Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Quoting Viktor Frankl

“But today’s society is characterized by achievement orientation, and consequently it adores people who are successful and happy and, in particular, it adores the young. It virtually ignores the value of all those who are otherwise, and in so doing blurs the decisive difference between being valuable in the sense of dignity and being valuable in the sense of usefulness. If one is not cognizant of this difference and holds that an individual’s value stems only from his present usefulness, then, believe me, one owes it only to personal inconsistency not to plead for euthanasia along the lines of Hitler’s program, that is to say, ‘mercy’ killing of all those who have lost their social usefulness, be it because of old age, incurable illness, mental deterioration, or whatever handicap they may suffer. Confounding the dignity of man with mere usefulness arises from conceptual confusion that in turn may be traced back to the contemporary nihilism transmitted on many an academic campus and many an analytical couch.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

Viktor Emil Frankl (1905-1997) was an Austrian psychiatrist, neurologist, and the founder of logotherapy and existentialism. After the "Anschluss" in 1938, Frankl was no longer allowed to treat "Arian" patients. In 1941, he married Tilly Grosser who was forced to abort their child and deported to Ghetto Theresienstadt in 1942. Frankl's father died in the ghetto in 1943, his brother was killed in Auschwitz where his 65-year-old mother was immediately murdered in the gas chamber. His wife died in the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen aged 24. Frankl was transported from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz, then to another concentration camp and in March 1945 to Dachau where he was liberated in April 1945 by US-American troops. After all these experiences Frankl published his book "Trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen: Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager" (literally "Nevertheless, say yes to life") known in English by the title "Man's Search for Meaning" in 1946 (via and via).
In the last camp he comes down with typhoid fever. To avoid fatal collapse during the nights he keeps himself awake by reconstructing his book manuscript on slips of paper stolen from the camp office. On April 27 the camp is liberated by U.S. troops. In August Frankl returns to Vienna, where he learns, within a span of a few days, about the death of his wife, his mother and his brother who has been murdered in Auschwitz together with his wife.
Viktor Frankl Institut
“From all this we may learn that there are two races of men in this world, but only these two—the “race” of the decent man and the “race” of the indecent man. Both are found everywhere; they penetrate into all groups of society. No group consists entirely of decent or indecent people. In this sense, no group is of “pure race”—and therefore one occasionally found a decent fellow among the camp guards.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning

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photograph via