Viktor E Frankl (1905-1997), a Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna, had a choice to make, at a crucial time in life:
Frankl had applied for a visa to America, which he was granted in 1941. By then, the Nazis had already started rounding up the Jews and taking them away to concentration camps, focusing on the elderly first. Frankl knew that it would only be time before the Nazis came to take his parents away. He also knew that once they did, he had a responsibility to be there with his parents to help them through the trauma of adjusting to camp life. On the other hand, as a newly married man with his visa in hand, he was tempted to leave for America and flee to safety, where he could distinguish himself even further in his field.
The choice some people make in life sorts them out from the multitude. Frankl chose not to be part of that multitude. And then, he survived Auschwitz (as No.119,104), to write of his Nazi camp life, in ‘Man’s Search for Meaning‘. A 1946 book that Frankl wrote in nine days. The book, as preface to its 1992 edition by the author says, has lived to see nearly 100 printings in English, besides having been published in 21 other languages.
Frankl, engaged in digging a tunnel for laying an underground water main, was given by the construction firm, on Christmas 1944 eve, two gift coupons, each of which could be exchanged for six cigarettes. And a cigarette, a common currency of exchange among prisoners, could be bartered for a soup. Few prisoners opted to smoke their ‘currency’.