Formerly a philosophy and literature student in Vienna, Améry's participation in organized resistance against the Nazi occupation of Belgium resulted in his detainment and torture by the German Gestapo, and several years of imprisonment in concentration camps. Améry survived internments in Auschwitz and Buchenwald, and was finally liberated at Bergen-Belsen in 1945. After the war he settled in Belgium.
His most celebrated work, At the Mind's Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities (1966), suggests that torture was "the essence" of the Third Reich. Other notable works included On Aging (1968) and On Suicide: A Discourse on Voluntary Death (1976). Améry killed himself in 1978.