Viktor frankl man's search for meaningPresentation Transcript
With more than 4 million copies in print in the English languagealone, Mans Search for Meaning, the chilling yet inspirationalstory of Viktor Frankls struggle to hold on to hope during histhree years as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps, is a trueclassic. Beacon Press is now pleased to present a special giftedition of a work that was hailed in 1959 by Carl Rogers as"oneof the outstanding contributions to psychological thought in the Mans last fifty years." Frankls training as a psychiatrist informedevery waking moment of his ordeal and allowed him aremarkable perspective on the psychology of survival. Hisassertion that "the will to meaning" is the basic motivation forhuman life has forever changed the way we understand ourhumanity in the face of suffering. Search for Meaning AN INTRODUCTION TO LOGOTHERAPY Fourth Edition Viktor E. Frankl PART ONE TRANSLATED BY ILSE LASCH PREFACE BY GORDON W. ALLPORT BEACON PRESS
Preface Dr. Frankl, author-psychiatrist, sometimes asks his patients who suffer from a multitude of torments great andsmall, "Why do you not commit suicide?" From their answers he can often find the guide-line for his psycho-therapy: in one life there is love for ones children to tie to;in another life, a talent to be used; in a third, perhaps onlylingering memories worth preserving. To weave theseslender threads of a broken life into a firm pattern of meaning and responsibility is the object and challenge of logo-therapy, which is Dr. Frankls own version of modern existential analysis. In this book, Dr. Frankl explains the experience whichled to his discovery of logotherapy. As a longtime prisonerin bestial concentration camps he found himself stripped tonaked existence. His father, mother, brother, and his wifedied in camps or were sent to the gas ovens, so that, excepting for his sister, his entire family perished in these camps.How could he—every possession lost, every value destroyed,suffering from hunger, cold and brutality, hourly expectingextermination—how could he find life worth preserving? Apsychiatrist who personally has faced such extremity is apsychiatrist worth listening to. He, if anyone, should be
8 Preface Preface 9 able to view our human condition existential analysis, which takes wisely and with compassion. Dr. several related forms—the school Frankls words have a profoundly of logotherapy being one. It is honest ring, for they rest on characteristic of Frankls tolerant experiences too deep for outlook that he does not repudiate deception. What he has to say Freud, but builds gladly on his gains in prestige because of his contributions; nor does he quarrel present position on the Medical with other forms of existential Faculty of the University of therapy, but welcomes kinship Vienna and because of the renown with them. of the logotherapy clinics that The present narrative, brief today are springing up in many though it is, is artfully constructed lands, patterned on his own and gripping. On two occasions I famous Neurological Policlinic in have read it through at a single Vienna. sitting, unable to break away from One cannot help but compare its spell. Somewhere beyond theViktor Frankls approach to midpoint of the story Dr. Frankltheory and therapy with the work introduces his own philosophy ofof his predecessor, Sigmund logotherapy. He introduces it soFreud. Both physicians concern gently into the continuingthemselves primarily with the narrative that only after finishingnature and cure of neuroses. the book does the reader realizeFreud finds the root of these that here is an essay of profounddistressing disorders in the anxiety depth, and not just one more brutalcaused by conflicting and tale of concentration camps.unconscious motives. Frankldistinguishes several forms ofneurosis, and traces some of them(the noogenic neuroses) to thefailure of the sufferer to findmeaning and a sense ofresponsibility in his existence.Freud stresses frustration in thesexual life; Frankl, frustration inthe "will-to-meaning." In Europetoday there is a marked turningaway from Freud and awidespread embracing of
From this autobiographical there must be a purpose in sufferfragment the reader learns much. ing and in dying. But no man canHe learns what a human being tell another what this purpose is.does when he suddenly realizes Each must find out for himself,he has "nothing to lose except his and must accept t h e responsibilityso ridiculously naked life." that his answer prescribes. If heFrankls description of the mixed succeeds he will continue to growflow of emotion and apathy is in spite of all indignities. Frankl isarresting. First to the rescue fond of quoting Nietzsche, "Hecomes a cold detached curiosity who has a why to live can bearconcerning ones fate. Swiftly, with almost any how."too, come strategies to preserve In the concentration campthe remnants of ones life, every circumstance conspires tothough the chances of surviving make the prisoner lose his hold.are slight. Hunger, humiliation, All the familiar goals in life arefear and deep anger at injustice snatched away. What aloneare rendered tolerable by closely remains is "the last of humanguarded images of beloved freedoms"—the ability topersons, by religion, by a grim "choose ones attitude in a givensense of humor, and even by set of circumstances." Thisglimpses of the healing beauties of ultimate freedom, recognized bynature—a tree or a sunset. the ancient Stoics as well as by But these moments of comfort modern existentialists, takes on do not establish the will to live vivid significance in Frankls unless they help the prisoner story. The prisoners were only make larger sense out of his average men, but some, at least, apparently senseless suffering. It by choosing to be "worthy of their is here that we encounter the suffering" proved mans capacity central theme of existentialism: to rise above his outward fate. to live is to suffer, to survive is to As a psychotherapist, the find meaning in the suffering. If author, of course, wants to there is a purpose in life at all,
10 Prefaceknow how men can be helped to achieve this distinctivelyhuman capacity. How can one awaken in a patient thefeeling that he is responsible to life for something, howevergrim his circumstances may be? Frankl gives us a movingaccount of one collective therapeutic session he held withhis fellow prisoners. At the publishers request Dr. Frankl has added a statement of the basic tenets of logotherapy as well as a bibliography. Up to now most of the publications of this "ThirdViennese School of Psychotherapy" (the predecessors beingthe Freudian and Adlerian Schools) have been chiefly inGerman. The reader will therefore welcome Dr. Frankls Preface to the 1992supplement to his personal narrative. Unlike many European existentialists, Frankl is neither Editionpessimistic nor antireligious. On the contrary, for a writerwho faces fully the ubiquity of suffering and the forces ofevil, he takes a surprisingly hopeful view of mans capacity This book has now lived to see nearly one hundred printto transcend his predicament and discover an adequate ings in English—in addition to having been published inguiding truth. twenty-one other languages. And the English editions alone I recommend this little book heartily, for it is a gem of have sold more than three million copies.dramatic narrative, focused upon the deepest of human These are the dry facts, and they may well be the reasonproblems. It has literary and philosophical merit and pro why reporters of American newspapers and particularly ofvides a compelling introduction to the most significant American TV stations more often than not start their inpsychological movement of our day. terviews, after listing these facts, by exclaiming: "Dr. Frankl, GORDON W. ALLPORT your book has become a true bestseller—how do you feel about such a success?" Whereupon I react by reporting that in the first place I do not at all see in the bestseller status of my book an achievement and accomplishment on my part but rather an expression of the misery of our time: if hun dreds of thousands of people reach out for a book whose very Gordon W. Allport, formerly a professor of psychology at HarvardUniversity, was one of the foremost writers and teachers in the field in title promises to deal with the question of a meaning to life,this hemisphere. He was author of a large number of original works on it must be a question that burns under their fingernails.psychology and was the editor of the Journal of Abnormal and SocialPsychology. It is chiefly through the pioneering work of Professor All To be sure, something else may have contributed to theport that Dr. Frankls momentous theory was introduced to this impact of the book: its second, theoretical part ("Logothercountry; moreover, it is to his credit that the interest shown here inlogotherapy is growing by leaps and bounds. apy in a Nutshell") boils down, as it were, to the lesson one may distill from the first part, the autobiographical account ("Experiences in a Concentration Camp"), whereas Part One 11
12 Preface to the 1992 Edition Preface to the 1992 Edition 13serves as the existential validation of my more you are going to miss it. For success, liketheories. Thus, both parts mutually support happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue,their credibility. and it only does so as the unintended side-effect I had none of this in mind when I wrote the of ones dedication to a cause greater thanbook in 1945. And I did so within nine oneself or as the by-product of ones surrendersuccessive days and with the firm to a person other than oneself. Happinessdetermination that the book should be must happen, and the same holds for success:published anonymously. In fact, the first you have to let it happen by not caring about it.printing of the original German version does I want you to listen to what your consciencenot show my name on the cover, though at commands you to do and go on to carry it outthe last moment, just before the books initial to the best ofpublication, I did finally give in to my friendswho had urged me to let it be published withmy name at least on the title page. At first,however, it had been written with theabsolute conviction that, as an anonymousopus, it could never earn its author literaryfame. I had wanted simply to convey to thereader by way of a concrete example that lifeholds a potential meaning under anyconditions, even the most miserable ones. AndI thought that if the point were demonstratedin a situation as extreme as that in aconcentration camp, my book might gain ahearing. I therefore felt responsible forwriting down what I had gone through, for Ithought it might be helpful to people whoare prone to despair. And so it is both strange and remarkable to me that— among some dozens of books I have authored—precisely this one, which I had intended to be published anonymously so that it could never build up any reputation on the part of the author, did become a success. Again and again I therefore admonish my students both in Europe and in America: "Dont aim at success—the more you aim at it and make it a target, the
your knowledge. Then you will live to see solution; this was the type of dilemma thatthat in the long run—in the long run, I say! made one wish for "a hint from Heaven," as—success will follow you precisely because the phrase goes.you had forgotten to think of it." It was then that I noticed a piece of marble The reader may ask me why I did not try to lying on a table at home. When I asked myescape what was in store for me after Hitler father about it, he explained that he hadhad occupied Austria. Let me answer by found it on the site where the Nationalrecalling the following story. Shortly before Socialists had burned down the largestthe United States entered World War II, I Viennese synagogue. He had taken the piecereceived an invitation to come to the home because it was a part of the tablets onAmerican Consulate in Vienna to pick up my which the Ten Commandments wereimmigration visa. My old parents were inscribed. One gilded Hebrew letter wasoverjoyed because they expected that I engraved on the piece; my father explainedwould soon be allowed to leave Austria. I that this letter stood for one of thesuddenly hesitated, however. The question Commandments. Eagerly I asked, "Whichbeset me: could I really afford to leave my one is it?" He answered, "Honor thy fatherparents alone to face their fate, to be sent, and thy mother that thy days may be longsooner or later, to a concentration camp, or upon the land." At that moment I decided toeven to a so-called extermination camp? stay with my father and my mother upon theWhere did my responsibility lie? Should I land, and to let the American visa lapse.foster my brain child, logotherapy, by VIKTemigrating to fertile soil where I could write OR E.my books? Or should I concentrate on my FRANduties as a real child, the child of my KLparents who had to do whatever he could toprotect them? I pondered the problem this Vienway and that but could not arrive at a na, 1992
PART ONE Experiences in aConcentrationCamp
THIS BOOK DOES NOT CLAIM TO BE an account of facts and eventsbut of personal experiences, experiences which millions ofprisoners have suffered time and again. It is the insidestory of a concentration camp, told by one of its survivors.This tale is not concerned with the great horrors, whichhave already been described often enough (though lessoften believed), but with the multitude of small torments.In other words, it will try to answer this question: Howwas everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in themind of the average prisoner? Most of the events described here did not take place inthe large and famous camps, but in the small ones wheremost of the real extermination took place. This story is notabout the suffering and death of great heroes and martyrs,nor is it about the prominent Capos—prisoners who actedas trustees, having special privileges—or well-known prisoners. Thus it is not so much concerned with the sufferingsof the mighty, but with the sacrifices, the crucifixion andthe deaths of the great army of unknown and unrecordedvictims. It was these common prisoners, who bore no distinguishing marks on their sleeves, whom the Capos reallydespised. While these ordinary prisoners had little or noth-
18 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 19ing to eat, the Capos were never hungry; in fact many of ments had been taken from them, together with their otherthe Capos fared better in the camp than they had in their possessions. Each prisoner, therefore, had had an opporentire lives. Often they were harder on the prisoners than tunity to claim a fictitious name or profession; and for variwere the guards, and beat them more cruelly than the SS ous reasons many did this. The authorities were interestedmen did. These Capos, of course, were chosen only from only in the captives numbers. These numbers were oftenthose prisoners whose characters promised to make them tattooed on their skin, and also had to be sewn to a certainsuitable for such procedures, and if they did not comply spot on the trousers, jacket, or coat. Any guard who wantedwith what was expected of them, they were immediately to make a charge against a prisoner just glanced at hisdemoted. They soon became much like the SS men and the number (and how we dreaded such glances!); he nevercamp wardens and may be judged on a similar psychologi asked for his name.cal basis. To return to the convoy about to depart. There was nei It is easy for the outsider to get the wrong conception of ther time nor desire to consider moral or ethical issues.camp life, a conception mingled with sentiment and pity. Every man was controlled by one thought only: to keepLittle does he know of the hard fight for existence which himself alive for the family waiting for him at home, and toraged among the prisoners. This was an unrelenting strug save his friends. With no hesitation, therefore, he wouldgle for daily bread and for life itself, for ones own sake or arrange for another prisoner, another "number," to take hisfor that of a good friend. place in the transport. As I have already mentioned, the process of selecting Capos was a negative one; only the most brutal of the pris Let us take the case of a transport which was officially oners were chosen for this job (although there were someannounced to transfer a certain number of prisoners to an happy exceptions). But apart from the selection of Caposother camp; but it was a fairly safe guess that its final which was undertaken by the SS, there was a sort of self-destination would be the gas chambers. A selection of sick selecting process going on the whole time among all of theor feeble prisoners incapable of work would be sent to one prisoners. On the average, only those prisoners could keepof the big central camps which were fitted with gas alive who, after years of trekking from camp to camp, hadchambers and crematoriums. The selection process was the lost all scruples in their fight for existence; they were presignal for a free fight among all the prisoners, or of group pared to use every means, honest and otherwise, even brutalagainst group. All that mattered was that ones own name force, theft, and betrayal of their friends, in order to saveand that of ones friend were crossed off the list of victims, themselves. We who have come back, by the aid of manythough everyone knew that for each man saved another lucky chances or miracles—whatever one may choose to callvictim had to be found. them—we know: the best of us did not return. A definite number of prisoners had to go with eachtransport. It did not really matter which, since each of themwas nothing but a number. On their admission to the camp Many factual accounts about concentration camps are al(at least this was the method in Auschwitz) all their docu- ready on record. Here, facts will be significant only as far as
20 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 21 they are part of a mans experiences. It is the exact nature syndrome of "barbed wire sickness." We are indebted to the of these experiences that the following essay will attempt Second World War for enriching our knowledge of the to describe. For those who have been inmates in a camp, it "psychopathology of the masses," (if I may quote a varia will attempt to explain their experiences in the light of tion of the well-known phrase and title of a book by present-day knowledge. And for those who have never been LeBon), for the war gave us the war of nerves and it gave us inside, it may help them to comprehend, and above all to the concentration camp. understand, the experiences of that only too small per As this story is about my experiences as an ordinary pris centage of prisoners who survived and who now find life oner, it is important that I mention, not without pride, that very difficult. These former prisoners often say, "We dislike I was not employed as a psychiatrist in camp, or even as a talking about our experiences. No explanations are needed doctor, except for the last few weeks. A few of my colleagues for those who have been inside, and the others will under were lucky enough to be employed in poorly heated first-aid stand neither how we felt then nor how we feel now." posts applying bandages made of scraps of waste paper. But To attempt a methodical presentation of the subject is I was Number 119,104, and most of the time I was diggingvery difficult, as psychology requires a certain scientific de and laying tracks for railway lines. At one time, my jobtachment. But does a man who makes his observations was to dig a tunnel, without help, for a water main under awhile he himself is a prisoner possess the necessary detach road. This feat did not go unrewarded; just before Christment? Such detachment is granted to the outsider, but he is mas 1944, I was presented with a gift of so-called "premiumtoo far removed to make any statements of real value. Only coupons." These were issued by the construction firm tothe man inside knows. His judgments may not be objective; which we were practically sold as slaves: the firm paid thehis evaluations may be out of proportion. This is inevita camp authorities a fixed price per day, per prisoner. Theble. An attempt must be made to avoid any personal bias, coupons cost the firm fifty pfennigs each and could be exand that is the real difficulty of a book of this kind. At times changed for six cigarettes, often weeks later, although theyit will be necessary to have the courage to tell of very in sometimes lost their validity. I became the proud owner of atimate experiences. I had intended to write this book token worth twelve cigarettes. But more important, the ciganonymously, using my prison number only. But when the arettes could be exchanged for twelve soups, and twelvemanuscript was completed, I saw that as an anonymous soups were often a very real respite from starvation.publication it would lose half its value, and that I must The privilege of actually smoking cigarettes was reservedhave the courage to state my convictions openly. I therefore for the Capo, who had his assured quota of weekly coupons;refrained from deleting any of the passages, in spite of an or possibly for a prisoner who worked as a foreman in aintense dislike of exhibitionism. warehouse or workshop and received a few cigarettes in I shall leave it to others to distill the contents of this exchange for doing dangerous jobs. The only exceptions tobook into dry theories. These might become a contribution this were those who had lost the will to live and wanted toto the psychology of prison life, which was investigated after "enjoy" their last days. Thus, when we saw a comradethe First World War, and which acquainted us with the smoking his own cigarettes, we knew he had given up faith
22 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 23in his strength to carry on, and, once lost, the will to live With the progressive dawn, the outlines of an immenseseldom returned. camp became visible: long stretches of several rows of barbed wire fences; watch towers; search lights; and long columns of ragged human figures, grey in the greyness of When one examines the vast amount of material which dawn, trekking along the straight desolate roads, to whathas been amassed as the result of many prisoners observa destination we did not know. There were isolated shoutstions and experiences, three phases of the inmates mental and whistles of command. We did not know their meaning.reactions to camp life become apparent: the period follow My imagination led me to see gallows with people danglinging his admission; the period when he is well entrenched in on them. I was horrified, but this was just as well, becausecamp routine; and the period following his release and step by step we had to become accustomed to a terrible andliberation. immense horror. The symptom that characterizes the first phase is shock. Eventually we moved into the station. The initial silenceUnder certain conditions shock may even precede the pris was interrupted by shouted commands. We were to hearoners formal admission to the camp. I shall give as an ex those rough, shrill tones from then on, over and over againample the circumstances of my own admission. in all the camps. Their sound was almost like the last cry of Fifteen hundred persons had been traveling by train for a victim, and yet there was a difference. It had a raspingseveral days and nights: there were eighty people in each hoarseness, as if it came from the throat of a man who hadcoach. All had to lie on top of their luggage, the few rem to keep shouting like that, a man who was being murderednants of their personal possessions. The carriages were so again and again. The carriage doors were flung open and afull that only the top parts of the windows were free to let small detachment of prisoners stormed inside. They worein the grey of dawn. Everyone expected the train to head striped uniforms, their heads were shaved, but they lookedfor some munitions factory, in which we would be em well fed. They spoke in every possible European tongue,ployed as forced labor. We did not know whether we were and all with a certain amount of humor, which soundedstill in Silesia or already in Poland. The engines whistle grotesque under the circumstances. Like a drowning manhad an uncanny sound, like a cry for help sent out in com clutching a straw, my inborn optimism (which has oftenmiseration for the unhappy load which it was destined to controlled my feelings even in the most desperate situalead into perdition. Then the train shunted, obviously tions) clung to this thought: These prisoners look quitenearing a main station. Suddenly a cry broke from the well, they seem to be in good spirits and even laugh. Whoranks of the anxious passengers, "There is a sign, knows? I might manage to share their favorable position.Auschwitz!" Everyones heart missed a beat at that moment. In psychiatry there is a certain condition known as "deluAuschwitz—the very name stood for all that was horrible: sion of reprieve." The condemned man, immediately beforegas chambers, crematoriums, massacres. Slowly, almost hesi his execution, gets the illusion that he might be reprievedtatingly, the train moved on as if it wanted to spare its at the very last minute. We, too, clung to shreds of hopepassengers the dreadful realization as long as possible: and believed to the last moment that it would not be soAuschwitz! bad. Just the sight of the red cheeks and round faces of
24 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 25those prisoners was a great encouragement. Little did we in the train and to fall into two lines—women on one side,know then that they formed a specially chosen elite, who men on the other—in order to file past a senior SS officer.for years had been the receiving squad for new transports as Surprisingly enough, I had the courage to hide my haverthey rolled into the station day after day. They took charge sack under my coat. My line filed past the officer, man byof the new arrivals and their luggage, including scarce items man. I realized that it would be dangerous if the officerand smuggled jewelry. Auschwitz must have been a strange spotted my bag. He would at least knock me down; I knewspot in this Europe of the last years of the war. There must that from previous experience. Instinctively, I straightenedhave been unique treasures of gold and silver, platinum on approaching the officer, so that he would not noticeand diamonds, not only in the huge storehouses but also in my heavy load. Then I was face to face with him. He was athe hands of the SS. tall man who looked slim and fit in his spotless uniform. Fifteen hundred captives were cooped up in a shed built What a contrast to us, who were untidy and grimy after ourto accommodate probably two hundred at the most. We long journey! He had assumed an attitude of careless ease,were cold and hungry and there was not enough room for supporting his right elbow with his left hand. His righteveryone to squat on the bare ground, let alone to lie down. hand was lifted, and with the forefinger of that hand heOne five-ounce piece of bread was our only food in four pointed very leisurely to the right or to the left. None of usdays. Yet I heard the senior prisoners in charge of the shed had the slightest idea of the sinister meaning behind thatbargain with one member of the receiving party about a little movement of a mans finger, pointing now to the righttie-pin made of platinum and diamonds. Most of the profits and now to the left, but far more frequently to the left.would eventually be traded for liquor—schnapps. I do not It was my turn. Somebody whispered to me that to beremember any more just how many thousands of marks sent to the right side would mean work, the way to the leftwere needed to purchase the quantity of schnapps required being for the sick and those incapable of work, who wouldfor a "gay evening," but I do know that those long-term be sent to a special camp. I just waited for things to takeprisoners needed schnapps. Under such conditions, who their course, the first of many such times to come. My havercould blame them for trying to dope themselves? There was sack weighed me down a bit to the left, but I made an effortanother group of prisoners who got liquor supplied in al to walk upright. The SS man looked me over, appeared tomost unlimited quantities by the SS: these were the men hesitate, then put both his hands on my shoulders. I triedwho were employed in the gas chambers and crematoriums, very hard to look smart, and he turned my shoulders veryand who knew very well that one day they would be re slowly until I faced right, and I moved over to that side.lieved by a new shift of men, and that they would have to The significance of the finger game was explained to usleave their enforced role of executioner and become victims in the evening. It was the first selection, the first verdictthemselves. made on our existence or non-existence. For the great ma Nearly everyone in our transport lived under the illusion jority of our transport, about 90 per cent, it meant death.that he would be reprieved, that everything would yet be Their sentence was carried out within the next few hours.well. We did not realize the meaning behind the scene that Those who were sent to the left were marched from thewas to follow presently. We were told to leave our luggage station straight to the crematorium. This building, as I was
