Escape From Traumas: Emigration And Hungarian Jewish Identity After The Holocaust


Unlike other European countries, at the turn of the 20th century, Hungary ensured complete legal and religious equality for Jews living in the country. As a result, they became strongly assimilated and identified themselves as Hungarian. Leading up to and during WWII, there was a gradual and steady deterioration of those legal and religious conditions, and the “betrayal” and persecution of Jews caused unspeakable trauma all over the world. After the defeat of the Nazis, only a small number of Holocaust survivors returned to their home country; the majority emigrated. This study provides a psychoanalytical analysis of the changes in Hungarian survivors’ psychic realities and the construction of their new identities, depending on the survival strategy they chose. The hypothesis is that the rebuilding of the demolished identity and the level of trauma elaboration depend on whether this process was done at the place of the trauma or in a different society. The study uses psychoanalytic and social psychology literature to follow the impacts of the emigration process, to draw conclusions and apply them to trauma elaboration after the Holocaust.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. Abraham, N., & Torok, M. (1994a). Mourning or melancholia: Introjection versus incorporation. In: The shell and the kernel (pp. 125–139). London: The University of Chicago Press.

  2. Abraham, N., & Torok, M. (1994b). V. Secrets and posterity: The theory of the transgenerational phantom. In The shell and the kernel (pp. 165–205). London: The University of Chicago Press.

  3. Ainslie, R. C., Tummala-Narra, P., Harlem, A., Barbanel, L., & Ruth, R. (2013). Contemporary psychoanalytic views on the experience of immigration. Psychoanalytic Psychology,30(4), 663–679.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Akhtar, S. (2011). Immigration and acculturation: Mourning, adaptation, and the next Generation. New York: Jason Aronson.

    Google Scholar 

  5. Balint, M. (1968). The basic fault: Therapeutic aspects of regression. Therapeutic relations of regression (p. 1994). London: Tavistock.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Bar-On, D. (1995). The indescribable and the undiscussable. Reconstructing human discourse after trauma. Budapest. Central European University Press, 1999

  7. Baum, R. (2013). Transgenerational trauma and repetition in the body: The groove of the wound. Body, movement and dance in psychotherapy. International Journal for Theory, Research and Practice,8, 34–42.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Beltsiou, J. (Ed.). (2016). Immigration in psychoanalysis. Locating ourselves. New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Borbándi, G. (1985). A magyar emigráció életrajza 1945–1985 [Biography of Hungarian emigration 1945–1985]. Bern: Európai protestáns magyar szabadegyetem. Mikes International, Hága, Hollandia. Országos Széchényi Könyvtár Budapest, Magyarország, 2006.

  10. Boulanger, G. (2015). Seeing double, being double: Longing, belonging, recognition, and evasion in psychodynamic work with immigrants. American Journal of Psychoanalysis,75, 287–303.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Dupont, J. (Ed.) (With the collaboration of M. Moreau-Ricaud). (2002a). First special issue. The life and work of Michael Balint. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 62, 1.

  12. Dupont, J. (Ed.) (With the collaboration of M. Moreau-Ricaud). (2002b). Second special issue. The life and work of Michael Balint. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 62(4).

  13. Dupont, J. (Ed.) (With the collaboration of M. Moreau-Ricaud). (2003). Third special issue. The life and work of Michael Balint. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 63(3).

  14. Eger, E. E. (2017). A döntés. Budapest: Libri kiadó [The choice. Embrace the possible]. New York: Scribner.

  15. Ehmann, B. (2003). Az emigráns lét kollektív élményuniverzumai [The collective experience universe of emigrant existence]. In T. Kanyó (Ed.), Emigráció és identitás. 56-os menekültek Svájcban [Emigration and identity. Emigrants of 56’ in Switzerland] (pp. 119–135). Budapest: L’Harmattan-MTA Kisebbségkutató Intézet.

  16. Erős, F. (2001). Az identitás labirintusa. Narratív konstrukciók és identitás-stratégiák [The labyrinth of identity. Narrative constructions and identity strategies]. Budapest: Osiris.

  17. Erős, F. (2016). Psychoanalysis and the emigration of Central and Eastern European intellectuals. American Journal of Psychoanalysis,76, 399–413.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Ferenczi, S. (1915). Psychogenic anomalies of voice production. In Further contributions to the theory and technique of psycho-analysis (pp. 105–109) London: Karnac, 1994.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Ferenczi, S. (1932). The clinical diary of Sándor Ferenczi. J. Dupont (Ed.), M. Balint & N. Z. Jackson (Trans.) London: Harvard University Press, 1988.

  20. Gampel, Y. (1998). Reflections on countertransference in psychoanalytic work with child survivors of the Shoah. Journal of American Academy of Psychoanalysis,26, 343–368.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. González, F. J. (2016). Only what is human can truly be foreign: The trope of immigration as a creative force in psychoanalysis. In J. Beltsiou (Ed.), Immigration in psychoanalysis. Locating ourselves (pp. 15–39). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Harmat, P. (1994). Freud, Ferenczi és a magyarországi pszichoanalízis. A budapesti mélylélektani iskola története 1908–1993 [Freud, Ferenczi and psychoanalysis in Hungary. The history of the Budapest psychoanalytic school 1908–1993]. Budapest: Bethlen Gábor Könyvkiadó.

