Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, 92, Holocaust survivor, psychiatrist, wrote 'Man's Search for Meaning'

September 04, 1997|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, 92, who used his experiences as a prisoner in German concentration camps in World War II to write "Man's Search for Meaning," an enduring work of survival literature, and to open avenues for modern psychotherapy, died Tuesday in Vienna. He was considered to be one of the last of the great Viennese psychiatrists.

He died of heart failure, the International Viktor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy said yesterday.

His mother, father, brother and pregnant wife were killed in the camps. He lost everything, he said, that could be taken from a prisoner, except "the last of the human freedoms, to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

Every day in the camps, he said, prisoners had moral choices to make about whether to submit internally to those in power who threatened to rob them of their inner selves.

In "Man's Search for Meaning," completed in 1946, he wrote that even at Auschwitz, some prisoners were able to discover meaning in their lives -- if only in helping one another through the day -- and that those discoveries were what gave them the will and strength to endure.

Dr. Herbert E. Sacks, president of the American Psychiatric Association, said Dr. Frankl's contributions shifted the direction of the field, especially in existential psychiatry, adding: "His interest in theory galvanized a generation of young psychiatrists."

Pub Date: 9/04/97

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