Sunday, 8 April 2018

8 April 2018-Project Update: "The History of the Forced Migration of German-Speaking Neuroscientists and Biomedical Researchers"

Preview Platform––Frank W. Stahnisch [Ed.]: “Émigré Psychiatrists, Psychologists and Cognitive Science Researchers in North America during after the Second World War” [A Special Issue of History of Intellectual Culture– Vol. 12, 2017/18]
By Anzo Nguyen (
This article preview is part of the regular Émigré Project Updates: (

Article Preview: “From German Youth to British Soldier to Canadian Psychologist: The Journey of German Émigré Dr. Hugh Lytton (1921-2002)” by Erna Kurbegović [accepted for publication in History of Intellectual Culture] (Editor-in-Chief: Dr. Paul J. Stortz, University of Calgary)

Of the numerous refugees fleeing the rise of National Socialism in Germany during the 1930s-1940s, Hugh Lytton’s story as a young adult caught up in these sweeping changes of European geopolitics is of particular interest, yet is largely overlooked, even in academia. However, Erna Kurbegović’s journal article for the upcoming special issue of History of Intellectual Culture, “From German Youth to British Soldier to Canadian Psychologist: The Journey of German Émigré Dr. Hugh Lytton (1921–2002)” sheds light on the fascinating course of this individual’s life. This article traces Dr. Lytton’s life, beginning with his childhood in an observant Jewish family in a Germany where antisemitism was on the rise, in parallel to the rise of Nazism in the troubled Weimar Republic. By exploring Lytton’s move to Britain, internment at the outbreak of World War II, and his experience in the British Army during the conflict’s final phases, Kurbegović traces the factors towards his eventual career in school psychology. His relationships with various colleagues and fellow émigrés, whether at the University of Hull or at the internment camp at the Isle of Man, are explored as key factors contributing to this choice of career and field of research. Another aspect that is deftly incorporated into the writing is the cultural shift Lytton faced upon moving to Britain, and how his transition from observant Judaism to secular Judaism paralleled the transition in society, and by extension, the schools of psychological thought he was exposed to during the critical formative years of young adulthood. These societal influences formed a confluence with Lytton’s academic studies to produce an individual who was secular in outlook and viewed psychology as a rational science, instead of as a formalized branch of philosophy, as was espoused by the traditional German schools of psychology of the time. Finally, his move to Canada and his work in educational psychology at the University of Calgary are mentioned near the conclusion. Overall, the article by Erna Kurbegović–who is a PhD student at the University of Calgary’s Department of History–provides a detailed overview of Dr. Lytton’s life, providing an insightful look into one of many stories in the grander picture of the academic émigrés fleeing Nazi persecution, by tracing the critical factors in this tumultuous time that contributed to his eventual research and worldview.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

An Engaging Talk from PhD Candidate Chris Hyland.

The CIH working group had its monthly meeting yesterday and was treated to a fascinating lecture provided by University of Calgary PhD Candidate Chris Hyland, on his current work in the area of emigre Canadian professors. Hyland looks at Academic history in Canada and his lecture spotlighted the experiences of Samuel Mack Eastwood, a Canadian born scholar who had to flee Germany during the interwar period.

The lecture highlighted some important considerations when doing this type of research. Eastwood's experience reminds us that refugee experiences are more than just the experiences of one individual - their whole family is more often than not detrimentally impacted by the events which cause one to flee a country. Participants in the discussion were also reminded of the importance of contextualization when looking at the circumstances of scholars who suffered through these events. Eastwood served in the army in the First World War and as a foreign diplomat afterwards, on top of his years as a professor in Canada. His political views were shaped by these events and he was outspoken about his socialist thoughts while a professor in British Columbia.

Further discussion is needed on the topic of forced migration due to political leanings. Similarily Russian academics have been on the margins of this discussion thus far. It would be interesting to determine how prevalent the viewpoints of either pacifism and communism are among the academics who fled or were acting as refugees.

Monday, 28 December 2015

A Recent Newsworthy Story:

An interview given by Dr. Paul Stortz in this topic has recently been published online in the U of T Magazine. For a fascinating read on the struggles of refugees trying to gain access to Canada more than half a century ago, follow this link!
Update on this Semester:

A highly successful one so far!

The CIH Interdisciplinary Working Group has had two of its scheduled meetings. The grant was approved for this project early in the term. Its goal is to bring together our interdisciplinary group of scholars to read and discuss some important articles/books on the subject of the forced-migration of German-speaking neuroscientists and biomedical researchers, from 1933-1989.

