The Holocaust-An intro:
Man’s Search For Meaning sold over 10 million copies and became one of the-most influential books in the world.During the Holocaust in the 1940s, Viktor Frankl spent three years as a prisoner in the outfits and Dachau concentration camps. His wife, father, mother and brother died in these camps. He was faced with extreme hunger, debilitating illnesses and brutal living conditions. Yet unlike the prisoners around him he somehow managed to find hope and meaning during one of the most catastrophic events in human history. It’s no wonder “man’s search for meaning” sold over 10 million copies and became one of the most influential books in the world.
He Who Has A ‘Why” To Live For Can Bear With Almost Any ‘How’
Frankl was confronted by a fellow inmate, let’s call him Felix. Felix shared a dream that he had in February 1945. A voice told him he could wish for something. So he wished to know when he would be liberated from the concentration camp and have his sufferings come to an end. The voice replied March the 30th. Felix had a strong sense of hope and was convinced. The voice in his dream was right as the date ticked closer, the war got worse making it appear to be very unlikely that freedom was near on March the 29th. Felix suddenly became ill on March the 30th, the day he expected to be free. He lost consciousness on March the 31st as he was dead to paraphrase. Frankl’s own words says “the ultimate cause of my friend’s death was that the expected liberation did not come and he was severely disappointed. This suddenly load his body’s resistance against the latent typhus infection. His faith in the future and his will to live had become paralyzed and his body fell victim to illness and thus the voice of his dream was right”. After all, to back up this case a chief doctor of the concentration camp witnessed an increased death rate of prisoners between Christmas 1944 and New Year’s 1945. The doctor believed this was due to prisoners having false hope that they would be home again by Christmas. As a time drew near many lost hope and fell into an endless sleep. So you might be asking what can we learn from these stories well Frankl sums it up by saying any attempt to restore a man’s inner strength in the camp had first had succeed in showing him some future goal. Whenever there was an opportunity for one had to give them, a why to an aim for their lives in order to strengthen them to bear the terrible hell of their existence. Basically the prisoners who found a reason to live had a stronger will to live and chance of coming out of life and those without a reason to keep going increase their likelihood of severe illness and death. Frankl goes on to describe about two prisoners who were contemplating suicide. They use the typical argument that they had nothing more to expect from life but they didn’t commit suicide. Why because they found a meaning to keep suicide off, 1. It was his child waiting for him in a foreign country and 2. The other man was a scientist who had written a series of books which still needed to be finished. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears that toward a human being who affectionately waits for him or to an unfinished work will never be able to throw away from his life. He knows the why for his existence and will be able to bear almost any how it costs him to bear.
Love Is The Ultimate And Highest Goal To Which A Man Can Aspire
Frankl emphasizes that everyone’s meaning is completely unique and that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which a man can aspire. It was one man’s love for his child that kept him pushing forward and for another it was his love for sharing his findings with the world through books. For Frankl himself it was the love for his wife that kept him going. He realized the power of love on a cold dark day when he and his inmates were commanded to march out to a work site. The emaciated prisoners were beaten and forced to trudge over large stones and icy terrain. One inmate whispered to Frankl “if our wives could see us now. I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us upon reflecting on this time”. In the past Frankl said “I did not know whether my wife was alive and I had no means of finding out but at that moment it cease to matter there was no need for me to know. Nothing could touch the strength of my love my thoughts and the image of my beloved had. I know then that my wife was dead. I think that I would still have given myself undisturbed by that knowledge to the contemplation of her image and that my mental conversation with her would have been just as vivid and just as satisfying.”
When We Are No Longer Able To Change A Situation, We Are Challenged To Change Ourselves
Before Frankl was put in a concentration camp he was working as a clinical psychiatrist. He once had a client with severe depression. Let’s call him Peter. Peter could not overcome the loss of his wife who died two years ago. Frankl asked him what would have happened if you had died first and your wife would have had to survive for you. He said for her this would have been terrible. She would have suffered. Frank replied “see Peter such a suffering has been spared and it was you who have spare her this suffering.” He said nothing and shook Frankl’s hand and calmly left the office. Frankl said “in some way suffering ceases to be suffering. At the moment it finds a meaning such as a meaning of a sacrifice. Of course this was no therapy in the proper sense since first his despair was no disease and second I could not change his fate. I could not revive his wife but in that moment I did succeed in changing his attitude toward his unalterable fate. He could now at least see a meaning in his suffering in the world. Today countless people who found themselves in seemingly hopeless circumstances have found meaning in their lives. Nick Vujicic is a living example. He was born with no arms or legs but he overcame his disabilities to live an independent rich fulfilling life where he serves as a role model to help millions of people to overcome adversity and live meaningful lives. Some things in life are inevitable. The loss of loved ones terminal illnesses and forgotten memories. Whatever we do man’s search for meaning challenges us to accept that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it find a meaning in it and move forward you.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
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Also published on Medium.