In this weeks podcast episode I talk about Viktor Frankl, a Jewish Austrian neurologist, philosopher, writer and Holocaust survivor.
Born in 1905, he developed an interest in psychology whilst at school. He later communicated frequently with Sigmund Freud, but they fell out of favour with each other when he challenged some of Freud’s concepts.
He specialised in Depression and Suicide, particularly the increasing suicide rate amongst students. He then went on to specialise working with suicidal women.
In 1940, he was head of the neurology department at Rothschild Hospital.
In 1942, everything changed for him.
He and his family were was sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. His father aged 81, died of starvation and pneumonia.
In 1944, he and his remaining family were sent to Auschwitz. His mother and brother were killed in the gas chambers, and his wife died of Typhus whilst in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp. His lifes work on manuscript was also taken and destroyed, as well as his wedding ring.
Everything that could be taken from him was taken, except one very important thing – What he allowed himself to think.
Victor Frankl kept this place secure, like the black box within an aeroplane. He decided that nothing was going to penetrate this sacred place within himself, and he credits this alone for his survival.
He also began to notice a pattern with the other prisoners, and in particular, he could tell when they had given up on life itself. He witnessed many die, either at the hands of another, or when they themselves ‘let go’ of living.
I cannot even begin to fathom what that must have been like for him.
After the war, he wrote an amazing book called Man’s Search For Meaning. The first half of the book is about his experiences in the concentration camps he was sent. The second half of the book is about his life after this, and it rightly became an international best seller.
Here is an Amazon link for his book, and I would highly recommend it for a variety of reasons. It is a very powerful and emotional read. It also shows how he faced the worst things you could possibly imagine, yet keep a part of himself safe, out of reach to others who would do him harm, and maintained that control within himself despite what was going on outside.
A lesson, I would suggest, we could all benefit from from increasing.
He was truly an amazing man.
He died in 1997, and is buried in the Jewish section of Vienna Central Cemetery.
I hope you enjoy this episode
*Please note that the above Amazon link is an affiliate link. This means that although it does not change the price you pay in any way whatsoever, Amazon do send me a very small commission for recommending it.