The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 8

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. Continue reading “The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 8”

The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 7

Today’s 5 pages (p41-45) are largely concerned with food, notable for its paucity in concentration camps such as Auschwitz. Frankl recounts the daily menu:

[T]he daily ration consisted of very watery soup given out once daily, and the usual small bread ration. In addition to that, there was the so-called “extra allowance,” consisting of three-fourths of an ounce of margarine, or of a slice of poor quality sausage, or of a little piece of cheese, or a bit of synthetic honey, or a spoonful of watery jam, varying daily.

Continue reading “The Victor Frankl 5-a-Day Book Cult: Day 7”

The Victor Frankl Five-a-Day Book Cult: Day 6

p37-41: Frankl describes how even the most hardened concentration camp prisoner can be roused through insult to rash – and potentially suicidal – indignation.

The beating Frankl received after defending his honour as a doctor against the insults of a particularly repugnant foreman was only relieved by the favour of the Capo in his work party. And how had Frankl won the good favour of this Capo? By lending a sympathetic ear to the Capo’s tales of matrimonial strife! Continue reading “The Victor Frankl Five-a-Day Book Cult: Day 6”

The Victor Frankl Book Cult: Day 5

In this section (p31-37 in my edition), Frankl moves onto the second phase of the psychological response to incarceration: apathy, a ‘kind of emotional death’. As he says, such an ‘abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal behaviour’.

This ‘mortification of normal reactions was hastened’ by the punishments meted out by the camp officials:

It was a favourite practice to detail a new arrival to a work group whose job was to clean the latrines and remove the sewage. If, as usually happened, some of the excrement splashed into his face during its transport over bumpy fields, any sign of disgust by the prisoner or any attempt to wipe off the filth would only be punished with a blow from a Capo.

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The Victor Frankl 5-a-day Book Cult: Day 4

Today’s pages mark Victor Frankl’s transition from naive optimism to the moment he ‘struck out’ the whole of his former life and started his bare fight for survival from Auschwitz.

Those who had survived the initial cull were stripped of all their belongings and shaved bare with not a hair left on their bodies.

While we were waiting for the shower, our nakedness was brought home to us: we really had nothing now except our bare bodies: all we possessed, literally, was our naked existence’.

Continue reading “The Victor Frankl 5-a-day Book Cult: Day 4”