March 26: Viktor Emil Frankl is born in Vienna as the second of three children. His mother, Elsa Frankl, nee Lion, hails from Prague, his father Gabriel Frankl, Director in the Ministry of Social Service, comes from Southern Moravia.
Viktor Emil Frankl
During the first World War the family experiences bitter deprivation; sometimes the children would go begging to farmers.
At the age of 15, Frankl offers his first public lecture, On the Meaning of Life. His sensibility for social inequality leads him to become a functionary of the Young Socialist Workers.
Frankl is studying medicine at the University of Vienna Medical School and becomes spokesman of the Austrian Socialist High School Students Association. He regularly attends the meetings of the Alfred Adler circle at Vienna's "Cafe Siller." As the youngest member he is given the nickname "Benjamin."
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 central subject of his life work.
Frankl presents public lectures on congresses in Duesseldorf, Frankfurt, Berlin. For the first time he propounds the idea of a meaning-centered approach to mental healing, using the term Logotherapy, based on the Greek word logos for meaning.
His relationship to Alfred Adler declines. He is critical of central tenets of Individual Psychology. His ideas for improvements are dismissed by Adler himself. Frankl is excluded from Adler's circle. Despite this, Adler's daughter Alexandra (photo), Rudolf Dreikurs and other important Adlerians remain lifelong friends to him.
Frankl is deeply involved in the Viennese adult education centers. He presents the very first course on Mental Hygiene, and between 1928 and 1938, he delivers no fewer than 30 lectures, mostly focusing on psychological issues, especially among young people.
Frankl opens a private practice as Doctor of Neurology and Psychiatry. Only a few months later
he will have to close it down due to the Nazi annexation of Austria and the ensuing
restrictions for Jewish doctors.
In his paper Seelenaerztliche Selbstbestimmung he takes a stand against the misuse of the therapist's authority to impose their own worldview - in particular, the rampant German-nationalist ideology - on a patient.
Frankl maintained close relations to the Austrian Zionist movement, occasionally delivering
lectures at their gatherings. In the period preceding the "Anschluss" - the forced
annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany - an atmosphere of apprehension and
despair was prevalent. This is vividly illustrated by the invitation extended to
Viktor Frankl by the Zionist Youth Section to deliver two lectures on the "Psychological
Problems of Jewish Youth." The announcement of the second lecture was published on March 11, just
one day before Hitler's forces crossed the border, bringing an abrupt halt to all activities of the
Following the Annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany Frankl must adopt the middle name "Israel"
and call himself "Fachbehandler" instead of physician.
His office is "aryanized", and he has to move his practice into his parent's home.
In the infamous "November Pogroms" hundreds of Jews die and many synagogues are destroyed - among them the magnificent "Leopoldstaedter Temple" near the Frankls' home.
His paper Philosophy and Psychotherapy is published in a Swiss medical journal. In it he coins the expression "Existential Analysis," the philosophical foundation of Logotherapy.
He starts writing the first version of his book The Doctor and the Soul (Aerztliche Seelsorge)
in which he lays down the foundations of his
system of psychotherapy, Logotherapy and Existential Analysis. Later, upon arrival at the
Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, he will be forced
to throw away the unpublished manuscript.
In September Viktor and Tilly are arrested and together with Frankl's parents are deported to the Terezin Ghetto, north of Prague. His sister Stella has shortly before escaped to Australia, his brother Walter and his wife are trying to escape via Italy. After half a year in Theresienstadt his father dies of exhaustion.
Viktor and Tilly, and shortly later his 65 year old mother, are transported to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. His mother is immediately murdered in the gas chamber, and Tilly is moved to the Bergen-Belsen camp. After a few days Frankl is selected for transfer to a labor camp. He is brought to Kaufering and later Tuerkheim, subsidiary camps of Dachau in Bavaria.
On April 27 the camp is liberated by U.S. troops. Frankl is made chief doctor of a military hospital for displaced persons. Anxious to find out about the fate of his wife he embarks on the arduous journey to Vienna. Within a span of a few days, he learns about the death of his wife, his mother and his brother who has been murdered in Auschwitz together with his wife.
Frankl becomes director of the Vienna Neurological Policlinic, a position he will hold for 25 years. His reconstructed Aerztliche Seelsorge, with an added chapter on the "psychology of the concentration camp," is one of the very first books published in postwar Vienna. The first edition is sold out within a few days.
Frankl obtains his Ph.D. in philosophy with a dissertation on The Unconscious God. He is promoted to Associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at the University of Vienna Medical School.
Austrian psychiatrist Wilhelm Soucek names Frankl's Logotherapy and Existential Analysis
the "Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy," after Sigmund Freud's Psychoanalysis and Alfred Adler's
His 1946 drama Synchronization in Birkenwald is published in the renowned literary magazine Der Brenner. In this "Metaphysical Symposium" he draws from his own experiences in the concentration camps by using an imaginary camp as a backdrop for illustrating existential questions such as guilt, suffering, responsibility, and inner freedom.
On the basis of a lecture series he writes the book Homo Patiens with its central
theme of how to give support and comfort to suffering human beings.
At the "Salzburger Hochschulwochen" Frankl expounds his "Ten Theses On The Human Person", a cornerstone in the anthropological foundation of Logotherapy.
The First World Congress on Logotherapy takes place in San Diego, California.
The "Society for Logotherapy and Existential Analysis" (GLE) is founded in Vienna by Alfried Längle. A few years later Frankl distances himself from this group due to irreconcilable differences in the conception of human existence and the meaning concept.