A Concise Biography of Leopold Szondi

Leo­pold Szon­di was born as Leo­pold Son­nen­schein in the Hun­ga­ri­an city of Nyt­ro (Slo­va­kia) on 11 March 1893. He was the second youn­gest of nine child­ren from his father’s second mar­ria­ge to Rézi Kohn. In 1898, the fami­ly moved to Buda­pest. His father was a shoema­ker by tra­de, but devo­ted him­s­elf ent­i­re­ly to stu­dy­ing the Torah as well as Tal­mu­dic and Hasi­dic texts. At the age of eigh­te­en, Leo­pold deci­ded to chan­ge his name to Szon­di. After his mili­ta­ry ser­vice (in the First World War) and his gra­dua­ti­on in Medi­ci­ne, Szon­di assisted the work of expe­ri­men­tal psy­cho­lo­gist, phy­si­ci­an, and cura­ti­ve tea­cher Pro­fes­sor Pal Ransch­burg as a sci­en­ti­fic assi­stant from 1919 to 1926. From 1927 to 1941, Szon­di worked as a Pro­fes­sor and Direc­tor of the Roy­al Hun­ga­ri­an Sta­te Cura­ti­ve Tea­ching Rese­arch Labo­ra­to­ry for Psy­cho­pa­tho­lo­gy and Psy­cho­the­ra­py at the Col­le­ge for Cura­ti­ve Tea­ching in Buda­pest, an insti­tu­te spe­ci­al­ly foun­ded for him. Buil­ding on his exten­si­ve rese­arch of fami­lies and her­edita­ry sta­tis­tics, he deve­lo­ped a new theo­ry on patho­lo­gy and part­ner selec­tion and his own dri­ve need psy­cho­lo­gy. In 1926, he mar­ried Lili (Ilo­na) Rad­vanyi (1902–1986). Their daugh­ter Vera was born in 1928, fol­lo­wed by their son, Peter, in 1929.

In 1941, Szon­di lost his sta­te-appoin­ted posi­ti­ons and all tit­les in edu­ca­ti­on and rese­arch as a result of anti-Jewish pro­fes­sio­nal pro­hi­bi­ti­ons. On 29 June 1944, the Szon­di fami­ly was depor­ted to the so-cal­led “Hun­ga­ri­an Camp” of the Ber­gen-Bel­sen con­cen­tra­ti­on camp, tog­e­ther with other “exchan­ge Jews” from Buda­pest. On 6 Decem­ber 1944, the Szon­di fami­ly was allo­wed to lea­ve for Switz­er­land as part of a tra­de deal, tog­e­ther with over 1,300 others. After a stay at the refu­gee camp in Caux, the Szon­di fami­ly moved to Zurich, whe­re Leo­pold Szon­di would remain for the rest of his life. Szon­di used a generous bequest to estab­lish the Szon­di Insti­tu­te Foun­da­ti­on and set up the “Edu­ca­ti­on and Rese­arch Insti­tu­te for Gene­ral Depth Psy­cho­lo­gy and Par­ti­cu­lar­ly for Fate Psy­cho­lo­gy” at Kräh­bühl­stras­se 30 in Zurich-Flun­tern. In ack­now­led­ge­ment of his sci­en­ti­fic achie­ve­ments, Szon­di was gran­ted the hono­ra­ry doc­to­ra­te tit­le of the Catho­lic Uni­ver­si­ty of Leu­ven in 1970, and of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Paris VII in 1979. On 24 Janu­a­ry 1986, Szon­di pas­sed away at the age of 93. Short­ly the­re­af­ter, on 18 August of the same year, his wife pas­sed away as well, at the age of 84.