26 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 27told by someone who worked there, had the word "bath" person have the watch? Maybe one day he would do one awritten over its doors in several European languages. On good turn.entering, each prisoner was handed a piece of soap, and We waited in a shed which seemed to be the anteroom to then but mercifully I do not need to describe the events the disinfecting chamber. SS men appeared and spread out which followed. Many accounts have been written about blankets into which we had to throw all our possessions, all this horror. our watches and jewelry. There were still naive prisoners We who were saved, the minority of our transport, found among us who asked, to the amusement of the more seaout the truth in the evening. I inquired from prisoners who soned ones who were there as helpers, if they could nothad been there for some time where my colleague and keep a wedding ring, a medal or a good-luck piece. No onefriend P had been sent. could yet grasp the fact that everything would be taken "Was he sent to the left side?" away. "Yes," I replied. I tried to take one of the old prisoners into my confi "Then you can see him there," I was told. dence. Approaching him furtively, I pointed to the roll of "Where?" A hand pointed to the chimney a few hundred paper in the inner pocket of my coat and said, "Look, thisyards off, which was sending a column of flame up into the is the manuscript of a scientific book. I know what you willgrey sky of Poland. It dissolved into a sinister cloud of say; that I should be grateful to escape with my life, thatsmoke. that should be all I can expect of fate. But I cannot help "Thats where your friend is, floating up to Heaven," was myself. I must keep this manuscript at all costs; it containsthe answer. But I still did not understand until the truth my lifes work. Do you understand that?"was explained to me in plain words. Yes, he was beginning to understand. A grin spread But I am telling things out of their turn. From a psycho slowly over his face, first piteous, then more amused, mocklogical point of view, we had a long, long way in front of us ing, insulting, until he bellowed one word at me in answerfrom the break of that dawn at the station until our first to my question, a word that was ever present in the vocabunights rest at the camp. lary of the camp inmates: "Shit!" At that moment I saw the Escorted by SS guards with loaded guns, we were made to plain truth and did what marked the culminating point ofrun from the station, past electrically charged barbed wire, the first phase of my psychological reaction: I struck out mythrough the camp, to the cleansing station; for those of us whole former life.who had passed the first selection, this was a real bath. Suddenly there was a stir among my fellow travelers, whoAgain our illusion of reprieve found confirmation. The SS had been standing about with pale, frightened faces, helpmen seemed almost charming. Soon we found out their rea lessly debating. Again we heard the hoarsely shouted comson. They were nice to us as long as they saw watches on mands. We were driven with blows into the immediateour wrists and could persuade us in well-meaning tones to anteroom of the bath. There we assembled around an SShand them over. Would we not have to hand over all our man who waited until we had all arrived. Then he said, "Ipossessions anyway, and why should not that relatively nice will give you two minutes, and I shall time you by my watch. In these two minutes you will get fully undressed
Experiences in a Concentration Camp 29 28 Mans Search for Meaning parently well-meant advice (given in the anteroom) of the and drop everything on the floor where you are standing. senior prisoners and had shortened their jackboots by cut You will take nothing with you except your shoes, your belt ting the tops off, then smearing soap on the cut edges to or suspenders, and possibly a truss. I am starting to count— hide the sabotage. The SS men seemed to have waited for now!" just that. All suspected of this crime had to go into a small With unthinkable haste, people tore off their clothes. As adjoining room. After a time we again heard the lashings of the time grew shorter, they became increasingly nervous the strap, and the screams of tortured men. This time it and pulled clumsily at their underwear, belts and shoe lasted for quite a while. laces. Then we heard the first sounds of whipping; leather Thus the illusions some of us still held were destroyed straps beating down on naked bodies. one by one, and then, quite unexpectedly, most of us were Next we were herded into another room to be shaved: overcome by a grim sense of humor. We knew that we hadnot only our heads were shorn, but not a hair was left on nothing to lose except our so ridiculously naked lives.our entire bodies. Then on to the showers, where we lined When the showers started to run, we all tried very hard toup again. We hardly recognized each other; but with great make fun, both about ourselves and about each other. Afterrelief some people noted that real water dripped from the all, real water did flow from the sprayslsprays. Apart from that strange kind of humor, another sensa While we were waiting for the shower, our nakedness was tion seized us: curiosity. I have experienced this kind ofbrought home to us: we really had nothing now except our curiosity before, as a fundamental reaction toward certainbare bodies—even minus hair; all we possessed, literally, strange circumstances. When my life was once endangeredwas our naked existence. What else remained for us as a by a climbing accident, I felt only one sensation at thematerial link with our former lives? For me there were my critical moment: curiosity, curiosity as to whether I shouldglasses and my belt; the latter I had to exchange later on come out of it alive or with a fractured skull or some otherfor a piece of bread. There was an extra bit of excitement injuries.in store for the owners of trusses. In the evening the senior Cold curiosity predominated even in Auschwitz, someprisoner in charge of our hut welcomed us with a speech in how detaching the mind from its surroundings, which camewhich he gave us his word of honor that he would hang, to be regarded with a kind of objectivity. At that time onepersonally, "from that beam"—he pointed to it—any per cultivated this state of mind as a means of protection. Weson who had sewn money or precious stones into his truss. were anxious to know what would happen next; and whatProudly he explained that as a senior inhabitant the camp would be the consequence, for example, of our standing inlaws entitled him to do so. the open air, in the chill of late autumn, stark naked, and Where our shoes were concerned, matters were not so still wet from the showers. In the next few days our curisimple. Although we were supposed to keep them, those osity evolved into surprise; surprise that we did not catchwho had fairly decent pairs had to give them up after all cold.and were given in exchange shoes that did not fit. In for There were many similar surprises in store for new ar-real trouble were those prisoners who had followed the ap-
30 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 31rivals. The medical men among us learned first of all: investigations have not taken us that far yet; neither had"Textbooks tell lies!" Somewhere it is said that man cannot we prisoners reached that point. We were still in the firstexist without sleep for more than a stated number of hours. phase of our psychological reactions.Quite wrongl I had been convinced that there were certain The thought of suicide was entertained by nearly everythings I just could not do: I could not sleep without this or one, if only for a brief time. It was born of the hopelessnessI could not live with that or the other. The first night in of the situation, the constant danger of death looming overAuschwitz we slept in beds which were constructed in tiers. us daily and hourly, and the closeness of the deaths sufferedOn each tier (measuring about six-and-a-half to eight feet) by many of the others. From personal convictions whichslept nine men, directly on the boards. Two blankets were will be mentioned later, I made myself a firm promise, onshared by each nine men. We could, of course, lie only on my first evening in camp, that I would not "run into theour sides, crowded and huddled against each other, which wire." This was a phrase used in camp to describe the mosthad some advantages because of the bitter cold. Though it popular method of suicide—touching the electricallywas forbidden to take shoes up to the bunks, some people charged barbed-wire fence. It was not entirely difficult fordid use them secretly as pillows in spite of the fact that they me to make this decision. There was little point in commitwere caked with mud. Otherwise ones head had to rest on ting suicide, since, for the average inmate, life expectation,the crook of an almost dislocated arm. And yet sleep came calculating objectively and counting all likely chances, wasand brought oblivion and relief from pain for a few hours. very poor. He could not with any assurance expect to be I would like to mention a few similar surprises on how among the small percentage of men who survived all themuch we could endure: we were unable to clean our teeth, selections. The prisoner of Auschwitz, in the first phase ofand yet, in spite of that and a severe vitamin deficiency, shock, did not fear death. Even the gas chambers lost theirwe had healthier gums than ever before. We had to wear horrors for him after the first few days—after all, theythe same shirts for half a year, until they had lost all ap spared him the act of committing suicide.pearance of being shirts. For days we were unable to wash, Friends whom I have met later have told me that I waseven partially, because of frozen water-pipes, and yet the not one of those whom the shock of admission greatly desores and abrasions on hands which were dirty from work in pressed. I only smiled, and quite sincerely, when the followthe soil did not suppurate (that is, unless there was frost ing episode occurred the morning after our first night inbite). Or for instance, a light sleeper, who used to be dis Auschwitz. In spite of strict orders not to leave ourturbed by the slightest noise in the next room, now found "blocks," a colleague of mine, who had arrived in Auschwitzhimself lying pressed against a comrade who snored loudly several weeks previously, smuggled himself into our hut.a few inches from his ear and yet slept quite soundly He wanted to calm and comfort us and tell us a few things.through the noise. He had become so thin that at first we did not recognize If someone now asked of us the truth of Dostoevskis him. With a show of good humor and a Devil-may-carestatement that flatly defines man as a being who can get attitude he gave us a few hurried tips: "Dont be afraid!used to anything, we would reply, "Yes, a man can get used Dont fearto anything, but do not ask us how." But our psychological the selections! Dr. M (the SS medical chief) has a soft spot for doctors." (This was wrong; my friends kindly
32 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp words were misleading. One prisoner, the I think it was Lessing who once said, doctor of a block, of huts and a man of some "There are things which must cause you to sixty years, told me how he had lose your reason or you have none to lose." entreated Dr. M to let off his son, who An abnormal reaction to an abnormal was destined for situation is normal behavior. Even we gas. Dr. M coldly refused.) psychiatrists expect the reactions of a man to "But one thing I beg of you"; he continued, an abnormal situation, such as being com"shave daily, if at all possible, even if you mitted to an asylum, to be abnormal inhave to use a piece of glass to do it . . . even proportion to theif you have to give your last piece of breadfor it. You will look younger and thescraping will make your cheeks lookruddier. If you want to stay alive, there isonly one way: look fit for work. If you evenlimp, because, let us say, you have a smallblister on your heel, and an SS man spotsthis, he will wave you aside and the next dayyou are sure to be gassed. Do you know whatwe mean by a Moslem? A man who looksmiserable, down and out, sick and emaciated,and who cannot manage hard physical laborany longer . . . that is a Moslem. Sooner orlater, usually sooner, every Moslem goes tothe gas chambers. Therefore, remember:shave, stand and walk smartly; then youneed not be afraid of gas. All of youstanding here, even if you have only beenhere twenty-four hours, you need not feargas, except perhaps you." And then hepointed to me and said, "I hope you dontmind my telling you frankly." To the othershe repeated, "Of all of you he is the only onewho must fear the next selection. So, dontworry!" And I smiled. I am now convinced thatanyone in my place on that day would havedone the same.
degree of his normality. The reaction of a elegant by comparison. Between the huts inman to his admission to a concentration the camp lay pure filth, and the more onecamp also represents an abnormal state of worked to clear it away, the more one had tomind, but judged objectively it is a normal come in contact with it. It was a favoriteand, as will be shown later, typical reaction practice to detail a new arrival to a workto the given circumstances. These reactions, group whose job was to clean the latrinesas I have described them, began to change in and remove the sewage. If, as usuallya few days. The prisoner passed from the happened, some of the excrement splashedfirst to the second phase; the phase of into his face during its transport over bumpyrelative apathy, in which he achieved a kind fields, any sign of disgust by the prisoner orof emotional death. any attempt to wipe off the filth would only Apart from the already described be punished with a blow from a Capo. Andreactions, the newly arrived prisoner thus the mortification of normal reactions wasexperienced the tortures of other most hastened.painful emotions, all of which he tried to At first the prisoner looked away if hedeaden. First of all, there was his boundless saw the punishment parades of anotherlonging for his home and his family. This group; he could not bear to see fellowoften could become so acute that he felt prisoners march up and down for hours in thehimself consumed by longing. Then there mire, their movements directed by blows.was disgust; disgust with all the ugliness Days or weeks later things changed. Earlywhich surrounded him, even in its mere in the morning, when it was still dark, theexternal forms. prisoner stood in front of the gate with his Most of the prisoners were given a uniform detachment, ready to march. He heard aof rags which would have made a scarecrow scream and saw how
34 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 35a comrade was knocked down, pulled to his feet again, the "nurse" to remove the body. When he decided to do so,and knocked down once more—and why? He was feverish he took the corpse by its legs, allowing it to drop into thebut had reported to sick-bay at an improper time. He was small corridor between the two rows of boards which werebeing punished for this irregular attempt to be relieved of the beds for the fifty typhus patients, and dragged it acrosshis duties. the bumpy earthen floor toward the door. The two steps But the prisoner who had passed into the second stage of which led up into the open air always constituted a probhis psychological reactions did not avert his eyes any more. lem for us, since we were exhausted from a chronic lack ofBy then his feelings were blunted, and he watched un food. After a few months stay in the camp we could notmoved. Another example: he found himself waiting at sick walk up those steps, which were each about six inches high,bay, hoping to be granted two days of light work inside the without putting our hands on the door jambs to pull ourcamp because of injuries or perhaps edema or fever. He selves up.stood unmoved while a twelve-year-old boy was carried in The man with the corpse approached the steps. Wearilywho had been forced to stand at attention for hours in the he dragged himself up. Then the body: first the feet, thensnow or to work outside with bare feet because there were the trunk, and finally—with an uncanny rattling noise—no shoes for him in the camp. His toes had become frost the head of the corpse bumped up the two steps.bitten, and the doctor on duty picked off the black gan My place was on the opposite side of the hut, next to thegrenous stumps with tweezers, one by one. Disgust, horror small, sole window, which was built near the floor. Whileand pity are emotions that our spectator could not really my cold hands clasped a bowl of hot soup from which Ifeel any more. The sufferers, the dying and the dead, be sipped greedily, I happened to look out the window. Thecame such commonplace sights to him after a few weeks of corpse which had just been removed stared in at me withcamp life that they could not move him any more. glazed eyes. Two hours before I had spoken to that man. Now I continued sipping my soup. If my lack of emotion had not surprised me from the I spent some time in a hut for typhus patients who ran standpoint of professional interest, I would not remembervery high temperatures and were often delirious, many of this incident now, because there was so little feeling inthem moribund. After one of them had just died, I watched volved in it.without any emotional upset the scene that followed, whichwas repeated over and over again with each death. One byone the prisoners approached the still warm body. One Apathy, the blunting of the emotions and the feeling thatgrabbed the remains of a messy meal of potatoes; another one could not care any more, were the symptoms arisingdecided that the corpses wooden shoes were an improve during the second stage of the prisoners psychological rement on his own, and exchanged them. A third man did actions, and which eventually made him insensitive to dailythe same with the dead mans coat, and another was glad to and hourly beatings. By means of this insensibility the prisbe able to secure some—just imagine!—genuine string. oner soon surrounded himself with a very necessary protec All this I watched with unconcern. Eventually I asked tive shell.
36 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 37 Beatings occurred on the slightest provocation, sometimes hip. He was glad to be capable of working in spite of it, for no reason at all. For example, bread was rationed out at since the physically disabled were almost certainly sent to our work site and we had to line up for it. Once, the man death when a selection took place. He limped over the track behind me stood off a little to one side and that lack of with an especially heavy girder, and seemed about to fall symmetry displeased the SS guard. I did not know what was and drag the others with him. As yet, I was not carrying a going on in the line behind me, nor in the mind of the SS girder so I jumped to his assistance without stopping to guard, but suddenly I received two sharp blows on my think. I was immediately hit on the back, rudely repri head. Only then did I spot the guard at my side who was manded and ordered to return to my place. A few minutes using his stick. At such a moment it is not the physical previously the same guard who struck me had told us pain which hurts the most (and this applies to adults as deprecatingly that we "pigs" lacked the spirit of comrade much as to punished children); it is the mental agony ship. caused by the injustice, the unreasonableness of it all. Another time, in a forest, with the temperature at 2°F, we Strangely enough, a blow which does not even find its began to dig up the topsoil, which was frozen hard, in ordermark can, under certain circumstances, hurt more than one to lay water pipes. By then I had grown rather weak physithat finds its mark. Once I was standing on a railway track cally. Along came a foreman with chubby rosy cheeks. Hisin a snowstorm. In spite of the weather our party had to face definitely reminded me of a pigs head. I noticed thatkeep on working. I worked quite hard at mending the track he wore lovely warm gloves in that bitter cold. For a timewith gravel, since that was the only way to keep warm. For he watched me silently. I felt that trouble was brewing, foronly one moment I paused to get my breath and to lean on in front of me lay the mound of earth which showed exactlymy shovel. Unfortunately the guard turned around just how much I had dug.then and thought I was loafing. The pain he caused me was Then he began: "You pig, I have been watching you thenot from any insults or any blows. That guard did not whole time! Ill teach you to work, yet! Wait till you digthink it worth his while to say anything, not even a swear dirt with your teeth—youll die like an animal! In two daysword, to the ragged, emaciated figure standing before him, Ill finish you off! Youve never done a stroke of work inwhich probably reminded him only vaguely of a human your life. What were you, swine? A businessman?"form. Instead, he playfully picked up a stone and threw it I was past caring. But I had to take his threat of killingat me. That, to me, seemed the way to attract the attention me seriously, so I straightened up and looked him directlyof a beast, to call a domestic animal back to its job, a in the eye. "I was a doctor—a specialist."creature with which you have so little in common that you "What? A doctor? I bet you got a lot of money out ofdo not even punish it. people." The most painful part of beatings is the insult which "As it happens, I did most of my work for no money atthey imply. At one time we had to carry some long, heavy all, in clinics for the poor." But, now, I had said too much.girders over icy tracks. If one man slipped, he endangered He threw himself on me and knocked me down, shoutingnot only himself but all the others who carried the same like a madman. I can no longer remember what he shouted.girder. An old friend of mine had a congenitally dislocated I want to show with this apparently trivial story that
38 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 39 there are moments when indignation can rouse even a tage, too. Like nearly all the camp inmates I was suffering seemingly hardened prisoner—indignation not about from edema. My legs were so swollen and the skin on them cruelty or pain, but about the insult connected with it. so tightly stretched that I could scarcely bend my knees. I That time blood rushed to my head because I had to listen had to leave my shoes unlaced in order to make them fit my to a man judge my life who had so little idea of it, a man (I swollen feet. There would not have been space for socks must confess: the following remark, which I made to my even if I had had any. So my partly bare feet were always fellow-prisoners after the scene, afforded me childish relief) wet and my shoes always full of snow. This, of course, "who looked so vulgar and brutal that the nurse in the out- caused frostbite and chilblains. Every single step became patient ward in my hospital would not even have admitted real torture. Clumps of ice formed on our shoes during our him to the waiting room." marches over snow-covered fields. Over and again men Fortunately the Capo in my working party was obligated slipped and those following behind stumbled on top ofto me; he had taken a liking to me because I listened to his them. Then the column would stop for a moment, but notlove stories and matrimonial troubles, which he poured out for long. One of the guards soon took action and workedduring the long marches to our work site. I had made an over the men with the butt of his rifle to make them get upimpression on him with my diagnosis of his character and quickly. The more to the front of the column you were, thewith my psychotherapeutic advice. After that he was grate less often you were disturbed by having to stop and then toful, and this had already been of value to me. On several make up for lost time by running on your painful feet. Iprevious occasions he had reserved a place for me next to was very happy to be the personally appointed physician tohim in one of the first five rows of our detachment, which His Honor the Capo, and to march in the first row at anusually consisted of two hundred and eighty men. That even pace.favor was important. We had to line up early in the morn As an additional payment for my services, I could be sureing while it was still dark. Everybody was afraid of being that as long as soup was being dealt out at lunchtime at ourlate and of having to stand in the back rows. If men were work site, he would, when my turn came, dip the ladle rightrequired for an unpleasant and disliked job, the senior to the bottom of the vat and fish out a few peas. This Capo,Capo appeared and usually collected the men he needed a former army officer, even had the courage to whisper tofrom the back rows. These men had to march away to an the foreman, whom I had quarreled with, that he knew meother, especially dreaded kind of work under the command to be an unusually good worker. That didnt help matters,of strange guards. Occasionally the senior Capo chose men but he nevertheless managed to save my life (one of thefrom the first five rows, just to catch those who tried to be many times it was to be saved). The day after the epiclever. All protests and entreaties were silenced by a few sode with the foreman he smuggled me into another workwell-aimed kicks, and the chosen victims were chased to party.the meeting place with shouts and blows. However, as long as my Capo felt the need of pouring outhis heart, this could not happen to me. I had a guaranteed There were foremen who felt sorry for us and who didplace of honor next to him. But there was another advan- their best to ease our situation, at least at the building site.
