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When i started reading this book i had no idea that i was going to encounter something so stunning. Although the book is not very long (like 100 pages) its content contain very deep meanings and makes you think about life, time, mercy, hope, freedom and evilness on every single page.
Viktor Emil Frankl was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, writer, and Holocaust survivor. He was the founder of logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy that describes a search for a life's meaning as the central human motivational force.
In 1942, just nine months after his marriage, Frankl and his family were sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. His father died there of starvation and pneumonia. In 1944, Frankl and the surviving members of his family were transported to Auschwitz, where his mother and brother were murdered in the gas chambers. His wife died later of typhus in Bergen-Belsen. Frankl spent three years in four concentration camps.
The author tells about his own experiences in Nazi concentration camps over the years in from a psychotherapist's and a human being's point of view in this book. The author explains what this book contains with these words;
"This book does not claim to be an account of facts and events but of personal experiences, experiences which millions of prisoners have suffered time and again. It is the inside story of a concentration camp, told by one of its survivors. This tale is not concerned with the great horrors, which have already been described often enough (though less often believed), but with the multitude of small torments. In other words, it will try to answer this question: How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?"
The author loses everything that he has when they bring him to the camp. Soldiers separate him from his wife, brother, sister and parents. For a long time, he didn't even know if they were alive or not. Soldiers confiscated the scientific works he had been working on all his life and destroyed them.
After losing everything including his purpose of life, how can a man continue to live without losing hope?
"While we were waiting for the shower, our nakedness was brought home to us: we really had nothing now except our bare bodies—even minus hair; all we possessed, literally, was our naked existence"
Walking for hours on icy roads with torn shoes, being flogging while working all day long on extreme conditions, eating a bowl of soup and a piece of bread and witnessing people die one by one every day. In these conditions can a man still have mercy for another prisoner and help him or does he do everything to survive?
There were men in camp called 'Capos'. They were privileged people chosen inside of the prisoners. They were people that never hungry, never worked. Although they were chosen from prisoners often they were harder on the prisoners than were the guards, and beat them more cruelly than the SS men did.
Someone who has been oppressed for a long time was becoming more ruthless than those who had oppressed themselves when power had taken over.
After suffering for a very long time, most people begin a state of indifference towards everything. For these people, life loses its meaning and purpose. There are two things that people who fall into this situation do in the camps; either waiting for death by doing nothing or committing suicide by running to electrical wires.
"The prisoner who had lost faith in the future his future was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay. Usually it began with the prisoner refusing one morning to get dressed and wash or to go out on the parade grounds. No entreaties, no blows, no threats had any effect. He just lay there, hardly moving. He simply gave up. There he remained, lying in his own excreta, and nothing bothered him anymore."
After Viktor Frankl lived for a long time in different camps, he is not giving up but he kinda accepts his destiny.
He accepts his fate by saying that he refuses to do so to an officer who offers to stay here by deleting his name from a list where he will probably be taken to be killed on the pretext of being transferred to a better place. But they do take him to a better place, and it turns out that after he left the camp, the whole camp burned down and all of his friends died.
"And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form of the typical inmate."
"The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity—even under the most difficult circumstances—to add a deeper meaning to his life."
"...we could say that most men in a concentration camp believed that the real opportunities of life had passed. Yet, in reality, there was an opportunity and a challenge. One could make a victory of those experiences, turning life into an inner triumph, or one could ignore the challenge and simply vegetate, as did a majority of the prisoners"
"When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he will have to accept his suffering as his task; his single and unique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His unique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his burden. "
This book shows that even if in extreme situations there is always hope and something to fight for.
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