"I cannot see a peaceful life here in the future

"I cannot see a peaceful life here in the future."1
The Emigration of the Budapest School
and the Emergency Committee on Relief and Immigration 2
by Judit Mészáros, Ph.D.
Unlike the emigration of analysts from Berlin and Vienna, it was Hungary’s politicoeconomic changes in the late 1910s and early 1920s and their attendant anti-Semitism that
first launched the emigration of the Budapest School of Psychoanalysis – not the spread of
Hitler’s fascism in the 1930s. In order to understand the losses to Hungary’s psychoanalytic
movement brought about by two waves of emigration – the first between 1919-1924, the
second between 1938-1941 – and, indeed, to understand the gains in the development of
modern psychoanalysis tied to the later work of the émigrés from Hungary we must look back
to the results achieved by Ferenczi as well as by members of the Budapest School prior to
their emigration.
“Budapest is well on its way to becoming the centre of our movement.” (Freud, 1918)
In a letter to Karl Abraham in August 1918, Freud said he believed that “Budapest is well on
its way to becoming the centre of our movement” (Letter from Freud to Karl Abraham, [1918]
2002). How is it that, a mere decade after Freud and Ferenczi first met in 1908, Budapest
would be suited to such a role?
One of the main characteristics of the Budapest School can be connected to the figure of
Ferenczi, but beyond him it also stems from the interdisciplinarity of psychoanalysis : how it
became interlinked with the processes of modernisation in early 20th-century Hungary
through figures in literature, the arts and the social sciences. Another distinctive feature was
also shaped by Ferenczi’s innovative and liberal personality: a great many creative people
from a variety of scholarly fields became closely linked to psychoanalysis and they were all
free to work in their fields of speciality in such areas as ethnography, pedagogy and even
The catalyst:
Ferenczi was a catalyst for the development of psychoanalysis in Hungary. Thanks to
Ferenczi’s tireless work in teaching and public speaking, the “new human view”, as Ignotus,
a contemporary literary figure, called it (Ignotus, [1933] 2000, 39), was soon embraced by
receptive modernist intellectuals.
The role of the media:
Hungary saw both the creation of the Free University for the Social Sciences, the medical
weekly (Therapy), and the founding of journals literary criticism (West) and sociology
(Twentieth Century), all with the goal of passing on the new intellectual currents. Similarly, a
forum was launched by medical students (the Galilei Group). And all of these were eager to
Sandor Lorand. Interview by L. C. Kolb (1963) Manuscript, Brill Archive, The New York Psychoanalytic
Panel talk at the 21rst Annual Conference of the EPF, Vienna, March 2008
spread the ideas of psychoanalysis. In other words, both university students and the young
avant-garde intelligentsia had the opportunity not only to follow, but also to play a part in the
development of the field.
I wish to stress that these various channels through which psychoanalysis was spread in
tandem – or, indeed, in the parlance of our day, the role of the media – played an essential
role in the fact that ten years after the first Freud-Ferenczi meeting (1908) psychoanalysis in
Budapest was far more than a new method for treating patients with neuroses. Ignotus
described early psychoanalysis as spread by Ferenczi in this way: “the next day we were
already thinking differently than we had been the day before” (Ignotus, [1933], 2000, 38).
Psychoanalysis could be found in the conversations in the cafés of Budapest, in jokes, and in
the open-mindedness of internists and neurologists.
Freud’s key writings had been published in Hungarian Indeed, a study by Freud, “A Difficulty
in the Path of Psycho-analysis” (1917), had first been published in the literary journal West in
1917. Ferenczi published prolifically and regularly gave lectures at the Free University for the
Social Sciences as well as to medical students. All of this proved a sound intellectual
investment. His appointment as full professor in Budapest in 1919 and the concurrent
establishment of the first department of psychoanalysis within a medical university (Erős,
Kapás and Kiss, 1987) represented the fulfilment of these students’ efforts.
The position of Budapest was further strengthened by the fact that it was there that the 5th
International Psychoanalytical Congress was held in 1918.3 During the congress, Antal
Freund of Tószeg the first patron of the psychoanalytic movement, pledged what would be
the equivalent today of half a million dollars to establish an international psychoanalytic
publishing house and library in Budapest. At the same time, Freund planned to back the
setting up of a psychoanalytic outpatient clinic and the teaching of psychoanalysis as part of
the university curriculum. Thus, the growth of a strong, diverse system had begun, one which
included plans to expand psychoanalytic publishing, psychoanalytic training and
opportunities for low-fee healing.
Freud gauged the situation accurately, therefore, when he observed that, unlike “the hostile
indifference of the learned and educated […] in Vienna” (Freud, 1914, 40), Budapest offered
tempting prospects for the entire psychoanalytic movement.
The first wave of emigration – Vienna and Berlin
The end of World War I brought with it the collapse of vast empires – among them the
Austro-Hungarian one. Being on the losing side, Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory in the
peace treaty that followed. Other dramatic changes also took place between 1918 and 1920. In
fact, in the space of only a year and a half, the monarchy crumbled and " Aster Revolution" –
based on the liberal, radical oppositions of the First World War4– brought about the creation
of a short-lived, first republic, which was unable to steady itself amid both the domestic and
international political power struggles surrounding it. It thus gave way to a Soviet Republic
The congress was held between 28-29 September 1918.
Tibor Hajdú and Zsuzsa L. Nagy, "Revolution, Counterrevolution, Consolidation," in: Peter F. Sugar, Péter
Hanák, Tibor Frank, eds., A History of Hungary (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press,
1994), pp. 295-309.
that lasted for several months, which was, in turn, followed by a backlash of rightist White
Terror. Against changes and disturbances of such proportions, the potential for Budapest
playing a central role in the psychoanalytic movement was utterly lost.
