Victor Frankl, a Viennese Jew, was interned by the Germans for more than three years. He was moved from one concentration camp to another, even spending several months at Auschwitz. Dr. Frankl said that he learned early that one way to survive was to shave every morning, no matter how sick you were, even if you had to use a piece of broken glass as a razor. For every morning, as the prisoners stood for review, the sickly ones who would not be able to work that day were sent to the gas chambers. If you were shaven, and your face look ruddier for it, your chances of escaping death that day were better.
Their bodies wasted away on the daily fare of 10 1/2 ounces of bread and 1 3/4 pints of gruel. They slept on bare board tiers seven feet wide, nine men to a tier. The nine men shared two blankets together. Three shrill whistles awoke them for work at 3 A.M. One morning as they marched out to lay railroad ties in the frozen ground miles from the camp, the accompanying guards kept shouting and driving them with the butts of their rifles. Anyone with sore feet supported himself on his neighbor’s arm. The man next to Frankl, hiding his mouth behind his upturned collar, whispered:
“If our wives could see us now. I do hope they are better off in their camps and don’t know what is happening to us.”
“That brought thoughts of my own wife to mind. And as we stumbled for miles, slipping on icey spots, supporting each other time and time again, dragging one another up and onward, nothing was said, but we both knew: each of us was thinking of his wife. Occasionally I looked at the sky, where the stars were fading and the pink light of the morning was beginning to spread behind a dark bank of clouds. But my mind clung to my wife’s image, imagining it with an uncanny acuteness. I heard her answering me, saw her smile, her frank encouraging look.”
A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth—that love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: the salvation of man is through love and in love.