On This Day … 31 March

People (Births)

  • 1930 – Yehuda Nir, Polish Jewish-American psychiatrist (d. 2014).

Yehuda Nir

Yehuda Nir (31 March 1930 to 19 July 2014) was a Polish-born American Holocaust survivor, psychiatrist and author of The Lost Childhood. Nir posed as a Roman Catholic and learned Latin to escape Nazi persecution in Poland during World War II. Nir’s ordeal led him to a career as a psychiatrist, specialising in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder and severely ill children. He immigrated to the United States in 1959 to complete medical residencies in New York City and Philadelphia. He served as the chief of child psychiatry of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center from 1979 until 1986.

Nir was born Juliusz Gruenfeld in Lwów, Poland, (present-day Lviv, Ukraine) on 31 March 1930. He later changed his name to “Nir” after World War II since “Gruenfeld” has German origins. Nir means ‘plowed fields’ in Hebrew.

Nir released a memoir of his experience during the Holocaust, “The Lost Childhood”, in 1989. A second edition was reprinted by Scholastic Press in 2002. The Lost Childhood is now used as part of the high school curriculum throughout the United States. He also published four self-help books focusing on relationships, including “Not Quite Paradise: Making Marriage Work” and “Loving Men for All the Right Reasons.”

Yehuda Nir died at his home in Manhattan, New York City, on 19 July 2014, at the age of 84. His funeral was held at Riverside Memorial Chapel on the Upper West Side, with burial on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. He was survived by his wife Bonnie Maslin and their children: daughter Sarah, a reporter for The New York Times; and son David, the political director of Daily Kos; and two sons from a previous marriage: private investor Daniel and fashion executive Aaron.

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