The numerous retaliatory measures taken in 1919 and 1920 led to the following losses
compared to the advantageous situation of the previous year and a half:
1. Ferenczi was dismissed from his post as department head, and, at the same time,
2. Psychoanalysis lost its position within the university curriculum.
3. As a result of pressure put on Freud by Jones (Letter from Jones to Freud, [12 October
1919] Freud-Jones, 1993, 357), Ferenczi resigned as president of the International
Psychoanalytical Association before his term was over, citing slow and difficult
communications from Hungary. In the interim (1919-1920), Jones took over the post.
4. Due to inflation, a portion of Freund’s donation had to be taken to Vienna and it was thus
Vienna – and not Budapest – where the psychoanalytic publishing house and library were
established in 1919.
The White Terror period in the early twenties the attendant anti-Semitism and the 6%
restriction on Jewish students permitted at universities, or numerus clausus, all sparked the
wave of emigration to which the leftist, Jewish or anti-despotic portion of Hungary’s
intelligentsia felt compelled. Outstanding scientists, philosophers and artists left the country
then,5 and the majority of them immigrated to Berlin. As a consequence of the wave of
Central Eastern European emigration that followed World War I, Berlin became fertile ground
for modern culture and evolved into a city that fully embraced the talented émigré
intelligentsia (Frank, 1999).
It was then that Budapest lost a portion of its analysts for the first time. One quarter of the 18member Hungarian Psychoanalytical Society left the country. Members who emigrated
included Sándor Radó (secretary of the society),6 Jenő Hárnik, Jenő Varga,7 Sándor Lóránd
and Melanie Klein.8 Hungarian psychoanalysis was thus forced to resign itself to the loss of
its promising young people, some of whom – Michael Balint, Alice Balint and Edit Gyömrői
– would actually return to Budapest in the consolidation period of the 1920s only to be forced
to leave not long afterward and then to emigrate permanently in the second wave (1938-41).
Theodore von Kármán, Michael Polányi, Leó Szilárd, Edward Teller, Arnold Hauser, George Lukács and Karl
Mannheim, to mention only a few.
Sándor Radó took an active role in Hungary’s Soviet government. We know from a letter from Ferenczi to
Freud that Radó also had a hand in Ferenczi’s professorial appointment. Ferenczi wrote that he had “ whipped
the matter through the education section” (Ferenczi 812, Freud–Ferenczi, 2003, 353).
Having been a part of Béla Kun’s government as the people’s commissar for finance and then for social
production as well as chairman of the People’s Economic Council, Jenő Varga was sentenced to death after the
fall of the Soviet Republic. He fled to Austria and took part in sessions of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society for
a short period between February and June of 1920. Afterward, he travelled to Moscow to the 2 nd congress of the
Communist Internationale and settled in Soviet Russia where he worked with Lenin and was the director
between 1927 and 1947 of the Institute of World Economics and Politics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences
(Toegel, 2001).
Melanie Klein became a member of the Hungarian Psychoanalytic Society in 1919 with her paper entitled “A
child’s development”. She left the country in 1921 due to anti-Semitism.
The first wave of emigration – 1919-1926
Jenő Varga
Edit Gyömrői
René Spitz
Members of the Hungarian Psychoanalytical Society
Jenő Hárnik
Melanie Klein
Sándor Radó
Future analysts
Michael Balint
Alice Balint
Devereux, alias
Franz Alexander
György Dobó
Georg Gerő
Edit Gyömrői
New York City
Sándor Lóránd
The face of Europe had changed. Budapest fell into decline, Berlin began to flourish. Berlin
was the stronghold of the émigré Central and Eastern European intelligentsia and became the
hub of European culture.
Thus, both Vienna and Berlin grew in significance. The first Psychoanalytic Institute was
founded in Berlin in 1920; it would establish the basic structure for training in the field. This
effort was based in part on the experience of one-time Hungarian analyst Sándor Radó. A
decade later, it was through Radó that the Berlin training model moved to the United States,
where the groundwork for the American training system was laid in the early 1930s at the
New York Psychoanalytic Institute under Radó’s leadership.
Owing to its limited opportunities in the late 1920s, Budapest would only see its first training
institute established in 1926 and then, in 1931, a polyclinic which provided low-fee
psychoanalytic outpatient therapy, but managed to revive extremely active and creative
development in psychoanalytic research and training (Haynal and Mészáros, 2004).
A decade of Berlin flourishing was put to an end with Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. This
sealed the fate of psychoanalysts in Berlin (Friedrich, Hermanns, Kaminer and Juelich, 1985).
Then, with the spread of fascism and the annexation of Austria, the best and brightest of the
Viennese intelligentsia found itself dispossessed (Stadler and Weibel, 1995) – including Freud
and the Viennese psychoanalytic community (Molnar, 1992).
“Your Committee” – The Emergency Committee on Relief and Immigration
On 13 March 1938, a day after the Anschluss, the American Psychoanalytic Association
(APA) established The Emergency Committee on Relief and Immigration (Mészáros, 1998).
Lawrence S. Kubie became chairman. Committee members represented psychoanalytic
associations and institutes operating throughout the US.9 Among its members were Sándor
Radó and Franz Alexander were both originally from Budapest.
The committee set the objective of aiding in the escape and immigration of all its European
colleagues by all means possible. This proved to be an even more difficult task since US
immigration policy had the opposite aim. What follows is a list of factors that illustrate both
the rationale behind this restrictive immigration policy and the forces pitted against the
Emergency Committee, which was no more than a volunteer organisation. These were forces
intensified by the Great Depression as well as by growing anti-Semitism and the fear of the
spread of Bolshevism and anarchism known as the “Red Scare”:
1. Annual immigration quotas for Europe had remained unchanged as of the 1920s. In fact,
they never exceeded 54% of the upper limit of 143,774 (Breitman and Kraut, 1987, 10).
