Viktor E. Frankl, M.D., Ph.D.
Neurologist and Psychiatrist
Founder of Logotherapy and Existential Analysis
© IMAGNO / K. VESELY
During the first World War the family experiences bitter deprivation; sometimes the children go begging to farmers.
In his high school years Frankl eagerly reads the "Nature Philosophers" and attends public lectures on Applied Psychology. He comes into contact with Psychoanalysis.
First public lecture by Frankl: "On the Meaning of Life". He becomes a functionary of the Young Socialist Workers.
High school graduation essay: "On the psychology of philosophical thought" (a psychoanalytically oriented study on Arthur Schopenhauer). Early publications in the youth section of a daily newspaper; intensive correspondence with Sigmund Freud.
Frankl's essay "On the mimic movements of affirmation and negation" is published in the "International Journal of Psychoanalysis". Frankl is studying medicine and acts as spokesman of the Austrian Socialist High School Students Association. A year later he meets Freud in person, but becomes more and more involved with Alfred Adler.
Frankl's article "Psychotherapy and Weltanschauung" is published in the "International Journal of Individual Psychology". He strives to explore the frontier between psychotherapy and philosophy, focusing on the fundamental question of meaning and values – a topic that will become the leitmotif of his life work.
Frankl presents public lectures on congresses in Duesseldorf, Frankfurt, Berlin; for the first time he uses the word LOGOTHERAPY.
His relationship to Alfred Adler is declining. Frankl becomes involved with Rudolf Allers and Oswald Schwarz (the founder of psychosomatic medicine). He is enthusiastic about Max Scheler's book "Formalism in Ethics and Non-formal Ethics of Values". Against his intention he is excluded from the Adler circle. Adler's daughter Alexandra, Rudolf Dreikurs and other important Adlerians keep up friendly relations with him.
1928 – 1929
In Vienna and in six other European cities Frankl organizes youth counseling centers where adolescents in need may obtain advice and help free of cost. Individual psychologists such as Charlotte Buehler and Erwin Wexberg join Frankl's project, and the anatomy professor and Vienna councilman Julius Tandler provides financial support.
He organizes a special counseling program at the end of the school term, whereupon, for the first time in years, no student suicide occurs in Vienna. Frankl gains international attention: Wilhelm Reich invites him to Berlin, the universities of Prague and Budapest want him for lecturing. At the Adult Education Center he presents a course on psychological hygiene. Shortly before earning his M.D. he starts to work at the Psychotherapeutic Department of the Psychiatric University Clinic; after his doctorate he is promoted to "Assistant".
1933 – 1937
Frankl becomes chief of the "Female Suicidals Pavilion" at the Psychiatric Hospital in Vienna, with some 3000 patients annually passing through his hands.
Frankl opens a practice as Doctor of Neurology and Psychiatry.
Invasion of Austria by the Hitler troops – the "Anschluss".
In his paper: "PHILOSOPHY AND PSYCHOTHERAPY. ON THE FOUNDATION OF AN EXISTENTIAL ANALYSIS" he coins the expression "Existential Analysis".
1940 – 1942
He becomes director of the Neurological Department of the Rothschild Hospital, a clinic for Jewish patients. In spite of the danger to his own life he sabotages Nazi procedures by making false diagnoses to prevent the euthanasia of mentally ill patients. He publishes several articles in Swiss medical journals, and starts writing the first version of his book "AERZTLICHE SEELSORGE" (THE DOCTOR AND THE SOUL). Frankl obtains an immigration visa to America but lets it pass unused, not wanting to desert his old parents. In 1941 Frankl marries his first wife, Tilly Grosser.
The nazis force the young couple to have their child aborted. In September Viktor and Tilly Frankl are arrested and together with his parents are deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto, north of Prague. His sister Stella has shortly before escaped to Australia, and brother Walter and his wife are trying to escape via Italy. After half a year in Theresienstadt his father dies of exhaustion.
Frankl and Tilly, and shortly later his 65 year old mother, are transported to the extinction camp Auschwitz. His mother is immediately murdered in the gas chamber, and Tilly is moved to Bergen-Belsen, where she is to die at the age of 24. In cattle cars Viktor Frankl is transported, via Vienna, to Kaufering and Türkheim (subsidiary camps of Dachau). Even under the extreme conditions of the camps Frankl finds his theses about fate and freedom corroborated.
In the last camp he comes down with typhoid fever. To avoid fatal collapse during the nights he keeps himself awake by reconstructing his book manuscript on slips of paper stolen from the camp office. On April 27 the camp is liberated by U.S. troops. In August Frankl returns to Vienna, where he learns, within a span of a few days, about the death of his wife, his mother and his brother who has been murdered in Auschwitz together with his wife.
Frankl overcomes his despair; he becomes director of the Vienna Neurological Policlinic, a position he holds for 25 years. With his reconstructed book "ÄRZTLICHE SEELSORGE" he attains his "Habilitation", or teaching appointment, at the University of Vienna Medical School. He dictates, within 9 days, the book"EIN PSYCHOLOG ERLEBT DAS KONZENTRATIONSLAGER", which is later translated into English and published as "MAN'S SEARCH FOR MEANING". By 1997 more than 9 million copies of this book had been sold.
Frankl obtains his Ph.D. in philosophy with a dissertation on "THE UNCONSCIOUS GOD".
1948 – 1949
Frankl is promoted to "Privatdozent" (Associate Professor) of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Vienna; he presents his "Metaclinical Lectures" which are published under the title "DER UNBEDINGTE MENSCH" (UNCONDITIONAL MAN).
Frankl creates the "Austrian Medical Society for Psychotherapy" and becomes its first president. On the basis of a lecture series he writes the book, "HOMO PATIENS. VERSUCH EINER PATHODIZEE" with its central theme of how to give support and comfort to suffering people. At the "Salzburger Hochschulwochen" Frankl expounds his "10 THESES ON THE HUMAN PERSON".
In his book "LOGOS UND EXISTENZ" Frankl completes the anthropological foundation of Logotherapy.
Together with Otto Pötzl, Frankl publishes a psychophysiological study about the experiences of a falling mountain climber.
Frankl is promoted to Professor at the University of Vienna. He begins guest professorships at overseas universities.
The theoretical and practical aspects of neuroses from the viewpoint of logotherapy are treated in the book "THEORIE UND THERAPIE DER NEUROSEN" nieder.
A very systematic treatment of logotherapy and existential analysis appears as the book chapter: "GRUNDRISS DER EXISTENZANALYSE UND LOGOTHERAPIE" in "HANDBUCH DER NEUROSENLEHRE UND PSYCHOTHERAPIE", edited by Frankl, Gebsattel and Schultz.
Guest professor at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Guest professorship at the Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas. Based on his lecture manuscripts Frankl publishes "THE WILL TO MEANING", which he regards as his most systematic book in English.
The United States International University in San Diego, California, installs a Chair for Logotherapy.
Guest professorship at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh.
At the Memorial Day commemorating the 50th year after the invasion by the Hitler troops, Frankl presents a widely noted public address at the Vienna "Rathausplatz".
e "Viktor Frankl Institute" is founded in Vienna by a number of academic friends and family members.
The autobiography "WAS NICHT IN MEINEN BÜCHERN STEHT" (What is not in my books) is published. The English translation is published in 1997 as "VIKTOR FRANKL – RECOLLECTIONS".