Frankl was born in Vienna on March 6, 1925.  He studied medicine at the University of Vienna and later specialized in neurology and psychiatry, concentrating on the topics of depression and suicide.

His early development was influenced by his contacts with Sigmund Freud and Alfred Adler, although he would later diverge from their teachings. From 1933-1937 he headed the Selbstmörderpavillon, or "suicide pavilion", of the General Hospital in Vienna. There, he treated over 30,000 women prone to suicide. Yet, starting from the Nazi takeover of Austria in 1938, he was prohibited from treating "Aryan" patients due to his Jewish identity. In 1940, he began working at the Rothschild Hospital. This hospital was the only one in Vienna in which Jews were still admitted. Several times, his medical opinions saved patients from being euthanized via the Nazi euthanasia program.

On September 25, 1942 he, along with his wife, and his parents were deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto There, he established a special unit to help newcomers to the camp overcome shock and grief and he set up a suicide watch unit. On October 19, 1944, he was transported to Auschwitz concentration camp, where he was processed but then was moved to Türkheim, another Nazi concentration camp affiliated with Dachau. He spent 6 months and 2 days working as a slave-laborer there before being liberated. Meanwhile, his wife had been transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she was murdered; his father passed away at Theresienstadt, and his mother was murdered at Auschwitz from Theresienstadt and was murdered there as well. Among his immediate relatives, the only survivor was his sister, who had escaped by emigrating to Australia. In 1945 he wrote his world-famous book
titled “…trotzdem ja zum Leben sagen (Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager) (translated: "...saying yes to life in spite of everything; A Psychologist Experiences the Concentration Camp)", known

in English by the title Man's Search for Meaning. In this book, he described the life of an ordinary concentration camp inmate from the objective perspective of a psychiatrist. In the post-war years, Frankl published more than 32 books and received 29 honorary doctorate degrees.

Frankl died on September 2, 1997, of heart failure.