2. In the 11 years between 1933-1944, no more than 120,000 German and Austrian citizens
immigrated to the US. For Germany, this total works out to less than half of the annual quota
for that country of 25,957 immigrants (Breitman and Kraut, 1987, 10).
3. US public opinion was extremely resistant to immigration. According to a survey taken in
January 1939, 83% opposed it.
4. By the end of March 1940, over 100 xenophobic proposals and bills had been put before
5. The State Department was fiercely opposed to immigration, whereas liberal Secretary of
Labour Frances Perkins supported it. Between 1933-39, Washington quaked in the resulting
battles between these two government departments.
6. Many saw the émigré intelligentsia as a serious threat. Although he saw what was
happening to Jewish citizens of the Third Reich, the U.S. Consul General in Berlin
(Messersmith, 1930-34) wrote the following in a letter to W.J. Carr, director of the U.S.
Consular Service:
"We cannot fill our own universities with foreign professors who are alien to our thought [...]
The average Jew, for example, who desires to emigrate to the United States, will be very glad
to be […] able to make a home for himself in our country [...] but these professors who feel
that they have a mission in life, may potentially be a danger to us..." (Letter from Messersmith
to Carr, 5 July 1933, cited by Breitman and Kraunt, 1987, 44-45).
It is clear why it would have been difficult for Roosevelt to take the political risk that would
necessarily have accompanied any humanitarian measures. This is why he and his liberal
supporters began to hammer out potential measures that took into account the latest
considerations to help refugees but that would not contravene the restrictive laws.
How did the Emergency Committee work?
From Boston: Dr. Helene Deutsch, Dr. Henry Murray and Dr. Ralph Kaufman; from Chicago: Dr. Franz
Alexander and Dr. Thomas French; from New York: Dr. Bertram Lewin, Dr. Sandor Rado, Dr. Adolf Meyer, Dr.
George Daniels and Dr. Lawrence Kubie; and from Washington-Baltimore: Dr. Lewis Hill.
The Emergency Committee put out a call for donations among the US psychoanalysts for the
following objectives:
1. To aid their colleagues in escaping from the occupied territories. Money that had been
deposited in foreign accounts could be used to travel and to cross the border.
2. For immigration to the US. US immigration policy demanded enormous sums of money
from those who intended to offer assistance. Sponsors who were not close relatives had to
submit a statement of sponsorship, which was an affidavit to the effect that, in the case of a
family of four, 5000 dollars had been placed on deposit in a bank account.10
3. For the settlement of immigrants. Financial assistance did not represent a donation, but
rather a long-term, interest-free loan, which had to be repaid after a few years once a person
had established himself. Beyond the financial principle there was an important psychological
side-effect to this procedure that cannot be denied: it boosted the self-esteem of those who had
recently arrived and prevented the inevitable subordination that accompanied a feeling of
The committee put out the Bulletin, which contained all necessary information on the
requirements for immigration and settlement: the requirement to take the medical board
examination in order to earn the right to practice medicine and criteria for filling teaching
posts for lay analysts. It also made it clear that if someone requests the aid of the committee
he must expect to start his US career in whichever town and state the committee sends him.
The committee’s president and “member for foreign affairs”, Lawrence Kubie, made contact
with the State Department and the consular affairs service. Kubie was in direct contact with
the president of both the International Psychoanalytical Association and the British PsychoAnalytical Society, Ernest Jones. It was through the co-operation of these two men that the
main strategy for the emigration of the European psychoanalysts took shape.
It was the responsibility of the co-chair of the Emergency Committee, Bettina Warburg, to
stay on top of the fate of the émigrés from setting up official interviews to addressing
individual concerns (Jeffrey, 1989).
It is a true reflection of the American ethos that committee correspondence regularly referred
to the Emergency Committee as “Your Committee”, expressing the notion that the
organisation was established through the wishes of US analysts.
For example, the Emergency Committee agreed with the US Consulate in Vienna in March
1938 that all the affidavits and other necessary documents should be sent to the consulate
where it would use them as it deemed necessary. “Your Committee” managed to provide
affidavits for a “large number of psychoanalytic colleagues in Austria” (Kubie, 31 March
1938, cited in Kurtzweil, 1992, 344).
By June 1938, 10,000 dollars had been deposited in the committee’s account and 2000 of that
had been transferred to Jones (Kubie, 1937-1938, 68).
In 1938, this sum came to double the annual salary of a young physician, and was likewise double the annual
pay of the administrator of the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis.
Conflicts within the movement
Meanwhile, leaders of the psychoanalytic movement were facing conflicts within the
Conflict festered between the International Psychoanalytical Association and the American
Psychoanalytic Association. The Americans felt that the IPA were towering over them,
curtailing their efforts at autonomy, and failing to acknowledge that the US psychoanalytic
movement had gone a different route from that of the Europeans. The pointed conflicts had
reached a point where in the winter of 1938-39 Ernest Jones, president of the IPA, and
Edward Glover, IPA secretary, had indicated to the APA that they planned to discuss them
during a visit to the US. The escalation of the war, however, put a halt to the planned visit (9
May 1939), but it did not stop plans to reach a possible compromise. In a letter to Kubie,
Glover passed on Jones’ recommendations and made it clear that
[…] whatever organization is built up, it should have the courage of its main
convictions. If there is to be any international organization it must be in a position to
do all it can to further the interests of psychoanalysis and of psychoanalysts in all
countries. And it seems to me that for this reason alone, it is very desirable that
whatever can be, should be done to solve the perplexing problem of ‘migration’ of
analysts […]” (Glover, [31 Aug. 1939] 1940, 30).
