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On-line version ISSN 2309-8392
Print version ISSN 0018-229X


MARX, Christoph. Hendrik Verwoerd and the Leipzig School of Psychology in 1926. Historia [online]. 2013, vol.58, n.2, pp.19-119. ISSN 2309-8392.

This article looks into the stay of Hendrik Verwoerd in Leipzig, Germany, in 1926. Allegations of an ideological influence by German nationalism on Verwoerd have often been repeated in the historical literature, but were never substantiated by evidence from the archives. The Psychological Institute at the University of Leipzig, where Verwoerd studied, was politically the most conservative and nationalist among the three universities which the young scholar from Stellenbosch visited - the others were Hamburg and Berlin. Nevertheless, no ideological influence on Verwoerd could be found in the available evidence from archives in South Africa and Germany, but certainly the scientific influence of German psychology on Verwoerd the academic cannot be denied. Verwoerd's main objective in going to Germany was to become acquainted with the latest trends in international psychology. He studied with the Leipzig psychologists Felix Krueger, Hans Volkelt, an expert on child psychology, and Otto Klemm, a specialist in applied psychology. His interest focused mainly on developmental psychology, characterology and ethnic psychology (Völkerpsychologie), which can be traced to the lasting influence of Wilhelm Wundt, the founding father of modern psychology in Germany. Whereas Verwoerd's interest in different fields of psychology stemmed from his long lasting involvement with the "poor white problem" in South Africa, Völkerpsychologie could possibly have exerted a scientific influence on his later perceptions of racial and cultural differences that fed into apartheid.

Keywords : Hendrik Verwoerd; Afrikaner nationalism; apartheid; racism; history of psychology.

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