Viktor Frankl 1905-1997

(Reprinted from Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 38, No. 2, Spring 1998.)

Viktor Frankl, Viennese neurologist and psychiatrist, originator of logotherapy and existential analysis (Existenzanalyse) and survivor of the Holocaust, died at the age of 92 on September 2, 1997, in the city of his birth. He was one of the most important contributors to existential psychotherapy in this century.

His book Man's Search for Meaning has become a widely read classic, portraying the courageous confrontation and transformation of suffering that is a hallmark of existential psychology. It was published 1959 in the U.S. with a preface by Harvard psychologist Gordon Allport under the title: From Death-camp to Existentialism. It has sold more than 10 million copies and in survey by the Library of Congress was rated as one of the 10 most influential books respondents had read.

In 1942, Viktor Frankl and his family were deported to the Nazi's Theresienstadt concentration camp, which you can read about in Aaron Kramer's article "Creative Defiance in a Death-camp" in this issue. The prisoners described in Kramer´s article embody the qualities Frankl memorialized. Later he was in Auschwitz and 2 other camps near Dachau. From his family only sister Stella survived, having emigrated to Australia in time before the Nazis marched into Austria.

His orientation, also described as the third Viennese school of psychotherapy rivaling those of Freud and Adler, lives on in the Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy in Vienna and in many institutes around the world. Journals of logotherapy are published in Austria, the U.S., Japan, South America and many other countries.

Near Hamburg, Germany, where Dr. Frankl held the keynote speech at the world congress of psychotherapy in 1994, there is a Viktor Frankl House, an open mental health institution whose inmates recruit from former patients of psychiatric hospitals.

In addition to all his writing (32 books, translated into more than 25 languages), teaching (he gave his last lecture at the medical faculty of the University of Vienna on October 21, 1996) and healing, Dr. Frankl was an avid mountain climber until the age of 80. Three difficult climbing trails in the Austrian Alps are named for him.

In July 1997, he celebrated 50 years of marriage to his second wife, Eleonore Frankl and also was present at the marriage of his granddaughter Katja. At the end of August 1997, days before his death, Dr. Frankl received his 29th honorary doctor degree, from the University of Ohio.

His daughter, Dr. Gabriele Frankl-Vesely, her husband Dr. Franz Vesely and other colleagues continue his work in Vienna at the Viktor Frankl Institute, which publishes a logotherapy journal. Training institutes have been established in many countries including Austria, where a group called ABILE (Ausbildungsinstitut für Logotherapie und Existenzanalyse) organized by Harald Mori and others is currently seeking governmental approval.

Dr. Frankl published several articles in the Journal of Humanistic Psychology, the first, "Self Transcendence as a Human Phenomenon," in the Fall, 1966, issue. He joined the JHP Board of Editors in 1977, serving until his death. His death is a great loss for the world and especially for existential humanistic psychology, but his influence will forever be an integral part of our work.

Tom Greening, Ph.D., Editor
Journal of Humanistic Psychology

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