Jones’ recommendations include the “modern” organisational structure still in place today:
that the international field should be divided into two independent bodies, an American and a
European one. Thus, Jones practically confirmed the situation as it had stood up till then.33 At
the same time, he also remarked that the two federations should remain unified and that they
should function within the framework of the IPA under the same conditions and maintaining
the rules of the international body.
The presence of European psychoanalysts in the US created additional difficulties. Some of
them had been invited by the Americans themselves in the early 1930s – for example, Radó
and Alexander – but at that time they could not have known that there would be mass
emigration from Hitler’s Germany within a few years and that by admitting the Viennese
analysts the number of European analysts at US institutes would rise so dramatically. As
representatives of an authentic psychoanalysis, the émigrés behaved with a sense of European
superiority, while their US colleagues not only looked down on these lay analysts who had
become so familiar in Europe, but they also stopped them through laws from carrying on their
psychoanalytic practices. The European criticism of this restriction was that US
psychoanalysis had become medicalized and that this trend was in principle a divergence from
Freud’s original intentions.
In 1938-39, therefore, during the wave of immigration from Vienna, passionate infighting was
already raging, for example, at the New York Psychoanalytic Society and at the Institute as
Among those who sparked these conflicts was Karen Horney. She had been invited by
Alexander to work with him in Chicago, then moved to New York in 1934 and worked at the
New York Psychoanalytic Institute. Horney rejected the priority of Freud’s instinct theory
After the recommendation had been approved, the European Psychoanalytic Federation was established within
the international society.
and stressed the power of environmental and cultural effects in shaping one’s personality.
Horney found followers, including many Ferenczi sympathizers, such as Harry Stack Sullivan
and Clara M. Thompson. At the same time, among those who were strongly opposed was an
analyst originally from Hungary: Sándor Radó (Kurzweil, 1992).
Kubie, therefore, not only had the refugee issue to deal with, but he also needed to strike a
balance between the differences in approach created by the émigrés. A letter he wrote to
Glover in November 1939 clearly illustrates the situation of his time:
“[…] not only among the Society members, but among the students: a group of
students who were under exclusive Horney influence – another group under exclusive
Radó influence – another group under Kardiner’s influence – and a group that had
more general classical training. Each group was more or less hermetically sealed from
the others, and you can imagine how much confusion, lopsided and inadequate
training, and mutual distrust and hostility all of this generated.
This curriculum was designed in order to insure some kind of reasonable
orderliness in the sequence of the students’ studies – and to make it certain that every
student would have to be exposed to all possible influences” (Kubie, cited in
Kurtzweil, 1992, 348-349).
It is in this context that the request for assistance came from Hungary’s analysts.
Hungary: The second wave of emigration – 1938-1941
In the weeks following the Anschluss, the Hungarian Parliament passed its first anti-Jewish
Act (1938), in which it restricted to 20% the proportion of Jews obtaining work in key areas
of culture and the private sector (Braham, 1981). This represented a serious warning, a portent
of things to come, borne out by the passing of the second anti-Jewish Act in 1939. That law
was grounded in the racial distinctions of the Nuremberg Acts and expanded earlier restrictive
measures on the private sector – now Jews could no longer be civil servants either. This
affected almost 200,000 people.
István Hollós, president of the Hungarian Psychoanalytic Society, turned to Kubie in a letter
dated 9 January 1939 to request help for Hungary’s psychoanalysts (Mészáros, 1998). This
letter opened the way for the second wave of emigration.
“Dear Kubie,
During the Paris meeting in August, 1939, I communicated to our
colleagues that our Hungarian members had decided to stay under
every possible circumstances in their country, and so continue their
work here, as far as that is possible […]
Though our recent situation is not yet so difficult, but its turn to
the worst can be expected in a very short time [emphasis added]. I
made the same statement to Dr. Jones as well and he gave me the
advice in his very encouraging and detailed letter, to let also you know
the present condition. […] to consider our difficult situation […] and
ask you to inform us about the possibilities, difficulties and the means
ways we should try. A list of about 15 persons will be too sent to you
for your disposition.
Believe me sincerely
Dr. Hollós”11
Kubie responded to Hollós’s letter ten days later with great circumspection, covering all
possible details and anticipated problems. Nor did he spare Hollós the distressing fact “that
the quota is over-applied-for already for a matter of ten or more years. This eliminates any
possibility of entering the country as a permanent immigrant on the regular quota”.12 Special
visas, therefore, represented their only option. Thus, Kubie inspired Hollós with hope when he
wrote: “I can assure you that we will do all we can to secure affidavits of that nature for all of
our colleagues who want ultimately to come here.” 13
Visa applicants eventually took one of two paths: one had those who wished to remain in
Europe turning to Ernest Jones; the other saw those who undertook to immigrate to the US
sooner or later coming into contact with Kubie and the Emergency Committee.
As has become clear from contemporary documents, Jones was not supportive of the
Hungarians’ settling in London. Certainly, the internal tensions within the British Society –
we need only consider the opposition between Anna Freud and Melanie Klein – did not
favour the admittance of additional refugees, but in the case of the Hungarians Jones also had
personal motives. On no account did Jones wish to fill the society of which he was the
president with Ferenczi’s followers. These included Géza Róheim, Michael Balint and Alice
Balint, who had not only had training analysis with Ferenczi, but also embraced Ferenczi’s
theoretical and therapeutic approaches.
Róheim wished to settle in London, but he could not count on Jones’ support. When the
Balints immigrated to England, they were given effective assistance primarily by John
Rickman, when they settled – as Balint mentioned – in the “provincial” Manchester
(Swerdloff, 2002, 394).
