Today’s pages (p70-74) bring us to the end of the Nazi rule of the concentration camp where Viktor Frankl was kept prisoner.
But not without one last twist of fate.
Frankl’s celebrations at the coming of the Red Cross delegate was short-lived. The SS arrived that night and ordered the camp to be cleared, and the prisoners taken to another camp where they would be transferred to Switzerland.
But after a mistake by the Chief Doctor, Frankl was not put on any of the trucks which understandably left him ‘[s]urprised, very annoyed and disappointed’.
That night, the battle-front reached the camp with ‘the noise of rifles and cannons; the flashes of tracer bullets and gun shots’.
The shooting decreased and morning dawned. Outside on a the pole at the camp gate a white flag floated in the wind.
Later, Frankl learnt that the SS trucks had never been going to Switzerland.
Our friends who had thought they were travelling to freedom that night had been taken in the trucks to this camp, and there they were locked in the huts and burned to death.
‘[E]ven in those last hours,’ Frankl writes, ‘fate had toyed with us few remaining prisoners.’
Frankl also continues his discussion of the physical and psychological conditions of the camp – the one influencing the other, and vice versa.
Hunger and a lack of sleep led to a general irritability that created frequent violent flash points, particularly between those prisoners who had gained some position of responsibility and those who had not.
Frankl himself suffered from almost insurmountable irritability when he was tasked with the responsibility of keeping the typhus hut clean. The frequent hut inspections he says were ‘more for the purpose of torture than of hygiene’.
I was forced to keep straightening blankets, picking up bits of straw which fell from the bunks, and shouting at the poor devils who tossed in their beds and threatened to upset all my efforts.
[O]ne’s own irritability took on enormous proportions in the face of the other’s apathy and especially in the face of the danger (i.e., the approaching inspection) which was caused by it.