Viktor Emil Frankl


1905

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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.

1914-1918

During the first World War the family experiences bitter deprivation; sometimes the children would go begging to farmers.

1918-1923

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In his high school years Frankl attends public lectures on Applied Psychology. He starts a correspondence with Sigmund Freud. A manuscript he sends to Freud is published in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis.

1921

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.

1923

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Frankl becomes increasingly attracted to the Adlerian movement of Individual Psychology, with its emphasis on community and social reform.

1924

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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."

1925

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.

1926

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.

1927

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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.

1928-1929

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Frankl organizes youth counseling centers in Vienna. Renowned psychologists such as Charlotte Buehler and Erwin Wexberg join Frankl's project, which offers free counseling to adolescents.

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He picks up mountain-climbing, which will become his life-long passion.

1930

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He organizes a special counseling initiative at the end of the school term. In consequence, the number of student suicide drops significantly. Frankl gains international attention: Wilhelm Reich invites him to Berlin, the universities of Prague and Budapest want him for lecturing.

1931-1932

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Following his graduation Frankl starts his medical carreer at the "Maria Theresien Schloessl", a Neurological Hospital in Vienna founded by the Nathaniel Rothschild Foundation.

1933-1937

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Frankl becomes chief doctor of the "Suicidals Pavilion for Women" at the "Steinhof" Psychiatric Hospital in Vienna. In the following three years he gathers considerable diagnostic experience by attending to about 3000 patients per year.

1937

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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.

1938

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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.

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In the infamous "November Pogroms" hundreds of Jews die and many synagogues are destroyed - among them the magnificent "Leopoldstaedter Temple" near the Frankls' home.

1939

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.

1940

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Frankl 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.

1940

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He obtains an immigration visa to America but decides to let it expire, not wanting to desert his old parents.

1941

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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.

1941-42

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Frankl marries Tilly Grosser, a nurse he had met at the Rothschild Hospital. A short time later, the Nazis force the young couple to have their child aborted.

1942

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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.

1942

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Frankl attends to the psychological crises experienced by the inmates of the Terezin camp by organizing a first response team for the shocked new arrivals. In his efforts to fight the danger of suicide he is joined by fellow inmate Regina Jonas, the world's first female rabbi.

1944

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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.

1945

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In the Tuerkheim camp he comes down with typhoid fever. To avoid fatal vascular collapse during the nights he keeps himself awake by reconstructing the manuscript of his book Aerztliche Seelsorge on slips of paper stolen from the camp office.

1945

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.

1945

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Full of despair about the realization of his losses, Frankl finds support in his friends and in the determination to rewrite his book. His friend Bruno Pittermann, who has become a member of the new government, organizes an apartment and a job for him - as well as a typewriter.

1946

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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.

1946

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Within nine days he dictates the book Ein Psycholog erlebt das Konzentrationslager, which will later be published in English as Man's Search For Meaning.

1946

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He holds a series of much noted public lectures in which he explains his central thoughts on meaning, resilience, and the importance of embracing life even in the face of great adversity. These lectures are subsequently published as Yes to Life in Spite of Everything.

1947

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Frankl marries Eleonore Schwindt; in December their daughter Gabriele is born.

He expands and refines his theory of logotherapy in no less than eight books published between 1946 and 1949.

1948

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.

1948

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He writes his drama Synchronization in Birkenwald in which 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.

1950

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.

1954

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Universities in England, Holland and Argentina invite Frankl to give lectures. In the USA, Gordon Allport promotes Frankl and the publication of his books.

1955

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Frankl is promoted Professor at the University of Vienna. He begins guest professorships at overseas universities.

1959

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Man´s Search for Meaning is published in the U.S. under its first title From Death Camp to Existentialism.

1961

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Frankl becomes guest professor at Harvard University. Addressing the topic of personal freedom, he makes the often quoted remark, that "the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast should be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast."

1966

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He writes his most systematic book in English, The Will To Meaning. Lecture tours frequently take him to the U.S., South America, and Asia.

1966

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Frankl is invited to speak at San Quentin prison. His views on personal responsibility, guilt and redemption resonate strongly with the inmates, and he is asked to deliver a special message to a prisoner on death row.

1970

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The United States International University in San Diego, California, installs a Chair for Logotherapy.

1971

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Frankl starts taking flying lessons. In 1973 he acquires his Solo Flight Certificate.

1980

The First World Congress on Logotherapy takes place in San Diego, California.

1986

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Frankl´s most prominent student Elisabeth Lukas opens the South German Institute of Logotherapy, offering the first professional training in Logotherapy and Existential Analysis.

1988

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At the Memorial Day commemorating the 50th year after the annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany, Frankl speaks out against the concept of "collective guilt."

1988

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Frankl celebrates his Second Bar Mitzvah in Jerusalem.

1991

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The Library of Congress lists Man's Search for Meaning as "One of the ten most influential books in America."

1993

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Chicago's North Park University bestows an honorary doctorate upon Elly Frankl in recognition of her life work devoted to Logotherapy.

1995

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Frankl writes his autobiography, Recollections.

1997

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Frankl's last book is published: Man's Search For Ultimate Meaning.

1997

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Viktor Frankl dies of heart failure on the 2nd of September.