Pushing Time Away: My Grandfather and the Tragedy of Jewish Vienna

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9780060501310: Pushing Time Away: My Grandfather and the Tragedy of Jewish Vienna

"What binds us pushes time away" wrote David Oppenheim to his future wife, Amalie Pollak, on March 24, 1905. Oppenheim, classical scholar, collaborator, then critic of Sigmund Freud, and friend and supporter of Alfred Adler, lived through the heights and depths of Vienna's twentieth-century intellectual and cultural history. He perished in obscurity at a Nazi concentration camp in 1943, separated from family and friends, leaving his grandson, the philosopher Peter Singer, without a chance to know him.

Almost fifty years later Peter Singer set out to explore the life of the grandfather he never knew, and found a scholar whose ideas on ethics and human nature often parallel his own writings. Drawing on a wealth of documents and personal letters, Singer made startling discoveries about his grandparents' early romantic attachments, the basis on which they decide to marry, their professional aspirations, and their differing views of Judaism. An essay that Oppenheim co-wrote with Freud, but which was suppressed because of a bitter split within Freud's psychoanalytical society, leads Singer to explore the difficulties of following one's own ideas in the circles of both Freud and Adler.

Combining touching family biography with thoughtful reflection on both personal and public questions we face today, Pushing Time Away captures critical moments in Europe's transition from Belle Époque to the Great War and to the rise of Fascism and the coming of World War II. Singer gives us a vivid portrait of Vienna when it was the center of European culture and new ideas, a culture that was both intensely Jewish and distinctly secular. Examining this culture and its fate forces Singer to confront one of the foundations of his own thought: How much can we rely on universal values and human reason?

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About the Author:

Peter Singer is the author of Animal Liberation, Practical Ethics, and Rethinking Life and Death, among many others. He is currently the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University's Center for Human Values.

From Booklist:

Singer, a philosopher, bioethicist, professor, and author of 16 books, is best known for the "animal liberation" movement, which deals with the ethics of our treatment of animals. He also is the grandson of David Oppenheim, a Jew and a classical scholar who lived in Vienna and died in Theresienstadt concentration camp in 1942. Oppenheim's wife, Amalie, survived the Holocaust and moved to Australia in 1946. Singer found many letters and intimate personal papers in an aunt's home in Australia and in the State Archives of Austria. They included more than 100 letters that Singer's grandparents wrote to his parents and to his mother's sister after they left for Australia in 1938. Singer describes how his grandfather became a friend of Sigmund Freud and how they discussed theories of psychology. Oppenheim later parted with Freud, following instead the first of the great heretics of psychoanalysis, Alfred Adler. Singer's book is an exceptional eulogy to his grandfather. George Cohen
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