Due to the neo Nazis being in Chippendale, I refreshed my mind yesterday on concentration camps by reading Viktor Frankl’s account of his time in Auschwitz and Dachau and others in Man’s Search For Meaning. It was completely dire. He outlines the various ways people mentally coped.
He took the fatalist approach and a couple of times he made what seemed to be the “wrong” choices but luckily, those ended up being the right ones and he survived. (eg. to go on a truck or not; to look after typhoid patients and die of that …) It was impossible to know which way to jump, everything was so unpredictable.
When he got out his life was sh*t and his pregnant wife had died in the camps. The thoughts of his wife had been the only thing keeping him going. Basically, it was miserable all the time and excruciating, with just a few brief moments of joy. He said the extreme physical pain and hunger didn’t necessarily reduce everyone to animals — it just unmasked what they were really like: decent or not. He reckoned everyone from all races can be put into those two categories and that being decent takes more effort.
He wrote 20 volumes about his theories afterwards, but it’s condensed as the second part of this book. When the camp was liberated, he was one of the few Jews to stay in Vienna and he died there. He strongly believed that a whole race wasn’t bad, just individuals.