We Celebrate the Life of Dr Saul Niedorf, 1931 – 2008
It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing of our great friend and comrade Dr. Saul Niedorf, a beloved child and adolescent psychiatrist and long time member and supporter of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles. Saul passed away on the morning of March 17, in his fiftieth year of practicing medicine.
Well-known for the care and advocacy he provided to vulnerable populations, in particular children, immigrants, refugees and incarcerated youth, Saul was on the clinical faculty at UCLA, an emeritus physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, and a consultant for the Department of Mental Health and the California Youth Authority. His colleagues still say that whenever they encountered a particularly difficult adolescent, Dr. Saul Niedorf was the one to call. Patients always commented on his personal dedication to them, dignity, and kindness.
Saul went to Roosevelt High School in Boyle Heights and, graduated from the UCLA School of Social Work 1952. Blacklisted during the McCarthy era, he moved to Switzerland to complete his medical education where he studied under Jean Piaget. The State Department suspended his passport for five years, raising a serious concern that he may have never been able to travel or return to the United States. Upon his eventual return to the U.S., he became involved in the emerging civil rights movement, marching with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from Selma to Montgomery.
In 1973 Saul and his wife, Ann Marie, returned to Los Angeles where their home became a meeting place for many progressive organizers including Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta of the United Farmworkers.
Saul understood the relationship between political conditions and the human psyche. During the 1980s, the civil war in El Salvador drove thousands of political refugees to the United States. The refugees presented compelling testimony in court, describing the use of bombing, torture, death and disappearances against the civilian population. After interviewing more than thirty refugees and reading countless depositions of others, Saul provided pivotal testimony to the court concluding that Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was prevalent among those he had evaluated. In 1988, in what was a major victory for the human rights of immigrants and refugees of all backgrounds, the court issued an injunction against the forcible return of Salvadorian refugees.
Saul had been a lifelong advocate for peace, nuclear disarmament and social justice. Despite having suffered severe personal consequences during the McCarthy era, Saul was fearless in raising his voice regarding controversial issues even during the most difficult times. Saul was known as an extraordinarily kind man, and beneath the kindness was profound courage. To be kind is to be open to others; he had the courage to be open. He was a man who cared deeply for others and refused to descend into cynicism. He was a powerful and effective advocate for civil rights, for the rights of refugees, for workers, for children and youth, for women, against the war in Vietnam and more recently in Iraq, and for nuclear disarmament. Saul was irrepressible, an inspiration to others, and will always be a model of an American who lived life with integrity and courage.
Saul and his wife Anne-Marie have made innumerable contributions to the struggle for peace, with their personal energy and time, opening their home as a refuge for organizers and for events, and encouraging their friends and associates to make financial contributions. His family asks that donations in commemoration of Saul be made to PSR-LA. The website, www.psr-la.org is available for this purpose, or call 213-689-9170.