Psychoanalysis – promised land?

Title: The history of psychoanalysis in Poland in the cultural, literary, political and social context (1900-2013)

Institution: Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw (IFIS PAN)

Duration: 2014 – 2021

Funding: Narodowy Program Rozwoju Humanistyki (NPRH) MNiSW, Warsaw

Team: Paweł Dybel (head), Lisa Appignanesi, Katarina Bader, Arkadi Blatow, Aleksandra Błasińska, Jakub Bobrzyński, Bernhard Bolech, Felix Brauner, Bartłomiej Dobroczyński, Barbara Engelking, Lilli Gast, Ewa Głód, Jarosław Groth, Wojciech Hańbowski, Ludger M. Hermanns, Ewa Kobylińska-Dehe, Anna Kurowicka, Andrzej Leder, Damian Włodzimierz Makuch, Mira Marcinów, Adrian Mrówka, Filip Marcinowski, Jacek Bomba, Krzysztof Szwajca, Anna Leszczyńska-Koenen, Tomas V. Kajokas, Natalia Kigai, Rosalba Maccarrone Erhardt, Agnieszka Makowiecka-Pastusiak, Ewa Modzelewska-Kossowska, Klara Naszkowska, Małgorzata Ojrzyńska, Katarzyna Prot-Klinger, Jörn Rüsen, Sieglind Schröder, Annette Simon, Wojciech Sobański, Ewa Sobczak, Joanna Stryjczyk, Karolina Szymaniak, Nadine Teuber, Joanna Tokarska-Bakir, Paulina Urbańczyk, Klaudia Węc, Hans Jürgen Wirth, Szymon Wróbel, Anna Zajenkowska, Olga Zakolska, Jan Zdunik, Jolanta Żyndul

Within the framework of the project, starting in 2014, its participants conduct research on the history of the reception of psychoanalysis in Poland from 1900 to the present. The influence of Freud’s, Adler’s, Jung’s and Stekel’s theories on medical science, pedagogy, literary studies and literature has been examined. This field of research has been largely neglected in the Polish scientific tradition. Conducting research, writing articles and books, its participants tried to meet the peculiar challenge posed by this almost completely unknown, usually treated as marginal, tradition of Polish culture. Meanwhile, as it turns out, a closer look at the way the above-mentioned theories were perceived in Polish scientific circles allows us to speak of the existence of a clearly delineated psychoanalytic current in Poland up to the 1930s. Its legacy is nearly two hundred works and books, often very competent, sometimes original. Their authors dealt with issues related to sexuality and the question of its universal education in schools, sexual and psychological features of femininity, non-repressive models of raising children, sources of social aggression and anti-Semitism, which are also of great concern to us today. The project involved a series of seminar meetings, three conferences and the publication of ten books, the covers of which are shown above. A further four book publications are planned.

In the photo below you see the abandoned building of the “Zofiówka”, The Facility for Nervously and Mentally ill Jews, founded in 1908 in Otwock. In this building, Adam Wizel, Jakób Frostig and other psychiatrists of psychoanalytical orientation conducted their therapeutic practice. In 1942, during the liquidation of the Otwock ghetto, its patients were murdered by the Germans; most of the doctors committed suicide. Its current appearance is symbolic, it is like a challenge to our time. Since 2014, this challenge has been taken up by the participants of this project, the aim of which was to conduct hitherto neglected research on the influence of psychoanalysis on Polish science and literature in the 20th century up to the present day. 

The history of psychoanalysis in Poland in Polish-German-Jewish cultural context. 1900-2015

The history of psychoanalysis in Poland in Polish-German-Jewish cultural context. 1900-2015

Partners: Pedagogical University (Cracow); International Psychoanalytic University (Berlin); Center for Psychoanalytic Thought (Warsaw)

Time framework: 2016-2020

Sponsors: Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Pedagogical University, International Psychoanalytic University

Research Team:
Ewa Kobylińska-Dehe, Paweł Dybel (directors), Arkadi Blatow, Bernhard Bolech, Lilli Gast, Ludger M. Hermanns, Mira Marcinów, Karolina Szymaniak, Katarzyna Prot-Klinger

A pilotage project designed to systematically study the forgotten history of psychoanalysis in Poland, to identify the specific research requirements of the field and to address them within the five years of study. The history of psychoanalysis in Poland is inextricably intertwined with the history of Polish Jews who worked and published both in Polish and in German. Therefore, the history has been studied in three cultural contexts.

The research has been divided into two fields:

  1. The reconstruction of the history of Polish psychoanalysis and its influence on Polish intelligentia in the period of 1900-1939. Special attention has been paid to the analysis of the transcultural processes as well as to the emancipatory and socio-critical postulates of psychoanalysis in the interwar period.
  2. Psychoanalysis in Poland during and after the Second World War: the Shoah, the post-war period, the development after the fall of communism in 1989.

The project resulted in three conferences, held in Cracow, Berlin and Warsaw, as well as in three books published in German by Psychosozial Verlag:

  1. Zwischen Hoffnung und Verzweiflung. Psychoanalyse im polnisch-deutsch-jüdischen Kulturkontext 1900-1939, ed. E. Kobylinska-Dehe, P.Dybel, L.M. Hermanns, Giessen 2018.
  2. Im Schatten von Krieg und Holocaust. Psychoanalyse im polnisch-deutsch-jüdischen Kontext, ed. E.Kobylinska-Dehe, P. Dybel, L.M. Hermanns, Giessen 2019.
  3. Wiederkehr des Verdrängten. Psychoanalyse und das Erbe der Totalitarismen, ed. E.Kobylinska-Dehe, P. Dybel, L.M. Hermanns, Giessen 2020.

The project was the first step toward a long-term collaboration between the Center for Psychoanalytic Thought in Warsaw and the International Psychoanalytic University in Berlin. The formal agreement between the two institutions was signed in December 2020.