40 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 41But even they kept on reminding us that an ordinary is another matter; the dreamer had to wake from them tolaborer did several times as much work as we did, and in a the reality of camp life, and to the terrible contrast betweenshorter time. But they did see reason if they were told that that and his dream illusions.a normal workman did not live on 10-1/2 ounces of bread I shall never forget how I was roused one night by the(theoretically—actually we often had less) and 1-3/4 pints of groans of a fellow prisoner, who threw himself about in histhin soup per day; that a normal laborer did not live under sleep, obviously having a horrible nightmare. Since I hadthe mental stress we had to submit to, not having news of always been especially sorry for people who suffered fromour families, who had either been sent to another camp or fearful dreams or deliria, I wanted to wake the poor man.gassed right away; that a normal workman was not threat Suddenly I drew back the hand which was ready to shakeened by death continuously, daily and hourly. I even al him, frightened at the thing I was about to do. At thatlowed myself to say once to a kindly foreman, "If you could moment I became intensely conscious of the fact that nolearn from me how to do a brain operation in as short a dream, no matter how horrible, could be as bad as thetime as I am learning this road work from you, I would reality of the camp which surrounded us, and to which Ihave great respect for you." And he grinned. was about to recall him. Apathy, the main symptom of the second phase, was a Because of the high degree of undernourishment whichnecessary mechanism of self-defense. Reality dimmed, and the prisoners suffered, it was natural that the desire for foodall efforts and all emotions were centered on one task: pre was the major primitive instinct around which mental lifeserving ones own life and that of the other fellow. It was centered. Let us observe the majority of prisoners whentypical to hear the prisoners, while they were being herded they happened to work near each other and were, for once,back to camp from their work sites in the evening, sigh with not closely watched. They would immediately start discussrelief and say, "Well, another day is over." ing food. One fellow would ask another working next to It can be readily understood that such a state of strain, him in the ditch what his favorite dishes were. Then theycoupled with the constant necessity of concentrating on the would exchange recipes and plan the menu for the daytask of staying alive, forced the prisoners inner life down when they would have a reunion—the day in a distantto a primitive level. Several of my colleagues in camp future when they would be liberated and returned home.who were trained in psychoanalysis often spoke of a They would go on and on, picturing it all in detail, until"regression" in the camp inmate—a retreat to a more suddenly a warning was passed down the trench, usually inprimitive form of mental life. His wishes and desires the form of a special password or number: "The guard isbecame obvious in his dreams. coming." What did the prisoner dream about most frequently? Of I always regarded the discussions about food as dangerbread, cake, cigarettes, and nice warm baths. The lack of ous. Is it not wrong to provoke the organism with suchhaving these simple desires satisfied led him to seek wish- detailed and affective pictures of delicacies when it hasfulfillment in dreams. Whether these dreams did any good somehow managed to adapt itself to extremely small rations
42 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 43 and low calories? Though it may afford momentary psycho I mentioned above how unavoidable were the thoughts logical relief, it is an illusion which physiologically, surely, about food and favorite dishes which forced themselves into must not be without danger. the consciousness of the prisoner, whenever he had a mo During the later part of our imprisonment, the daily ra ment to spare. Perhaps it can be understood, then, that even tion consisted of very watery soup given out once daily, and the strongest of us was longing for the time when he would the usual small bread ration. In addition to that, there was have fairly good food again, not for the sake of good food the so-called "extra allowance," consisting of three-fourths itself, but for the sake of knowing that the sub-human exis of an ounce of margarine, or of a slice of poor quality sau tence, which had made us unable to think of anything other sage, or of a little piece of cheese, or a bit of synthetic honey, than food, would at last cease. or a spoonful of watery jam, varying daily. In calories, this Those who have not gone through a similar experience diet was absolutely inadequate, especially taking into con can hardly conceive of the soul-destroying mental conflict sideration our heavy manual work and our constant ex and clashes of will power which a famished man experi posure to the cold in inadequate clothing. The sick who ences. They can hardly grasp what it means to stand dig were "under special care"—that is, those who were allowed ging in a trench, listening only for the siren to announce to lie in the huts instead of leaving the camp for work—- 9:30 or 10:00 A.M.—the half-hour lunch interval—when were even worse off. bread would be rationed out (as long as it was still avail When the last layers of subcutaneous fat had vanished, able); repeatedly asking the foreman—if he wasnt a disand we looked like skeletons disguised with skin and rags, agreeable fellow—what the time was; and tenderly touchwe could watch our bodies beginning to devour themselves. ing a piece of bread in ones coat pocket, first stroking itThe organism digested its own protein, and the muscles with frozen gloveless fingers, then breaking off a crumb anddisappeared. Then the body had no powers of resistance putting it in ones mouth and finally, with the last bit ofleft. One after another the members of the little community will power, pocketing it again, having promised oneself thatin our hut died. Each of us could calculate with fair ac morning to hold out till afternoon.curacy whose turn would be next, and when his own would We could hold endless debates on the sense or nonsensecome. After many observations we knew the symptoms well, of certain methods of dealing with the small bread ration,which made the correctness of our prognoses quite certain. which was given out only once daily during the latter part"He wont last long," or, "This is the next one," we whis of our confinement. There were two schools of thought.pered to each other, and when, during our daily search for One was in favor of eating up the ration immediately. Thislice, we saw our own naked bodies in the evening, we had the twofold advantage of satisfying the worst hungerthought alike: This body here, my body, is really a corpse pangs for a very short time at least once a day and ofalready. What has become of me? I am but a small portion safeguarding against possible theft or loss of the ration. Theof a great mass of human flesh . . . of a mass behind barbed second group, which held with dividing the ration up, usedwire, crowded into a few earthen huts; a mass of which different arguments. I finally joined their ranks.daily a certain portion begins to rot because it has become The most ghastly moment of the twenty-four hours oflifeless. camp life was the awakening, when, at a still nocturnal
44 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 45 hour, the three shrill blows of a whistle tore us pitilessly street where I was born, past the house where I had lived from our exhausted sleep and from the longings in our many years of my life, in fact, until I was taken prisoner. dreams. We then began the tussle with our wet shoes, into There were fifty of us in the prison car, which had two which we could scarcely force our feet, which were sore small, barred peepholes. There was only enough room for and swollen with edema. And there were the usual moans one group to squat on the floor, while the others, who had and groans about petty troubles, such as the snapping of to stand up for hours, crowded round the peepholes. Stand wires which replaced shoelaces. One morning I heard some ing on tiptoe and looking past the others heads through one, whom I knew to be brave and dignified, cry like a the bars of the window, I caught an eerie glimpse of my child because he finally had to go to the snowy marching native town. We all felt more dead than alive, since we grounds in his bare feet, as his shoes were too shrunken for thought that our transport was heading for the camp at him to wear. In those ghastly minutes, I found a little bit of Mauthausen and that we had only one or two weeks to live. comfort; a small piece of bread which I drew out of my I had a distinct feeling that I saw the streets, the squares pocket and munched with absorbed delight. and the houses of my childhood with the eyes of a dead man who had come back from another world and was look ing down on a ghostly city. Undernourishment, besides being the cause of the gen After hours of delay the train left the station. And there eral preoccupation with food, probably also explains the was the street—my street! The young lads who had a num fact that the sexual urge was generally absent. Apart from ber of years of camp life behind them and for whom such a the initial effects of shock, this appears to be the only ex journey was a great event stared attentively through the planation of a phenomenon which a psychologist was peephole. I began to beg them, to entreat them, to let me bound to observe in those all-male camps: that, as opposed stand in front for one moment only. I tried to explain how to all other strictly male establishments—such as army much a look through that window meant to me just then. barracks—there was little sexual perversion. Even in his My request was refused with rudeness and cynicism: "You dreams the prisoner did not seem to concern himself with lived here all those years? Well, then you have seen quite sex, although his frustrated emotions and his finer, higher enough already!" feelings did find definite expression in them. With the majority of the prisoners, the primitive life andthe effort of having to concentrate on just saving ones skin In general there was also a "cultural hibernation" inled to a total disregard of anything not serving that purpose, the camp. There were two exceptions to this: politics andand explained the prisoners complete lack of sentiment. religion. Politics were talked about everywhere in camp,This was brought home to me on my transfer from almost continuously; the discussions were based chiefly onAuschwitz to a camp affiliated with Dachau. The train rumors, which were snapped up and passed around avidly.which carried us—about 2,000 prisoners—passed through The rumors about the military situation were usually conVienna. At about midnight we passed one of the Viennese tradictory. They followed one another rapidly and sucrailway stations. The track was going to lead us past the ceeded only in making a contribution to the war of nerves
46 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 47 that was waged in the minds of all the prisoners. Many tend by the camps chief doctor (also a prisoner), who knew times, hopes for a speedy end to the war, which had been that I was a specialist in psychiatry. The meeting took place fanned by optimistic rumors, were disappointed. Some men in his small, private room in the sick quarters. A small lost all hope, but it was the incorrigible optimists who were circle had gathered, among them, quite illegally, the war the most irritating companions. rant officer from the sanitation squad. The religious interest of the prisoners, as far and as soon One man began to invoke the spirits with a kind of as it developed, was the most sincere imaginable. The depth prayer. The camps clerk sat in front of a blank sheet of and vigor of religious belief often surprised and moved a paper, without any conscious intention of writing. During new arrival. Most impressive in this connection were im the next ten minutes (after which time the seance was ter provised prayers or services in the corner of a hut, or in the minated because of the mediums failure to conjure the darkness of the locked cattle truck in which we were spirits to appear) his pencil slowly drew lines across the brought back from a distant work site, tired, hungry and paper, forming quite legibly "VAE V." It was asserted that frozen in our ragged clothing. the clerk had never learned Latin and that he had never In the winter and spring of 1945 there was an outbreak of before heard the words "vae victis"—woe to the vantyphus which infected nearly all the prisoners. The mortal quished. In my opinion he must have heard them once inity was great among the weak, who had to keep on with his life, without recollecting them, and they must have beentheir hard work as long as they possibly could. The quarters available to the "spirit" (the spirit of his subconsciousfor the sick were most inadequate, there were practically no mind) at that time, a few months before our liberation andmedicines or attendants. Some of the symptoms of the dis the end of the war.ease were extremely disagreeable: an irrepressible aversionto even a scrap of food (which was an additional danger tolife) and terrible attacks of delirium. The worst case of In spite of all the enforced physical and mental primi-delirium was suffered by a friend of mine who thought that tiveness of the life in a concentration camp, it was possiblehe was dying and wanted to pray. In his delirium he could for spiritual life to deepen. Sensitive people who were usednot find the words to do so. To avoid these attacks of de to a rich intellectual life may have suffered much painlirium, I tried, as did many of the others, to keep awake for (they were often of a delicate constitution), but the damagemost of the night. For hours I composed speeches in my to their inner selves was less. They were able to retreat frommind. Eventually I began to reconstruct the manuscript their terrible surroundings to a life of inner riches andwhich I had lost in the disinfection chamber of Auschwitz, spiritual freedom. Only in this way can one explain theand scribbled the key words in shorthand on tiny scraps of apparent paradox that some prisoners of a less hardy makepaper. up often seemed to survive camp life better than did those Occasionally a scientific debate developed in camp. of a robust nature. In order to make myself clear, I amOnce I witnessed something I had never seen, even in my forced to fall back on personal experience. Let me tell whatnormal life, although it lay somewhat near my own happened on those early mornings when we had to marchprofessional interests: a spiritualistic seance. I had been to our work site.invited to at-
48 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 49 There were shouted commands: "Detachment, forward —that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which marchl Left-2-3-4! Left-2-3-4! Left-2-3-4! Left-2-3-4! First man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest man about, left and left and left and left! Caps off!" These secret that human poetry and human thought and belief words sound in my ears even now. At the order "Caps off!" have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and we passed the gate of the camp, and searchlights were in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in trained upon us. Whoever did not march smartly got a kick. this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief mo And worse off was the man who, because of the cold, had ment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of pulled his cap back over his ears before permission was utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in posi given. tive action, when his only achievement may consist in en We stumbled on in the darkness, over big stones and during his sufferings in the right way—an honorable way— through large puddles, along the one road leading from the in such a position man can, through loving contemplation camp. The accompanying guards kept shouting at us and of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. driving us with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with very For the first time in my life I was able to understand the sore feet supported himself on his neighbors arm. Hardly a meaning of the words, "The angels are lost in perpetual word was spoken; the icy wind did not encourage talk. contemplation of an infinite glory." Hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, the man In front of me a man stumbled and those following him marching next to me whispered suddenly: "If our wives fell on top of him. The guard rushed over and used his could see us now! I do hope they are better off in their whip on them all. Thus my thoughts were interrupted for a camps and dont know what is happening to us." few minutes. But soon my soul found its way back from the That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And prisoners existence to another world, and I resumed talkas we stumbled on for miles, slipping on icy spots, support with my loved one: I asked her questions, and she aning each other time and again, dragging one another up swered; she questioned me in return, and I answered.and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of "Stop!" We had arrived at our work site. Everybodyus was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, rushed into the dark hut in the hope of getting a fairlywhere the stars were fading and the pink light of the morn decent tool. Each prisoner got a spade or a pickaxe.ing was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. "Cant you hurry up, you pigs?" Soon we had resumedBut my mind clung to my wifes image, imagining it with the previous days positions in the ditch. The frozen groundan uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her cracked under the point of the pickaxes, and sparks flew.smile, her frank and encouraging look. Real or not, her The men were silent, their brains numb.look was then more luminous than the sun which was be My mind still clung to the image of my wife. A thoughtginning to rise. crossed my mind: I didnt even know if she were still alive. A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I I knew only one thing—which I have learned well by now:saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, pro Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth loved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his
50 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 51inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or summits glowing in the sunset, through the little barrednot he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of im windows of the prison carriage, he would never have beportance. lieved that those were the faces of men who had given up I did not know whether my wife was alive, and I had all hope of life and liberty. Despite that factor—or maybeno means of finding out (during all my prison life there because of it—we were carried away by natures beauty,was no outgoing or incoming mail); but at that moment it which we had missed for so long.ceased to matter. There was no need for me to know; noth In camp, too, a man might draw the attention of a coming could touch the strength of my love, my thoughts, and rade working next to him to a nice view of the setting sunthe image of my beloved. Had I known then that my wife shining through the tall trees of the Bavarian woods (as inwas dead, I think that I would still have given myself, the famous water color by Diirer), the same woods in whichundisturbed by that knowledge, to the contemplation of we had built an enormous, hidden munitions plant. Oneher image, and that my mental conversation with her evening, when we were already resting on the floor of ourwould have been just as vivid and just as satisfying. "Set me hut, dead tired, soup bowls in hand, a fellow prisonerlike a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death." rushed in and asked us to run out to the assembly grounds and see the wonderful sunset. Standing outside we saw sin ister clouds glowing in the west and the whole sky alive This intensification of inner life helped the prisoner find with clouds of ever-changing shapes and colors, from steela refuge from the emptiness, desolation and spiritual pov blue to blood red. The desolate grey mud huts provided aerty of his existence, by letting him escape into the past. sharp contrast, while the puddles on the muddy groundWhen given free rein, his imagination played with past reflected the glowing sky. Then, after minutes of movingevents, often not important ones, but minor happenings silence, one prisoner said to another, "How beautiful theand trifling things. His nostalgic memory glorified them world could be!"and they assumed a strange character. Their world and Another time we were at work in a trench. The dawn wastheir existence seemed very distant and the spirit reached grey around us; grey was the sky above; grey the snow inout for them longingly: In my mind I took bus rides, un the pale light of dawn; grey the rags in which my fellowlocked the front door of my apartment, answered my tele prisoners were clad, and grey their faces. I was again conphone, switched on the electric lights. Our thoughts often versing silently with my wife, or perhaps I was struggling tocentered on such details, and these memories could move find the reason for my sufferings, my slow dying. In a lastone to tears. violent protest against the hopelessness of imminent death, As the inner life of the prisoner tended to become more I sensed my spirit piercing through the enveloping gloom. Iintense, he also experienced the beauty of art and nature as felt it transcend that hopeless, meaningless world, and fromnever before. Under their influence he sometimes even for somewhere I heard a victorious "Yes" in answer to my quesgot his own frightful circumstances. If someone had seen tion of the existence of an ultimate purpose. At that moour faces on the journey from Auschwitz to a Bavarian ment a light was lit in a distant farmhouse, which stood oncamp as we beheld the mountains of Salzburg with their the horizon as if painted there, in the midst of the miser-
52 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 53able grey of a dawning morning in Bavaria. "Et lux in ble helping of soup, straight "from the bottom"—thattenebris lucet"—and the light shineth in the darkness. For meant with peas!hours I stood hacking at the icy ground. The guard passed Rewards were given in camp not only for entertainment,by, insulting me, and once again 1 communed with my but also for applause. I, for example, could have foundbeloved. More and more I felt that she was present, that she protection (how lucky I was never in need of it!) from thewas with me; I had the feeling that I was able to touch her, camps most dreaded Capo, who for more than one goodable to stretch out my hand and grasp hers. The feeling was reason was known as "The Murderous Capo." This is howvery strong: she was there. Then, at that very moment, a it happened. One evening I had the great honor of beingbird flew down silently and perched just in front of me, on invited again to the room where the spiritualistic seancethe heap of soil which I had dug up from the ditch, and had taken place. There were gathered the same intimatelooked steadily at me. friends of the chief doctor and, most illegally, the warrant officer from the sanitation squad was again present. The Murderous Capo entered the room by chance, and he was Earlier, I mentioned art. Is there such a thing in a con asked to recite one of his poems, which had become famouscentration camp? It rather depends on what one chooses to (or infamous) in camp. He did not need to be asked twicecall art. A kind of cabaret was improvised from time to and quickly produced a kind of diary from which he begantime. A hut was cleared temporarily, a few wooden benches to read samples of his art. I bit my lips till they hurt inwere pushed or nailed together and a program was drawn order to keep from laughing at one of his love poems, andup. In the evening those who had fairly good positions in very likely that saved my life. Since I was also generous withcamp—the Capos and the workers who did not have to my applause, my life might have been saved even had Ileave camp on distant marches—assembled there. They been detailed to his working party to which I had precame to have a few laughs or perhaps to cry a little; any viously been assigned for one day—a day that was quiteway, to forget. There were songs, poems, jokes, some with enough for me. It was useful, anyway, to be known to Theunderlying satire regarding the camp. All were meant to Murderous Capo from a favorable angle. So I applauded ashelp us forget, and they did help. The gatherings were so hard as I could.effective that a few ordinary prisoners went to see the Generally speaking, of course, any pursuit of art in campcabaret in spite of their fatigue even though they missed was somewhat grotesque. I would say that the real imprestheir daily portion of food by going. sion made by anything connected with art arose only from During the half-hour lunch interval when soup (which the ghostlike contrast between the performance and thethe contractors paid for and for which they did not spend background of desolate camp life. I shall never forget how Imuch) was ladled out at our work site, we were allowed to awoke from the deep sleep of exhaustion on my secondassemble in an unfinished engine room. On entering, every night in Auschwitz—roused by music. The senior warden ofone got a ladleful of the watery soup. While we sipped it the hut had some kind of celebration in his room, whichgreedily, a prisoner climbed onto a tub and sang Italian was near the entrance of the hut. Tipsy voices bawled somearias. We enjoyed the songs, and he was guaranteed a dou- hackneyed tunes. Suddenly there was a silence and into the
54 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 55night a violin sang a desperately sad tango, an unusual about the future, such as forecasting that during a futuretune not spoiled by frequent playing. The violin wept and dinner engagement they might forget themselves when thea part of me wept with it, for on that same day someone soup was served and beg the hostess to ladle it "from thehad a twenty-fourth birthday. That someone lay in another bottom."part of the Auschwitz camp, possibly only a few hundredor a thousand yards away, and yet completely out ofreach. That someone was my wife. The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of a trick learned while mastering the art of living. Yet it is possible to prac To discover that there was any semblance of art in a tice the art of living even in a concentration camp, alconcentration camp must be surprise enough for an out though suffering is omnipresent. To draw an analogy: asider, but he may be even more astonished to hear that one mans suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certaincould find a sense of humor there as well; of course, only quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it willthe faint trace of one, and then only for a few seconds or fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how bigminutes. Humor was another of the souls weapons in the the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the humanfight for self-preservation. It is well known that humor, soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the sufferingmore than anything else in the human make-up, can afford is great or little. Therefore the "size" of human suffering isan aloofness and an ability to rise above any situation, even absolutely relative.if only for a few seconds. I practically trained a friend of It also follows that a very trifling thing can cause themine who worked next to me on the building site to de greatest of joys. Take as an example something that hapvelop a sense of humor. I suggested to him that we would pened on our journey from Auschwitz to the camp affiliatedpromise each other to invent at least one amusing story with Dachau. We had all been afraid that our transport wasdaily, about some incident that could happen one day after heading for the Mauthausen camp. We became more andour liberation. He was a surgeon and had been an assistant more tense as we approached a certain bridge over theon the staff of a large hospital. So I once tried to get him to Danube which the train would have to cross to reachsmile by describing to him how he would be unable to lose Mauthausen, according to the statement of experiencedthe habits of camp life when he returned to his former traveling companions. Those who have never seen anythingwork. On the building site (especially when the supervisor similar cannot possibly imagine the dance of joy performedmade his tour of inspection) the foreman encouraged us to in the carriage by the prisoners when they saw that ourwork faster by shouting: "Action! Action!" I told my transport was not crossing the bridge and was instead headfriend, "One day you will be back in the operating room, ing "only" for Dachau.performing a big abdominal operation. Suddenly an or And again, what happened on our arrival in that camp,derly will rush in announcing the arrival of the senior after a journey lasting two days and three nights? Theresurgeon by shouting, Action! Action! " had not been enough room for everybody to crouch on the Sometimes the other men invented amusing dreams floor of the carriage at the same time. The majority of us
56 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 57had to stand all the way, while a few took turns at squat And how we envied those of us who had the opportunityting on the scanty straw which was soaked with human to get into a factory and work in a sheltered room! It wasurine. When we arrived the first important news that we everyones wish to have such a lifesaving piece of luck. Theheard from older prisoners was that this comparatively scale of relative luck extends even further. Even amongsmall camp (its population was 2,500) had no "oven," no those detachments outside the camp (in one of which I wascrematorium, no gas! That meant that a person who had a member) there were some units which were consideredbecome a "Moslem" could not be taken straight to the gas worse than others. One could envy a man who did not havechamber, but would have to wait until a so-called "sick to wade in deep, muddy clay on a steep slope emptying theconvoy" had been arranged to return to Auschwitz. This tubs of a small field railway for twelve hours daily. Most ofjoyful surprise put us all in a good mood. The wish of the the daily accidents occurred on this job, and they weresenior warden of our hut in Auschwitz had come true: we often fatal.had come, as quickly as possible, to a camp which did not In other work parties the foremen maintained an aphave a "chimney"—unlike Auschwitz. We laughed and parently local tradition of dealing out numerous blows,cracked jokes in spite of, and during, all we had to go which made us talk of the relative luck of not being underthrough in the next few hours. their command, or perhaps of being under it only tem W7hen we new arrivals were counted, one of us was miss porarily. Once, by an unlucky chance, I got into such aing. So we had to wait outside in the rain and cold wind group. If an air raid alarm had not interrupted us after twountil the missing man was found. He was at last discovered hours (during which time the foreman had worked on mein a hut, where he had fallen asleep from exhaustion. Then especially), making it necessary to regroup the workersthe roll call was turned into a punishment parade. All afterwards, I think that I would have returned to camp onthrough the night and late into the next morning, we had one of the sledges which carried those who had died or wereto stand outside, frozen and soaked to the skin after the dying from exhaustion. No one can imagine the relief thatstrain of our long journey. And yet we were all very the siren can bring in such a situation; not even a boxerpleased! There was no chimney in this camp and Auschwitz who has heard the bell signifying the finish of a round andwas a long way off. who is thus saved at the last minute from the danger of a Another time we saw a group of convicts pass our work knockout.site. How obvious the relativity of all suffering appeared to We were grateful for the smallest of mercies. We wereus then! We envied those prisoners their relatively well- glad when there was time to delouse before going to bed,regulated, secure and happy life. They surely had regular although in itself this was no pleasure, as it meant standingopportunities to take baths, we thought sadly. They surely naked in an unheated hut where icicles hung from thehad toothbrushes and clothesbrushes, mattresses—a sep ceiling. But we were thankful if there was no air raid alarmarate one for each of them—and monthly mail bringing during this operation and the lights were not switched off.them news of the whereabouts of their relatives, or at least If we could not do the job properly, we were kept awakeof whether they were still alive or not. We had lost all that half the night.a long time ago. The meager pleasures of camp life provided a kind of
58 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 59negative happiness,—"freedom from suffering," as Schopen earthen hut where about seventy of us were "taken care of."hauer put it—and even that in a relative way only. Real We were sick and did not have to leave camp for work; wepositive pleasures, even small ones, were very few. I remem did not have to go on parade. We could lie all day in ourber drawing up a kind of balance sheet of pleasures one day little corner in the hut and doze and wait for the dailyand finding that in many, many past weeks I had experi distribution of bread (which, of course, was reduced for theenced only two pleasurable moments. One occurred when, sick) and for the daily helping of soup (watered down andon returning from work, I was admitted to the cook house also decreased in quantity). But how content we were;after a long wait and was assigned to the line filing up to happy in spite of everything. While we cowered againstprisoner-cook F . He stood behind one of the huge pans each other to avoid any unnecessary loss of warmth, andand ladled soup into the bowls which were held out to were too lazy and disinterested to move a finger unneceshim by the prisoners, who hurriedly filed past. He was the sarily, we heard shrill whistles and shouts from the squareonly cook who did not look at the men whose bowls he was where the night shift had just returned and was assemblingfilling; the only cook who dealt out the soup equally, re for roll call. The door was flung open, and the snowstormgardless of recipient, and who did not make favorites of his blew into our hut. An exhausted comrade, covered withpersonal friends or countrymen, picking out the potatoes snow, stumbled inside to sit down for a few minutes. Butfor them, while the others got watery soup skimmed from the senior warden turned him out again. It was strictlythe top. forbidden to admit a stranger to a hut while a check-up on But it is not for me to pass judgment on those prisoners the men was in progress. How sorry I was for that fellowwho put their own people above everyone else. Who can and how glad not to be in his skin at that moment, butthrow a stone at a man who favors his friends under cir instead to be sick and able to doze on in the sick quarters!cumstances when, sooner or later, it is a question of life or What a lifesaver it was to have two days there, and perhapsdeath? No man should judge unless he asks himself in ab even two extra days after those 1solute honesty whether in a similar situation he might not All this came to my mind when I saw the photographshave done the same. in the magazine. When I explained, my listeners under stood why I did not find the photograph so terrible: the people shown on it might not have been so unhappy after Long after I had resumed normal life again (that means all.a long time after my release from camp), somebody showed On my fourth day in the sick quarters I had just beenme an illustrated weekly with photographs of prisoners detailed to the night shift when the chief doctor rushed inlying crowded on their bunks, staring dully at a visitor. and asked me to volunteer for medical duties in another"Isnt this terrible, the dreadful staring faces—everything camp containing typhus patients. Against the urgent adviceabout it." of my friends (and despite the fact that almost none of my "Why?" I asked, for I genuinely did not understand. For colleagues offered their services), I decided to volunteer. Iat that moment I saw it all again: at 5:00 A.M. it was still knew that in a working party I would die in a short time.pitch dark outside. I was lying on the hard boards in an But if I had to die there might at least be some sense in my
6o Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 61death. I thought that it would doubtless be more to the versed in methods of torture and sadism. They drove thepurpose to try and help my comrades as a doctor than to herd incessantly, backwards and forwards, with shouts,vegetate or finally lose my life as the unproductive laborer kicks and blows. And we, the sheep, thought of two thingsthat I was then. only—how to evade the bad dogs and how to get a little For me this was simple mathematics, not sacrifice. But food.secretly, the warrant officer from the sanitation squad had Just like sheep that crowd timidly into the center of aordered that the two doctors who had volunteered for the herd, each of us tried to get into the middle of our formatyphus camp should be "taken care of" till they left. We tions. That gave one a better chance of avoiding the blowslooked so weak that he feared that he might have two addi of the guards who were marching on either side and to thetional corpses on his hands, rather than two doctors. front and rear of our column. The central position had the added advantage of affording protection against the bitter winds. It was, therefore, in an attempt to save ones own I mentioned earlier how everything that was not con skin that one literally tried to submerge into the crowd.nected with the immediate task of keeping oneself and This was done automatically in the formations. But atones closest friends alive lost its value. Everything was sacri other times it was a very conscious effort on our part—inficed to this end. A mans character became involved to the conformity with one of the camps most imperative laws ofpoint that he was caught in a mental turmoil which threat self-preservation: Do not be conspicuous. We tried at allened all the values he held and threw them into doubt. times to avoid attracting the attention of the SS.Under the influence of a world which no longer recognized There were times, of course, when it was possible, andthe value of human life and human dignity, which had even necessary, to keep away from the crowd. It is wellrobbed man of his will and had made him an object to be known that an enforced community life, in which attentionexterminated (having planned, however, to make full use is paid to everything one does at all times, may result in anof him first—to the last ounce of his physical resources)— irresistible urge to get away, at least for a short while. Theunder this influence the personal ego finally suffered a loss prisoner craved to be alone with himself and his thoughts.of values. If the man in the concentration camp did not He yearned for privacy and for solitude. After my transporstruggle against this in a last effort to save his self-respect, tation to a so-called "rest camp," I had the rare fortune tohe lost the feeling of being an individual, a being with a find solitude for about five minutes at a time. Behind themind, with inner freedom and personal value. He thought earthen hut where I worked and in which were crowdedof himself then as only a part of an enormous mass of about fifty delirious patients, there was a quiet spot in apeople; his existence descended to the level of animal life. corner of the double fence of barbed wire surrounding theThe men were herded—sometimes to one place then to camp. A tent had been improvised there with a few polesanother; sometimes driven together, then apart—like a and branches of trees in order to shelter a half-dozenflock of sheep without a thought or a will of their own. A corpses (the daily death rate in the camp). There was also asmall but dangerous pack watched them from all sides, well shaft leading to the water pipes. I squatted on the wooden
62 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 63 lid of this shaft whenever my services were not needed. I was hardened, but possibly became more conscious of this just sat and looked out at the green flowering slopes and complete disregard of human existence when a convoy of the distant blue hills of the Bavarian landscape, framed by sick men was arranged. The emaciated bodies of the sick the meshes of barbed wire. I dreamed longingly, and my were thrown on two-wheeled carts which were drawn by thoughts wandered north and northeast, in the direction of prisoners for many miles, often through snowstorms, to the my home, but I could only see clouds. next camp. If one of the sick men had died before the cart The corpses near me, crawling with lice, did not bother left, he was thrown on anyway—the list had to be correct Ime. Only the steps of passing guards could rouse me from The list was the only thing that mattered. A man countedmy dreams; or perhaps it would be a call to the sick-bay or only because he had a prison number. One literally becameto collect a newly arrived supply of medicine for my hut— a number: dead or alive—that was unimportant; the life ofconsisting of perhaps five or ten tablets of aspirin, to last for a "number" was completely irrelevant. What stood behindseveral days for fifty patients. I collected them and then did that number and that life mattered even less: the fate, themy rounds, feeling the patients pulses and giving half- history, the name of the man. In the transport of sick patablets to the serious cases. But the desperately ill received tients that I, in my capacity as a doctor, had to accompanyno medicine. It would not have helped, and besides, it from one camp in Bavaria to another, there was a youngwould have deprived those for whom there was still some prisoner whose brother was not on the list and thereforehope. For light cases, I had nothing, except perhaps a word would have to be left behind. The young man begged soof encouragement. In this way I dragged myself from patient long that the camp warden decided to work an exchange,to patient, though I myself was weak and exhausted from a and the brother took the place of a man who, at the moserious attack of typhus. Then I went back to my lonely ment, preferred to stay behind. But the list had to be corplace on the wood cover of the water shaft. rect! That was easy. The brother just exchanged numbers This shaft, incidentally, once saved the lives of three with the other prisoner.fellow prisoners. Shortly before liberation, mass transports As I have mentioned before, we had no documents;were organized to go to Dachau, and these three prisoners everyone was lucky to own his body, which, after all, waswisely tried to avoid the trip. They climbed down the shaft still breathing. All else about us, i.e., the rags hanging fromand hid there from the guards. I calmly sat on the lid, our gaunt skeletons, was only of interest if we were assignedlooking innocent and playing a childish game of throwing to a transport of sick patients. The departing "Moslems"pebbles at the barbed wire. On spotting me, the guard hesi were examined with unabashed curiosity to see whethertated for a moment, but then passed on. Soon I could tell their coats or shoes were not better than ones own. Afterthe three men below that the worst danger was over. all, their fates were sealed. But those who stayed behind in camp, who were still capable of some work, had to make use of every means to improve their chances of survival. They It is very difficult for an outsider to grasp how very little were not sentimental. The prisoners saw themselves comvalue was placed on human life in camp. The camp inmate pletely dependent on the moods of the guards—playthings
64 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 65of fate—and this made them even less human than the the transport list, eighty-two prisoners volunteered immedicircumstances warranted. ately. A quarter of an hour later the transport was canceled, but the eighty-two stayed on the list for the night shift. For the majority of them, this meant death within the next In Auschwitz I had laid down a rule for myself which fortnight.proved to be a good one and which most of my comrades Now the transport for the rest camp was arranged for thelater followed. I generally answered all kinds of questions second time. Again no one knew whether this was a ruse totruthfully. But I was silent about anything that was not obtain the last bit of work from the sick—if only for fourexpressly asked for. If I were asked my age, I gave it. If teen days—or whether it would go to the gas ovens or to aasked about my profession, I said "doctor," but did not genuine rest camp. The chief doctor, who had taken a likelaborate. The first morning in Auschwitz an SS officer came ing to me, told me furtively one evening at a quarter to ten,to the parade ground. We had to fall into separate groups "I have made it known in the orderly room that you canof prisoners: over forty years, under forty years, metal work still have your name crossed off the list; you may do so upers, mechanics, and so forth. Then we were examined for till ten oclock."ruptures and some prisoners had to form a new group. The I told him that this was not my way; that I had learnedgroup that I was in was driven to another hut, where we to let fate take its course. "I might as well stay with mylined up again. After being sorted out once more and hav friends," I said. There was a look of pity in his eyes, as if heing answered questions as to my age and profession, I was knew. . . . He shook my hand silently, as though it were asent to another small group. Once more we were driven to farewell, not for life, but from life. Slowly I walked backanother hut and grouped differently. This continued for to my hut. There I found a good friend waiting for me.some time, and I became quite unhappy, finding myself "You really want to go with them?" he asked sadly.among strangers who spoke unintelligible foreign lan "Yes, I am going."guages. Then came the last selection, and I found myself Tears came to his eyes and I tried to comfort him. Thenback in the group that had been with me in the first hut! there was something else to do—to make my will:They had barely noticed that I had been sent from hut to "Listen, Otto, if I dont get back home to my wife, and ifhut in the meantime. But I was aware that in those few you should see her again, then tell her that I talked of herminutes fate had passed me in many different forms. daily, hourly. You remember. Secondly, I have loved her When the transport of sick patients for the "rest camp" more than anyone. Thirdly, the short time I have beenwas organized, my name (that is, my number) was put on married to her outweighs everything, even all we have gonethe list, since a few doctors were needed. But no one was through here."convinced that the destination was really a rest camp. A few Otto, where are you now? Are you alive? What has hapweeks previously the same transport had been prepared. pened to you since our last hour together? Did you findThen, too, everyone had thought that it was destined for your wife again? And do you remember how I made youthe gas ovens. When it was announced that anyone who learn my will by heart—word for word—in spite of yourvolunteered for the dreaded night shift would be taken off childlike tears?