  23. Haynal, A. (1988). The technique at issue: Controversies in psychoanalysis from Freud and Ferenczi to Michael Balint. London: Karnac.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Hermann, I. (1933). A pszichoanalizis, mint módszer [Psychoanalysis as a method] Published in German in 1934; 1963). Budapest: Novák és Tsa Kiadóvállalat, 1963.

  25. Hoffmann, E. (2016). Out of exile. Some thoughts on exile as a dynamic condition. In J. Beltsiou (Ed.), Immigration in psychoanalysis. Locating ourselves (pp. 211–216). New York: Routledge.

  26. Kónya, A. (2003). Szubjektív történelem [Subjective history]. In T. Kanyó (Szerk.), Emigráció és identitás. 56-os menekültek Svájcban [Emigration and identity. Emigrants of 56’ in Switzerland] (pp. 149–163). Budapest: L’Harmattan-MTA Kisebbségkutató Intézet

  27. Kovács, N. (2005). Baráti kapcsolatok hálózatában. Magyar zsidó bevándorlók első és másod generációja Buenos Airesben: integrációs stratégiák és identifikáció [The network of friendly relationships. The first and second generation of Hungarian Jewish immigrants]. In Kovács Nóra (Szerk), Tanulmányok a diaszpóráról [Studies on the Diaspora]. MTA Etnikai, nemzeti és kisebbségkutató intézet, 2005.

  28. Kovács, É., & Melegh, A. (2000). “Lehetett volna rosszabb is, mehettünk volna Amerikába is”. Vándorlás történetek Erdély, Magyarország és Ausztria háromszögében [“It could have been worse; we could have as well gone to America.” Stories of wanderings in the triangle of Transylvania, Hungary and Austria]. In: E. Sík (Szerk.). Diskurzusok a vándorlásról [Discourses on wanderings]. Budapest: MTA Politikatudományi Intézete.

  29. László, J. (2003). Mit lehet kezdeni a narratív konstrukciókkal a szociálpszichológia szempontjából? [What can we do with narrative constructions from social psychological aspect?] In. T. Kanyó (Szerk). (2003). Emigráció és identitás. 56-os menekültek Svájcban [Emigration and identity. Emigrants of 56’ in Switzerland]. L’Harmattan-MTA Kisebbségkutató Intézet, Budapest.

  30. Laub, D. (2016). On leaving home and the flight from trauma. In J. Beltsiou (Ed.), Immigration in psychoanalysis. Locating ourselves (pp. 169–184). New York: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Lijtmaer, R. (2017). Untold stories and the power of silence in the intergenerational transmission of trauma. American Journal of Psychoanalysis,77, 274–284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Mészáros, J. (2014). Ferenczi and beyond: Exile of the Budapest School and solidarity in the psychoanalytic movement during the Nazi years. London: Karnac Books.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Mucci, C. (2019). Traumatization through human agency: “Embodied witnessing” is essential in the treatment of survivors. American Journal of Psychoanalysis.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  34. Nemes, L., (Director) & Stalter, J. (Producer). (2015). Son of Saul [Motion Picture]. Laokoon Film Group: Hungary

  35. Prince, R. (2009). Psychoanalysis traumatized: The legacy of the Holocaust. American Journal of Psychoanalysis,69, 179–184.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Prince, R. (2015). The Holocaust after 70 years: Holocaust survivors in the United States. American Journal of Psychoanalysis,75, 267–286.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Ritter, A. (2003). A túlélési szindróma és a transzgenerációs fantom elmélete. Virág Teréz és Ábrahám Miklós -Török Mária elméletének összehasonlítása [The theory of survival syndrome and the transgenerational trauma. Comparison of the theories of Teréz Virág and Miklós Ábrahám & Mária Török] In K. Bárdos (Szerk.), “…aki nyomot hagyott”—In memoriam Virág Teréz. Tanulmánykötet [In K. Bárdos, (Ed.), “…who left their trail” — Essays in memory of Virág Teréz.] Budapest: Kút Alapítvány.

  38. Ritter, A. (2007). A “budapesti iskola” hatása a francia pszichoanalitikus elméletekre. Ábrahám Miklós és Török Mária pszichoanalitikus rendszerének elemzése és terápiás alkalmazása [The impact of the Budapest School on the French psychoanalytical theories. Analysis and therapeutic use of the psychoanalytical system of Miklós Ábrahám and Mária Török]. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Pécs.

