Ezriel Kornmehl Seeks Out Sigmund Freud

Ezriel Kornmehl Seeks Out Sigmund Freud

Earlier this week, I returned to the story of Ezriel Kornmehl, introducing his parents and siblings — and throwing in a little celebrity glitter. Today I take him from his birth in Tarnow, Poland, to the start and completion of his education in Vienna.

From high school to med school

Ezriel was born in 1891 and attended gymnasium (high school) in Tarnow. Upon the completion of his studies in September 1911, he moved to Krakow to attend the Jagiellonian University School of Medicine (that’s the seal you see next to the title).

He completed the first of three qualifying exams, and then, in March 1914, transferred to the University of Vienna Medical School.

Leopoldstadt, the second district of Vienna where Ezriel lived while at university

Leopoldstadt — Vienna’s Jewish 2nd district — in 1915. Ezriel Kornmehl lived here during this period, while he was studying at the University of Vienna

In the post where I first speculated about the reason for this change from one prestigious center of learning to another, I coyly suggested it might have something to do with a certain famous doctor with the initials S.F.

It turns out I was right.

The details are still vague. According to Ezriel’s son, Ludwig, his father “studied with Freud” in Vienna, which also had a better medical school than Krakow’s.

It’s difficult to know what it might have meant to study with Freud. According to the Freud Museum London, Freud was appointed Professor of Neuropathology at the university in 1902, a post he held until 1938. But Freud’s professorship was honorary and he didn’t teach in formal university setting. Rather, he met with followers — not necessarily students — at the Wednesday Psychological Society, held at his apartment on 19 Berggasse.

I haven’t yet found any evidence that Ezriel attended these meetings, and later descriptions of his practice give no hint of psychoanalysis or neurology, but there is no reason to disbelieve the family story. After all, it was a family story about Freud buying kosher meat from my great uncle that led me, circuitously, to write this blog.

And during the period Ezriel was in Vienna, his cousin, Siegmund, already had a butcher shop downstairs from Freud. Members of the family would surely have spread the word to Krakow about the growing celebrity of the upstairs doctor.

War Breaks Out

If meetings with Freud are not on the record, other details of Ezriel’s Vienna education are. According to University of Vienna Medical School records, Ezriel completed his second qualifying exam on February 20th 1917, his third on February 1st 1918. He got his Dr. med. on March 9th, 1918.

I hadn’t really thought about it when I first wrote about Ezriel’s education, but this must have been a difficult time to be in Vienna. He arrived in March, 1914. Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in June 1914, and  World War I broke out the next month. Vienna was at the heart of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which came to an end — with the end of the war — in October 1918.

I would imagine that some of Ezriel’s friends and family members enlisted to fight for Austria; I know for certain that my grandfather, who married one of Ezriel’s Kornmehl cousins, did. Perhaps the fact that he sat out this conflict during his studies had an influence on his decision to join the Polish army a few years later.

But that’s speculation. And the war years are for a future post.

Moving Addresses

According to the records from the University of Vienna, Ezriel moved around quite a bit during the  he was at the university.

During his studying time in Vienna he lived in the 2nd district which had a large Jewish community in this time: from (about) March to June 1914 his address was Große Schiffgasse 11. Then he moved to Taborstraße 20a, door number 14 and before March 1915 to Obere Donaustraße 89, door number 1. From October 1915 to June 1916 he lived at Große Sperlgasse 37 a, door number 15.

Those changes of address are typical student behavior, but one thing is interesting: In 1918 Ezriel’s father, Leiser Kornmehl, is listed as living at Große Sperlgasse 37– Ezriel’s address from October 1915 to June 1916.

What could this mean? Did Leiser move from Poland to Vienna to provide his son with some stability, a place to live in his last year of medical school while he was taking his exams? Or did Leiser take over Ezriel’s apartment when his son graduated? And what about his roofing business in Tarnow? The only thing that’s clear is that his wife, Chana, would have had no problem holding down the fort. It is she who is remembered by her relatives as being a good businesswoman, especially in later years as the sole owner of a gas station.

One more thing: Although Ezriel lived in the Jewish district pictured above, I doubt he would have looked like these more religious residents in the foreground. A later picture — which I am still trying to reproduce — shows him as looking secular. And Ezriel would have wanted to fit in at medical school and dress in the fashion of the decidedly nonreligious man he admired:  Sigmund Freud

2 Responses to Ezriel Kornmehl Seeks Out Sigmund Freud

  1. You certainly have Ezriel at the right place and time, and with the right connections for “studying with Freud”–who was becoming a celebrity–to mean something. During which years did Freud’s theories spark maximum interest & controversy? (I used to know these things.) I wonder if Ezriel would ave agreed with Freud’s positions??
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    • Edie Jarolim says:

      That’s an excellent question. I don’t have a definitive answer, but I know that Freud was invited to come to America in 1909, so it is clear he was very well known by then. That would suggest that, by the time he arrived in Vienna, Ezriel would have known Freud’s ideas and, presumably, have agreed with them.

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