Our reading schedule looks like this:

October-28, 2015 - Assigned Reader: Aleksandra Loewenau
    • Deichmann, U. (1995): Biologists under Hitler (Germ. 1992), Cambridge, Ma., Harvard UP; esp. pp. 10-24 and notes (chpt. will be sent to participants)

November-25, 2015 - Assigned Reader: Frank W. Stahnisch

    • Heberer-Rice, P. and Matthaeus J. (2008). Atrocities on Trial: The Politics of Prosecuting War Crimes in Historical Perspective, Nebraska, University of Nebraska Press. (esp. 25-40 and notes (chpt. will be sent to participants)

January-27, 2016 - Assigned Reader: Erna Kurbegovic

    • Kater, M. H. (1989): Doctors Under Hitler, Chapel Hill, London, The University of North Carolina Press:
    • Kater, Michael. “Hitler’s Early Doctors. Nazi Physicians in Pre–Depression Germany.” Journal of Modern History 95, no. 1 (1987): 25–52.
February-24, 2016 - Assigned Reader: Paul Stortz
    • Stortz, P. (2003): “Rescue Our Family From a Living Death”: Refugee Professors and the Canadian Society for the Protection of Science and Learning at the University of Toronto, 1935- 1946, Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, New Series, 14: 231-26
March-30, 2016 - Assigned Reader: Paula Larsson
    •  Weindling, P., Marks, S. and Wintour, L. (eds., 2011): The Plight, Persecution, and Placement of Academic Refugees, 1933-1980s, Oxford, Oxford University Press (esp. chpt. 1 with notes, chpt. will be sent to participants).
April-20 (or: 27 TBA), 2016  - Presenter: Dr. Heberer-Rice (US Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washinton, USA)
    • Invited Talk “North American Academic Refugees and the Compensation Question” (working title) by Dr. Heberer-Rice is envisaged for April, 2016 at the CIH.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

First Meeting of the CIH Reading Group!

Our first meeting officially occurred yesterday. Discussion began with a focus on determining the purpose of the reading group - which is meant to stimulate dialogue with people in the field of scholar emigration history. Collaboration between researchers with similar interests who read similar materials will enable a fruitful discourse and hopes of international research projects in the future.

Our first meeting was convened by Aleksandra Loewenau, who gave a detailed discussion of a chapter from U. Deichmann (1995) Biologists under Hitler. We read the first chapter - "The Expulsion and Emigration of Scientists, 1933-1939" - which focused on the experience of scholars under national socialism in Germany. It was interesting to read about the problems many non-Jewish scholars also had with job loss and persecution due to their political leanings.

The chapter highlighted how much state control there was over academic institutes - and how this impacted the jobs of scientists and other scholars at the time. With the introduction of the Civil Service Act - which was soon expanded into the academic community - many Jewish and left wing academics lost their positions or were forced out.

This chapter was especially strong in quantitative research. Deichmann provided excellent statistics on emigration and the types of positions affected. It was noted in discussion however than a more nuanced understanding of the international perspective would have been useful. The international job market had a significant impact on German doctors and the positions available for academics were quite limited. This highlights a need for more work done on Canada and the Americas - to highlight questions that impacted these scholars. The current literature is highly individualized, usually autobiographies or works that focus on one scholar. But in order to access the refugee scholar experience we need to ask – how many of these people have had their experience defined by being a refugee? What was the experience of non-Jewish vs Jewish academics? Which places were easier to get to based on religion? How do the experiences of these individuals fit into a larger history of women, or intellectualism, or refugees?

These questions will be considered in our future meetings!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Exciting News! The Émigré Project has expanded beyond our little group into a larger collaborative project. Dr. Paul Stortz, who researches the intellectual history of Canadian universities and academic institutes has begun to collaborate on our project by focussing on émigré professors who came to North America during 1932-1950. His researcher nicely coincides with our project, as many of our scholars worked in academia in some form or another.

Dr. Stortz has just applied for a grant from the Calgary Institute of Humanities to help organize a collaborative reading group for our project. The hope is that such a grant will enable the individuals involved to read secondary literature on the subject of forced migration and academic culture. A reading group will enable us to meet once a month to discuss this literature, confer, and conceptualize the many facets of the project.

Such a reading group is an interdisciplinary one at its core. It is hoped that through further readings and discussion we can gain the tools we need to tease out the four main goals of the project:

1- Who these scholars were and their personal experiences of being forced out of Europe.
2- Their experiences of emigrating and the associated personal and professional upheaval they faced.
3- Their personal and professional experiences once they got to Canada, the United States, or (of interest to Dr. Stortz and Dr. Weindling) England.
4- (and most importantly) How they impacted the scientific culture of universities and scientists in their new countries.

The grant Dr. Stortz is applying for is a small one, with hopes for enough to provide a bit of refreshment during our reading group meetings and perhaps to allow us to bring in one speaker for a lecture on the topic. Dr. Stortz has currently planned five reading group meetings and already tracked down the relevant reading material for discussion! Most meetings will focus on either a specific émigré or a group of people.
Here's to hoping that the funding comes through - every academics’ wish!

