Holocaust trauma psychiatrist Henry Krystal dies at 90

Jas Chana

(JTA) — Henry Krystal, a concentration camp survivor and Holocaust trauma expert, died on Oct. 8th at the age of 90.

Krystal, a psychiatrist whose research focused on former concentration camp inmates, passed away at his home in Bloomfield, Michigan from complications caused by Parkinson’s disease, the New York Times reported. He is survived by his wife, two sons and three grandchildren.

Krystal’s greatest contributions were to the research and understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder. As a professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, Krystal 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 emotional issues like depression. This left 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, the New York Times reported. 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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Krystal’s research was drawn from extensive interviews with over 2,000 Holocaust survivors, examining the responses of victims of the Hiroshima atomic bomb and by drawing on his own experiences as a concentration camp survivor.

“I couldn’t muster the feeling of joy, of any celebration or joy or who to celebrate with, you know,” he said about his own experience in a 1996 interview with the Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive. “Maybe a day or two before I was liberated, a thought occurred to me, and that is that if I should die, nobody in the world would know and nobody would miss me.”

One of Krystal’s 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,” which he described as a “a form of pathological mourning,” the New York Times reported.

Krystal was born in Sosnowiec, Poland, in 1925. He worked in a factory between the years 1942-45 before being sent to Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen concentration camps, the New York Times reported.

After the war, he studied at Goethe University before immigrating to the U.S, settling in Detroit where he lived with his aunt. In 1950, Krystal graduated from Wayne University before attending the university’s medical school and embarking on his psychiatric career. >

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