Email: The Experience of Viktor Frankl (Auschwitz) – 8.12.2020

Author’s Note: Despite a lifetime of studying the mind, consciousness and personal development through education, and pursuing an interest in the history of WWII – until yesterday, I had not heard of ‘Viktor Frankl’ and never encountered his Psychotherapy theory of ‘Logotherapy’. I do not personally endorse any particular type of mind enquiry or self-help – as I am firmly of the opinion that everyone should seek-out their own path and make use of what works for them.  In this model everything can be potentially ‘useful’ or demonstratively ‘useless’. The experience of Dr Viktor Frankl is important as he represents a ‘scientific’ assessment of the intended ‘dehumanising’ effects of a Nazi German Concentration Camp. Those considered ‘sub-human’ by this political regime are treated in a ‘sub-human’ manner by the Camp regime. In other words, the (fascist) political theory of Nazi Germany was manifest in the brutal (physical) regime applied to each individual as they arrived in the Death Camps. Human-beings – who happened to be Communist, Jewish, Disabled, Gay and Romany, etc, although they all believed individually that they were ‘human’ – were deliberately treated in a manner designed to ‘strip’ their mind and body of ALL vestiges of the ‘hope’ implicit within the human condition.

Of course, this process was drawn-out over many months for those chosen by the regime to be ‘worked’ to death – whereas those gassed upon arrival were subjected to the ‘fast-lane’ of Nazi dehumanisation and degradation. Viktor Frankl was a good man who attempted to help human individuality come to terms with its experience of collective history. Human-beings have evolved as a species (and not as individuals) into a system of cultures that advocate ‘individuality’ over the ‘collective’ experience – despite the Socialist and religious ideologies that exist (the so-called ‘National Socialism’ of Hitler was not ‘Socialist’ in the Marxist sense). Individuality is the natural consequence of the evolution of human consciousness, awareness, and intellectualism. As such, it is an important (and defining) aspect of human existence that certainly requires the type of attention given to it by Dr Viktor Frankl. I detest Nazism and I feel sorry the Dr Viktor Frankl (and the millions of other victims) had to go through this madness.

Of course, I do not agree with his (later) association of Nazi German imprisonment with the imprisonment of US soldiers in North Korea and North Vietnam as these men – like the Nazi German – were aggressively invading and subjugating the countries of other people. That aside, how we deal with our changing circumstance is an important component of psychological, emotional and physical health. ACW (8.12.2020) 

Dear Nick 

Whereas a person training as a monastic ‘voluntarily’ enters the rarefied environment of a monastic community – the victim of human tyranny enters the similar environment of a Concentration Camp albeit in a thoroughly ‘involuntary’ manner. Both communities ‘strip’ the human being of everything that is used to usually define an individual. The monastery may be said to be a ‘positive’ manifestation of this process – whilst a Concentration Camp is undoubtedly a ‘negative’ example. However, in reality both experiences represent the same process of ‘reducing’ human experience to a ‘bare awareness’ of reality that is beyond all artifice, shallow expectation and hope.

Of course, the monastic experience is a death of sorts – usually of the spiritual kind – whereas the Nazi Germans used the Death Camps to breakdown their human victims to a state where they were nothing but living corpses – which was a prelude to the transition of just being ‘corpses’. Viktor Frankl experienced this ‘stripping away’ of his humanity – but managed to survive and return to the real world. From the insight into the human condition he founded the Psychotherapy School of Logotherapy. He developed – through his suffering – an alacrity of mind which is like a Ch’an Master in its clarity and understanding. He ‘sees’ directly where others get distracted by superfluous scenery. His insight is accurate and spot on and anyone can benefit from it. 

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