"Blood and Homeland": Eugenics and Racial Nationalism in Central and Southeast Europe, 1900-1940

By Marius Turda; Paul J. Weindling | Go to book overview

The First Debates on Eugenics in Hungary,
1910–1918

Marius Turda

The history of eugenics in Hungary remains a neglected area in contemporary scholarship. Although studies dealing with German racial hygiene and eugenics during the interwar period record the eugenic ideals professed by various Hungarian political and intellectual figures, to date no scholarly discussion of the eugenic movement in Hungary has been undertaken.1 One would have expected Hungarian scholarship to compensate for such a historiographic lacuna. However, in most Hungarian scholarship, eugenics is either marginalized as an insignificant historical detail, or treated indistinguishably from other subjects like bio-medical racism.2

Such historical and academic neglect has, however, no justification. Like elsewhere, Hungarian eugenicists addressed a wide range of medical, social, and political issues, from social hygiene and mental care to forced sterilization and serological research of ethnic groups. Hungarian eugenicists deemed resolution of these issues essential to the progress of Hungarian society at the time. Moreover, the fascination with eugenics in Hungary knew no ideological restrictions. Socialist and fascist supporters alike favored it, and religious groups, such as Roman Catholics, offered some of the most sophisticated interpretations of the relationship between eugenics and religion of the interwar period. The time has come for the history of eugenics in Hungary to receive the attention it deserves, and for Hungarian eugenicists to be integrated within the international scholarship on racial hygiene and eugenics.

This chapter discusses the first phase in the history of eugenics in Hungary, between 1910 and 1918. During this formative period, two schools of eugenic thought were formed: the first, internal, group was represented, most prominently, by István Apáthy, József Madzsar, Lajos Dienes, Zsigmond Fülöp, János Bársony and Mihály Lenhossék. This

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