66 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 67 The next morning I departed with the transport. This This escape from commitment was most apparent when a time it was not a ruse. We were not heading for the gas prisoner had to make the decision for or against an escape chambers, and we actually did go to a rest camp. Those who attempt. In those minutes in which he had to make up had pitied me remained in a camp where famine was to his mind—and it was always a question of minutes—he rage even more fiercely than in our new camp. They tried suffered the tortures of Hell. Should he make the attempt to to save themselves, but they only sealed their own fates. flee? Should he take the risk? Months later, after liberation, I met a friend from the old I, too, experienced this torment. As the battle-front drew camp. He related to me how he, as camp policeman, had nearer, I had the opportunity to escape. A colleague of searched for a piece of human flesh that was missing from a mine who had to visit huts outside the camp in the course pile of corpses. He confiscated it from a pot in which he of his medical duties wanted to escape and take me with found it cooking. Cannibalism had broken out. I had left him. Under the pretense of holding a consultation about a just in time. patient whose illness required a specialists advice, he Does this not bring to mind the story of Death in Teheran? smuggled me out. Outside the camp, a member of a foreignA rich and mighty Persian once walked in his garden with resistance movement was to supply us with uniforms andone of his servants. The servant cried that he had just en documents. At the last moment there were some technicalcountered Death, who had threatened him. He begged his difficulties and we had to return to camp once more. Wemaster to give him his fastest horse so that he could make used this opportunity to provide ourselves with provisionshaste and flee to Teheran, which he could reach that same —a few rotten potatoes—and to look for a rucksack.evening. The master consented and the servant galloped off We broke into an empty hut of the womens camp, whichon the horse. On returning to his house the master himself was vacant, as the women had been sent to another camp.met Death, and questioned him, "Why did you terrify and The hut was in great disorder; it was obvious that manythreaten my servant?" "I did not threaten him; I only women had acquired supplies and fled. There were rags,showed surprise in still finding him here when I planned straw, rotting food, and broken crockery. Some bowls wereto meet him tonight in Teheran," said Death. still in good condition and would have been very valuable to us, but we decided not to take them. We knew that lately, as conditions had become desperate, they had been The camp inmate was frightened of making decisions used not only for food, but also as washbasins and chamberand of taking any sort of initiative whatsoever. This was the pots. (There was a strictly enforced rule against having anyresult of a strong feeling that fate was ones master, and kind of utensil in the hut. However, some people werethat one must not try to influence it in any way, but instead forced to break this rule, especially the typhus patients, wholet it take its own course. In addition, there was a great were much too weak to go outside even with help.) Whileapathy, which contributed in no small part to the feelings I acted as a screen, my friend broke into the hut and reof the prisoner. At times, lightning decisions had to be turned shortly with a rucksack which he hid under his coat.made, decisions which spelled life or death. The prisoner He had seen another one inside which I was to take. So wewould have preferred to let fate make the choice for him. changed places and I went in. As I searched in the rubbish,
68 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 69 finding the rucksack and even a toothbrush, I suddenly saw, camp must be evacuated completely by sunset. Even the few among all the things that had been left behind, the body of remaining prisoners (the sick, a few doctors, and some a woman. "nurses") would have to leave. At night, the camp was to be I ran back to my hut to collect all my possessions: my set on fire. In the afternoon the trucks which were to collectfood bowl, a pair of torn mittens "inherited" from a dead the sick had not yet appeared. Instead the camp gates weretyphus patient, and a few scraps of paper covered with suddenly closed and the barbed wire closely watched, soshorthand notes (on which, as I mentioned before, I had that no one could attempt an escape. The remaining prisstarted to reconstruct the manuscript which I lost at oners seemed to be destined to burn with the camp. For theAuschwitz). I made a quick last round of my patients, who second time my friend and I decided to escape.were lying huddled on the rotten planks of wood on either We had been given an order to bury three men outsideside of the huts. I came to my only countryman, who was the barbed wire fence. We were the only two in camp whoalmost dying, and whose life it had been my ambition to had strength enough to do the job. Nearly all the others laysave in spite of his condition. I had to keep my intention to in the few huts which were still in use, prostrate with feverescape to myself, but my comrade seemed to guess that and delirium. We now made our plans: along with the firstsomething was wrong (perhaps I showed a little nervous body we would smuggle out my friends rucksack, hiding itness). In a tired voice he asked me, "You, too, are getting in the old laundry tub which served as a coffin. When weout?" I denied it, but I found it difficult to avoid his sad took out the second body we would also carry out my rucklook. After my round I returned to him. Again a hopeless sack, and on the third trip we intended to make our escape.look greeted me and somehow I felt it to be an accusation. The first two trips went according to plan. After we reThe unpleasant feeling that had gripped me as soon as I turned, I waited while my friend tried to find a piece ofhad told my friend I would escape with him became more bread so that we would have something to eat during theintense. Suddenly I decided to take fate into my own hands next few days in the woods. I waited. Minutes passed. Ifor once. I ran out of the hut and told my friend that I became more and more impatient as he did not return.could not go with him. As soon as I had told him with After three years of imprisonment, I was picturing freefinality that I had made up my mind to stay with my pa dom joyously, imagining how wonderful it would be to runtients, the unhappy feeling left me. I did not know what toward the battle-front. But we did not get that far.the following days would bring, but I had gained an in The very moment when my friend came back, the campward peace that I had never experienced before. I returned gate was thrown open. A splendid, aluminum-colored car,to the hut, sat down on the boards at my countrymans feet on which were painted large red crosses, slowly rolled on toand tried to comfort him; then I chatted with the others, the parade ground. A delegate from the International Redtrying to quiet them in their delirium. Cross in Geneva had arrived, and the camp and its inmates Our last day in camp arrived. As the battle-front came were under his protection. The delegate billeted himself innearer, mass transports had taken nearly all the prisoners to a farmhouse in the vicinity, in order to be near the camp atother camps. The camp authorities, the Capos and the all times in case of emergency. Who worried about escapecooks had fled. On this day an order was given that the now? Boxes with medicines were unloaded from the car,
70 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 71 cigarettes were distributed, we were photographed and joy still intended to escape. Impatiently we sat down, keeping reigned supreme. Now there was no need for us to risk our rucksacks on our backs, and waited with the few re running toward the fighting line. maining prisoners for the last truck. We had to wait a long In our excitement we had forgotten the third body, so we time. Finally we lay down on the mattresses of the deserted carried it outside and dropped it into the narrow grave we guard-room, exhausted by the excitement of the last few had dug for the three corpses. The guard who accompanied hours and days, during which we had fluctuated continu us—a relatively inoffensive man—suddenly became quite ally between hope and despair. We slept in our clothes and gentle. He saw that the tables might be turned and tried to shoes, ready for the journey. win our goodwill. He joined in the short prayers that we The noise of rifles and cannons woke us; the flashes of offered for the dead men before throwing soil over them. tracer bullets and gun shots entered the hut. The chief After the tension and excitement of the past days and doctor dashed in and ordered us to take cover on the floor. hours, those last days in our race with death, the words of One prisoner jumped on my stomach from the bed above our prayer asking for peace, were as fervent as any ever me and with his shoes on. That awakened me all rightl uttered by the human voice. Then we grasped what was happening: the battle-front had And so the last day in camp passed in anticipation of reached us! The shooting decreased and morning dawned.freedom. But we had rejoiced too early. The Red Cross Outside on the pole at the camp gate a white flag floated indelegate had assured us that an agreement had been signed, the wind.and that the camp must not be evacuated. But that nightthe SS arrived with trucks and brought an order to clear thecamp. The last remaining prisoners were to be taken to a Many weeks later we found out that even in those lastcentral camp, from which they would be sent to Switzerland hours fate had toyed with us few remaining prisoners. Wewithin forty-eight hours—to be exchanged for some pris found out just how uncertain human decisions are, esoners of war. We scarcely recognized the SS. They were so pecially in matters of life and death. I was confronted withfriendly, trying to persuade us to get in the trucks without photographs which had been taken in a small camp not farfear, telling us that we should be grateful for our good luck. from ours. Our friends who had thought they were travelThose who were strong enough crowded into the trucks and ing to freedom that night had been taken in the trucks tothe seriously ill and feeble were lifted up with difficulty. My this camp, and there they were locked in the huts andfriend and I—we did not hide our rucksacks now—stood in burned to death. Their partially charred bodies were recthe last group, from which thirteen would be chosen for the ognizable on the photograph. I thought again of Death innext to last truck. The chief doctor counted out the requi Teheran.site number, but he omitted the two of us. The thirteenwere loaded into the truck and we had to stay behind.Surprised, very annoyed and disappointed, we blamed the Apart from its role as a defensive mechanism, the prischief doctor, who excused himself by saying that he had oners apathy was also the result of other factors. Hungerbeen tired and distracted. He said that he had thought we and lack of sleep contributed to it (as they do in normal
72 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 73life, also) and to the general irritability which was another not surprising that this tension often ended in a generalcharacteristic of the prisoners mental state. The lack of fight. Since the prisoner continually witnessed scenes ofsleep was due partly to the pestering of vermin which in beatings, the impulse toward violence was increased. I myfested the terribly overcrowded huts because of the general self felt my fists clench when anger came over me while Ilack of hygiene and sanitation. The fact that we had nei was famished and tired. I was usually very tired, since wether nicotine nor caffeine also contributed to the state of had to stoke our stove—which we were allowed to keep inapathy and irritability. our hut for the typhus patients—throughout the nights. Besides these physical causes, there were mental ones, in However, some of the most idyllic hours I have ever spentthe form of certain complexes. The majority of prisoners were in the middle of the night when all the others weresuffered from a kind of inferiority complex. We all had delirious or sleeping. I could lie stretched out in front ofonce been or had fancied ourselves to be "somebody." Now the stove and roast a few pilfered potatoes in a fire madewe were treated like complete nonentities. (The conscious from stolen charcoal. But the following day I always feltness of ones inner value is anchored in higher, more spir even more tired, insensitive and irritable.itual things, and cannot be shaken by camp life. But howmany free men, let alone prisoners, possess it?) Withoutconsciously thinking about it, the average prisoner felt him While I was working as a doctor in the typhus block, Iself utterly degraded. This became obvious when one ob also had to take the place of the senior block warden whoserved the contrasts offered by the singular sociological was ill. Therefore, I was responsible to the camp authoritystructure of the camp. The more "prominent" prisoners, for keeping the hut clean—if "clean" can be used to dethe Capos, the cooks, the store-keepers and the camp police scribe such a condition. The pretense at inspection to whichmen, did not, as a rule, feel degraded at all, like the ma the hut was frequently submitted was more for the purposejority of prisoners, but on the contrary—promoted! Some of torture than of hygiene. More food and a few drugseven developed miniature delusions of grandeur. The men would have helped, but the only concern of the inspectorstal reaction of the envious and grumbling majority toward was whether a piece of straw was left in the center corridor,this favored minority found expression in several ways, or whether the dirty, ragged and verminous blankets of thesometimes in jokes. For instance, I heard one prisoner talk patients were tucked in neatly at their feet. As to the fate ofto another about a Capo, saying, "Imagine! I knew that the inmates, they were quite unconcerned. If I reportedman when he was only the president of a large bank. Isnt it smartly, whipping my prison cap from my shorn head andfortunate that he has risen so far in the world?" clicking my heels, "Hut number VI/9: 52 patients, two Whenever the degraded majority and the promoted nursing orderlies, and one doctor," they were satisfied. Andminority came into conflict (and there were plenty of op then they would leave. But until they arrived—often theyportunities for this, starting with the distribution of food) were hours later than announced, and sometimes did notthe results were explosive. Therefore, the general irritabil come at all—I was forced to keep straightening blankets,ity (whose physical causes were discussed above) became picking up bits of straw which fell from the bunks, andmost intense when these mental tensions were added. It is shouting at the poor devils who tossed in their beds and
74 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 75threatened to upset all my efforts at tidiness and cleanli We who lived in concentration camps can remember theness. Apathy was particularly increased among the feverish men who walked through the huts comforting others, givingpatients, so that they did not react at all unless they were away their last piece of bread. They may have been few inshouted at. Even this failed at times, and then it took number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything cantremendous self-control not to strike them. For ones own be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the humanirritability took on enormous proportions in the face of the freedoms—to choose ones attitude in any given set of cirothers apathy and especially in the face of the danger (i.e., cumstances, to choose ones own way.the approaching inspection) which was caused by it. 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 In attempting this psychological presentation and a to those powers which threatened to rob you of your verypsychopathological explanation of the typical characteris self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or nottics of a concentration camp inmate, I may give the impres you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncsion that the human being is completely and unavoidably ing freedom and dignity to become molded into the form ofinfluenced by his surroundings. (In this case the surround the typical inmate.ings being the unique structure of camp life, which forced Seen from this point of view, the mental reactions of thethe prisoner to conform his conduct to a certain set pat inmates of a concentration camp must seem more to us thantern.) But what about human liberty? Is there no spiritual the mere expression of certain physical and sociologicalfreedom in regard to behavior and reaction to any given conditions. Even though conditions such as lack of sleep,surroundings? Is that theory true which would have us be insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggestlieve that man is no more than a product of many condi that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in thetional and environmental factors—be they of a biological, final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person thepsychological or sociological nature? Is man but an acciden prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, andtal product of these? Most important, do the prisoners not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally,reactions to the singular world of the concentration camp therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, deprove that man cannot escape the influences of his sur cide what shall become of him—mentally and spiritually.roundings? Does man have no choice of action in the face of He may retain his human dignity even in a concentrationsuch circumstances? camp. Dostoevski said once, "There is only one thing that I We can answer these questions from experience as well as dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings." These wordson principle. The experiences of camp life show that man frequently came to my mind after I became acquainteddoes have a choice of action. There were enough examples, with those martyrs whose behavior in camp, whose sufferingoften of a heroic nature, which proved that apathy could be and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freeovercome, irritability suppressed. Man can preserve a dom cannot be lost. It can be said that they were worthy ofvestige of spiritual freedom, of independence of mind, even their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was ain such terrible conditions of psychic and physical stress. genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom—
76 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 77 which cannot be taken away—that makes life meaningful confronted with fate, with the chance of achieving some and purposeful. thing through his own suffering. An active life serves the purpose of giving man the op Take the fate of the sick—especially those who are inportunity to realize values in creative work, while a passive curable. I once read a letter written by a young invalid, inlife of enjoyment affords him the opportunity to obtain which he told a friend that he had just found out he wouldfulfillment in experiencing beauty, art, or nature. But there not live for long, that even an operation would be of nois also purpose in that life which is almost barren of both help. He wrote further that he remembered a film he hadcreation and enjoyment and which admits of but one pos seen in which a man was portrayed who waited for death insibility of high moral behavior: namely, in mans attitude a courageous and dignified way. The boy had thought it ato his existence, an existence restricted by external forces. A great accomplishment to meet death so well. Now—hecreative life and a life of enjoyment are banned to him. But wrote—fate was offering him a similar chance.not only creativeness and enjoyment are meaningful. If Those of us who saw the film called Resurrection—takenthere is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a from a book by Tolstoy—years ago, may have had similarmeaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of thoughts. Here were great destinies and great men. For us,life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death at that time, there was no great fate; there was no chance tohuman life cannot be complete. achieve such greatness. After the picture we went to the The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the nearest cafe, and over a cup of coffee and a sandwich wesuffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, forgot the strange metaphysical thoughts which for onegives him ample opportunity—even under the most difficult moment had crossed our minds. But when we ourselvescircumstances—to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may were confronted with a great destiny and faced with theremain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight decision of meeting it with equal spiritual greatness, byfor self-preservation he may forget his human dignity and then we had forgotten our youthful resolutions of long ago,become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a and we failed.man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of Perhaps there came a day for some of us when we saw theattaining the moral values that a difficult situation may same film again, or a similar one. But by then other picafford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his tures may have simultaneously unrolled before ones innersufferings or not. eye; pictures of people who attained much more in their Do not think that these considerations are unworldly and lives than a sentimental film could show. Some details of atoo far removed from real life. It is true that only a few particular mans inner greatness may have come to onespeople are capable of reaching such high moral standards. mind, like the story of the young woman whose death IOf the prisoners only a few kept their full inner liberty and witnessed in a concentration camp. It is a simple story.obtained those values which their suffering afforded, but There is little to tell and it may sound as if I had inventedeven one such example is sufficient proof that mans inner it; but to me it seems like a poem.strength may raise him above his outward fate. Such men This young woman knew that she would die in the nextare not only in concentration camps. Everywhere man is few days. But when I talked to her she was cheerful in spite
78 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 79of this knowledge. "I am grateful that fate has hit me so were obliged to keep silent, and from some camps no onehard," she told me. "In my former life I was spoiled and had returned. On entering camp a change took place in thedid not take spiritual accomplishments seriously." Pointing minds of the men. With the end of uncertainty there camethrough the window of the hut, she said, "This tree here is the uncertainty of the end. It was impossible to foreseethe only friend I have in my loneliness." Through that whether or when, if at all, this form of existence wouldwindow she could see just one branch of a chestnut tree, end.and on the branch were two blossoms. "I often talk to this The latin word finis has two meanings: the end or thetree," she said to me. I was startled and didnt quite know finish, and a goal to reach. A man who could not see thehow to take her words. Was she delirious? Did she have end of his "provisional existence" was not able to aim at anoccasional hallucinations? Anxiously I asked her if the tree ultimate goal in life. He ceased living for the future, inreplied. "Yes." What did it say to her? She answered, "It contrast to a man in normal life. Therefore the whole strucsaid to me, I am here—I am here—I am life, eternal life. " ture of his inner life changed; signs of decay set in which we know from other areas of life. The unemployed worker, for example, is in a similar position. His existence has become We have stated that that which was ultimately responsi provisional and in a certain sense he cannot live for theble for the state of the prisoners inner self was not so much future or aim at a goal. Research work done on unemthe enumerated psychophysical causes as it was the result ployed miners has shown that they suffer from a peculiarof a free decision. Psychological observations of the sort of deformed time—inner time—which is a result ofprisoners have shown that only the men who allowed their their unemployed state. Prisoners, too, suffered from thisinner hold on their moral and spiritual selves to subside strange "time-experience." In camp, a small time unit, aeventually fell victim to the camps degenerating influences. day, for example, filled with hourly tortures and fatigue,The question now arises, what could, or should, have appeared endless. A larger time unit, perhaps a week,constituted this "inner hold"? seemed to pass very quickly. My comrades agreed when I Former prisoners, when writing or relating their experi said that in camp a day lasted longer than a week. Howences, agree that the most depressing influence of all was paradoxical was our time-experience! In this connection wethat a prisoner could not know how long his term of im are reminded of Thomas Manns The Magic Mountain,prisonment would be. He had been given no date for his which contains some very pointed psychological remarks.release. (In our camp it was pointless even to talk about it.) Mann studies the spiritual development of people who areActually a prison term was not only uncertain but unlim in an analogous psychological position, i.e., tuberculosisited. A well-known research psychologist has pointed out patients in a sanatorium who also know no date for theirthat life in a concentration camp could be called a "provi release. They experience a similar existence—without a fusional existence." We can add to this by defining it as a ture and without a goal."provisional existence of unknown limit." One of the prisoners, who on his arrival marched with a New arrivals usually knew nothing about the conditions long column of new inmates from the station to the camp,at a camp. Those who had come back from other camps told me later that he had felt as though he were marching
8o Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 81 at his own funeral. His life had seemed to him absolutely others of us, the mediocre and the half-hearted, the words without future. He regarded it as over and done, as if he of Bismarck could be applied: "Life is like being at the had already died. This feeling of lifelessness was intensified dentist. You always think that the worst is still to come, and by other causes: in time, it was the limitlessness of the term yet it is over already." Varying this, we could say that most of imprisonment which was most acutely felt; in space, the men in a concentration camp believed that the real oppor narrow limits of the prison. Anything outside the barbed tunities of life had passed. Yet, in reality, there was an wire became remote—out of reach and, in a way, unreal. opportunity and a challenge. One could make a victory of The events and the people outside, all the normal life those experiences, turning life into an inner triumph, or there, had a ghostly aspect for the prisoner. The outside one could ignore the challenge and simply vegetate, as did life, that is, as much as he could see of it, appeared to him a majority of the prisoners. almost as it might have to a dead man who looked at it from another world. A man who let himself decline because he could not see Any attempt at fighting the camps psychopathological any future goal found himself occupied with retrospective influence on the prisoner by psychotherapeutic or psycho- thoughts. In a different connection, we have already spoken hygienic methods had to aim at giving him inner strength of the tendency there was to look into the past, to help by pointing out to him a future goal to which he could lookI make the present, with all its horrors, less real. But in rob forward. Instinctively some of the prisoners attempted to bing the present of its reality there lay a certain danger. It find one on their own. It is a peculiarity of man that he can became easy to overlook the opportunities to make some only live by looking to the future— sub specie aeternitatis. thing positive of camp life, opportunities which really did And this is his salvation in the most difficult moments of his exist. Regarding our "provisional existence" as unreal was existence, although he sometimes has to force his mind to in itself an important factor in causing the prisoners to lose the task. their hold on life; everything in a way became pointless. I remember a personal experience. Almost in tears from Such people forgot that often it is just such an exception pain (I had terrible sores on my feet from wearing torn ally difficult external situation which gives man the oppor shoes), I limped a few kilometers with our long column of tunity to grow spiritually beyond himself. Instead of taking men from the camp to our work site. Very cold, bitter winds the camps difficulties as a test of their inner strength, they struck us. I kept thinking of the endless little problems of did not take their life seriously and despised it as something our miserable life. What would there be to eat tonight? If a of no consequence. They preferred to close their eyes and to piece of sausage came as extra ration, should I exchange it live in the past. Life for such people became meaningless. for a piece of bread? Should I trade my last cigarette, which Naturally only a few people were capable of reaching was left from a bonus I received a fortnight ago, for a bowl great spiritual heights. But a few were given the chance to of soup? How could I get a piece of wire to replace the attain human greatness even through their apparent worldly fragment which served as one of my shoelaces? Would I failure and death, an accomplishment which in ordinary get to our work site in time to join my usual working party circumstances they would never have achieved. To the or would I have to join another, which might have a brutal
82 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Campforeman? What could I do to get on good We all feared this moment—not forterms with the Capo, who could help me to ourselves, which would have been pointless,obtain work in camp instead of undertaking but for our friends. Usually it began with thethis horribly long daily march? prisoner refusing one morning to get dressed I became disgusted with the state of affairs and wash or to go out on the parade grounds.which compelled me, daily and hourly, to No entreaties, no blows, no threats had anythink of only such trivial things. I forced my effect. He just lay there, hardlythoughts to turn to another subject. SuddenlyI saw myself standing on the platform of awell-lit, warm and pleasant lecture room. Infront of me sat an attentive audience oncomfortable upholstered seats. I was giving alecture on the psychology of theconcentration camp! All that oppressed me atthat moment became objective, seen anddescribed from the remote viewpoint ofscience. By this method I succeededsomehow in rising above the situation,above the sufferings of the moment, and Iobserved them as if they were already of thepast. Both I and my troubles became theobject of an interesting psychoscientific studyundertaken by myself. What does Spinoza sayin his Ethics?—"Affectus, qui passio est,desinit esse passio simulatque eius claram etdistinctam formamus ideam." Emotion, whichis suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon aswe form a clear and precise picture of it. The prisoner who had lost faith in thefuture—his future —was doomed. With hisloss of belief in the future, he also lost hisspiritual hold; he let himself decline andbecame subject to mental and physicaldecay. Usually this happened quite suddenly,in the form of a crisis, the symptoms of whichwere familiar to the experienced camp inmate.