At the same time, Jones put an amazing amount of effort into aiding European, and indeed
Hungarian, colleagues in getting situated – outside of Britain. For example, Edit Gyömrői’s
left-wing political affiliations were generally known, and she was thus under particular threat
– both as a Jew and as a communist. In a letter to Kubie dated 27 April 1938, Jones puts great
emphasis on the Budapest group and on Gyömrői’s dire situation in particular: “The courage
of the Budapest Group in facing what seems to me to be an inevitable and frightful fate
commands one’s highest admiration” (Steiner, 2000, 188). He adds that Gyömrői had to
escape Berlin immediately after the Nazis took power and since the same could happen in
Hungary – and since it is common knowledge that “the Gestapo never forgets” – Gyömrői
This is the original letter (without corrections) from István Hollós to Lawrence S. Kubie, 9 January 1939,
Archives of the British Psycho-Analytical Society G07/BJ/F01
Letter from Lawrence S. Kubie to István Hollós, 19 January 1939, Archives of the British Psycho-Analytical
Society G07/BJ/F01/25.
must leave the country as soon as possible.14 And so, with the support of the Emergency
Committee’s fund to assist European colleagues, Gyömrői did manage to leave Hungary and
then immigrate to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) with her husband.15
According to documents preserved in the British Psycho-Analytical Society Archives, by
1939, the following Hungarian analysts had submitted their applications to emigrate: Edith
Gyömrői-Újvári, Lilly Hajdu Gimes, Dr. Imre Hermann, Dr. István Hollós, Dr. Elisabeth
Kardos, Dr. Klára Lázár-Gerő, Dr. Andrew Pető, Géza Róheim and Dr. Stephen Schönberger.
Hermann was bound for the Netherlands, whereas Hollós had several options available.
Schönberger, it was recommended, ought to go to Australia because his ties to the communist
movement ruled out the possibility of immigration to the US. Lázár-Gerő, Kardos and
Gyömrői-Újvári indicated New Zealand as their destination.16 Several names can be found in
the documents of people who had already left Hungary during the first wave of emigration.
For example, in 1939, Dr. Georg Gerő moved on from Denmark and René Spitz left Paris.
Ferenczi’s untimely death in 1933 was not the breaking point for the Budapest School. After
all, he had others who could take on the mantle: the first and second generation of analysts –
including István Hollós, Zsigmond Pfeifer, Imre Hermann, Michael Balint, Vilma Kovács and
Alice Balint – had already passed decades of the accumulated theoretical and therapeutic
knowledge of the Budapest School onto the next generations.
For example, in Budapest they had already worked with countertransference in the 1920s and
1930s (Ferenczi, [1919] 1980; M and A. Balint, 1939; Hann-Kende, [1933] 1993). They had
devoted serious attention to pre-Oedipal development, having recognised the personalityshaping power of early mother-child object relations (see the theory of primary love)
(Ferenczi, M. Balint and A. Balint). Ferenczi’s thinking on aspects of the interpersonal
dynamic of trauma was familiar to the Budapest analysts just as psychoanalytic
psychosomatics had become a part of contemporary modern internal medicine through the
work of Lévy (Lévy, 1933). Ferenczi and Michael Balint had cleared the way for practising
physicians to acquire knowledge of psychoanalysis. Furthermore, psychoanalysis had found
its place in approaching the pathological processes in psychiatry primarily through István
Hollós, Lili Hajdu and, later, Róbert Bak.
With the emigration of Michael Balint and his wife Alice Balint in January 1939, the
opportunity to build on these gains was lost. The second wave of emigration had begun, and
this represented the start of an irreversible process with regard to the fate of Hungarian
psychoanalysis. It was possible to come home from the Weimar Republic after the first wave.
However, there could be no return leg in the journey from a Europe in the grip of fascism.
A continental shift
Letter from Ernest Jones to Lawrence S. Kubie, 27 April 1938, Archives of the British Psycho-Analytical
Society G07/BJ/F01/29
Her second husband, László Újvári, was a journalist who died in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1940.
List of analysts wishing to go to Australia, Archives of the British Psycho-Analytical Society
According to the documents of the British Psycho-Analytical Society, there was an option
available for a small group to immigrate to Australia. This is how the Lázár-Gerő couple and
their children as well as the Kardos-Pető couple managed to obtain their Australian visas.
Emergency Committee documents show that the committee also made serious efforts on
behalf of their Hungarian colleagues. In 1941, the following information was made available
regarding Hungarian analysts and analyst candidates (Mészáros, 1998, 211-212).17
The Emergency Committee has already provided affidavits for
Dr. Géza Dukes, Dr. Erzsébet Kardos, Dr. Endre Pető
Eligible for non-quota visas: 5
Dr. Imre Hermann and his
wife, Dr. Alice Hermann
Dr. István Hollós
Dr. Zsigmond Pfeifer
Dr. László Révész
Dr. Lillian Kertész-Rotter
Requiring affidavits: 12
Amar, René, Dr.
Dubovitz, Margit, Dr.
Farkasházi, Menyhért, Dr.
Gimes, Miklós, Dr.
Gimes-Hajdu, Lilly, Dr.
Kapos, Vilmos, Dr. [sent by relatives]
Major, Imre, Mrs.
Lévy, Kata
Ormos, Margit, Dr.
Perl-Balla, Lilly
Farber Rubin, Zelma, Mrs.
Schönberger, István, Dr.
Szűts, Gyula, Dr.
Bak, Róbert, Dr.
Of those on this last list, however, only Róbert Bak’s name can be found later as having
arrived in Manhattan on 7 June 1941 (Mészáros, 1999).
Other applications were submitted by Margit Hirsch, Mrs. Lucy Liebermann Pátzay, Mrs.
Zsuzsa Dric [sic!] [Déri], Dr. János Kerényi and Wolf Fish, Ph.D.
Many of those who could have left the country chose, for various reasons, to remain as long
as they could, and many lost their lives in the Holocaust, including Dr. Zsigmond Pfeifer, Dr.
