Holocaust trauma psychiatrist Henry Krystal dies at 90

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Dr. Henry Krystal, a concentration camp survivor and Holocaust trauma expert, has died.

Dr. Krystal, a psychiatrist whose research focused on former concentration camp inmates, died Oct. 8 at his home in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., from complications caused by Parkinson’s disease, The New York Times reported. He was 90.


He was best known for his research and understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder. As a professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, he found that the major symptoms in victims of trauma were frequently overlooked. Because trauma victims most commonly complained of physical problems like headaches, they missed treatment for underlying psychological issues like depression, leaving them vulnerable to self-medication and substance abuse.

His research led to pioneering approaches to treating post-traumatic stress disorder involving biofeedback and cognitive psychotherapy, according to the Times. His findings were published in works he authored, including Integration and Self-Healing, Psychic Traumatization and Drug Addiction: Aspects of Ego Function.

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His research was drawn from interviews with Holocaust survivors, examining the responses of victims of the Hiroshima atomic bomb and by drawing on his own experiences as a concentration camp survivor.

One of his studies, which he carried out in 1965 at the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn, led to the concept of “survivor guilt.”


He was born in Sosnowiec, Poland, in 1925. From 1942 to 1945, he worked as a slave laborer, first in a factory operated by Siemens and later in Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen concentration camps. He was the only member of his immediate family to survive the Holocaust.

After the war, he studied at Goethe University before immigrating to the United States, settling in Detroit. In 1950, Krystal graduated from Wayne State University before attending the university’s medical school and embarking on his psychiatric career.

He is survived by his wife, two sons and three grandchildren.

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