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Victor Frankl

When Jewish psychiatrist Victor Frankl was arrested by the Nazis in World War II, he was stripped of everything—property, family, possessions. He had spent years researching and writing a book on the importance of finding meaning in life—concepts that later would be known as logotherapy. When he arrived in Auschwitz, the infamous death camp, even his manuscript, which he had hidden in the lining of his coat, was taken away.

“I had to undergo and overcome the loss of my spiritual child, “ Frankl wrote. “Now it seemed as if nothing and no one would survive me; neither a physical nor a spiritual child of my own! I found myself confronted with the question of whether under such circumstances my life was ultimately void of any meaning.”

He was still wrestling with that question a few days later when the Nazis forced the prisoners to give up their clothes.

“I had to surrender my clothes and he in turn inherited the worn-out rags of an inmate who had been sent to the gas chamber,” said Frankl. “Instead of the many pages of my manuscript, I found in the pocket of the newly acquired coat a single page torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, which contained the main Jewish prayer, SHEMA YISRAEL (Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.)

“How should I have interpreted such a ‘coincidence’ other than as a challenge to LIVE my thoughts instead of merely putting them on paper?”

Later, as Frankl reflected on his ordeal, he wrote in his book MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING, ‘There is nothing in the world that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is a meaning in one’s life…He who has a WHY to live for can bear almost any HOW.’”

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