László Révész, Dr. Géza Dukes, Dr. Miklós Gimes and Dr. Erzsébet Kardos.
(Cable received, April 29, 1941, Payne Whitney/Cornell Archives, New York Academy of Medicine, Box 13 O.
Émigrés from Hungary between 1938-1941 by country of settlement
United States
United Kingdom
Ceylon (Sri Lanka)
Tibor Ágoston
Róbert Bak
Susan Déri
Sándor Feldman
Fanny Hann-Kende
David Rapaport
Géza Róheim
Klára Lázár-Gerő
Alice Balint
Michael Balint
Edit Gyömrői
Hungarians at US psychoanalytic institutions 1925-1942
The New York
Sándor Loránd
Sándor Radó
Géza Róheim
Sándor Feldman
Fanny Hann-Kende
Róbert Bak
Tibor Ágoston
Andrew Pető – 1956
The Chicago Institute
for Psychoanalysis
The Topeka Institute
for Psychoanalysis
Franz Alexander
Therese Benedek
David Rapaport
Georg Gerő
Exemplary among the heroic efforts of the Emergency Committee is the fact that it wrote over
200 letters in attempting to place David Rapaport – until a spot was found for him at Karl
Menninger’s clinic in Topeka, Kansas. The Menninger Clinic was considered a liberal
institution in this conservative Midwestern state. It was practically the only place in the region
where European analyst refugees could hope for help.
Difficulties with the analyst refugees
This passage from a letter which Jones wrote to Karl Menninger in Spring 1943 illustrates
problems that those who wished to help encountered with the European emigration.18
Menninger was then president of the American Psychoanalytic Association.
“To be frank, I have been a little disappointed by the relatively small contact it has
been possible to maintain between British and American psychoanalysts since the war began.
This feeling relates particularly, it is true, to the refugee analysts who, after reaching America,
seem to have forgotten all about this side of the water and all that we did for them then here.”
(Letter from Ernest Jones to Karl Menninger, 13 May 1943, Faulkner and Pruitt, 1988, 383).19
In a later letter Menninger expresses his own disappointment:
“I fully agree with you that the psychology of the refugee analysts has
sometimes been disappointing. […] I think I could add that […] they have forgotten
all we have done for them here; this applies to some of them, not to all of them. […]
In the first place, some of them came over with a very authoritative, eloquent
attitude as if they were about to instruct the benighted American savages in the
highlights of European science. […]
What distresses me is a more fundamental problem, and that is the fact that the
great lure of making money has destroyed the incentive of so many of the older
analysts to do teaching” (ibid, 390-391).
With patients, Menninger writes, they can earn 15-20 thousand dollars, or perhaps even more.
“[…] why should they want to give it up and go back to a job of teaching psychoanalysis?”
(ibid, 391-392).
The following Hungarian analysts received financial support from the Emergency Committee:
Dr. Tibor Ágoston, Dr. Robert C. Bak, Dr. Sándor Feldman, Dr. Georg Gerő, David Rapaport,
PhD, Dr. Fanny von Hann-Kende and Géza Róheim, PhD.
According to my research, Hungarians received financial support of between 200 and 7,900
dollars, which every member of the Hungarian diaspora repaid.20
The Emergency Committee aided 150 European analysts – along with their families if
necessary – in escaping. The majority were assisted within a span of three years until the US
entered the war in 1941.
We are witnesses to an exceptional example of solidarity within the psychoanalytic movement.
The Emergency Committee provided assistance in the escape of European psychoanalyst
colleagues and their families, in their immigration to the US, in the resolution of innumerable
difficulties tied to settling them, and in their integration into the US analyst community. This
last effort was rendered difficult by differences between European and US laws which
affected the right to practise and restricted opportunities for lay analysts – i.e. those without
medical degrees – in finding work. The Emergency Committee supported psychoanalysts by
virtue of their profession; it was sufficient merely to be a member of the international
community of psychoanalysts. The committee’s decisions were not influenced by professional
achievements, and they rose above conflicts based on professional rivalries.
KAM Corres/Jones, Ernest Jones file, Archive of the Menninger Clinic)
Summary of Individual Services Rendered by the Emergency Committee (1938-1948) – Payne
Whiney/Cornell Archive, New York Academy of Medicine, Box 13.
What was the significance of the interwar emigration of the Hungarian analysts in the
development of modern psychoanalysis?
There are two areas in which the impact of this can be clearly demonstrated: theoretical and
therapeutic methods, on the one hand, and training regimes and training institutes, on the
Given the length limitations of this paper, I will provide only an indication of their impact
below and cover only the most striking innovations:
I. Theoretical and therapeutic methods
I wish merely to indicate here the innovations whose origins can be traced back to Budapest.
“Hungarians were aware that psychoanalysis was a two-way street.” 21 (Paul Roazen, 2001)
1. Countertransference – relational psychoanalysis, reflective self-functioning
From the early twenties in Hungary, psychoanalysis became a system of multi-directional
processes of interpersonal and intersubjective elements. – Developing confidence between
analyst and analysand was now an indispensable means of approaching traumatic
experiences. Authentic communication on the part of the therapist became a fundamental
requirement (Hoffer, 1996) as false statements result in dissociation and repeat the dynamic of
previous pathological relations. As we would phrase it today, false reflections result in false
self-objects. Ferenczi’s quite early psychoanalytic study, “Psychoanalysis and pedagogy”,
discusses the pathogenic effect on children of the behaviour of adults who invest themselves
with the myth of infallibility as well as its frequent occurrence in a wider context of
superordinate-subordinate social relations (Ferenczi [1908] 1955).