moving. If this crisis was brought about by an ated and our sufferings come to an end."illness, he refused to be taken to the sick-bay "And when did you have this dream?" I asked.or to do anything to help himself. He simply "In February, 1945," he answered. It wasgave up. There he remained, lying in his then the beginning of March.own excreta, and nothing bothered him any "What did your dream voicemore. answer?" Furtively he whispered to I once had a dramatic demonstration of the me, "March thirtieth."close link When F told me about his dream, hebetween the loss of faith in the future and was still full ofthis dangerous hope and convinced that the voice of hisgiving up. F , my senior block warden, a dream would befairly well- right. But as the promised day drew nearer,known composer and librettist, confided in the war newsme one day: "I which reached our camp made it appear verywould like to tell you something, Doctor. I unlikely thathave had a we would be free on the promised date. Onstrange dream. A voice told me that I could March twenty-wish for some ninth, F suddenly became ill and ran athing, that I should only say what I wanted high temperato know, and ture. On March thirtieth, the day hisall my questions would be answered. What do prophecy had toldyou think I him that the war and suffering would be overasked? That I would like to know when the for him, hewar would be became delirious and lost consciousness. Onover for me. You know what I mean, Doctor March thirty-—for me! I first, he was dead. To all outwardwanted to know when we, when our camp, appearances, he had diedwould be liber of typhus.
84 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 85 Those who know how close the connection is between the how of their existence. Woe to him who saw no more sensestate of mind of a man—his courage and hope, or lack of in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point inthem—and the state of immunity of his body will under carrying on. He was soon lost. The typical reply with whichstand that the sudden loss of hope and courage can have a such a man rejected all encouraging arguments was, "I havedeadly effect. The ultimate cause of my friends death was nothing to expect from life any more." What sort of answerthat the expected liberation did not come and he was se can one give to that?verely disappointed. This suddenly lowered his bodys resis What was really needed was a fundamental change intance against the latent typhus infection. His faith in the our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and,future and his will to live had become paralyzed and his furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that itbody fell victim to illness—and thus the voice of his dream did not really matter what we expected from life, but ratherwas right after all. what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about The observations of this one case and the conclusion the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves asdrawn from them are in accordance with something that those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly.was drawn to my attention by the chief doctor of our con Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but incentration camp. The death rate in the week between right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately meansChristmas, 1944, and New Years, 1945, increased in camp taking the responsibility to find the right answer to itsbeyond all previous experience. In his opinion, the ex problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets forplanation for this increase did not lie in the harder working each individual.conditions or the deterioration of our food supplies or a These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differchange of weather or new epidemics. It was simply that the from man to man, and from moment to moment. Thus it ismajority of the prisoners had lived in the naive hope that impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way.they would be home again by Christmas. As the time drew Questions about the meaning of life can never be answerednear and there was no encouraging news, the prisoners lost by sweeping statements. "Life" does not mean somethingcourage and disappointment overcame them. This had a vague, but something very real and concrete, just as lifesdangerous influence on their powers of resistance and a tasks are also very real and concrete. They form mans desgreat number of them died. tiny, which is different and unique for each individual. No As we said before, any attempt to restore a mans inner man and no destiny can be compared with any other manstrength in the camp had first to succeed in showing him or any other destiny. No situation repeats itself, and eachsome future goal. Nietzsches words, "He who has a why to situation calls for a different response. Sometimes the situalive for can bear with almost any how," could be the guid tion in which a man finds himself may require him to shapeing motto for all psychotherapeutic and psychohygienic his own fate by action. At other times it is more advanefforts regarding prisoners. Whenever there was an oppor tageous for him to make use of an opportunity for contemtunity for it, one had to give them a why—an aim—for plation and to realize assets in this way. Sometimes mantheir lives, in order to strengthen them to bear the terrible may be required simply to accept fate, to bear his cross.
86 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 87Every situation is distinguished by its uniqueness, and there sionally that they had wept, like the comrade who answeredis always only one right answer to the problem posed by the my question of how he had gotten over his edema, by consituation at hand. fessing, "I have wept it out of my system." When a man finds that it is his destiny to suffer, he willhave to accept his suffering as his task; his single andunique task. He will have to acknowledge the fact that even The tender beginnings of a psychotherapy or psycho-in suffering he is unique and alone in the universe. No one hygiene were, when they were possible at all in the camp,can relieve him of his suffering or suffer in his place. His either individual or collective in nature. The individualunique opportunity lies in the way in which he bears his psychotherapeutic attempts were often a kind of "life-burden. saving procedure." These efforts were usually concerned For us, as prisoners, these thoughts were not speculations with the prevention of suicides. A very strict camp rulingfar removed from reality. They were the only thoughts that forbade any efforts to save a man who attempted suicide. Itcould be of help to us. They kept us from despair, even was forbidden, for example, to cut down a man who waswhen there seemed to be no chance of coming out of it trying to hang himself. Therefore, it was all important toalive. Long ago we had passed the stage of asking what was prevent these attempts from occurring.the meaning of life, a naive query which understands life as I remember two cases of would-be suicide, which bore athe attaining of some aim through the active creation of striking similarity to each other. Both men had talked ofsomething of value. For us, the meaning of life embraced their intentions to commit suicide. Both used the typicalthe wider cycles of life and death, of suffering and of dying. argument—they had nothing more to expect from life. In Once the meaning of suffering had been revealed to us, both cases it was a question of getting them to realize thatwe refused to minimize or alleviate the camps tortures by life was still expecting something from them; something inignoring them or harboring false illusions and entertaining the future was expected of them. We found, in fact, that forartificial optimism. Suffering had become a task on which the one it was his child whom he adored and who waswe did not want to turn out backs. We had realized its waiting for him in a foreign country. For the other it was ahidden opportunities for achievement, the opportunities thing, not a person. This man was a scientist and had writwhich caused the poet Rilke to write, "Wie viel ist ten a series of books which still needed to be finished. Hisaufzuleiden!"(How much suffering there is to get through!) work could not be done by anyone else, any more thanRilke spoke of "getting through suffering" as others would another person could ever take the place of the father in histalk of "getting through work." There was plenty of suffer childs affections.ing for us to get through. Therefore, it was necessary to face This uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes eachup to the full amount of suffering, trying to keep moments individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearof weakness and furtive tears to a minimum. But there was ing on creative work as much as it does on human love.no need to be ashamed of tears, for tears bore witness that a When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, itman had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer. Only allows the responsibility which a man has for his existencevery few realized that. Shamefacedly some confessed occa- and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man
Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 89who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward every word sounded irritable. Then, to make matters evena human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an worse, the light went out. Tempers reached their lowestunfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. ebb. But our senior block warden was a wise man. He imHe knows the "why" for his existence, and will be able to provised a little talk about all that was on our minds atbear almost any "how." that moment. He talked about the many comrades who had died in the last few days, either of sickness or of suicide. But he also mentioned what may have been the real reason for The opportunities for collective psychotherapy were nat their deaths: giving up hope. He maintained that thereurally limited in camp. The right example was more effec should be some way of preventing possible future victimstive than words could ever be. A senior block warden who from reaching this extreme state. And it was to me that thedid not side with the authorities had, by his just and en warden pointed to give this advice.couraging behavior, a thousand opportunities to exert a far- God knows, I was not in the mood to give psychologicalreaching moral influence on those under his jurisdiction. explanations or to preach any sermons—to offer my comThe immediate influence of behavior is always more effec rades a kind of medical care of their souls. I was cold andtive than that of words. But at times a word was effective hungry, irritable and tired, but I had to make the efforttoo, when mental receptiveness had been intensified by and use this unique opportunity. Encouragement was nowsome outer circumstances. I remember an incident when more necessary than ever.there was occasion for psychotherapeutic work on the in So I began by mentioning the most trivial of comfortsmates of a whole hut, due to an intensification of their first. I said that even in this Europe in the sixth winter ofreceptiveness because of a certain external situation. the Second World War, our situation was not the most It had been a bad day. On parade, an announcement had terrible we could think of. I said that each of us had to askbeen made about the many actions that would, from then himself what irreplaceable losses he had suffered up to then.on, be regarded as sabotage and therefore punishable by I speculated that for most of them these losses had reallyimmediate death by hanging. Among these were crimes been few. Whoever was still alive had reason for hope.such as cutting small strips from our old blankets (in order Health, family, happiness, professional abilities, fortune,to improvise ankle supports) and very minor "thefts." A few position in society—all these were things that could bedays previously a semi-starved prisoner had broken into the achieved again or restored. After all, we still had all ourpotato store to steal a few pounds of potatoes. The theft bones intact. Whatever we had gone through could still behad been discovered and some prisoners had recognized the an asset to us in the future. And I quoted from Nietzsche:"burglar." When the camp authorities heard about it they "Was mich nicht umbringt, macht mich starker." (Thatordered that the guilty man be given up to them or the which does not kill me, makes me stronger.)whole camp would starve for a day. Naturally the 2,500 Then I spoke about the future. I said that to the imparmen preferred to fast. tial the future must seem hopeless. I agreed that each of On the evening of this day of fasting we lay in our us could guess for himself how small were his chances of earthen huts—in a very low mood. Very little was said and survival. I told them that although there was still no typhus
90 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 91epidemic in the camp, I estimated my own chances at about us in difficult hours—a friend, a wife, somebody alive orone in twenty. But I also told them that, in spite of this, I dead, or a God—and he would not expect us to disappointhad no intention of losing hope and giving up. For no man him. He would hope to find us suffering proudly—notknew what the future would bring, much less the next miserably—knowing how to die.hour. Even if we could not expect any sensational military And finally I spoke of our sacrifice, which had meaningevents in the next few days, who knew better than we, with in every case. It was in the nature of this sacrifice that itour experience of camps, how great chances sometimes should appear to be pointless in the normal world, theopened up, quite suddenly, at least for the individual. For world of material success. But in reality our sacrifice didinstance, one might be attached unexpectedly to a special have a meaning. Those of us who had any religious faith, Igroup with exceptionally good working conditions—for this said frankly, could understand without difficulty. I toldwas the kind of thing which constituted the "luck" of the them of a comrade who on his arrival in camp had tried toprisoner. make a pact with Heaven that his suffering and death But I did not only talk of the future and the veil which should save the human being he loved from a painful end. was drawn over it. I also mentioned the past; all its joys, For this man, suffering and death were meaningful; his was and how its light shone even in the present darkness. Again a sacrifice of the deepest significance. He did not want to I quoted a poet—to avoid sounding like a preacher myself die for nothing. None of us wanted that. —who had written, "Was Du erlebst, kann keine Macht der The purpose of my words was to find a full meaning in Welt Dir rauben." (What you have experienced, no power our life, then and there, in that hut and in that practically on earth can take from you.) Not only our experiences, but hopeless situation. I saw that my efforts had been successful. all we have done, whatever great thoughts we may have When the electric bulb flared up again, I saw the miserable had, and all we have suffered, all this is not lost, though it figures of my friends limping toward me to thank me with is past; we have brought it into being. Having been is also a tears in their eyes. But I have to confess here that only too kind of being, and perhaps the surest kind. rarely had I the inner strength to make contact with my Then I spoke of the many opportunities of giving life a companions in suffering and that I must have missed many meaning. I told my comrades (who lay motionless, al opportunities for doing so. though occasionally a sigh could be heard) that human life, under any circumstances, never ceases to have a meaning, and that this infinite meaning of life includes suffering and We now come to the third stage of a prisoners mental dying, privation and death. I asked the poor creatures who reactions: the psychology of the prisoner after his liberation. listened to me attentively in the darkness of the hut to face But prior to that we shall consider a question which the up to the seriousness of our position. They must not lose psychologist is asked frequently, especially when he has per hope but should keep their courage in the certainty that the sonal knowledge of these matters: What can you tell us hopelessness of our struggle did not detract from its dignity about the psychological make-up of the camp guards? How and its meaning. I said that someone looks down on each of is it possible that men of flesh and blood could treat others
92 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 93as so many prisoners say they have been treated? Having est market town.1 But the senior camp warden, a prisoneronce heard these accounts and having come to believe that himself, was harder than any of the SS guards. He beat thethese things did happen, one is bound to ask how, psycho other prisoners at every slightest opportunity, while thelogically, they could happen. To answer this question with camp commander, to my knowledge, never once lifted hisout going into great detail, a few things must be pointed hand against any of us.out: It is apparent that the mere knowledge that a man was either a camp guard or a prisoner tells us almost nothing. First, among the guards there were some sadists, sadists in Human kindness can be found in all groups, even thosethe purest clinical sense. which as a whole it would be easy to condemn. The Second, these sadists were always selected when a really boundaries between groups overlapped and we must not trysevere detachment of guards was needed. to simplify matters by saying that these men were angels There was great joy at our work site when we had per and those were devils. Certainly, it was a considerablemission to warm ourselves for a few minutes (after two achievement for a guard or foreman to be kind to the prishours of work in the bitter frost) in front of a little stove oners in spite of all the camps influences, and, on the otherwhich was fed with twigs and scraps of wood. But there were hand, the baseness of a prisoner who treated his own comalways some foremen who found a great pleasure in taking panions badly was exceptionally contemptible. Obviouslythis comfort from us. How clearly their faces reflected this the prisoners found the lack of character in such men espepleasure when they not only forbade us to stand there but cially upsetting, while they were profoundly moved by theturned over the stove and dumped its lovely fire into the smallest kindness received from any of the guards. I resnow! When the SS took a dislike to a person, there was member how one day a foreman secretly gave me a piece o£always some special man in their ranks known to have a bread which I knew he must have saved from his breakfastpassion for, and to be highly specialized in, sadistic torture, ration. It was far more than the small piece of bread whichto whom the unfortunate prisoner was sent. Third, the feelings of the majority of the guards had 1 An interesting incident with reference to this SS commander is in regard to the attitude toward him of some of his Jewish prisoners. At been dulled by the number of years in which, in ever- the end of the war when the American troops liberated the prisoners increasing doses, they had witnessed the brutal methods of from our camp, three young Hungarian Jews hid this commander in the Bavarian woods. Then they went to the commandant of the Ameri the camp. These morally and mentally hardened men at can Forces who was very eager to capture this SS commander and they least refused to take active part in sadistic measures. But said they would tell him where he was but only under certain condi they did not prevent others from carrying them out. tions: the American commander must promise that absolutely no harm would come to this man. After a while, the American officer finally Fourth, it must be stated that even among the guards promised these young Jews that the SS commander when taken into there were some who took pity on us. I shall only mention captivity would be kept safe from harm. Not only did the American officer keep his promise but, as a matter of fact, the former SS com the commander of the camp from which I was liberated. It mander of this concentration camp was in a sense restored to his com was found after the liberation—only the camp doctor, a mand, for he supervised the collection of clothing among the nearby Bavarian villages, and its distribution to all of us who at that time prisoner himself, had known of it previously—that this man still wore the clothes we had inherited from other inmates of Camp had paid no small sum of money from his own pocket in Auschwitz who were not as fortunate as we, having been sent to the gas order to purchase medicines for his prisoners from the near- chamber immediately upon their arrival at the railway station.
94 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 95moved me to tears at that time. It was the human "some no! This time the guards offered us cigarettesi We hardlything" which this man also gave to me—the word and look recognized them at first; they had hurriedly changed intowhich accompanied the gift. civilian clothes. We walked slowly along the road leading From all this we may learn that there are two races of from the camp. Soon our legs hurt and threatened tomen in this world, but only these two—the "race" of the buckle. But we limped on; we wanted to see the campsdecent man and the "race" of the indecent man. Both are surroundings for the first time with the eyes of free men.found everywhere; they penetrate into all groups of society. "Freedom"—we repeated to ourselves, and yet we could notNo group consists entirely of decent or indecent people. In grasp it. We had said this word so often during all the yearsthis sense, no group is of "pure race"—and therefore one we dreamed about it, that it had lost its meaning. Its realityoccasionally found a decent fellow among the camp guards. did not penetrate into our consciousness; we could not Life in a concentration camp tore open the human soul grasp the fact that freedom was ours.and exposed its depths. Is it surprising that in those depths We came to meadows full of flowers. We saw and realizedwe again found only human qualities which in their very that they were there, but we had no feelings about them.nature were a mixture of good and evil? The rift dividing The first spark of joy came when we saw a rooster with agood from evil, which goes through all human beings, tail of multicolored feathers. But it remained only a spark;reaches into the lowest depths and becomes apparent even we did not yet belong to this world.on the bottom of the abyss which is laid open by the con In the evening when we all met again in our hut, onecentration camp. said secretly to the other, "Tell me, were you pleased today?" And the other replied, feeling ashamed as he did not And now to the last chapter in the psychology of a con know that we all felt similarly, "Truthfully, nol" We hadcentration camp—the psychology of the prisoner who has literally lost the ability to feel pleased and had to relearn itbeen released. In describing the experiences of liberation, slowly.which naturally must be personal, we shall pick up thethreads of that part of our narrative which told of themorning when the white flag was hoisted above the camp Psychologically, what was happening to the liberatedgates after days of high tension. This state of inner suspense prisoners could be called "depersonalization." Everythingwas followed by total relaxation. But it would be quite appeared unreal, unlikely, as in a dream. We could notwrong to think that we went mad with joy. What, then, did believe it was true. How often in the past years had we beenhappen? deceived by dreamsl We dreamt that the day of liberation With tired steps we prisoners dragged ourselves to the had come, that we had been set free, had returned home,camp gates. Timidly we looked around and glanced at each greeted our friends, embraced our wives, sat down at theother questioningly. Then we ventured a few steps out of table and started to tell of all the things we had gonecamp. This time no orders were shouted at us, nor was through—even of how we had often seen the day of liberathere any need to duck quickly to avoid a blow or kick. Oh tion in our dreams. And then—a whistle shrilled in our
96 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 97ears, the signal to get up, and our dreams of freedom came How long I knelt there and repeated this sentence memto an end. And now the dream had come true. But could ory can no longer recall. But I know that on that day, inwe truly believe in it? that hour, my new life started. Step for step I progressed, until I again became a human being. The body has fewer inhibitions than the mind. It madegood use of the new freedom from the first moment on. It The way that led from the acute mental tension of thebegan to eat ravenously, for hours and days, even half the last days in camp (from that war of nerves to mental peace)night. It is amazing what quantities one can eat. And when was certainly not free from obstacles. It would be an errorone of the prisoners was invited out by a friendly farmer to think that a liberated prisoner was not in need of spirin the neighborhood, he ate and ate and then drank coffee, itual care any more. We have to consider that a man whowhich loosened his tongue, and he then began to talk, often has been under such enormous mental pressure for such afor hours. The pressure which had been on his mind for long time is naturally in some danger after his liberation,years was released at last. Hearing him talk, one got the especially since the pressure was released quite suddenly.impression that he had to talk, that his desire to speak was This danger (in the sense of psychological hygiene) is theirresistible. I have known people who have been under heavy psychological counterpart of the bends. Just as the physicalpressure only for a short time (for example, through a cross- health of the caisson worker would be endangered if he leftexamination by the Gestapo) to have similar reactions. his divers chamber suddenly (where he is under enormousMany days passed, until not only the tongue was loosened, atmospheric pressure), so the man who has suddenly beenbut something within oneself as well; then feeling suddenly liberated from mental pressure can suffer damage to hisbroke through the strange fetters which had restrained it. moral and spiritual health. During this psychological phase one observed that people with natures of a more primitive kind could not escape the One day, a few days after the liberation, I walked influences of the brutality which had surrounded them inthrough the country past flowering meadows, for miles and camp life. Now, being free, they thought they could usemiles, toward the market town near the camp. Larks rose to their freedom licentiously and ruthlessly. The only thingthe sky and I could hear their joyous song. There was no that had changed for them was that they were now theone to be seen for miles around; there was nothing but the oppressors instead of the oppressed. They became instiwide earth and sky and the larks jubilation and the free gators, not objects, of willful force and injustice. Theydom of space. I stopped, looked around, and up to the justified their behavior by their own terrible experiences.sky—and then I went down on my knees. At that moment This was often revealed in apparently insignificant events.there was very little I knew of myself or of the world—I had A friend was walking across a field with me toward thebut one sentence in mind—always the same: "I called to camp when suddenly we came to a field of green crops.the Lord from my narrow prison and He answered me in Automatically, I avoided it, but he drew his arm throughthe freedom of space." mine and dragged me through it. I stammered something
98 Mans Search for Meaning Experiences in a Concentration Camp 99about not treading down the young crops. He became an for years had thought he had reached the absolute limit ofnoyed, gave me an angry look and shouted, "You dont say! all possible suffering now found that suffering has no limits,And hasnt enough been taken from us? My wife and child and that he could suffer still more, and still more intensely.have been gassed—not to mention everything else—and you When we spoke about attempts to give a man in campwould forbid me to tread on a few stalks of oats!" mental courage, we said that he had to be shown something Only slowly could these men be guided back to the com to look forward to in the future. He had to be remindedmonplace truth that no one has the right to do wrong, not that life still waited for him, that a human being waited foreven if wrong has been done to them. We had to strive to his return. But after liberation? There were some men wholead them back to this truth, or the consequences would found that no one awaited them. Woe to him who foundhave been much worse than the loss of a few thousand stalks that the person whose memory alone had given him courageof oats. I can still see the prisoner who rolled up his shirt in camp did not exist any more! Woe to him who, when thesleeves, thrust his right hand under my nose and shouted, day of his dreams finally came, found it so different from all"May this hand be cut off if I dont stain it with blood he had longed for! Perhaps he boarded a trolley, traveledon the day when I get home!" I want to emphasize that the out to the home which he had seen for years in his mind,man who said these words was not a bad fellow. He had and only in his mind, and pressed the bell, just as he hasbeen the best of comrades in camp and afterwards. longed to do in thousands of dreams, only to find that the Apart from the moral deformity resulting from the sud person who should open the door was not there, and wouldden release of mental pressure, there were two other never be there again.fundamental experiences which threatened to damage the We all said to each other in camp that there could be nocharacter of the liberated prisoner: bitterness and disillu earthly happiness which could compensate for all we hadsionment when he returned to his former life. suffered. We were not hoping for happiness—it was not Bitterness was caused by a number of things he came up that which gave us courage and gave meaning to our sufferagainst in his former home town. When, on his return, a ing, our sacrifices and our dying. And yet we were notman found that in many places he was met only with a prepared for unhappiness. This disillusionment, whichshrug of the shoulders and with hackneyed phrases, he awaited not a small number of prisoners, was an experiencetended to become bitter and to ask himself why he had which these men have found very hard to get over andgone through all that he had. When he heard the same which, for a psychiatrist, is also very difficult to help themphrases nearly everywhere—"We did not know about it," overcome. But this must not be a discouragement to him;and "We, too, have suffered," then he asked himself, have on the contrary, it should provide an added stimulus.they really nothing better to say to me? The experience of disillusionment is different. Here itwas not ones fellow man (whose superficiality and lack of But for every one of the liberated prisoners, the dayfeeling was so disgusting that one finally felt like creeping comes when, looking back on his camp experiences, he caninto a hole and neither hearing nor seeing human beings no longer understand how he endured it all. As the day ofany more) but fate itself which seemed so cruel. A man who his liberation eventually came, when everything seemed to
100 Mans Search for Meaninghim like a beautiful dream, so also the day comes when allhis camp experiences seem to him nothing but a nightmare.The crowning experience of all, for the homecomingman, is the wonderful feeling that, after all he has suffered,there is nothing he need fear any more—except his God. PART TWO Logotherapy in a Nutshell*
READERS OF MY SHORT AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL STORY usually askfor a fuller and more direct explanation of my therapeuticdoctrine. Accordingly I added a brief section on logother-apy to the original edition of From Death-Camp to Existentialism. But that was not enough, and I have beenbesieged by requests for a more extended treatment. Therefore in the present edition I have completely rewritten andconsiderably expanded my account. The assignment was not easy. To convey to the readerwithin a short space all the material which required twentyvolumes in German is an almost hopeless task. I am reminded of the American doctor who once turned up in myoffice in Vienna and asked me, "Now, Doctor, are you apsychoanalyst?" Whereupon I replied, "Not exactly a psychoanalyst; lets say a psychotherapist." Then he continuedquestioning me: "What school do you stand for?" I answered, "It is my own theory; it is called logotherapy.""Can you tell me in one sentence what is meant by logo-therapy?" he asked. "At least, what is the difference between psychoanalysis and logotherapy?" "Yes," I said, "butin the first place, can you tell me in one sentence what youthink the essence of psychoanalysis is?" This was his answer:"During psychoanalysis, the patient must lie down on acouch and tell you things which sometimes are very disagreeable to tell." Whereupon I immediately retorted with * This part, which has been revised and updated, first appeared as"Basic Concepts of Logotherapy" in the 1968 edition of Mans Search forMeaning. 103
104 Mans Search for Meaning Logotherapy in a Nutshell 105the following improvisation: "Now, in meaning in contrast to the pleasurelogotherapy the patient may remain sitting principle (or, as we could also term it, the willerect but he must hear things which to pleasure) on which Freudian psychoanalysissometimes are very disagreeable to hear." is centered, as well as in contrast to the will to Of course, this was meant facetiously and power on which Adlerian psychology, usingnot as a capsule version of logotherapy. the term "striving for superiority," is focused.However, there is something in it, inasmuch aslogotherapy, in comparison withpsychoanalysis, is a method less retrospectiveand less introspective. Logotherapy focusesrather on the future, that is to say, on themeanings to be fulfilled by the patient in hisfuture. (Logotherapy, indeed, is a meaning-centered psychotherapy.) At the same time,logotherapy defocuses all the vicious-circleformations and feedback mechanisms whichplay such a great role in the development ofneuroses. Thus, the typical self-centerednessof the neurotic is broken up instead of beingcontinually fostered and reinforced. To be sure, this kind of statement is anoversimplification; yet in logotherapy thepatient is actually confronted with andreoriented toward the meaning of his life.And to make him aware of this meaning cancontribute much to his ability to overcome hisneurosis. Let me explain why I have employed theterm "logotherapy" as the name for mytheory. Logos is a Greek word which denotes"meaning." Logotherapy, or, as it has beencalled by some authors, "The Third VienneseSchool of Psychotherapy," focuses on themeaning of human existence as well as onmans search for such a meaning. According tologotherapy, this striving to find a meaningin ones life is the primary motivational forcein man. That is why I speak of a will to
THE WILL TO MEANING to live. Moreover, 61 percent conceded that there was something, or someone, in their Mans search for meaning is the primary own lives for whose sake they were evenmotivation in his life and not a "secondary ready to die. I repeated this poll at myrationalization" of instinctual drives. This hospital department in Vienna among bothmeaning is unique and specific in that it must the patients and the personnel, and theand can be fulfilled by him alone; only then outcome was practically the same as amongdoes it achieve a significance which will the thousands of people screened in France; thesatisfy his own will to meaning. There are difference was only 2 percent.some authors who contend that meanings Another statistical survey, of 7,948 studentsand values are "nothing but defense at forty-eight colleges, was conducted bymechanisms, reaction formations and social scientists from Johns Hopkinssublimations." But as for myself, I would not University. Their preliminary report is part ofbe willing to live merely for the sake of my a two-year study sponsored by the National"defense mechanisms," nor would I be ready Institute of Mental Health. Asked what theyto die merely for the sake of my "reaction considered "very important" to them now, 16formations." Man, however, is able to live and percent of the students checked "making a loteven to die for the sake of his ideals and of money"; 78 percent said their first goal wasvalues! "finding a purpose and meaning to my life." A public-opinion poll was conducted a few Of course, there may be some cases inyears ago in France. The results showed that which an individuals concern with values is89 percent of the people polled admitted that really a camouflage of hidden inner conflicts;man needs "something" for the sake of which but, if so, they represent the exceptions from
io6 Mans Search for Meaning Logotherapy in a Nutshell 107 NOOGENIC NEUROSESthe rule rather than the rule itself. In thesecases we have actually to deal with Noogenic neuroses do not emerge frompseudovalues, and as such they have to be conflicts between drives and instincts butunmasked. Unmasking, however, should stop rather from existential problems.as soon as one is confronted with what isauthentic and genuine in man, e.g., mansdesire for a life that is as meaningful aspossible. If it does not stop then, the onlything that the "unmasking psychologist"really unmasks is his own "hidden motive"—namely, his unconscious need to debase anddepreciate what is genuine, what isgenuinely human, in man. EXISTENTIAL FRUSTRATION Mans will to meaning can also befrustrated, in which case logotherapyspeaks of "existential frustration." The term"existential" may be used in three ways: torefer to (1) existence itself, i.e., thespecifically human mode of being; (2) themeaning of existence; and (3) the striving tofind a concrete meaning in personalexistence, that is to say, the will to meaning. Existential frustration can also result inneuroses. For this type of neuroses,logotherapy has coined the term "noogenicneuroses" in contrast to neuroses in thetraditional sense of the word, i.e.,psychogenic neuroses. Noogenic neuroseshave their origin not in the psychological butrather in the "noological" (from the Greeknoos meaning mind) dimension of humanexistence. This is another logotherapeuticterm which denotes anything pertaining to thespecifically human dimension.