  39. Ritter, A. (2012). Generációk és kontinensek. Társadalmi traumák és emigráció a magyar pszichoanalitikusok szemével. Konferencia előadás [Generations and continents. Social traumas and emigration with the eyes of Hungarian psychoanalysts.] 2012 Hungarian Studies Association of Canada conference, University of Waterloo, Canada, May 26–28, 2012. Unpublished conference paper.

  40. Ritter, A. (2014). Mikor és hogyan beszéljünk gyerekeinknek a Holocaustról? Előadás a Bét Salom zsidó közösségnek a Holocaust túlélők 3. és 4. generációjáról, a nevelésről pszichológiai szemmel. Bét Sálom közösség szabadegyeteme [When and how should we speak to our children about the Holocaust? Presentation to the Bét Salom Jewish community on the 3rd and 4th generations of Holocaust survivors, and about education from psychological viewpoint.] Bét Sálom közösség szabadegyeteme. Unpublished.

  41. Ritter, A. (2015). Theories of trauma transmission after Ferenczi: The unique contribution of Hungarian psychoanalysis. Canadian Journal of Psychoanalysis.,23, 42–66.

    Google Scholar 

  42. Ritter, A., & Erős, F. (Eds.). (2001). A megtalált nyelv. Válogatás Magyar származású francia pszichoanalitikusok munkáiból [The language found. Selected works of French psychoanalysts of Hungarian origin]. Budapest: Új Mandátum kiadó.

    Google Scholar 

  43. Röhrig, G. (2016). Trance. Az ember aki a cipőjében hordta a gyökereit [The man who carried his roots in his shoes] (pp. 23). Budapest: Magvető.

  44. Salamon, P. (1994). A Sorel-ház [The Sorel house]. Budapest: Alexandra. 2010.

  45. Sík, E. (2000). Kezdetleges gondolatok a diaszpóra fogalmáról és hevenyészett megfigyelések a diaszpórakoncepció magyar nézőpontból való alkalmazhatóságáról [Elementary thoughts about the concept of Diaspora and rudimentary observations about the usability of Diaspora concept from Hungarian aspect]. In E. Sík (Szerk.), Diskurzusok a vándorlásról [Discourses on wandering]. Budapest: MTA Politikatudományi Intézete, 157-184.o.

  46. Stanton, M. (1991). Sándor Ferenczi: Reconsidering active intervention. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.

    Google Scholar 

  47. Tummala-Narra, P. (2013). Names, name changes, and identity in the context of migration. immigration in psychoanalysis. In J. Beltsiou (Ed.), Immigration in psychoanalysis. Locating ourselves (pp. 151–166). London & New York: Routledge, 2016.

  48. Virág, T. (1984). Children of the Holocaust and Their Children’s Children. Working through Current Trauma in the Psychoterapeutic Process. Dynamic Psychotherapy (Vol. 3, Number 1, pp. 47–63). In Hungarian (1988). Aktuális traumatikus esemény feldolgozása a már folyamatban lévő pszichoterápiában. Neurotikus tünetek a magyarországi Holocaust túlélők gyermekeinél. In Gero, Zsuzsa (Eds.), Klinikai gyermekpszichológiai tanulmányok. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó

  49. Virág, T. (1995). The appearance of Holocaust syndrome in psychotherapeutic practice. In R. L. Braham & A. Pók (Eds.), The Holocaust in Hungary fifty years later (pp. 551–565). New York: Columbia University Press, 1997.

  50. Virág, T. (1996a). A magyarországi holocaust-túlélők leszármazottainak sajátos lelki struktúrája. [Peculiar psychic structure of Hungarian Holocaust survivors’ descendants.] In László Klári (Ed.), Emlékezés egy szederfára (pp 21–28). Budapest: Animula.

  51. Virág, T. (1996b). Ferenczi traumatana és Hermann ösztönelmélete: Erők és ellenerők a pszichés folyamatban. In Peter Kardos (Ed.), Örökbe fogadott… [Ferenczi’s account of traumas, and Hermann’s theory of instinct: forces and counter forces in the psychodynamic process.] In Adopted - Studies in child psychoanalysis… (pp. 9–20). Budapest: Animula.

  52. Volkan, V. D. (2007). Not letting go: From individual perennial mourners to societies with entitlement ideologies. In L. G. Fiorini, S. Lewkowicz & T. Bokanowski (Eds), On Freud’s “Mourning and Melancholia” (pp. 90–109). London: International Psychoanalytic Association.

  53. Winnicott, D. W. (1967). The location of cultural experience. International Journal of Psychoanalysis,48, 368–372.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Andrea Ritter.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Andrea Ritter, Ph.D. psychoanalytic researcher and author; in private practice, Budapest, Hungary.

Address correspondence to: Andrea Ritter, Ph.D. 168/A. Bimbo Street, Budapest 1026 Hungary

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ritter, A. Escape From Traumas: Emigration And Hungarian Jewish Identity After The Holocaust. Am J Psychoanal 79, 577–593 (2019).

Download citation


  • Hungarian Holocaust survivors
  • social trauma
  • emigration
  • Hungarian Jewish identity