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About Leo Eitinger

Professor Leo Eitinger (1912-1996) was born in Brno, Moravia, at that time a town in the Austrian-Hungarian empire; currently the capital of Jihomoravský kraj and belonging to the Czech Republic. By religion Jewish, he studied medicine at the Masaryk University of Brno and graduated in 1937.

Fled from the Nazis

In 1939 he fled from the Nazis and came to Norway as a refugee with a Nansen passport. He was given permission to work as a resident in psychiatry in Norway, but the permission was revoked with the Nazi occupation of Norway in 1940. He stayed underground from January 1941 until his arrest in 1942. His crime was being born Jewish. After the imprisonment he was deported to the concentration camp at Auschwitz and was later moved to Buchenwald. Of the 762 Norwegian Jews deported to German concentration camp, only 23 survived - Leo Eitinger was one of them. After returning to Norway he specialised in psychiatry. In 1966 he was appointed professor of psychiatry at the University of Oslo and became Head of the University Psychiatric Clinic.

Studied human suffering

After the war Leo Eitinger allocated all his time and efforts to the study of human suffering with emphasis on clinical psychiatry, in particular victimology and disaster psychiatry. He conducted several landmark studies about the long-term psychological and physical effects of extreme stress and also about being a refugee. Some of the major works have been published (e.g. Concentration camp survivors in Norway and Israel (1964); Mortality and morbidity after extreme stress (1973); Strangers in the world (1981)).

Devoted life to promotion of human rights

Leo and Lisl Eitinger devoted their life to promotion of human rights and the fight against injustice and racism. They had a tremendously important role for the human rights movement in our country. Thanks to their effort, Norway also became the first country in the world to appoint a chair for disaster psychiatry. When the World Health Organisation published their new classification of mental disorders in 1992 (ICD-10), they included a category called 'Enduring personality change after catastrophic experience', a diagnostic concept based on the work of Eitinger.

Published May 21, 2010 1:45 PM - Last modified Jan. 19, 2021 4:05 PM