Among such problems, the frustration of the and, consequently, his dissatisfaction with hiswill to meaning plays a large role. job was due to the hatred he unconsciously It is obvious that in noogenic cases the harbored toward his father. Through anappropriate and adequate therapy is not analysis lasting five years, the patient hadpsychotherapy in general but rather been prompted more and more to accept hislogotherapy; a therapy, that is, which dares analysts interpretations until he finally wasto enter the specifically human dimension. unable to see the forest of reality for the trees Let me quote the following instance: A of symbols and images. After a fewhigh-ranking American diplomat came to my interviews, it was clear that his will tooffice in Vienna in order to continue meaning was frustrated by his vocation, andpsychoanalytic treatment which he had begun he actually longed to be engaged in somefive years previously with an analyst in New other kind of work. As there was no reasonYork. At the outset I asked him why he for not giving up his profession and embarkthought he should be analyzed, why his ing on a different one, he did so, with mostanalysis had been started in the first place. gratifying results. He has remainedIt turned out that the patient was contented in this new occupation for overdiscontented with his career and found it five years, as he recently reported. I doubtmost difficult to comply with American that, in this case, I was dealing with aforeign policy. His analyst, however, had neurotic condition at all, and that is why Itold him again and again that he should try to thought that he did not need any psychotherreconcile himself with his father; because the apy, nor even logotherapy, for the simplegovernment of the U.S. as well as his reason that he wassuperiors were "nothing but" father images
108 Mans Search for Logotherapy in a Nutshell 109Meaning not actually a patient. Not every conflict is cess, tries to make the patient aware of what necessarily neurotic; some amount of conflict he actually longs for in the depth of his is normal and healthy. In a similar sense being. Logotherapy deviates from suffering is not always a pathological phenom psychoanalysis insofar as it considers man a enon; rather than being a symptom of being whose main concern consists in neurosis, suffering may well be a human fulfilling a meaning, rather than in the mere achievement, especially if the suffering gratification and satisfaction of drives and grows out of existential frustration. I would instincts, or in merely reconciling the strictly deny that ones search for a meaning conflicting claims of to his existence, or even his doubt of it, in every case is derived from, or results in, any disease. Existential frustration is in itself neither pathological nor pathogenic. A mans concern, even his despair, over the worthwhileness of life is an existential distress but by no means a mental disease. It may well be that interpreting the first in terms of the latter motivates a doctor to bury his patients existential despair under a heap of tranquilizing drugs. It is his task, rather, to pilot the patient through his existential crises of growth and development. Logotherapy regards its assignment as thatof assisting the patient to find meaning in hislife. Inasmuch as logotherapy makes himaware of the hidden logos of his existence, itis an analytical process. To this extent,logotherapy resembles psychoanalysis.However, in logotherapys attempt to makesomething conscious again it does not restrictits activity to instinctual facts within theindividuals unconscious but also cares forexistential realities, such as the potentialmeaning of his existence to be fulfilled as wellas his will to meaning. Any analysis, however,even when it refrains from including thenoological dimension in its therapeutic pro
id, ego and superego, or in the mere same conclusion has since been reached byadaptation and adjustment to society and other authors of books on concentrationenvironment. camps, and also by psychiatric investigations into Japanese, North Korean and North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camps. NOO-DYNAMICS As for myself, when I was taken to the concentration camp of Auschwitz, a To be sure, mans search for meaning may manuscript of mine ready for publication wasarouse inner tension rather than inner confiscated.1 Certainly, my deep desire toequilibrium. However, precisely such write this manuscript anew helped me totension is an indispensable prerequisite of survive the rigors of the camps I was in. Formental health. There is nothing in the world, instance, when in a camp in Bavaria I fell illI venture to say, that would so effectively help with typhus fever, I jotted down on littleone to survive even the worst conditions as the scraps of paper many notes intended toknowledge that there is a meaning in ones enable me to rewrite the manuscript, should Ilife. There is much wisdom in the words of live to the day of liberation. I am sure thatNietzsche: "He who has a why to live for can this reconstruction of my lost manuscript inbear almost any how." I can see in these the darkwords a motto which holds true for anypsychotherapy. In the Nazi concentrationcamps, one could have witnessed that those 1 It was the first version of my first book, the English translation of which was published by Alfredwho knew that there was a task waiting for A. Knopf, New York, in 1955, under the title Thethem to fulfill were most apt to survive. The Doctor and the Soul: An Introduction to Logotherapy.
no Mans Search for Meaning Logotherapy in a Nutshell m barracks of a Bavarian concentration camp a reorientation toward the meaning of assisted me in overcoming the danger of ones life. cardiovascular collapse. Having shown the beneficial impact of Thus it can be seen that mental health meaning orientation, I turn to theis based on a certain degree of tension, the detrimental influence of that feeling oftension between what one has already which so many patients complain today,achieved and what one still ought to namely, the feeling of the total andaccomplish, or the gap between what one is ultimate meaninglessness of their lives.and what one should become. Such atension is inherent in the human being andtherefore is indispensable to mental well-being. We should not, then, be hesitantabout challenging man with a potentialmeaning for him to fulfill. It is only thus thatwe evoke his will to meaning from its stateof latency. I consider it a dangerousmisconception of mental hygiene to assumethat what man needs in the first place isequilibrium or, as it is called in biology,"homeostasis," i.e., a tensionless state.What man actually needs is not atensionless state but rather the strivingand struggling for a worthwhile goal, afreely chosen task. What he needs is notthe discharge of tension at any cost butthe call of a potential meaning waitingto be fulfilled by him. What man needsis not homeostasis but what I call "nod-dynamics," i.e., the existential dynamics ina polar field of tension where one pole isrepresented by a meaning that is to befulfilled and the other pole by the man whohas to fulfill it. And one should not thinkthat this holds true only for normalconditions; in neurotic individuals, it iseven more valid. If architects want tostrengthen a decrepit arch, they increasethe load which is laid upon it, for therebythe parts are joined more firmly together. Soif therapists wish to foster their patientsmental health, they should not be afraid tocreate a sound amount of tension through
They lack the awareness of a meaning him. what he has to do, and no tradition tellsworth living for. They are haunted by the him what he ought to do; sometimes he doesexperience of their inner emptiness, a void not even know what he wishes to do. Instead,within themselves; they are caught in that he either wishes to do what other people dosituation which I have called the "existential (conformism) or he does what other peoplevacuum." wish him to do (totalitarianism). A statistical survey recently revealed that THE EXISTENTIAL VACUUM among my European students, 25 percent showed a more-or-less marked degree of The existential vacuum is a widespread existential vacuum. Among my Americanphenomenon of the twentieth century. This students it was not 25 but 60 percent.is understandable; it may be due to a The existential vacuum manifests itselftwofold loss which man has had to undergo mainly in a state of boredom. Now we cansince he became a truly human being. At understand Schopenhauer when he said thatthe beginning of human history, man lost mankind was apparently doomed to vacillatesome of the basic animal instincts in which eternally between the two extremes ofan animals behavior is imbedded and by distress and boredom. In actual fact,which it is secured. Such security, like boredom is now causing, and certainlyParadise, is closed to man forever; man has bringing to psychiatrists, more problems toto make choices. In addition to this, however, solve than distress. And these problems areman has suffered another loss in his more growing increasingly crucial, forrecent development inasmuch as the progressive automation will probably leadtraditions which buttressed his behavior are to an enor-now rapidly diminishing. No instinct tells
112 Mans Search for Meaning Logotherapy in a Nutshell 113 mous increase in the leisure hours available is not a noogenic neurosis. However, we will to the average worker. The pity of it is that never succeed in having the patient overcome many of these will not know what to do with his condition if we have not supplemented the all their newly acquired free time. psychotherapeutic treatment with logo- Let us consider, for instance, "Sunday therapy. For by filling the existentialneurosis," that kind of depression which vacuum, the patient will be prevented fromafflicts people who become aware of the suffering further relapses. Therefore,lack of content in their lives when the rush logotherapy is indicated not only in noogenicof the busy week is over and the void within cases, as pointed out above, but also inthemselves becomes manifest. Not a few psychogenic cases, and some-cases of suicide can be traced back to thisexistential vacuum. Such widespreadphenomena as depression, aggression andaddiction are not understandable unless werecognize the existential vacuum underlyingthem. This is also true of the crises ofpensioners and aging people. Moreover, there are various masks andguises under which the existential vacuumappears. Sometimes the frustrated will tomeaning is vicariously compensated for by awill to power, including the most primitiveform of the will to power, the will to money.In other cases, the place of frustrated will tomeaning is taken by the will to pleasure. Thatis why existential frustration ofteneventuates in sexual compensation. We canobserve in such cases that the sexual libidobecomes rampant in the existential vacuum. An analogous event occurs in neuroticcases. There are certain types of feedbackmechanisms and vicious-circle formationswhich I will touch upon later. One canobserve again and again, however, that thissymptomatology has invaded an existentialvacuum wherein it then continues to flourish.In such patients, what we have to deal with
times even the somatogenic (pseudo-) particular situation in a game and theneuroses. Viewed in this light, a statement particular personality of ones opponent.once made by Magda B. Arnold is justified: The same holds for human existence. One"Every therapy must in some way, no matter should not search for an abstract meaning ofhow restricted, also be logotherapy."2 life. Everyone has his own specific vocation Let us now consider what we can do if a or mission in life to carry out a concretepatient asks what the meaning of his life is. assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his THE MEANING OF LIFE life be repeated. Thus, everyones task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to I doubt whether a doctor can answer implement it.this question in general terms. For the As each situation in life represents ameaning of life differs from man to man, challenge to man and presents a problem forfrom day to day and from hour to hour. him to solve, the question of the meaning ofWhat matters, therefore, is not the life may actually be reversed. Ultimately, manmeaning of life in general but rather the should not ask what the meaning of his lifespecific meaning of a persons life at a is, but rather he must recognize that it is hegiven moment. To put the question in who is asked. In a word, each man isgeneral terms would be comparable to the questioned by life; and he can only answer toquestion posed to a chess champion: "Tell life by answering for his own life; to life heme, Master, what is the best move in the can only respond byworld?" There simply is no such thing as 2 Magda B. Arnold and John A. Gasson, Thethe best or even a good move apart from a Human Person, Ronald Press, New York, 1954, p. 618.
114 Mans Search for Meaning Logotherapy in a Nutshell 115being responsible. Thus, logotherapy sees in Logotherapy is neither teaching norresponsibleness the very essence of human preaching. It is as far removed from logicalexistence. reasoning as it is from moral exhortation. To put it figuratively, the role played by a THE ESSENCE OF EXISTENCE logotherapist is that of an eye specialist rather than that of a painter. A painter tries to This emphasis on responsibleness is convey to us a picture of the world as he seesreflected in the categorical imperative of it; an ophthalmologist tries to enable uslogotherapy, which is: "Live as if you were to see theliving already for the second time and as ifyou had acted the first time as wrongly as youare about to act now!" It seems to me thatthere is nothing which would stimulate amans sense of responsibleness more thanthis maxim, which invites him to imaginefirst that the present is past and, second,that the past may yet be changed andamended. Such a precept confronts him withlifes finiteness as well as the finality of whathe makes out of both his life and himself. Logotherapy tries to make the patient fullyaware of his own responsibleness; therefore,it must leave to him the option for what, towhat, or to whom he understands himself tobe responsible. That is why a logotherapistis the least tempted of all psychotherapists toimpose value judgments on his patients, forhe will never permit the patient to pass tothe doctor the responsibility of judging. It is, therefore, up to the patient to decidewhether he should interpret his life task asbeing responsible to society or to his ownconscience. There are people, however, whodo not interpret their own lives merely interms of a task assigned to them but also interms of the taskmaster who has assigned itto them.
world as it really is. The logotherapists role more one would strive for it, the more heconsists of widening and broadening the would miss it. In other words, self-visual field of the patient so that the whole actualization is possible only as a side-effect ofspectrum of potential meaning becomes con self-transcendence.scious and visible to him. Thus far we have shown that the meaning By declaring that man is responsible and of life always changes, but that it never ceasesmust actualize the potential meaning of his to be. According to logotherapy, we canlife, I wish to stress that the true meaning of discover this meaning in life in three differentlife is to be discovered in the world rather ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed;than within man or his own psyche, as (2) by experiencing something orthough it were a closed system. I have encountering someone; and (3) by thetermed this constitutive characteristic "the attitude we take toward unavoidableself-transcendence of human existence." It suffering. The first, the way of achievementdenotes the fact that being human always or accomplishment, is quite obvious. Thepoints, and is directed, to something, or second and third need further elaboration.someone, other than oneself—be it a meaning The second way of finding a meaning into fulfill or another human being to life is by experiencing something—such asencounter. The more one forgets himself—by goodness, truth and beauty —bygiving himself to a cause to serve or another experiencing nature and culture or, last butperson to love—the more human he is and not least, by experiencing another humanthe more he actualizes himself. What is being in his very uniqueness;—by lovingcalled self-actualization is not an attainable him.aim at all, for the simple reason that the
116 Mans Search for Meaning Logotherapy in a Nutshell 117 THE MEANING OF LOVE personal tragedy into a triumph, to turn ones predicament into a human achievement. Love is the only way to grasp another When we are no longer able to change ahuman being in the innermost core of his situation— just think of an incurable diseasepersonality. No one can become fully aware such as inoperable cancer —we are challengedof the very essence of another human being to change ourselves.unless he loves him. By his love he is enabledto see the essential traits and features in the 3 A phenomenon that occurs as the result of abeloved person; and even more, he sees that primary phenomenon.which is potential in him, which is not yetactualized but yet ought to be actualized.Furthermore, by his love, the loving personenables the beloved person to actualize thesepotentialities. By making him aware of whathe can be and of what he should become, hemakes these potentialities come true. In logotherapy, love is not interpreted as amere epiphe-nomenon3 of sexual drives andinstincts in the sense of a so-calledsublimation. Love is as primary aphenomenon as sex. Normally, sex is a modeof expression for love. Sex is justified, evensanctified, as soon as, but only as long as, it isa vehicle of love. Thus love is not understoodas a mere side-effect of sex; rather, sex is away of expressing the experience of thatultimate togetherness which is called love. The third way of finding a meaning in life is by suffering. THE MEANING OF SUFFERING We must never forget that we may alsofind meaning in life even when confrontedwith a hopeless situation, when facing a fatethat cannot be changed. For what then mattersis to bear witness to the uniquely humanpotential at its best, which is to transform a
Let me cite a clear-cut example: Once, an sense since, first, his despair was no disease;elderly general practitioner consulted me and second, I could not change his fate; Ibecause of his severe depression. He could could not revive his wife. But in thatnot overcome the loss of his wife who had moment I did succeed in changing his attitudedied two years before and whom he had toward his unalterable fate inasmuch as fromloved above all else. Now, how could I help that time on he could at least see a meaning inhim? What should I tell him? Well, I his suffering. It is one of the basic tenets ofrefrained from telling him anything but logotherapy that mans main concern is notinstead confronted him with the question, to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather"What would have happened, Doctor, if you to see a meaning in his life. That is why manhad died first, and your wife would have had is even ready to suffer, on the condition, to beto survive you?" "Oh," he said, "for her sure, that his suffering has a meaning.this would have been terrible; how she would But let me make it perfectly clear that in nohave suffered!" Whereupon I replied, "You way is suffering necessary to find meaning. Isee, Doctor, such a suffering has been spared only insist that meaning is possible even inher, and it was you who have spared her this spite of suffering—provided, certainly, that thesuffering—to be sure, at the price that now suffering is unavoidable. If it were avoidable,you have to survive and mourn her." He however, the meaningful thing to do would besaid no word but shook my hand and calmly to remove its cause, be it psychological,left my office. In some way, suffering ceases to biological or political. To suffer unnecessarilybe suffering at the moment it finds a is masochistic rather than heroic.meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice. Edith Weisskopf-Joelson, before her Of course, this was no therapy in the proper death professor of
118 Mans Search for Logotherapy in a NutshellMeaning 119psychology at the University of Georgia, to undergo and to overcome the loss of mycontended, in her article on logotherapy, that mental child. And now it seemed as if nothing"our current mental-hygiene philosophy and no one would survive me;stresses the idea that people ought to behappy, that unhappiness is a symptom of 13"Some Comments on a Viennese School ofmaladjustment. Such a value system might be Psychiatry," The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51 (1955), pp.responsible for the fact that the burden of 701-3.unavoidable unhappiness is increased by 14"Logotherapy and Existential Analysis," Adaunhappiness about being unhappy."4 And in Psychotherapeutica,another paper she expressed the hope that 6 (1958), pp.193-204.logotherapy "may help counteract certainunhealthy trends in the present-day culture ofthe United States, where the incurablesufferer is given very little opportunity to beproud of his suffering and to consider itennobling rather than degrading" so that "heis not only unhappy, but also ashamed ofbeing unhappy."8 There are situations in which one is cut offfrom the opportunity to do ones work or toenjoy ones life; but what never can be ruledout is the unavoidability of suffering. Inaccepting this challenge to suffer bravely, lifehas a meaning up to the last moment, and itretains this meaning literally to the end. Inother words, lifes meaning is anunconditional one, for it even includes thepotential meaning of unavoidable suffering. Let me recall that which was perhaps thedeepest experience I had in the concentrationcamp. The odds of surviving the camp wereno more than one in twenty-eight, as caneasily be verified by exact statistics. It didnot even seem possible, let alone probable,that the manuscript of my first book, which Ihad hidden in my coat when I arrived atAuschwitz, would ever be rescued. Thus, I had
neither a physical nor a mental child of my that I would die in the near future. In thisown! So I found myself confronted with the critical situation, however, my concern wasquestion whether under such circumstances different from that of most of my comrades.my life was ultimately void of any meaning. Their question was, "Will we survive the Not yet did I notice that an answer to this camp? For, if not, all this suffering has noquestion with which I was wrestling so meaning." The question which beset mepassionately was already in store for me, and was, "Has all this suffering, this dying aroundthat soon thereafter this answer would be us, a meaning? For, if not, then ultimatelygiven to me. This was the case when I had there is no meaning to survival; for a lifeto surrender my clothes and in turn whose meaning depends upon such ainherited the worn-out rags of an inmate happenstance—as whether one escapes or notwho had already been sent to the gas chamber —ultimately would not be worth living at all."immediately after his arrival at theAuschwitz railway station. Instead of the META-CLINICAL PROBLEMSmany pages of my manuscript, I found in apocket of the newly acquired coat one single More and more, a psychiatrist ispage torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, approached today by patients who confrontcontaining the most important Jewish prayer, him with human problems rather thanShema Yisrael. How should I have inter neurotic symptoms. Some of the people whopreted such a "coincidence" other than as a nowadays call on a psychiatrist would havechallenge to live my thoughts instead of seen a pastor, priest or rabbi in former days.merely putting them on paper? Now they often refuse to be handed A bit later, I remember, it seemed to me
120 Mans Search for Meaning Logotherapy in a Nutshell 121over to a clergyman and instead confront will you say to yourself?" Let me quote whatthe doctor with questions such as, "What is she actually said from a tape which wasthe meaning of my life?" recorded during that session. "Oh, I married a millionaire, I had an easy life full of A LOGODRAMA wealth, and I lived it up! I flirted with men; I teased them! But now I am eighty; I have no I should like to cite the following instance: children of my own. Looking back as anOnce, the mother of a boy who had died at theage of eleven years was admitted to myhospital department after a suicide attempt.Dr. Kurt Kocourek invited her to join atherapeutic group, and it happened that Istepped into the room where he wasconducting a psychodrama. She was telling herstory. At the death of her boy she was leftalone with another, older son, who wascrippled, suffering from the effects of infantileparalysis. The poor boy had to be movedaround in a wheelchair. His mother, however,rebelled against her fate. But when she triedto commit suicide together with him, it wasthe crippled son who prevented her fromdoing so; he liked living! For him, life hadremained meaningful. Why was it not so forhis mother? How could her life still have ameaning? And how could we help her tobecome aware of it? Improvising, I participated in thediscussion, and questioned another womanin the group. I asked her how old she wasand she answered, "Thirty." I replied, "No,you are not thirty but instead eighty andlying on your deathbed. And now you arelooking back on your life, a life which waschildless but full of financial success andsocial prestige." And then I invited her toimagine what she would feel in thissituation. "What will you think of it? What
old woman, I cannot see what all that was a meaning in it, a meaning which evenfor; actually, I must say, my life was a included all of her sufferings. By the samefailure!" token, however, it had become clear as well I then invited the mother of the that a life of short duration, like that, forhandicapped son to imagine herself similarly example, of her dead boy, could be so rich inlooking back over her life. Let us listen to joy and love that it could contain morewhat she had to say as recorded on the tape: meaning than a life lasting eighty years."I wished to have children and this wish has After a while I proceeded to anotherbeen granted to me; one boy died; the other, question, this time addressing myself to thehowever, the crippled one, would have been whole group. The question was whether ansent to an institution if I had not taken over ape which was being used to develophis care. Though he is crippled and helpless, poliomyelitis serum, and for this reasonhe is after all my boy. And so I have made a punctured again and again, would ever be ablefuller life possible for him; I have made a to grasp the meaning of its suffering.better human being out of my son." At this Unanimously, the group replied that ofmoment, there was an outburst of tears and, course it would not; with its limitedcrying, she continued: "As for myself, I can intelligence, it could not enter into the worldlook back peacefully on my life; for I can say of man, i.e., the only world in which themy life was full of meaning, and I have tried meaning of its suffering would behard to fulfill it; I have done my best—I understandable. Then I pushed forwardhave done the best for my son. My life was with the following question: "And whatno failure!" Viewing her life as if from her about man? Are you sure that the humandeathbed, she had suddenly been able to see world is a terminal point
122 Mans Search for Meaning Logotherapy in a Nutshell 123in the evolution of the cosmos? Is it not ground of religious belief, there can be noconceivable that there is still another objection to making use of the therapeuticdimension, a world beyond mans world; a effect of his religious convictions andworld in which the question of an ultimate thereby drawing upon his spiritual resources.meaning of human suffering would find an In order to do so, the psychiatrist may putanswer?" himself in the place of the patient. That is exactly what I did once, for instance, when a THE SUPER-MEANING rabbi from Eastern Europe turned to me and told me his story. He had lost his first wife and This ultimate meaning necessarily exceeds their six children in the concentration camp ofand surpasses the finite intellectual capacities Auschwitz where they were gassed, and nowof man; in logotherapy, we speak in this it turned out that his second wife was sterile. Icontext of a super-meaning. What is de observed that procreation is not the onlymanded of man is not, as some existential meaning of life, for then life in itself wouldphilosophers teach, to endure the become meaningless, and some-meaninglessness of life, but rather to bear hisincapacity to grasp its unconditionalmeaningful-ness in rational terms. Logos isdeeper than logic. A psychiatrist who goes beyond the conceptof the super-meaning will sooner or later beembarrassed by his patients, just as I waswhen my daughter at about six years of ageasked me the question, "Why do we speakof the good Lord?" Whereupon I said, "Someweeks ago, you were suffering from measles,and then the good Lord sent you fullrecovery." However, the little girl was notcontent; she retorted, "Well, but please,Daddy, do not forget: in the first place, hehad sent me the measles." However, when a patient stands on the firm
thing which in itself is meaningless cannot be innocent like your children, may becomerendered meaningful merely by its worthy of joining them in Heaven? Is it notperpetuation. However, the rabbi evaluated written in the Psalms that God preserves allhis plight as an orthodox Jew in terms of your tears?8 So perhaps none of your sufferingsdespair that there was no son of his own who were in vain." For the first time in manywould ever say Kad-dish6 for him after his years he found relief from his sufferingdeath. through the new point of view which I was But I would not give up. I made a last able to open up to him.attempt to help him by inquiring whether hedid not hope to see his children again in LIFES TRANSITORINESSHeaven. However, my question was followedby an outburst of tears, and now the true Those things which seem to take meaningreason for his despair came to the fore: he away from human life include not onlyexplained that his children, since they died suffering but dying as well. I never tire ofas innocent martyrs,7 were thus found saying that the only really transitory aspectsworthy of the highest place in Heaven, but as of life are the potentialities; but as soon asfor himself he could not expect, as an old, they are actualized, they are renderedsinful man, to be assigned the same place. I realities at that very moment; they aredid not give up but retorted, "Is it not conceivable, Rabbi, that precisely this was the 15A prayer for the dead.meaning of your surviving your children: that 16Lkiddush basbem, i.e., for the sanctification of Gods name.you may be purified through these years of 17"Thou hast kept count of my tossings; put thousuffering, so that finally you, too, though not my tears in thy bottle! Are they not in thy book?" (Ps. 56, 8.)
