The Unlikely Optimism of Viktor Frankl

In Vienna the war ended on April 13th, 1945. Two weeks later, the day of liberation came for the concentration camp inmate Viktor Frankl. But it would still take until August before he could return to Vienna, where the most dreadful news awaited him. His despair and his struggle for the strength to go on living are evident in the harrowing letters he wrote to relatives and friends in the first weeks after his return home.

Frankl plunged into his work, and rarely has the use of this phrase been more apposite. He took over the management of the neurological department of the Vienna Policlinic; in just a few months he wrote two books; at the adult education college in Ottakring, with which he had been closely connected since the 1930s, he held a series of lectures in autumn 1945 entitled “The Mentally Ill Person”; he commented on issues of the day regarding politics, society, and culture in numerous newspaper articles and in public discussions.

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