- Paula

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Introduction to the Project:

Seeing as this is one of the first official blogs for the Émigré Project, it seems prudent to give a short overview, if only to help provide context for future bloggers. This post will therefore focus on the basics of the project and will try to place this first blog – and future blogs – in context of the overall research plan. Now it does need to be acknowledged that this first blog is being written by what could be termed a ‘2nd generation’ researcher on the project. I personally came into the project a year after it began and my own research for the project greatly benefited from the hard work and organization of the ‘1st generation’ of researchers – namely Dr. Frank Stahnisch and his research assistant Stephen Pow (who has since left the project to continue his schooling across the globe). Nonetheless I will try to give a bit of information about the project beginnings, foundation ideas, and early progress.

The basic conceptual outline of the Émigré Project is the production of a large database cataloging the migration of scholars in the areas of the ‘mind sciences’ – i.e. neuroscientists, psychologists, psychiatrists, psychoanalysts, or others – from German-speaking countries to North America. Its primary focus is thus on German-speaking scholars from Germany or its neighbouring countries. The majority of individuals so far included in this study are nationally German, but the spread of originating countries is exceptionally diverse. It includes scholars from Poland, Germany, and even Russia (If you look at our heat map so far you will gain a better idea of scholar origins).

These individuals are equally diverse in their area of study. Although the database focuses on individuals who study the science of the mind, this can be defined in many ways. Some individuals who would more realistically be classified as philosophers were nonetheless influential in the areas of psychoanalysis or psychiatry, and are therefore included in our list of individuals. This diversity is partially derived from the varied interests of our individual scholars, many of whom changed their research focus upon emigrating or throughout their scholarly career (as scholars are prone to do).

Dr. Stahnisch began this project in emulation of the work of Dr. Paul Weindling, who is currently researching at Bodleian Library, Oxford. Dr. Wieindling has compiled a similar database (though much larger) on individuals who were able to emigrate to Britain through the help of the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning (SPSL), previously known as the British Assistance Council. This database has compiled information on many emigres who traveled to (or through) Great Britain before and during the Second World War. The focus of Dr. Weindling's work is on forced migration, rather than a specific discipline, and thus our database is smaller and more focused - though many of the individuals included in our database are also included in the one at Oxford.

In terms of time period - our database takes a far wider stance. While many individuals included in the database migrated during the period from 1932 - 1945, we are interested in any scholars who left their European homes after the First World War (and possibly even sooner, if we find someone who fits our discipline/language). As many scholars could not leave during the Second World War, many emigrated after - or even went back home after the conflict - so these scholars are included as well.

Now that we have covered the who, what, when, and where of the project, we can focus on the most important question – why. First and foremost – This is a project focused on highlighting an understudied area in the history of medicine. Considering the current refugee crisis the world is facing and the plight of many Syrian scholars trying to emigrate to other countries, the topic of forced migration is one which needs further research. Similarly, aside from a few well-researched individuals, we don’t yet have a historical study which traces the transfer of a population of German-trained neuroscientists and their ideas (particularly in the area of Nervenheilkunde) into the North American school. Many of these individuals contributed to the advancement of the neurosciences in North America - including neurogenetics, public mental health care, and the somatic therapies, but their influence has as yet been underrepresented. Lastly, this is a project of collective biographies, which will give some insight into the major difficulties face by individuals who emigrated during a time of turmoil. These men and women faced many personal trials in their new host countries – on personal, collective, and even international levels.

The first speedbump to the project came with the creation of the first database itself. Getting funding was of course an issue from the start – original funding for the project came from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, along with some minor funding from CIHR. The project really took off after a SSHRC grant came through in 2013. Initially this project compiled all of its information on an Excel spreadsheet. While this simplified the collection process and allowed for ease of compatibility, it also created a rather text-heavy spreadsheet, which was almost impossible to read. When I came onto the project – in the Summer of 2013 – we made plans to create a new database to store information on our scholars. By the Fall of 2014 we had a new Access Database ready for data entry. In 2014 two new researchers joined our team - one of which had previously worked with Dr. Weindling on his database. Another researcher also joined our team in August of this year and he will also be engaged in the blogging portion of this project.

Aside from basic data entry on scholars, the Émigré project has also compiled many sets of documents to utilize in the continuous research of individuals in the project. The current focus is on tracking down names, which can be fleshed out with more information as the project continues. Dr. Stahnisch has undertaken multiple research trips to various archives for this specific purpose. These trips have provided a basis for the initial discovering of names of scholars who fit our preferred profile.

The status of the project at this moment is as follows:

Paula Larsson (me) – In charge of creating forms for collecting information, blogging, researching names, and writing bios for scholars
Vincent Hoeckendorf - Organizing and reading files from Dr. Stahnisch’s research, blogging, researching names, and writing bios for scholars
Erna Kurbegovic - Researching new names and writing bios
Aleksandra Loewenau – Our postdoc researcher with a keen expertise from her similar databank work with Paul Weindling. Aleksandra is currently working on linking individuals to our research from the previous database who undertook onward migration from the UK to North America.
Dr. Frank Stahnisch - The man with the plan. Continuously undertaking research trips to new archives and doing on-the-ground information gathering. In charge of the overall organization of the project.
We may get a new person possibly next year – another post doc to look forward to!