124 Mans Search for Meaning Logotherapy in a Nutshell 125saved and delivered into the past, wherein predecessors, after first having jotted down athey are rescued and preserved from few diary notes on the back. He can reflecttransitoriness. For, in the past, nothing is with pride and joy on all the richness set downirretrievably lost but everything irrevocably in these notes, on all the life he has alreadystored. lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him Thus, the transitoriness of our existence in if he notices that he is growing old? Has he anyno way makes it meaningless. But it does reason to envy the young people whom heconstitute our responsibleness; for sees, or wax nostalgic over his own losteverything hinges upon our realizing the youth? What reasons has he to envy a youngessentially transitory possibilities. Man person? Forconstantly makes his choice concerning themass of present potentialities; which of thesewill be condemned to nonbeing and whichwill be actualized? Which choice will bemade an actuality once and forever, animmortal "footprint in the sands of time"?At any moment, man must decide, for betteror for worse, what will be the monument ofhis existence. Usually, to be sure, man considers onlythe stubble field of transitoriness andoverlooks the full granaries of the past,wherein he had salvaged once and for allhis deeds, his joys and also his sufferings.Nothing can be undone, and nothing can bedone away with. I should say having been isthe surest kind of being. Logotherapy, keeping in mind the essentialtransitoriness ,, of human existence, is notpessimistic but rather activistic. To express thispoint figuratively we might say: The pessimistresembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which hedaily tears a sheet, grows thinner with eachpassing day. On the other hand, the person whoattacks the problems of life actively is like a manwho removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its
the possibilities that a young person has, the of this fear that it produces precisely that offuture which is in store for him? "No, thank which the patient is afraid. An individual, foryou," he will think. "Instead of possibilities, I example, who is afraid of blushing when hehave realities in my past, not only the reality of enters a large room and faces many people willwork done and of love loved, but of sufferings actually be more prone to blush under thesebravely suffered. These sufferings are even the circumstances. In this context, one mightthings of which I am most proud, though these amend the saying "The wish is father to theare things which cannot inspire envy." thought" to "The fear is mother of the event." Ironically enough, in the same way that LOGOTHERAPY AS A TECHNIQUE fear brings to pass what one is afraid of, likewise a forced intention makes impossible A realistic fear, like the fear of death, cannot what one forcibly wishes. This excessivebe tran-quilized away by its psychodynamic intention, or "hyper-intention," as I call it, caninterpretation; on the other hand, a neurotic fear, be observed particularly in cases of sexualsuch as agoraphobia, cannot be cured by neurosis. The more a man tries to demonstratephilosophical understanding. However, his sexual potency or a woman her ability tologotherapy has developed a special technique to experience orgasm, the less they are able tohandle such cases, too. To understand what is succeed. Pleasure is, and must remain, a side-going on whenever this technique is used, we effect or by-product, and is destroyed andtake as a starting point a condition which is spoiled to the degree to which it is made afrequently observed in neurotic individuals, goal in itself.namely, anticipatory anxiety. It is characteristic
126 Mans Search for Meaning Logotherapy in a Nutshell 127 In addition to excessive intention as afraid of, and that hyper-intention makesdescribed above, excessive attention, or impossible what one wishes. In German I"hyper-reflection," as it is called in described paradoxi-logotherapy, may also be pathogenic (that is,lead to sickness). The following clinical 9 In order to treat cases of sexual impotence, a specific logothera-peutic technique has beenreport will indicate what I mean: A young developed, based on the theory of hyper-intention andwoman came to me complaining of being hyper-reflection as sketched above (Viktor E. Frankl, "The Pleasure Principle and Sexual Neurosis," Thefrigid. The case history showed that in her International Journal of Sexology, Vol. 5, No. 3 ,childhood she had been sexually abused by pp. 128-30). Of course, this cannot be dealt with in this brief presentation of the principles of logotherapy.her father. However, it had not been thistraumatic experience in itself which hadeventuated in her sexual neurosis, as couldeasily be evidenced. For it turned out that,through reading popular psychoanalyticliterature, the patient had lived constantlywith the fearful expectation of the toll whichher traumatic experience would somedaytake. This anticipatory anxiety resulted bothin excessive intention to confirm her femininity and excessive attention centered uponherself rather than upon her partner. This wasenough to incapacitate the patient for thepeak experience of sexual pleasure, since theorgasm was made an object of intention, andan object of attention as well, instead ofremaining an unintended effect ofunreflected dedication and surrender to thepartner. After undergoing short-termlogotherapy, the patients excessive attentionand intention of her ability to experienceorgasm had been "dereflected," to introduceanother logo-therapeutic term. When herattention was refocused toward the properobject, i.e., the partner, orgasm establisheditself spontaneously.9 Logotherapy bases its technique called"paradoxical intention" on the twofold factthat fear brings about that which one is
cal intention as early as 1939.10 In this approach inasmuch as his fear is replaced by athe phobic patient is invited to intend, even if paradoxical wish. By this treatment, the windonly for a moment, precisely that which he is taken out of the sails of the anxiety.fears. Such a procedure, however, must make use Let me recall a case. A young physician of the specifically human capacity for self-consulted me because of his fear of perspiring. detachment inherent in a sense of humor.Whenever he expected an outbreak of This basic capacity to detach one fromperspiration, this anticipatory anxiety was oneself is actualized whenever theenough to precipitate excessive sweating. In logotherapeutic technique called paradoxicalorder to cut this circle formation I advised the intention is applied. At the same time, thepatient, in the event that sweating should recur, patient is enabled to put himself at ato resolve deliberately to show people how distance from his own neurosis. A statementmuch he could sweat. A week later he returned consistent with this is found in Gordon W.to report that whenever he met anyone who Allports book, The Individual and Histriggered his anticipatory anxiety, he said to Religion: "The neurotic who learns to laughhimself, "I only sweated out a quart before, at himself may be on the way to self-but now Im going to pour at least ten management, perhaps to cure."11quarts!" The result was that, after sufferingfrom his phobia for four years, he was able, 18Viktor E. Frankl, "Zur medikamentosenafter a single session, to free himself Unterstiitzung der Psy- chotherapie bei Neurosen," Schweizer Archiv furpermanently of it within one week. Neurologie und Psy- The reader will note that this procedure chiatrie, Vol. 43, pp. 26-31. 19New York, The Macmillan Co., 1956, p. 92.consists of a reversal of the patients attitude,
128 Mans Search for Meaning Logotherapy in a Nutshell 129Paradoxical intention is the empirical twelve years old and had hooked a ride on avalidation and clinical application of streetcar. When caught by the conductor, heAllports statement. thought that the only way to escape would be A few more case reports may serve to clarify to elicit his sympathy, and so he tried tothis method further. The following patient demonstrate that he was just a poorwas a bookkeeper who had been treated by stuttering boy. At that moment, when he triedmany doctors and in several clinics without to stutter, heany therapeutic success. When he wasadmitted to my hospital department, he wasin extreme despair, confessing that he wasclose to suicide. For some years, he hadsuffered from a writers cramp which hadrecently become so severe that he was indanger of losing his job. Therefore, onlyimmediate short-term therapy could alleviatethe situation. In starting treatment, Dr. EvaKozdera recommended to the patient that hedo just the opposite of what he usually haddone; namely, instead of trying to write asneatly and legibly as possible, to write withthe worst possible scrawl. He was advised tosay to himself, "Now I will show people what agood scribbler I am!" And at the moment inwhich he deliberately tried to scribble, he wasunable to do so. "I tried to scrawl but simplycould not do it," he said the next day. Withinforty-eight hours the patient was in this wayfreed from his writers cramp, and remainedfree for the observation period after he hadbeen treated. He is a happy man again andfully able to work. A similar case, dealing, however, withspeaking rather than writing, was related tome by a colleague in the LaryngologicalDepartment of the Vienna Poliklinik Hospital. It was the most severe case of stutteringhe had come across in his many years ofpractice. Never in his life, as far as thestutterer could remember, had he been freefrom his speech trouble, even for a moment,except once. This happened when he was
was unable to do it. Without meaning to, he housework. It would not be accurate to say thathad practiced paradoxical intention, though she is now completely free of symptoms, for annot for therapeutic purposes. obsession may come to her mind. However, However, this presentation should not she is able to "joke about it," as she says; inleave the impression that paradoxical short, to apply paradoxical intention.intention is effective only in mono- Paradoxical intention can also be appliedsymptomatic cases. By means of this in cases of sleep disturbance. The fear oflogotherapeutic technique, my staff at the sleeplessness12 results in a hyper-intention toVienna Poliklinik Hospital has succeeded in fall asleep, which, in turn, incapacitates thebringing relief even in obsessive-compulsive patient to do so. To overcome this particularneuroses of a most severe degree and fear, I usually advise the patient not to tryduration. I refer, for instance, to a woman to sleep but rather to try to do just thesixty-five years of age who had suffered for opposite, that is, to stay awake as long assixty years from a washing compulsion. Dr. possible. In other words, the hyper-intentionEva Kozdera started logotherapeutic to fall asleep, arising from the anticipatorytreatment by means of paradoxical anxiety of not being able to do so, must beintention, and two months later the patient replaced by the paradoxical intention not towas able to lead a normal life. Before fall asleep, which soon will be followed byadmission to the Neurological Department sleep.of the Vienna Poliklinik Hospital, she had Paradoxical intention is no panacea. Yet itconfessed, "Life was hell for me." Handi lends itself ascapped by her compulsion andbacteriophobic obsession, she finally 12 The fear of sleeplessness is, in the majority of cases, due to the patients ignorance of the fact that the organismremained in bed all day unable to do any provides itself by itself with the minimum amount of sleep really needed.
130 Mans Search for Meaning Logotherapy in a Nutshell 131a useful tool in treating obsessive-compulsive which the patient fights the ideas whichand phobic conditions, especially in cases haunt him.15 Thereby, however, he increaseswith underlying anticipatory anxiety. their power to dis-Moreover, it is a short-term therapeuticdevice. However, one should not conclude 20American Journal of Psychotherapy, 10 (1956), p. 134.that such a short-term therapy necessarily 21"Some Comments on a Viennese School ofresults in only temporary therapeutic effects. Psychiatry," The Jour nal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51 (1955),One of "the more common illusions of pp. 701-3.Freudian orthodoxy," to quote the late 22This is often motivated by the patients fear that his obsessionsEmil A. Gutheil, "is that the durability of indicate an imminent or even actual psychosis;results corresponds to the length of ther the patient is not awareapy."13 In my files there is, for instance, the of the empirical fact that an obsessive-compulsive neurosis is immuniz-case report of a patient to whom paradoxicalintention was administered more thantwenty years ago; the therapeutic effectproved to be, nevertheless, a permanent one. One of the most remarkable facts is thatparadoxical intention is effective regardlessof the etiological basis of the case concerned.This confirms a statement once made byEdith Weisskopf-Joelson: "Althoughtraditional psychotherapy has insisted thattherapeutic practices have to be based onfindings on etiology, it is possible thatcertain factors might cause neuroses duringearly childhood and that entirely differentfactors might relieve neuroses duringadulthood."14 As for the actual causation of neuroses,apart from constitutional elements, whethersomatic or psychic in nature, such feedbackmechanisms as anticipatory anxiety seem tobe a major pathogenic factor. A givensymptom is responded to by a phobia, thephobia triggers the symptom, and thesymptom, in turn, reinforces the phobia. Asimilar chain of events, however, can beobserved in obsessive-compulsive cases in
turb him, since pressure precipitates circle formation; the cue to cure is self-counterpressure. Again the symptom is transcendence!reinforced! On the other hand, as soon asthe patient stops fighting his obsessions and THE COLLECTIVE NEUROSISinstead tries to ridicule them by dealing withthem in an ironical way—by applying Every age has its own collective neurosis,paradoxical intention—the vicious circle is and every age needs its own psychotherapy tocut, the symptom diminishes and finally cope with it. The existential vacuum which isatrophies. In the fortunate case where there the mass neurosis of the present time can beis no existential vacuum which invites and described as a private and personal form ofelicits the symptom, the patient will not only nihilism; for nihilism can be defined as thesucceed in ridiculing his neurotic fear but contention that being has no meaning. Asfinally will succeed in completely ignoring it. for psychotherapy, however, it will never be As we see, anticipatory anxiety has to be able to cope with this state of affairs on acounteracted by paradoxical intention; hyper- mass scale if it does not keep itself freeintention as well as hyper-reflection have to from the impact and influence ofbe counteracted by dereflection; dereflec-tion, ing him against a formal psychosis rather thanhowever, ultimately is not possible except by endangering him in this direction.the patients orientation toward his specific 16 This conviction is supported by Allport whovocation and mission in life.16 once said, "As the focus of striving shifts from the conflict to selfless goals, the life as a whole becomes It is not the neurotics self-concern, sounder even though the neurosis may never completelywhether pity or contempt, which breaks the disappear" (op. cit., p. 95).
132 Mans Search for Meaning Logotherapy in a Nutshell 133 the contemporary trends of a nihilistic Psychoanalysis has often been blamed for its philosophy; otherwise it represents a so-called pan-sexualism. I, for one, doubt symptom of the mass neurosis rather than its whether this reproach has ever possible cure. Psychotherapy would not only reflect a nihilistic philosophy but also, even 17 "Value Dimensions in Teaching," a color television film produced by Hollywood Animators, though unwillingly and unwittingly, Inc., for the California Junior College Association. transmit to the patient what is actually a caricature rather than a true picture of man. First of all, there is a danger inherent in theteaching of mans "nothingbutness," thetheory that man is nothing but the result ofbiological, psychological and sociologicalconditions, or the product of heredity andenvironment. Such a view of man makes aneurotic believe what he is prone to believeanyway, namely, that he is the pawn andvictim of outer influences or innercircumstances. This neurotic fatalism isfostered and strengthened by a psychotherapywhich denies that man is free. To be sure, a human being is a finitething, and his freedom is restricted. It is notfreedom from conditions, but it is freedomto take a stand toward the conditions. As Ionce put it: "As a professor in two fields,neurology and psychiatry, I am fully aware ofthe extent to which man is subject tobiological, psychological and sociologicalconditions. But in addition to being aprofessor in two fields I am a survivor offour camps—concentration camps, that is—and as such I also bear witness to theunexpected extent to which man is capable ofdefying and braving even the worst conditionsconceivable."17 CRITIQUE OF PAN-DETERMINISM
been legitimate. However, there is human existence is the capacity to rise abovesomething which seems to me to be an even such conditions, to grow beyond them. Manmore erroneous and dangerous assumption, is capable of changing the world for thenamely, that which I call "pan- better if possible, and of changing himselfdeterminism." By that I mean the view of for the better if necessary.man which disregards his capacity to take a Let me cite the case of Dr. J. He was thestand toward any conditions whatsoever. only man I ever encountered in my whole lifeMan is not fully conditioned and determined whom I would dare to call abut rather determines himself whether he Mephistophelean being, a satanic figure. Atgives in to conditions or stands up to them. that time he was generally called "the massIn other words, man is ultimately self- murderer of Steinhof" (the large mentaldetermining. Man does not simply exist but hospital in Vienna). When the Nazis startedalways decides what his existence will be, their euthanasia program, he held all thewhat he will become in the next moment. strings in his hands and was so fanatic in the By the same token, every human being job assigned to him that he tried not to lethas the freedom to change at any instant. one single psychotic individual escape theTherefore, we can predict his future only gas chamber. After the war, when I camewithin the large framework of a statistical back to Vienna, I asked what had happenedsurvey referring to a whole group; the to Dr. J. "He had been imprisoned by theindividual personality, however, remains Russians in one of the isolation cells ofessentially unpredictable. The basis for any Steinhof," they told me. "The next day,predictions would be represented by however, the door of his cell stood openbiological, psychological or sociological and Dr. J. was never seen again."conditions. Yet one of the main features of
134 Mans Search for Logotherapy in a Nutshell 135MeaningLater I was convinced that, like others, he THE PSYCHIATRIC CREDOhad with the help of his comrades made his There is nothing conceivable which wouldway to South America. More recently, so condition a man as to leave him withouthowever, I was consulted by a former the slightest freedom. Therefore, a residue ofAustrian diplomat who had been imprisoned freedom, however limited it may be, is leftbehind the Iron Curtain for many years, firstin Siberia and then in the famous Lubiankaprison in Moscow. While I was examininghim neurologically, he suddenly asked mewhether I happened to know Dr. J. After myaffirmative reply he continued: "I made hisacquaintance in Lubianka. There he died, atabout the age of forty, from cancer of theurinary bladder. Before he died, however, heshowed himself to be the best comrade you canimagine! He gave consolation to everybody.He lived up to the highest conceivable moralstandard. He was the best friend I ever metduring my long years in prison!" This is the story of Dr. J., "the massmurderer of Stein-hof." How can we dare topredict the behavior of man? We may predictthe movements of a machine, of an automaton;more than this, we may even try to predict themechanisms or "dynamisms" of the humanpsyche as well. But man is more than psyche. Freedom, however, is not the last word.Freedom is only part of the story and half ofthe truth. Freedom is but the negative aspectof the whole phenomenon whose positiveaspect is responsibleness. In fact, freedom is indanger of degenerating into merearbitrariness unless it is lived in terms ofresponsibleness. That is why / recommendthat the Statue of Liberty on the East Coastbe supplemented by a Statue of Responsibilityon the West Coast.
to man in neurotic and even psychotic cases. begins to loom on the horizon are not theIndeed, the innermost core of the patients sketches of a psychologized medicine butpersonality is not even touched by a rather those of a humanized psychiatry.psychosis. A doctor, however, who would still interpret An incurably psychotic individual may lose his own role mainly as that of a technicianhis usefulness but yet retain the dignity of a would confess that he sees in his patienthuman being. This is my psychiatric credo. nothing more than a machine, instead ofWithout it I should not think it worthwhile to seeing the human being behind the diseaselbe a psychiatrist. For whose sake? Just for the A human being is not one thing amongsake of a damaged brain machine which others; things determine each other, but mancannot be repaired? If the patient were not is ultimately self-determining. What hedefinitely more, euthanasia would be justified. becomes—within the limits of endowment and environment—he has made out of PSYCHIATRY REHUMANIZED himself. In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this For too long a time—for half a century, in testing ground, we watched and witnessedfact—psychiatry tried to interpret the human some of our comrades behave like swine whilemind merely as a mechanism, and others behaved like saints. Man has bothconsequently the therapy of mental disease potentialities within himself; which one ismerely in terms of a technique. I believe actualized depends on decisions but not onthis dream has been dreamt out. What now conditions.
