Man’s Search for Meaning is written from the perspective of a man who survived multiple Nazi concentration camps during World War II. While various accounts have been given from those who survived similar situations, this book is especially valuable as the author, Viktor E. Frankl, was a psychiatrist.
Rather than simply stating what happened, Man’s Search for Meaning spends more time addressing why things happened, and why people had so many different reactions to the same situations.
The topic that Viktor E. Frankl covers in this book is tricky, because, if done poorly, it can come across as a “how to” guide for surviving concentration camps, as if the people who died simply didn’t have the guide.
It should be obvious from reading this book that Frankl did not feel this way. He understood the same principle that other authors have shared, in that so much of the death during WWII was random.
Some people lived.
Some people died.
Whether or not a person died, in most situations, came down to luck.
Frankl, himself, said on one of the first pages, “We who have come back, by the aid of many lucky chances or miracles – whatever one may choose to call them – we know: the best of us did not return.”
Rather than serving simply as a guide for surviving bad situations, Man’s Search for Meaning focuses on how to have hope through any circumstance.
We can’t ultimately control what happens around us, even when we try our hardest. However, we can control how we react, and how these situations affect our spirit.
Frankl explains why a person, devoid of a sense of meaning, can lose hope in a situation such as the one he found himself in.
Conversely, if a person can find meaning to his life, he can hold onto hope, no matter the circumstance.
My favorite part, and one I wish could have been longer, was a brief section addressing his psychological observations of those who were doing the torturing.
A common question that I’ve had – and one that, apparently, many people have had – is how a group of people could come to look down so profoundly on other human beings.
How could people be so cruel?
How could Nazis truly believe that what they were doing was ok?
I’m fully aware there is still hate all around the world. I don’t look back on the hate so prevalent during WWII and mistakenly think that we’re currently free of those attitudes.
But if you’re looking for an ideal sample from the past to learn from, I feel there are few better than Nazi Germany during WWII.