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Leo Eitinger

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Title: Leo Eitinger  
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Subject: Jewish deportees from Norway during World War II, Norwegian medical researchers, Norwegian psychiatrists, Asma Jahangir, History of the Jews in Norway
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Leo Eitinger

Leo Eitinger (12 December 1912 - 15 October 1996) was a Holocaust survivor and Norwegian psychiatrist who studied the late-onset psychological trauma experienced by people who went through separation and psychological pain early in life only to show traumatic experience decades later. He devoted a long period studying late-onset psychological trauma amongst Holocaust survivors, wherein Holocaust survivors like Paul Celan, Primo Levi and many others committed suicide due to holocaust trauma, several decades after the experience, towards late adulthood.


  • Early life 1
  • During World War II 2
  • Holocaust Psychiatrist 3
  • External links 4
  • References 5

Early life

Leo Eitinger was born in Lomnice, Moravia, at that time a town in the Austrian-Hungarian empire; currently the capital of Jihomoravský kraj and belonging to the Czech Republic. He studied medicine at the Masaryk University of Brno, graduated in 1937, and was drafted as an officer into the Czechoslovak Air Force. In 1939 he fled Nazi persecution of Jews and came to Norway as a refugee with the help of Nansenhjelpen. Upon arriving in Norway, he arranged for Jewish children to escape from Czechoslovakia to settle in the Jewish orphanage in Oslo. He was given permission to work as a resident in psychiatry in Norway in Bodø, but the permission was revoked by the Nazis after they invaded the country in 1940.

During World War II

He stayed underground from January 1941 until he was arrested in March 1942. He was imprisoned in various places throughout Norway and was deported on the ship Gotenland on 24 February 1943, arriving by train via Berlin at the concentration camp at Auschwitz (where the number 105268 was tattoed on his arm) and was later moved to Buchenwald. Of the 762 Jews deported from Norway to German concentration camps, only 23 survived - Leo Eitinger was one of them. After returning to Norway he specialised in psychiatry.[1]

Holocaust Psychiatrist

In 1966 Leo Eitinger was appointed professor of psychiatry at the University of Oslo and became Head of the University Psychiatric Clinic.

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)).

Leo and Lisl Eitinger devoted their life to promotion of human rights and the fight against injustice and racism. They had an important role for the human rights movement in Norway. Thanks to their effort, Norway also became the first country in the world to appoint a chair for disaster psychiatry. When the 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.

External links

  • About Lisl and Leo Eitinger, from the University of Oslo
  • Leo Eitinger


  1. ^ "Prisoner registry, Bredtveit prison, record for Leo Eitinger" (in Norwegian). Oslo: Riksarkivet. 1942–1943. 
Preceded by
Nansen Academy
Recipient of the Fritt Ord Award
Succeeded by
Erik Bye
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