Psychiatric Institutes of America Texas

Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy Box 15211, Abilene, Texas

Photograph copyright IMAGNO/Katharina Vesely
The Man
Viktor E. Frankl was born in Vienna, Austria on March 26, 1905 as the second of three children. He died in 1997 in Vienna, Austria, of heart failure. His mother was from Prague and his father came from Suedmaehre. Frankl grew up in Vienna, the birthplace of modern psychiatry and home of the renowned psychiatrists Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler. A brilliant student, Frankl was involved in Socialist youth organizations and became interested in psychiatry. At age 16 he began writing to Freud, and on one occasion sent him a short paper, which was published three years later, Frankl earned a medical degree from the University of Vienna in 1930 and was put in charge of a Vienna hospital ward for the treatment of females who had attempted suicide. When Germany seized control of Austria eight years later, the Nazis made Frankl head of the Rothschild Hospital.

In 1942 Frankl married his first wife, Tilly Grosser. Nine months later, Frankl, his wife and his parents were deported to the Theresienstadt camp near Prague. Even though he was in four Nazi camps, Frankl survived the Holocaust, including Auschwitz in Poland from 1942-45, where the camp doctor Josef Mengele, was supervising the division of the incoming prisoners into two lines. Those in the line moving left were to go to the gas chambers, while those in the line moving right were to be spared. Frankl was directed to join the line moving left, but managed to save his life by slipping into the other line without being noticed. Other members of his family were not so fortunate. Frankl’s wife, his parents, and other members of his family died in the concentration camps.

On returning to Vienna after Germany’s defeat in 1945, Frankl, who had secretly been keeping a record of his observations in the camps on scraps of paper, published a book in German setting out his ideas on Logotherapy. This was translated into English in 1959, and in a revised and enlarged edition appeared as

The Doctor and the Soul: An Introduction to Logotherapy in 1963. By the time of his death, Frankl’s book, Man's Search for Meaning, had been translated into 24 languages and reprinted 73 times and had long been used as a standard text in high school and university courses in psychology, philosophy, and theology.

In 1946 Frankl became executive director of the Viennese neurological health center and kept this position until 1971.

In 1947 Frankl married his second wife Eleonore Schwindt, who survived him, as did a daughter, Dr. Gabrielle Frankl-Vesely. Frankl’s postwar career was spent as a professor of neurology and psychiatry in Vienna, where he taught until he was 85. He was also chief of neurology at the Vienna Polyclinic Hospital for 25 years. Frankl received twenty-nine honorary doctorates from universities in all parts of the world. He wrote over 30 books and became the first non-American to be awarded the American Psychiatric Association’s prestigious Oskar Pfister Prize and was a visiting professor at Harvard, Stanford and other universities in Pittsburgh, San Diego and Dallas. Frankl has given lectures at 209 universities on five continents. The U. S. International University in California installed a special chair for Logotherapy- this is the psychotherapeutic school founded by Frankl, often called the “Third Viennese School” (after Freud’s Psychoanalysis and Adler’s Individual Psychology.)

The American Medical Society, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Psychological Association have officially recognized Dr. Frankl’s Logotherapy as one of the scientifically based schools of psychotherapy.

His hobbies included mountain climbing, and at 67 he obtained his pilot’s license. Frankl holds the Solo Flight Certificate and the Mountain Guide badge of the Alpine Club “Donauland”. Three difficult climbing trails (on the Rax and Peilstein Mountains) were named after him. His less serious interest was his love for ties; he would admire them through a shop window.

Frankl’s dictaphone on which he dictated many of his books. His wife Eleonore would then transcribe them.

In a 1991 survey of general-interest readers conducted by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, Man’s Search for Meaning has sold over nine million copies alone in the USA and was ranked among the ten most influential book in America. In 1992, the “Viktor Frankl Frankl-Institute” was created in his honor in Vienna. Viktor Frankl’s life serves as a reminder to all, no matter how difficult the path may be, choosing to give up, before it has had the chance to fly, only holds the human spirit back.

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