« Those who have a « why » to live, can bear with almost any « how » » – Nietzsche
Man’s search for meaning, by Victor E. Frankl, is the inside story of a concentration camp, told by one of its survivors.
Victor Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist, born in a Jewish family, who was deported to Auschwitz in October 1944. Prisoners weren’t allowed pen and paper, but he managed to find some, and wrote on scraps of paper that he had to hide, while he was in the concentration camp.
At the time, he was working on a way of understanding people called logotherapy, so he watched people and showed that the lines aren’t as black and white. He noted that there are only two types of people : decent and indecent. There were decent Nazis and indecent Nazis. Decent prisoners and indecent prisoners. People weren’t just good or bad.
He contested Freud Sigmund’s theory which states that when people are reduced to survival mode, they all react in the same way, due to survival instinct.
On the contrary, he proved that in Auschwitz, people became a more intense version of who they were before : « There, the individual differences did not blur, but on the contrary, people became more different; people unmasked themselves ».
People who gave in to terror, had less chance of surviving, whereas people who wanted to survive, who saw a future, were healthier and had better chances to survive: « in some way, suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds meaning, such as the meaning of sacrifice ».
For instance, those who ate or stole other people’s bread had more chance of dying since they didn’t see any chance of survival. People who shared, helped, had better chance of survival because they had something to live for.
Victor Frankl thereby proved that if you have a meaning in life, even if you’re suffering, even if you are in a concentration camp, there is hope. And if there is hope, there is a future.
Therefore, when prisoners left the concentration camps, they didn’t necessarily find freedom:
Firstly, the world didn’t want to listen to what they lived through.
And secondly, the hope that kept them going had often gone since, for example, loved ones they hoped to see again had died.
Man’s search for meaning is as relevant today as when it was written. It shows that whatever the circumstance, survival in concentration camps or everyday life, we have to find hope and positivity in every action and every moment for our life to have real meaning.
Jasmine Denogent – Seconde