In terms of theoretical and therapeutic approaches, Ferenczi’s positive thinking as of 1919 on
the phenomenon of countertransference represented a fundamental shift in viewpoint
(Ferenczi [1919] 1980, [1928] 1997, Haynal, 1988, Martín Cabré, 1998) This paved the way
for psychoanalysis to become a system of interactive communication, a “relationship-based”
(Haynal, 2002, xi) process or, as Paul Roazen so aptly put it, “a two-way street” (Mészáros,
Psychoanalysis presupposes the simultaneous existence of interpersonal, intersubjective and
intrapsychic processes. The analyst and analysand enter into a mutually reflective
relationship, and move in unison along its surfaces of transference–countertransference. Both
countertransference and authentic communication were incorporated into the working method
of the majority of the Budapest analysts. Michael Balint and Alice Balint (Balint and Balint,
1939), Hann Kende Fanny (Hann-Kende, [1933] 1933) and Therese Benedek, who was also
close to Ferenczi, were all guided by this conviction from the early 1930s, and it had a strong
impact on the development of psychoanalysis after they emigrated (Gedo, 1993). Through
Clara M. Thompson, who was analysed by Ferenczi, and Harry Stack Sullivan, another
American sympathizer, some of his ideas became part the thinking of Sullivan’s interpersonal
school, founded in the US.
Film on Sándor Ferenczi, Hungarian Television, 2001.
2. Early object relations theories – Ferenczi, Michael Balint, Alice Balint, Imre Hermann,
Melanie Klein, Margaret Mahler, Therese Benedek, René Spitz…Winnicott
Ferenczi sensed the significance of the early mother-infant relationship early on. It was this he
was referring to in his Clinical Diary when he wrote: during analysis we must probe deep
„right down ’to the mothers’” (Ferenczi, [1932], 1988, 74).
Ferenczi had an impact on two key figures of the model of psychoanalytic development.
These were Melanie Klein and Margaret Mahler, both of whom had their roots in Budapest.
Ferenczi was Klein’s first analyst, and it was Ferenczi who inspired her to deal with children.
Ferenczi’s encouragement was well received. Klein became a member of the Hungarian
Psychoanalytic Society with her paper “A child’s development” in 1919. The first
conceptualized object relations theory is associated with Klein’s name.
Among the Budapest analysts there were several who did not agree with Klein’s ideas on an
infant’s inborn primary narcissism, sadism and aggressive urges. Citing Imre Hermann, Alice
Balint and indeed his own research and experience, Balint ([1937] 1949) said that in Budapest
they had arrived at the conclusion that the earliest phase of the life of a psyche is not
narcissistic. It is directed at objects, and these early object relations are passive. The goal is
acquired love because that is its due as a person: „to be loved and satisfied, without being any
without being under any obligation to give anything in return.” (Balint ibid, 269) – this is
passive love/primary love, an archaic relationship between the mother and child this is the
early harmonious experience of the infant with the mother. If it is frustrated the child has to
learn how he/she is able to satisfy her or himself. In this sense, narcissism is a reaction.
Balint’s concept is analogous to Kohut’s archaic mirroring or idealizing self-object
relationship (Bacal and Newman, 1990).
It is surely no coincidence that analyst and analysand represent a line of descent in the
theoretical development of these ideas. Balint completed his psychoanalytic training with
Ferenczi. Winnicott was an analysand of Balint’s. An intense working relationship developed
both between Ferenczi and Balint and between Balint and Winnicott. Primary love, or
Winnicott’s maternal holding function, was thought to be like food in that it was “equivalent
to nutrition”. In The Unwelcome Child and His Death Instinct Ferenczi wrote that rejection,
or a lack of love as a consequence of subconscious acts of self-destruction, can lead to a lifethreatening condition (Ferenczi, [1929] 1980, 103). Similar ideas were being expressed by
another Hungarian, René Spitz, in the phenomena known collectively as hospitalization
syndrome (Spitz, 1945), as well as in Winnicott’s work: “A baby can be fed without love, but
lovelessness or impersonal management cannot succeed in producing a new autonomous
human child” (Winnicott, 1971, 127).
Michael Balint regards the loss of basic trust as one of the early traumas, which has to be
restored during the healing process (Balint [1933] 1965).
Based on her first observations of infants in the early 1920s, Therese Benedek described
similar symptoms among mothers and their infants as she explored mother-child
communication (Mészáros, 2004b). Like Balint, Benedek uses the term “primary object love”,
as well as “passive object love”, but her idea is to use the phenomenological term
“confidence” as the basis for the development of a positive object relationship between the
mother and child (Benedek, [1938] 1973). Using the language of current bonding theory, an
infant reflects his mother’s manifestations: According to the biosocial theories that govern
emotional development, a mother and child create a system of affective communication from
the beginning of life, one in which interactions with the mother play a fundamental role in the
modulation of the infant’s affective condition. (Gergely and Watson, 1994; Fonagy and
Target, 2003).
“Not more than necessary”, “Optimal”, “Good enough”
Ferenczi’s earliest writings dealt with the significance of repression of the “not more than
necessary” type in a child’s development (Ferenczi, [1908] 1955). Margaret Mahler, who was
close to Ferenczi, used the word “optimal” in describing a solution to the individualizationseparation process, and used the expression “optimal symbiosis” as the cradle of the
individualization present. And it was Winnicott who very aptly expressed the notion of
optimality as a condition for a positive background for psychic development when he coined
the wonderful phrase “a good enough mother”.
3. Trauma theory
Ferenczi’s paradigm shift in trauma theory is a process which began in the 1920s. Essential
elements of it can be discerned in several of his studies; however, his most important findings
are to be found in his Confusion of Tongues between Adults and the Child (Ferenczi [1933]
1955), as well as in his Clinical Diary (Ferenczi [1932] 1988).
