Viktor Frankl was born in Vienna on March 26, 1905. His father, Gabriel Frankl, was a strong, disciplined man from Moravia who worked his way from government stenographer to become the director of the Ministry of Social Service. His mother, Elsa Frankl (née Lion), was more tenderhearted, a pious woman from Prague.
The middle of three children, young Viktor was precocious and intensely curious. Even at the tender age of four, he already knew that he wanted to be a physician.
In high school, Viktor was actively involved in the local Young Socialist Workers organization. His interest in people turned him towards the study of psychology. He finished his high school years with a psychoanalytic essay on the philosopher Schopenhauer, a publication in the International Journal of Psychoanalysis, and the beginning of a rather intense correspondence with the great Sigmund Freud.
In 1925, a year after graduating and on his way towards his medical degree, he met Freud in person. Alfred Adler's theory was more to Frankl's liking, though, and that year he published an article -- 'Psychotherapy and Weltanschauung' -- in Adler's International Journal of Individual Psychology. The next year, Frankl used the term logotherapy in a public lecture for the first time, and began to refine his particular brand of Viennese psychology.
In 1928 and 1929, Frankl organized cost-free counseling centers for teenagers in Vienna and six other cities, and began working at the Psychiatric University Clinic. In 1930, he earned his doctorate in medicine, and was promoted to assistant. In the next few years, Frankl continued his training in neurology.
In 1933, He was put in charge of the ward for suicidal women at the Psychiatric Hospital, with many thousands of patients each year. In 1937, Frankl opened his own practice in neurology and psychiatry. One year later, Hitler's troops invade Austria. He obtained a visa to the U.S. in 1939, but, concerned for his elderly parents, he let it expire.
In 1940, Frankl was made head of the neurological department of Rothschild Hospital, the only hospital for Jews in Vienna during the Nazi regime. He made many false diagnoses of his patients in order to circumvent the new policies requiring euthanasia of the mentally ill. It was during this period that he began his manuscript, Arztliche Seelsorge -- in English, The Doctor and the Soul.
Frankl married in 1942, but in September of that year, he, his wife, his father, mother, and brother, were all arrested and brought to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt in Bohemia. His father died there of starvation. His mother and brother were killed at Auschwitz in 1944. His wife died at Bergen-Belsen in 1945. Only his sister Stella would survive, having managed to emigrate to Australia a short while earlier.