136 Mans Search for Meaning Our generation is realistic, for we have come to knowman as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is alsothat being who entered those gas chambers upright, withthe Lords Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips. POSTSCRIPT 1984 The Case for a Tragic Optimism* Dedicated to the memory of Edith Weisskopf-Joelson, whose pioneering efforts in logotherapy in the United States began as early as 1955 and whose contributions to the field have been invaluable.
LET us FIRST ASK OURSELVES WHAT SHOULD BE understood by "atragic optimism." In brief it means that one is, and remains,optimistic in spite of the "tragic triad," as it is called inlogotherapy, a triad which consists of those aspects ofhuman existence which may be circumscribed by: (1) pain;(2) guilt; and (3) death. This chapter, in fact, raises thequestion, How is it possible to say yes to life in spite of allthat? How, to pose the question differently, can life retainits potential meaning in spite of its tragic aspects? After all,"saying yes to life in spite of everything," to use the phrasein which the title of a German book of mine is couched,presupposes that life is potentially meaningful under anyconditions, even those which are most miserable. And thisin turn presupposes the human capacity to creatively turnlifes negative aspects into something positive or constructive. In other words, what matters is to make the best of anygiven situation. "The best," however, is that which in Latinis called optimum—hence the reason I speak of a tragicoptimism, that is, an optimism in the face of tragedy and in • This chapter is based on a lecture I presented at the Third WorldCongress of Logotherapy, Regensburg University, West Germany, June1983. 139
140 Mans Search for Meaning The Case for a Tragic Optimism 141 view of the human potential which at its best always allows Indeed, what is called "the pleasure principle" is, rather, a for: (1) turning suffering into a human achievement and fun-spoiler. accomplishment; (2) deriving from guilt the opportunity Once an individuals search for a meaning is successful, it to change oneself for the better; and (3) deriving from lifes not only renders him happy but also gives him the capabil transitoriness an incentive to take responsible action. ity to cope with suffering. And what happens if ones grop It must be kept in mind, however, that optimism is not ing for a meaning has been in vain? This may well result in anything to be commanded or ordered. One cannot even a fatal condition. Let us recall, for instance, what some force oneself to be optimistic indiscriminately, against all times happened in extreme situations such as prisoner-of- odds, against all hope. And what is true for hope is also war camps or concentration camps. In the first, as I was told true for the other two components of the triad inasmuch as by American soldiers, a behavior pattern crystallized to faith and love cannot be commanded or ordered either. which they referred as "give-up-itis." In the concentration To the European, it is a characteristic of the American camps, this behavior was paralleled by those who one morn culture that, again and again, one is commanded and or ing, at five, refused to get up and go to work and instead dered to "be happy." But happiness cannot be pursued; it stayed in the hut, on the straw wet with urine and feces. must ensue. One must have a reason to "be happy." Once Nothing—neither warnings nor threats—could induce the reason is found, however, one becomes happy automati them to change their minds. And then something typical cally. As we see, a human being is not one in pursuit of occurred: they took out a cigarette from deep down in a happiness but rather in search of a reason to become happy, pocket where they had hidden it and started smoking. At last but not least, through actualizing the potential meaning that moment we knew that for the next forty-eight hours or inherent and dormant in a given situation. so we would watch them dying. Meaning orientation had This need for a reason is similar in another specifically subsided, and consequently the seeking of immediate pleahuman phenomenon—laughter. If you want anyone to sure had taken over.laugh you have to provide him with a reason, e.g., you have Is this not reminiscent of another parallel, a parallel thatto tell him a joke. In no way is it possible to evoke real confronts us day by day? I think of those youngsters who,laughter by urging him, or having him urge himself, to on a worldwide scale, refer to themselves as the "no future"laugh. Doing so would be the same as urging people posed generation. To be sure, it is not just a cigarette to whichin front of a camera to say "cheese," only to find that in the they resort; it is drugs.finished photographs their faces are frozen in artificial In fact, the drug scene is one aspect of a more generalsmiles. mass phenomenon, namely the feeling of meaninglessness In logotherapy, such a behavior pattern is called "hyper- resulting from a frustration of our existential needs whichintention." It plays an important role in the causation of in turn has become a universal phenomenon in our indussexual neurosis, be it frigidity or impotence. The more a trial societies. Today it is not only logotherapists who claimpatient, instead of forgetting himself through giving him that the feeling of meaninglessness plays an ever increasingself, directly strives for orgasm, i.e., sexual pleasure, the role in the etiology of neurosis. As Irvin D. Yalom of Stanmore this pursuit of sexual pleasure becomes self-defeating. ford University states in Existential Psychotherapy: "Of
142 Mans Search for Meaning The Case for a Tragic Optimism 143 forty consecutive patients applying for therapy at a psychi dynamic or biochemical conditions, whichever the case may atric outpatient clinic . . . twelve (30 percent) had some be. Accordingly, psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy are major problem involving meaning (as adjudged from self- indicated respectively. Insofar as the feeling of meaningless- ratings, therapists, or independent judges)."1 Thousands of ness is concerned, however, we should not overlook and miles east of Palo Alto, the situation differs only by 1 per forget that, per se, it is not a matter of pathology; rather cent; the most recent pertinent statistics indicate that in than being the sign and symptom of a neurosis, it is, I Vienna, 29 percent of the population complain that mean would say, the proof of ones humanness. But although it ing is missing from their lives. is not caused by anything pathological, it may well cause a As to the causation of the feeling of meaninglessness, one pathological reaction; in other words, it is potentiallymay say, albeit in an oversimplifying vein, that people have pathogenic. Just consider the mass neurotic syndrome soenough to live by but nothing to live for; they have the pervasive in the young generation: there is ample empiricalmeans but no meaning. To be sure, some do not even have evidence that the three facets of this syndrome—depression,the means. In particular, I think of the mass of people who aggression, addiction—are due to what is called in logo-are today unemployed. Fifty years ago, I published a study2 therapy "the existential vacuum," a feeling of emptinessdevoted to a specific type of depression I had diagnosed in and meaninglessness.cases of young patients suffering from what I called "un It goes without saying that not each and every case ofemployment neurosis." And I could show that this neurosis depression is to be traced back to a feeling of meaninglessreally originated in a twofold erroneous identification: ness, nor does suicide—in which depression sometimesbeing jobless was equated with being useless, and being eventuates—always result from an existential vacuum. Butuseless was equated with having a meaningless life. Con even if each and every case of suicide had not been undersequently, whenever I succeeded in persuading the patients taken out of a feeling of meaninglessness, it may well beto volunteer in youth organizations, adult education, public that an individuals impulse to take his life would havelibraries and the like—in other words, as soon as they could been overcome had he been aware of some meaning andfill their abundant free time with some sort of unpaid but purpose worth living for.meaningful activity—their depression disappeared although If, thus, a strong meaning orientation plays a decisive roletheir economic situation had not changed and their hunger in the prevention of suicide, what about intervention inwas the same. The truth is that man does not live by cases in which there is a suicide risk? As a young doctor Iwelfare alone. spent four years in Austrias largest state hospital where I Along with unemployment neurosis, which is triggered was in charge of the pavilion in which severely depressedby an individuals socioeconomic situation, there are other patients were accommodated—most of them having beentypes of depression which are traceable back to psycho- admitted after a suicide attempt. I once calculated that I must have explored twelve thousand patients during those 23Basic Books, New York, 1980, p. 448. four years. What accumulated was quite a store of experi 24"Wirtschaftskrise und Seelenleben vom Standpunkt des Jugend- beraters," Sozialdrztliche Rundschau, Vol. 4 (1933), pp. 43-46. ence from which I still draw whenever I am confronted
144 Mans Search for Meaning The Case for a Tragic Optimism 145with someone who is prone to suicide. I explain to such a Now let us turn to the question of meaning itself. Toperson that patients have repeatedly told me how happy begin with, I would like to clarify that, in the first place,they were that the suicide attempt had not been successful; the logotherapist is concerned with the potential meaningweeks, months, years later, they told me, it turned out that inherent and dormant in all the single situations one has tothere was a solution to their problem, an answer to their face throughout his or her life. Therefore, I will not bequestion, a meaning to their life. "Even if things only take elaborating here on the meaning of ones life as a whole,such a good turn in one of a thousand cases," my explana although I do not deny that such a long-range meaningtion continues, "who can guarantee that in your case it will does exist. To invoke an analogy, consider a movie: it connot happen one day, sooner or later? But in the first place, sists of thousands upon thousands of individual pictures,you have to live to see the day on which it may happen, so and each of them makes sense and carries a meaning, yetyou have to survive in order to see that day dawn, and from the meaning of the whole film cannot be seen before its lastnow on the responsibility for survival does not leave you." sequence is shown. However, we cannot understand the Regarding the second facet of the mass neurotic syn whole film without having first understood each of its comdrome—aggression—let me cite an experiment once con ponents, each of the individual pictures. Isnt it the sameducted by Carolyn Wood Sherif. She had succeeded in with life? Doesnt the final meaning of life, too, reveal itself,artificially building up mutual aggressions between groups if at all, only at its end, on the verge of death? And doesntof boy scouts, and observed that the aggressions only sub this final meaning, too, depend on whether or not the posided when the youngsters dedicated themselves to a collec tential meaning of each single situation has been actualizedtive purpose—that is, the joint task of dragging out of the to the best of the respective individuals knowledge andmud a carriage in which food had to be brought to their belief?camp. Immediately, they were not only challenged but also The fact remains that meaning, and its perception, asunited by a meaning they had to fulfill.3 seen from the logotherapeutic angle, is completely down to As for the third issue, addiction, I am reminded of the earth rather than afloat in the air or resident in an ivoryfindings presented by Annemarie von Forstmeyer who tower. Sweepingly, I would locate the cognition of meaningnoted that, as evidenced by tests and statistics, 90 percent of —of the personal meaning of a concrete situation—midwaythe alcoholics she studied had suffered from an abysmal between an "aha" experience along the lines of Karlfeeling of meaninglessness. Of the drug addicts studied by Biihlers concept and a Gestalt perception, say, along theStanley Krippner, 100 percent believed that "things seemed lines of Max Wertheimers theory. The perception of meanmeaningless."4 ing differs from the classical concept of Gestalt perception insofar as the latter implies the sudden awareness of a "figure" on a "ground," whereas the perception of mean 25For further information on this experiment, see Viktor E. Frankl, ing, as I see it, more specifically boils down to becoming The Unconscious God, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1978, p. 140; aware of a possibility against the background of reality or, and Viktor E. Frankl, The Unheard Cry for Meaning, New to express it in plain words, to becoming aware of what can York, Simon and Schuster, 1978, p. 36. be done about a given situation. 26For further information, see The Unconscious God, pp. 97-100; and The Unheard Cry for Meaning, pp. 26-28.
146 Mans Search for Meaning The Case for a Tragic Optimism 147 And how does a human being go about finding meaning? sided emphasis on the external world of achievement at theAs Charlotte Buhler has stated: "All we can do is study the expense of the internal world of experience."6lives of people who seem to have found their answers to the Most important, however, is the third avenue to meaningquestions of what ultimately human life is about as against in life: even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation,those who have not."6 In addition to such a biographical facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, mayapproach, however, we may as well embark on a biological grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself. Heapproach. Logotherapy conceives of conscience as a may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph. Again it wasprompter which, if need be, indicates the direction in Edith Weisskopf-Joelson who, as mentioned on p. 118, oncewhich we have to move in a given life situation. In order to expressed the hope that logotherapy "may help counteractcarry out such a task, conscience must apply a measuring certain unhealthy trends in the present-day culture of thestick to the situation one is confronted with, and this situa United States, where the incurable sufferer is given verytion has to be evaluated in the light of a set of criteria, little opportunity to be proud of his suffering and to conin the light of a hierarchy of values. These values, how sider it ennobling rather than degrading" so that "he is notever, cannot be espoused and adopted by us on a conscious only unhappy, but also ashamed of being unhappy."level—they are something that we are. They have crystal For a quarter of a century I ran the neurological departlized in the course of the evolution of our species; they are ment of a general hospital and bore witness to my patientsfounded on our biological past and are rooted in our bio capacity to turn their predicaments into human achievelogical depth. Konrad Lorenz might have had something ments. In addition to such practical experience, empiricalsimilar in mind when he developed the concept of a biologi evidence is also available which supports the possibility thatcal a priori, and when both of us recently discussed my own one may find meaning in suffering. Researchers at the Yaleview on the biological foundation of the valuing process, he University School of Medicine "have been impressed by theenthusiastically expressed his accord. In any case, if a pre- number of prisoners of war of the Vietnam war who exreflective axiological self-understanding exists, we may as plicitly claimed that although their captivity was exsume that it is ultimately anchored in our biological her traordinarily stressful—filled with torture, disease, malnuitage. trition, and solitary confinement—they nevertheless . . . As logotherapy teaches, there are three main avenues on benefited from the captivity experience, seeing it as awhich one arrives at meaning in life. The first is by creating growth experience."7a work or by doing a deed. The second is by experiencing But the most powerful arguments in favor of "a tragicsomething or encountering someone; in other words, mean optimism" are those which in Latin are called argumentaing can be found not only in work but also in love. Edith ad hominem. Jerry Long, to cite an example, is a livingWeisskopf-Joelson observed in this context that the logo- testimony to "the defiant power of the human spirit," as ittherapeutic "notion that experiencing can be as valuable as 27"The Place of Logotherapy in the World Today," The Internaachieving is therapeutic because it compensates for our tional Forum for Logotherapy, Vol. 1, No. 3 (1980), pp. 3-7.one- 28W. H. Sledge, J. A. Boydstun and A. J. Rabe, "Self-Concept Changes 5 "Basic Theoretical Concepts of Humanistic Psychology," Ameri Related to War Captivity," Arch. Gen. Psychiatry, 37 (1980), pp.can Psychologist, XXVI (April 1971), p. 378. 430- 443-
148 Mans Search for Meaning it— except for going your way with dignity—you see, this is what I wouldis called in logotherapy.8 To quote the Texarkana Gazette, call heroism." Attitudinal heroism, so to speak."Jerry Long has been paralyzed from his neck down since adiving accident which rendered him a quadriplegic threeyears ago. He was 17 when the accident occurred. TodayLong can use his mouth stick to type. He attends twocourses at Community College via a special telephone. Theintercom allows Long to both hear and participate in classdiscussions. He also occupies his time by reading, watchingtelevision and writing." And in a letter I received fromhim, he writes: "I view my life as being abundant withmeaning and purpose. The attitude that I adopted on thatfateful day has become my personal credo for life: I brokemy neck, it didnt break me. I am currently enrolled in myfirst psychology course in college. I believe that my handicap will only enhance my ability to help others. I know thatwithout the suffering, the growth that I have achievedwould have been impossible." Is this to say that suffering is indispensable to the discovery of meaning? In no way. I only insist that meaning isavailable in spite of—nay, even through—suffering, provided, as noted in Part Two of this book, that the sufferingis unavoidable. If it is avoidable, the meaningful thing todo is to remove its cause, for unnecessary suffering is masochistic rather than heroic. If, on the other hand, one cannotchange a situation that causes his suffering, he can stillchoose his attitude. 9 Long had not chosen to break his 29"The Defiant Power of the Human Spirit" was in fact the title of a paper presented by Long at the Third World Congress of Logotherapy in June 1983. 30I wont forget an interview I once heard on Austrian TV, given by a Polish cardiologist who, during World War II, had helped organize the Warsaw ghetto upheaval. "What a heroic deed," exclaimed the re porter. "Listen," calmly replied the doctor, "to take a gun and shoot is no great thing; but if the SS leads you to a gas chamber or to a mass grave to execute you on the spot, and you cant do anything about
The Case for a Tragic Optimism 149neck, but he did decide not to let himself be broken bywhat had happened to him. As we see, the priority stays with creatively changing thesituation that causes us to suffer. But the superiority goes tothe "know-how to suffer," if need be. And there is empiricalevidence that—literally—the "man in the street" is of thesame opinion. Austrian public-opinion pollsters recentlyreported that those held in highest esteem by most of thepeople interviewed are neither the great artists nor thegreat scientists, neither the great statesmen nor the greatsports figures, but those who master a hard lot with theirheads held high. In turning to the second aspect of the tragic triad,namely guilt, I would like to depart from a theologicalconcept that has always been fascinating to me. I refer towhat is called mysterium iniquitatis, meaning, as I see it,that a crime in the final analysis remains inexplicable inasmuch as it cannot be fully traced back to biological,psychological and/or sociological factors. Totally explaining ones crime would be tantamount to explaining awayhis or her guilt and to seeing in him or her not a free andresponsible human being but a machine to be repaired.Even criminals themselves abhor this treatment and preferto be held responsible for their deeds. From a convict serving his sentence in an Illinois penitentiary I received a letterin which he deplored that "the criminal never has a chanceto explain himself. He is offered a variety of excuses tochoose from. Society is blamed and in many instances theblame is put on the victim." Furthermore, when I addressedthe prisoners in San Quentin, I told them that "you arehuman beings like me, and as such you were free to commita crime, to become guilty. Now, however, you are responsible for overcoming guilt by rising above it, by growing
The Case for a Tragic Optimism 151 150 Mans Search for Meaning of our lives? It certainly is, and hence my imperative: Livebeyond yourselves, by changing for the better." They felt as if you were living for the second time and had acted asunderstood.10 And from Frank E.W., an ex-prisoner, I re wrongly the first time as you are about to act now.ceived a note which stated that he had "started a logother- In fact, the opportunities to act properly, the potentialiapy group for ex-felons. We are 27 strong and the newer ties to fulfill a meaning, are affected by the irreversibility ofones are staying out of prison through the peer strength of our lives. But also the potentialities alone are so affected.those of us from the original group. Only one returned— For as soon as we have used an opportunity and have actuand he is now free."11 alized a potential meaning, we have done so once and for As for the concept of collective guilt, I personally think all. We have rescued it into the past wherein it has beenthat it is totally unjustified to hold one person responsible safely delivered and deposited. In the past, nothing is irfor the behavior of another person or a collective of persons. retrievably lost, but rather, on the contrary, everything isSince the end of World War II I have not become weary of irrevocably stored and treasured. To be sure, people tend topublicly arguing against the collective guilt concept.12 see only the stubble fields of transitoriness but overlook andSometimes, however, it takes a lot of didactic tricks to de forget the full granaries of the past into which they havetach people from their superstitions. An American woman brought the harvest of their lives: the deeds done, the lovesonce confronted me with the reproach, "How can you still loved, and last but not least, the sufferings they have gonewrite some of your books in German, Adolf Hitlers lan through with courage and dignity.guage?" In response, I asked her if she had knives in her From this one may see that there is no reason to pity oldkitchen, and when she answered that she did, I acted dis people. Instead, young people should envy them. It is truemayed and shocked, exclaiming, "How can you still use that the old have no opportunities, no possibilities in theknives after so many killers have used them to stab and future. But they have more than that. Instead of possibilimurder their victims?" She stopped objecting to my writing ties in the future, they have realities in the past—the pobooks in German. tentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized—and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past. The third aspect of the tragic triad concerns death. But it In view of the possibility of finding meaning in suffering,concerns life as well, for at any time each of the moments of lifes meaning is an unconditional one, at least potentially.which life consists is dying, and that moment will never That unconditional meaning, however, is paralleled by therecur. And yet is not this transitoriness a reminder that unconditional value of each and every person. It is thatchallenges us to make the best possible use of each moment which warrants the indelible quality of the dignity of man. 31See also Joseph B. Fabry, The Pursuit of Meaning, New York, Just as life remains potentially meaningful under any con Harper and Row, 1980. ditions, even those which are most miserable, so too does 32Cf. Viktor E. Frankl, The Unheard Cry for Meaning, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1978, pp. 42-43. the value of each and every person stay with him or her, 33See also Viktor E. Frankl, Psychotherapy and Existentialism, New and it does so because it is based on the values that he or York, Simon and Schuster, 1967.
152 Mans Search for Meaning The Case for a Tragic Optimism 153she has realized in the past, and is not contingent on the in what decision you make today about how to act." 13usefulness that he or she may or may not retain in the One must not generalize such a criticism. In principle,present. training is indispensable, but if so, therapists should see More specifically, this usefulness is usually defined in their task in immunizing the trainee against nihilism ratherterms of functioning for the benefit of society. But todays than inoculating him with the cynicism that is a defensesociety is characterized by achievement orientation, and mechanism against their own nihilism.consequently it adores people who are successful and happy Logotherapists may even conform to some of the trainingand, in particular, it adores the young. It virtually ignores and licensing requirements stipulated by the other schoolsthe value of all those who are otherwise, and in so doing of psychotherapy. In other words, one may howl with theblurs the decisive difference between being valuable in the wolves, if need be, but when doing so, one should be, Isense of dignity and being valuable in the sense of useful would urge, a sheep in wolfs clothing. There is no needness. If one is not cognizant of this difference and holds that to become untrue to the basic concept of man and thean individuals value stems only from his present useful principles of the philosophy of life inherent in logotherapy.ness, then, believe me, one owes it only to personal incon Such a loyalty is not hard to maintain in view of the factsistency not to plead for euthanasia along the lines of Hit that, as Elisabeth S. Lukas once pointed out, "throughoutlers program, that is to say, "mercy" killing of all those the history of psychotherapy, there has never been a schoolwho have lost their social usefulness, be it because of old as undogmatic as logotherapy."14 And at the First World Congress of Logotherapy (San Diego, California, Novemberage, incurable illness, mental deterioration, or whatever 6-8, 1980) I argued not only for the rehumanization ofhandicap they may suffer. psychotherapy but also for what I called "the degurufica- Confounding the dignity of man with mere usefulness tion of logotherapy." My interest does not lie in raisingarises from a conceptual confusion that in turn may be parrots that just rehash "their masters voice," but rather intraced back to the contemporary nihilism transmitted on passing the torch to "independent and inventive, innovativemany an academic campus and many an analytical couch. and creative spirits."Even in the setting of training analyses such an indoctrination may take place. Nihilism does not contend that there is Sigmund Freud once asserted, "Let one attempt to exposenothing, but it states that everything is meaningless. And a number of the most diverse people uniformly to hunger.George A. Sargent was right when he promulgated the concept of "learned meaninglessness." He himself remembered 34"Transference and Countertransference in Logotherapy," Thea therapist who said, "George, you must realize that the International Forum for Logotherapy, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Fall/Winterworld is a joke. There is no justice, everything is random. 1982), pp. 115-18.Only when you realize this will you understand how silly it 35Logotherapy is not imposed on those who are interested in psychois to take yourself seriously. There is no grand purpose in therapy. It is not comparable to an Oriental bazaar but rather to athe universe. It just is. Theres no particular meaning supermarket. In the former, the customer is talked into buying some thing. In the latter, he is shown, and offered, various things from which he may pick what he deems usable and valuable.
154 Mans Search for MeaningWith the increase of the imperative urge of hunger all individual differences will blur, and in their stead will appearthe uniform expression of the one unstilled urge." Thankheaven, Sigmund Freud was spared knowing the concentration camps from the inside. His subjects lay on a couchdesigned in the plush style of Victorian culture, not in thefilth of Auschwitz. There, the "individual differences" didnot "blur" but, on the contrary, people became more different; people unmasked themselves, both the swine and thesaints. And today you need no longer hesitate to use theword "saints": think of Father Maximilian Kolbe who was About the Authorstarved and finally murdered by an injection of carbolicacid at Auschwitz and who in 1983 was canonized. You may be prone to blame me for invoking examples Viktor E. Frankl is Professor of Neurology and Psychiatrythat are the exceptions to the rule. "Sed omnia praeclara tarn at the University of Vienna Medical School. He is the founderdifficilia quam rara sunt" (but everything great is just as of what has come to be called the Third Viennese School ofdifficult to realize as it is rare to find) reads the last Psychotherapy (after Freuds psychoanalysis and Adlers insentence of the Ethics of Spinoza. You may of course ask dividual psychology)—the school of logotherapy. His workwhether we really need to refer to "saints." Wouldnt it has been called "perhaps the most significant thinking sincesuffice just to refer to decent people? It is true that they Freud and Adler" by the American Journal of Psychiatry.form a minority. More than that, they always will remain a Born in 1905, Dr. Frankl received the degrees of Doctor ofminority. And yet I see therein the very challenge to join Medicine and Doctor of Philosophy from the University ofthe minority. For the world is in a bad state, but everything Vienna. During World War II he spent three years at Auschwill become still worse unless each of us does his best. witz, Dachau, and other concentration camps. Dr. Frankl first published in 1924 in the International Journal So, let us be alert—alert in a twofold sense: Since of Psychoanalysis and has since published thirty books, which have been translated into twenty-three languages, including Auschwitz we know what man is capable of. And Japanese and Chinese. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard, as well as at universities in Pittsburgh, San Diego, since Hiroshima we know what is at stake. and Dallas. Honorary doctoral degrees have been conferred upon him by twenty-seven universities, and the American Psy chiatric Association has honored him with the Oskar Pfister Award. He has been a guest lecturer at universities throughout the world and has made more than ninety lecture tours throughout the United States alone.