Imagine for a brief moment what it would be like to live in a concentration camp. Your perspective of the world would change dramatically. Beyond the 3 stages that the inmates experienced, Victor Frankl, in his book “The meaning of life” describes his 3-year experience as an inmate coming from the perspective of a psychoanalyst.
If you have trouble imagining yourself as an inmate, the book contains vivid descriptions of the mental and physical abuses that the inmates suffered.
In the reality of Auswitch, human decency and the value of life were as scarce as food and proper clothing. The inmate was being transformed into a number, (which was visible either in his uniform or jacket) and his or her sole purpose was to give every ounce of his energy and then be disposed of.
Two stories in the book “The meaning of life” that shocked me
Right or left?
When Frankl arrived at the concentration camp along with hundreds of people from all over Europe, the es-es forces arranged them in a straight line, along with a friend of his. At the end of the line, there was an officer. To avoid panic during the trip to the station, the german-nazi troops let the future inmates hold their luggage with them, but now they ordered to dispose of them. No one was able to guess, the changes that they will face in the foreseeable future.
Frankl describes it as the “optimistic phenomenon” (or something similar). This phenomenon states that whatever the circumstances people would always find a positive aspect that they are willing to hold on to.
Back to the long line and the officer, when Flankl arrived at the tip of it behind his friend, he noticed that people were separated to the left or right, based on the officer’s examination. His friend was sent to the left side, and noded Flankl to come closer. The es-es officer took a good look at him and put both of his hands on him. Frankl did his best to show that he is in good shape. With a mild hesitation, the officer directed him to the right side.
The same night he asked one of the other inmates, that they have arrived sooner, where they have taken his friend.
-Did they send him to the left lane?
-Then you can see him right there.
The inmate pointed to a chimney that was puffing smoke.
“There is your friend, going up to the heavens.”
Waking from one nightmare to another
As Frankl Describes in his book, the dreams of an inmate consists of his or her deep wishes, such as a warm bath, a slice of bread and cigarettes.
One night the author, woke up due to weird sounds and groans that were coming from a fellow inmate. It seemed that he was having a nightmare. He felt an innate urge to put the inmate out of his misery and wake him up, but for a second he hesitated. It was in that moment he realized that whatever his compatriot was dreaming about, it couldn’t be as horrible as the reality they all faced and the world that he was about to bring him back to.
What’s the meaning of life?
As you might have guessed there isn’t a sole answer to this question. You can’t find any moving phrases to transform them into quotes the massively share so you can get likes, “hearts” and follows.
As Frankl states:
“what’s the meaning of life, is like asking a chess player, which is the best move.”
Even though I suck at chess, I know that there isn’t any right move. It’s impossible to give an answer to that question because every one of us possesses different skills, experienced a different childhood and aims at different goals.
It’s the uniqueness of each and every one of that manifest as the meaning of life.
Love: The meaning of life
While the sun was rising, Frankl along with other inmates were crossing the gates of the concentration camp in Auschwitz, to reach the construction workplace. One of the inmates whispered, “Imagine our wives looking at us right now, I hope they ended up in better camps and don’t have a clue about what is happening to us.” At this moment everyone was thinking about his wife. For a moment Victor Frankl saw his wife smiling back at him, with a reassuring look on her face.
“Real or not, she was now brighter than the sun.”
“As the poets say, love is our ultimate goal. The salvation of the human being comes through love.”
Reading this book, I realized, that if they take everything from us, all our possessions, our loved ones and all the validation we crave daily. We are still capable of finding the meaning of life through love.
Chasing the past while erasing the future
During his three year experience in concentration camps, the author met a man, who every day he walked into another working station, believed that this would be his last day.
For the majority of the inmates, the word “FREEDOM” was a distant, non-approachable reality. So it would make more sense to live in the past, right? Who would want to experience hell if he could just go to the memories of the past?
According to “The meaning of life,” even in that times when you crave to the past you “plunder” the future. Furthermore, to consider your current living situation as “unreal,” you end up losing control over your life and the challenges you face. On the other hand, facing a difficult situation gives you a chance to grow emotionally stronger.
Note: For those who are thinking right now, how much difficult their life has become and how many problems they face. Let me remind that those thoughts are coming from a man who was walking almost barefoot in the snow, working as a slave with one meal of soup (mainly boiled water) and experienced torture in a mental as well as in a physical level.
The importance of faith
‘The inmate who had lost his faith was doomed…”
At the beginning of March 1945, the inmate responsible for the sack told Frankl that a voice came into his sleep and said to him that he could answer any question the inmate wishes. As you can imagine the sack-taker wanted desperately to know the day that the war will come to an end.
“And what did the voice answered?”
The inmate whispered with a tone of certainty, “At the 30th of March!”.
The days passed, but no news had passed through the sacks about the end of the war. On the contrary, the war was still ongoing.
At the 29th of March, the sack-taker got sick, the next day he fell into a delirium and the day after he died…
“According to the doctor he had died of typhus.”