Today’s pages (p45-51) are some of the most touching in the whole book. Frankl begins by describing, almost lightheartedly, the ‘cultural hibernation’ that took place in the concentration camps. Two exceptions to the absence of interest in art and intellect were ‘almost continuous’ discussions of politics and religion:
The depth and vigour of religious belief often surprised and moved a new arrival.
This deepening of spiritual life is Frankl’s explanation of why ‘some prisoners of a less hardy make-up often seemed to survive camp life better than did those of a robust nature’ and Frankl himself experienced moments of transcendence that aided his survival.
Marching to work on the railways, beaten by callous guards and the icy winds, Frankl contemplated on the image of his wife. For the first time in his life, he saw the truth ‘that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire’.
The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved.
Separated on their capture by the Nazis, Frankl had no idea whether his wife was alive or dead. But that didn’t matter to this moment of bliss.
Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. … Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance. … [N]othing could touch the strength of my love, my thoughts, and the image of my beloved.
In closing, Frankl accords his realisation with the Song of Solomon: ‘Set me like a seal upon thy heart, love is as strong as death.’