The Victor Frankl 5-a-day Book Cult: Day 3

Victor Frankl Man's Search for Meaning

These five pages (p22-26 in my 2004 Rider edition) begin with the first phase of the inmates mental reactions to life in a concentration camp. Unsurprisingly, the dominant symptom on admission to Auschwitz was shock.

There are three passages in today’s reading that stand out for me. The first is Frankl’s observation of the ‘delusion of reprieve’:

The condemned man, immediately before his execution, gets the illusion that he might be reprieved at the very last minute. We, too, clung to shreds of hope and believed to the last moment that it would not be so bad.

Needless to say, it was so bad. The very next passage describes the ghoulish absurdity of senior prisoners bargaining over a tie-pin made of platinum and diamonds when prisoners like Frankl were fed on a diet of only five-ounces (140g, ~5 slices) of bread a day.

On arrival at Auschwitz, the inmates were made to file past a senior SS officer who flicked his forefinger to the left or to the right, splitting the prisoners into two groups.

None of us had the slightest idea of the sinister meaning behind that little movement of a man’s finger, pointing now to the right and now to the left, but far more frequently to the left. … It was the first selection, the first verdict made on our existence of non-existence. For the great majority of our transport, about 90 per cent, it meant death. … Those who were sent to the left were marched from the station straight to the crematorium.

What do you think?

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