A number tattooed on one arm, 119.104, the terrible experience in a Nazi camp and the discovery of his mission
The concentration camps in Germany represent a shameful plague of the last century. No man, woman or child at the time of getting on those trains bound for the concentration camps, could have imagined the horror that they would see and experience. What is striking, each time we think of it, is the perfect architecture and workings of a precise plan of destruction and annihilation. Destined to be just numbers on a list, with a number tattooed on their arms like cattle, those prisoners went through what could only be described as the most tragic experience a man can endure. A meaningless experience, full of suffering.
Victor Frankl, who was already a psychologist, admired by Sigmund Freud at the time, was deported along with his family in 1942. Upon his arrival at the camp he was branded with his number 119.104.
Unlike many of his friends that did not make it, Frankl managed to save himself by using his extensive knowledge of the human spirit. He managed, in complete confidence, to dispense advice, to basically be the camp psychologist. Towards the end of his stay, he was allowed to work as a medical intern. That terrible experience, during which he was pushed beyond his limits, nevertheless became his field of investigation. Throughout the duration of his imprisonment, Frankl continued to write notes on pieces of paper that he collected here and there, to gather data and to reflect. He concluded that man needs to find his life’s purpose, even in absurd situations, to be able to endure unbearable suffering.
Once he had been freed, Frankl continued to work as a psychiatrist, using Logotherapy to try and help survivors, to help them to see the good in a devastated world.