Where there’s life there’s hope (Mid-Sixteenth Century)
28th January 2019
27th January is Holocaust Memorial Day, dedicated to those who suffered in the Holocaust under Nazi persecutions and in subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. The date was chosen because it is the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp by the Soviet Union in 1945. For those incarcerated hope would have been in short supply, which makes the book Man’s search for meaning by Viktor E Frankl, all the more remarkable. Frankl was a prisoner in both Dachau and Auschwitz and lost his parents, brother, wife and children in the Holocaust. His experience led him to write what has been described as ‘the classic tribute to hope from the Holocaust’.
In a place where people were stripped of their humanity Frankl came to understand the meaning of the words of Friedrich Nietzsche that “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Even in the most desolate situation with no possibility of changing ones circumstances, he found hope. Hope came in the form of a guard who took pity on him and gave him an extra piece of bread. It came in the glimpse of beauty in nature or a simple courtesy shown him. Such moments reasserted the ‘Why’ to live and restored human dignity. Frankl wrote that even when everything is taken from a person, one still has the freedom to choose one’s attitude to a given set of circumstances. That is what gives man meaning and it cannot be taken away. Everyone has the freedom to choose whether to see the dignity in others and to act with dignity themselves.
For Frankl all human life is unconditionally valuable and has an innate dignity however diminished it may be. The highest good that we can aspire to is love and to express that love it whatever circumstances we find ourselves, to whomever we meet and without distinction.
Head of RS