Book Review: Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Concentration Camp Prisoners

Concentration Camp Prisoners

The original title of this highly relevant autobiography was “Ein Psychologe erlebt das Konzentrationslager”, which translates as, “a Psychologist experiences the concentration camp”. This book was written by Viktor Frankl, an academic who survived Auschwitz. In this captivating book, Frankl describes both his experiences as a concentration camp inmate and also how he developed his psychotherapeutic method of finding reason to live, no matter the circumstances.

The book is devided into two sections, the first one being his account of his arrival and experiences in Auschwitz, and the second one explaining logotherapy, which emphasizes Frankl’s ideas of finding meaning.

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms ñ to chose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” p. 65

You may ask yourself why this book is good for aspiring physicians.

While this book should be of high interest to psychology or psychiatry students because it deals with the psychological and philosophical component of human life, human life needs to be prized in a very special way for physicians. We need to understand how and why any patient faced with wearisome medical burdens or complex anomalies should and can keep their desire to live, or how to create meaning to life, as Frankl would say. I believe it is an excellent book to reference as an answer to the common Medical School Interview Question, “What kind of books have you read lately?” Frankl also “worked” as a doctor in Auschwitz, which, given the poor medical and pharmaceutical resources he had, was an excruciating task. Tears ran down my cheeks several times as I read Frankl’s vivid and detailed descriptions of life in Auschwitz, which was more of a death camp than a concentration camp. People were not only sent to Auschwitz to labor under impossible circumstances, eating thin soup and walking barefoot in the snow – they were sent there to die. Frankl has become a hero to me. His will to live, to encourager others, and to find meaning were purely valorous, brave decisions by a brave man. I must recommend this book. Man’s Search for Meaning is an accurate historic account, a lesson about human cruelty, and a therapeutic encouragement. At times brutal and heart breaking, Frankl’s autobiography describes human dignity even in the most horrible and awful circumstances. Auschwitz was the largest German Nazi Concentration and Exterminationcamp in which an estimated 1.1 million people died, ninety percent Jewish. Among the many books I have read, this is definitely on my top-10 list. Here’s the Amazon Link.

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