History of psychology


The position of psychology was strongly influenced by the rise of the far right and its alliance with Nazi Germany before and during the Second World War. The so-called Jewish laws imposed increasingly severe restrictions on the lives of the Jewish population and Jewish psychologists among them who were a significant part of the profession. A series of racial associations and professional organizations were set up to draw up lists of origin and to fight for the “de-Jewification” of both intellectual and economic life. In the late 1930s antisemitic incidents and violence increased. Many psychologists of Jewish origin chose emigration. Those who remained were removed from their jobs and suffered persecution. Nevertheless, until the Arrow Cross took power in Hungary on 19 October 1944, there was relative peace and tranquillity. The months that followed, however, brought a period of immeasurable suffering in Hungarian history, leading up to the Holocaust.
Characterological, nationalist, and race-theoretical views

Towards the end of the 1930s, characterological and race-biological views became more prominent in the writings and discourse of some Hungarian psychologists, as well as in wider intellectual circles (e.g. Dezső Szabó, Béla Hamvas, Lajos Prohászka, László Németh). Typological and characterological thinking, also widespread internationally, explored the characteristics of groups of people, nations, and „races”. In 1940, the „Psychology of Hungarians” Section was founded within the Hungarian Psychological Society. Among other things, the section aimed at the study of „peculiarly Hungarian characteristics”, „inheritance psychology”, „folk attitudes”, the „protection of the health of country people”, social politics, and „race protection” (in the form of premarital counseling). The theme of „race” appeared in Hungarian psychology with a variety of emphases, some of which were discriminatory and antisemitic.

Repression, and the second wave of emigration

From 1937, the meetings of psychoanalysts were monitored by the secret police. From 1938 on, a series of racial laws closed down public service careers to people of Jewish origin. Under the pressure of the Second Jewish Law of 1939, Pál Ranschburg applied for retirement from the Polyclinic, where he worked as a senior physician. Lipót Szondi was dismissed from his own laboratory without explanation in 1941 when the so-called Third Jewish Law was introduced, and Mérei was also removed from his post because of his Jewish origin. In January 1939 István Hollós, President of the Psychoanalytical Society, appealed to the International Psychoanalytical Association for help with emigration.


Erős Ferenc (2015). A nemzetpolitikai lélektantól a tudományos fajelméletig. Socio. hu Társadalomtudományi Szemle, (2), 67-85.

Kovai Melinda (2016). Lélektan és politika. Pszichotudományok a magyarországi államszocializmusban 1945–1970. Budapest, L’Harmattan Kiadó

Mészáros Judit (2009). Az Önök Bizottsága. Ferenczi Sándor, a budapesti iskola és a pszichoanalitikus emigráció Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest