- The classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust
- Viktor E. Frankl
Viktor Frankl spent three years in Auschwitz, Dachau and other concentration camps during Second World War II. The first half of the book describes his experiences. The brutality of the Capos, who were prisoners themselves but on a level slightly below the SS. Because Viktor was young he was spared a visit to the gas chambers. If you looked fit enough to work then you would stay alive. Not that life was easy, walking miles in freezing temperatures, digging the solid earth to create ditches, trenches and to lay water pipes. Such physical labour fuelled each day by only bread and thin soup.
He was moved from camp to camp during this time. Once transferred by train through Vienna past the street where he was born.
Being a doctor he was given a chance to look after the sick in the camp. Certainly an easier life than working outside and on one occasion he had a chance to escape with a fellow doctor. Viktor chose to stay with his patients. Before he tried another escape a delegate from the International Red Cross arrived and all the sick were moved to hospitals in Switzerland.
The second half of the book describes logotherapy, which is considered to be the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy” after Freud and Adler, and focuses on the ‘will to meaning’.
It’s the first half of the book that I enjoyed the most. Certainly the two halves are linked. If a prisoner had a firm belief that his wife or children were still alive then that force of will would keep him alive. It is only when you read a book like this that your life is put into perspective. Yes, you may dislike you job, but you aren’t starving, you aren’t being physically and mentally abused each day. At least I hope not. You still have enough to eat, sometimes too much, and yet we rarely have something concrete to aim for. To give our lives meaning.