He asserted that trauma is founded on real events and that its occurrence is built on the
interpersonal and intersubjective dynamic of object relations. In the traumatic situation the
victim and the persecutor/aggressor operate differing ego defence mechanisms. Ferenczi was
the first to describe the ego defence mechanism of identification with the aggressor. He also
focused on denial and splitting. (Vikár, 1999). He stressed the significance of the presence or
lack of a trusted person in the post-traumatic situation (Mészáros, 2002).
Anna Freud generalised the use of this term to describe identification with the aggressor
within the framework of ego defence mechanisms (Anna Freud [1936] 1994). Anna Freud
understood it as an ego defence mechanism for so-called lesser aggression or fantasised
aggression (Dupont 1998), but Ferenczi clearly described it as a mechanism/capacity of the
ego. Among the American pyschoanalysts, the Balints and Clara M. Thompson thought along
the same lines.
4. Psychoanalytic psychosomatics
Ferenczi, Lajos Lévy, who was, among other things, the Freuds’ family physician, and, later,
Michael Balint, all incorporated psychoanalytic ideas into the practice of internal medicine
from the earliest years onward. For example, Ferenczi held an introductory course in 1923 for
the Košice Medical Association in today’s Slovakia.
Michael Balint’s activity is well known in the field of psychosomatic treatment, research and
training. In the 1950s, he set up case study groups for family doctors, the so-called “Research
cum training seminars”, or, more popularly, the “Balint-groups” (Balint, 1968).
Franz Alexander became an emblematic figure in psychoanalytic psychosomatics. He differed
from Ferenczi’s point of view in that he no longer saw the body as a carrier of symbols. He
saw it as a reactive system, which may react with symbols but may also express itself through
a vegetative nervous system, which does not correspond directly to symbols.
5. Psychoanalytic research
The introduction of clinical research and the integration of personality tests into the clinical
work of psychologists and psychiatrists are both attributed to David Rapaport. He started this
at the Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. He was the one who practically established the
clinical work of the psychologist in the current sense at psychiatric clinics and psychotherapy
departments of the US. (Gill, 1967)
II. Psychoanalytic training and institutional systems
Hungarian analysts had a great deal of experience in developing both a structure for
psychoanalytic training and institutional systems, outstanding examples among them being
Ferenczi, Vilma Kovács, Michael Balint, Sándor Radó, Franz Alexander and David Rapaport.
This is extremely significant because the student team in systematic training represents the
link between the passers-on of information and the next generation. Those who run institutes
bring their intellectual orientation into the culture of the institute.
(1) Ferenczi recommended forming the International Psychoanalytical Association (1911).
(2) Ferenczi was first to consider it necessary for analysts to do their own training because he
felt didactic analysis was lacking and thus work often came to a halt (Ferenczi, [1932] 1988).
(3) Vilma Kovács’s training analysis construction (Kovács, [1933] 1993) emerged as the
“Hungarian model”. According to this, a young analyst candidate’s first session is done with
his own analyst so that obstructions that stem from his own personality but are not yet
revealed would be able to come to the surface as soon as possible.
(4) Psychoanalytic training first became part of the medical curriculum through Ferenczi
(5) As of 1922, Sándor Radó contributed a great deal to developing the training system at the
Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute.
(6) Radó took the Berlin training model to New York (1930), thus establishing the US system
of training.
(7) Alexander established the Chicago Institute for Psychoanalysis (1931).
(8) In Melbourne, Klára Lázár established the Australian Psychoanalytic Society (1940).
(9) In 1945, following the example he had set in Budapest a quarter century earlier, Radó
introduced psychoanalytic training in New York at the Columbia University Medical School,
establishing the Psychoanalytic Clinic for Training and Research which is still in operation
All the analysts who had emigrated from Budapest later became training analysts and thus had
an impact on the work of several generations. They managed to win over members of the
psychoanalytic community in considerable numbers. Presidents of the New York
Psychoanalytic Society included Sándor Lóránd (1947-48), Róbert C. Bak (1957-59),
Margaret Mahler (1971-73) and Andrew Pető (1975-77). Michael Balint was the chair of the
medical section of the British Psychoanalytical Society and from 1968 to his death in 1970
was its president.
In sum, this paper outlines the origins and results of the interwar waves of emigration of
Hungary’s psychoanalysts. The first in 1919-20 kept the émigrés within Europe, while the
second, sparked by Hungary’s anti-Jewish laws, swept them across the ocean for the most part
and away from a Europe trapped in the stranglehold of fascism. They thus threw in their lot
with the analysts of Berlin and Vienna.
Exceptional solidarity was inspired in the psychoanalytic movement by the Emergency
Committee, which was founded by analysts in the US. Flying in the face of the US’s antiimmigration policy and laying aside personal and professional rivalries, this professional
association, in co-operation with the International Psychoanalytical Association, helped 150
European colleagues escape to America from a likely death. Through research findings on the
emigration of the Hungarian analysts, the paper demonstrates the work of the committee and
outlines theoretical areas whose roots can be traced back to Budapest. The Emergency
Committee not only saved individuals, but also preserved for posterity the spirit of European
psychoanalysis, which assured the rapid emergence of modern psychoanalysis in the US.
This paper is based on research funded by the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for
Scholars (Washington, D.C.), by the Research Support Scheme of the Soros Foundation and
by the Research Commmittee of the International Psychoanalytical Association. I wish to
express my thanks to Nellie L. Thompson, PhD (The Abraham A. Brill Library of the
New York Psychoanalytic Institute), to Ms Jill Duncan and especially to Ms Linda CarterJackson for her valuable help in my research on the Hungary-related documents (The
Archives of The British Psycho-Analytical Society). I am also most grateful to Mr Paul
Bunten (Archives of the Payne Whitney Clinic) and Jerome A. Winer, MD (University of
Illinois at Chicago).
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