From German Youth to British Soldier to Canadian Psychologist: 
The Journey of German Émigré Dr. Hugh Lytton (1921–2002)


  • Erna Kurbegović University of Calgary


This article traces the journey and experiences of German émigré Dr. Hugh Lytton (1921–2002), who, like many German-Jewish scientists and physicians, had to leave Germany following the rise of National Socialism in 1933. After realizing that young Jews had no future in Germany, Lytton immigrated to Great Britain in 1936 and embarked on a journey that would significantly affect his personal life and career path. Initially, Lytton thought that he would become a rabbi, but his experiences in Britain put him on a path toward academia. As it did for other refugees who had to abandon their families, homes, and livelihoods as a result of Nazi persecution, living in the host country proved challenging for Lytton, but he persevered. He studied languages, and this proved useful when he joined the British military and eventually served as an interpreter. Throughout this time, he was interested in social psychology, and this interest led to a fellowship at the Tavistock Clinic to train in clinical psychology. He obtained a PhD in 1965 from the University of London, and went on to publish his internationally renowned work, Parent–Child Interaction: The Socialization Process Observed in Twin and Singleton Families (1980). Using Lytton’s memoir, personal documents, and publications, this article traces Lytton’s journey in three countries — Germany, Britain, and lastly Canada — where in 1969, he eventually settled and obtained a faculty position in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Calgary in Alberta. Lytton’s personal story offers an important case study in the history of forced migration during the Nazi period and provides insight into how life experiences can affect an individual’s path in the academic world.

Author Biography

Erna Kurbegović, University of Calgary

Erna Kurbegović is a PhD student (with specialization in medical history) in the History Department at the University of Calgary. As a graduate student researcher, she had been associated with the “Eugenics Archives in Western Canada” project (a SSHRC-funded community–university research alli-ance) for three years. Her research focuses on the wider eugenics contexts between the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Manitoba in a comparative perspective.