Dr. Henri Parens, Holocaust Survivor, Groundbreaking Psychoanalyst, and Former Wynnewood Resident Dies at 93

Dr. Henri Parens
Image via the family, The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Dr. Henri Parens with his wife, Rachel.

Henri Parens, a former resident of Wynnewood, celebrated psychiatry professor at Thomas Jefferson University, research professor of psychiatry and the Medical College of Pennsylvania, an analyst at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia, prolific author, and Holocaust survivor, passed away on February 19 at the age of 93. He died of congestive heart failure at an assisted living center in Minneapolis, writes Gary Miles for The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Born Henri Pruszinowski in Lodz, Poland, Dr. Parens alone escaped from a detention camp in France when he was 12 and found his way to the United States when he was 13. Sadly, he never again saw his family- his parents, older brother, or other relatives.

Dr. Parens was motivated by the horrific experiences he endured as a child during the Holocaust and inspired by the bravery of his mother, who encouraged his escape, and of those who helped him along the way, he dedicated his life to helping people understand and manage despair, prejudice, aggression, and other destructive behaviors.

After arriving in the U.S. in 1942, Dr. Parens lived in Pittsburgh with two families. He first went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in music from Carnegie Tech, now Carnegie Mellon University, in 1952, then he obtained a medical degree from Tulane University Medical School in 1959.

Dr. Parens served as a private psychiatrist and psychoanalyst for over 50 years, specializing in treating children with psychological trauma. He lectured, held workshops, and even served with the United Nations to stymie what he called the “malignant prejudice” of ethnic hatred and genocide.

He published a dozen books during his lifetime, and also wrote, edited, and contributed to around 300 books, articles, and papers. He was involved in various podcasts, scientific films, documentaries, and other projects.

Over his life, Dr. Parens won many awards including the 1992 Miriam Jones Brown World of the Child Award from Friends School Haverford and the 2019 Sigourney Award for outstanding contributions to psychoanalysis.

“He became an eloquent and tireless warrior for promoting the flourishing of all,” said his son Erik.

Dr. Parens is survived by his wife, sons, eight grandchildren, and other relatives.

Donations in his name can be made to the Henri Parens Hope Scholarship at the Psychoanalytic Center of Philadelphia, 3810 Mt. Pleasant Dr., Philadelphia, Pa. 19121, and the International Rescue Committee, P.O. Box 6068, Albert Lea, Minn. 56007.

Read more about Dr. Parens’ life in The Philadelphia Inquirer.



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