the middle of a mathematics examination, the police arrived and arrested him as an enemy alien. He was sent to an internment camp in Australia and only allowed back to England a year later in August 1941.

As an ex-enemy alien the only army unit Walter could join was the Pioneer Corps, where he served until recruited to the Special Operations Executive’s (SOE) Austria section in 1943. In spring 1945 he and a colleague left their base in Italy and were parachuted into Austria to encourage local anti-Nazi resistance. Freud lost contact with his companion but made his way alone to the intended target. In full uniform, with the help of friendly locals, he proceeded in the town fire-engine to Zeltweg aerodrome.

On his return to England he was assigned to the British war crimes investigation unit in Germany, where he worked on the Krupp industrial conglomerate and the industrialist responsible for developing Zyklon B, the gas used in the concentration camps.

Walter returned to Loughborough College in 1947, this time to study Chemical Engineering. After graduating he pursued a successful career as a chemical engineer. He always maintained strong links with his student friends from Loughborough, meeting up with them every year for 50 years. Walter Freud died in 2004.

Jenny Clark, University Archivist

Dr Peter Pirker

Dr Peter Pirker

The adventures of Anton Walter Freud as an agent in Nazi Austria

In May 2012, Dr Peter Pirker, a historian and political scientist from Vienna University, presented his research findings on the remarkable wartime career of Anton Walter Freud at a lecture given at Loughborough University.

Watch a video of the talk here  or read a transcript of it here: A W Freud by Dr P Pirker.

Dr Pirker is the author of ‘Subversion under German Rule – The British wartime secret service and Austria’ published (in German) by Vienna University Press.

Discover more:

Read an extract of ‘Freud’s War‘ by historian Helen Fry.

Read another article by Dr Pirker about the SOE agents in Austria.