Imagine that you’ve just been set free from an oppressive concentration camp. You’ve been ruthlessly worked and have seen friends and loved ones die in the process. How would you react to your freedom?
It’s a safe bet that Viktor Frankl responded differently.
In September of 1942, world-renowned psychiatrist Dr. Viktor Frankl and his wife, Tilly, were corralled into one of the many Nazi-run ghettos in German-occupied Europe. Two years later, in October of 1944, they were both transferred to the dreaded Auschwitz facility where they were split up, never to see one another again. Before it was all over, Dr. Frankl lost his wife, his mother, and his brother to the cruelty of the Third Reich.
The highly trained neurologist was moved from one camp to another as the war drew to its inevitable conclusion. He faced the blistering cold of winter, endured harsh beatings, existed on starvation rations, and survived unthinkable living conditions until Allied forces liberated his camp at Türkheim on April 27, 1945.
He’d never forget that day…even if it confused him. Here’s what he said about his first moment of “freedom.”
With tired steps we prisoners dragged ourselves to the camp gates. Timidly we looked around and glanced at each other questioningly. Then we ventured a few steps out of camp. This time no orders were shouted at us, nor was there any need to duck quickly to avoid a blow or kick. Oh no! This time the guards offered us cigarettes! We hardly recognized them at first; they had hurriedly changed into civilian clothes. We walked slowly along the road leading from the camp. Soon our legs hurt and threatened to buckle. But we limped on; we wanted to see the camp’s surroundings for the first time with the eyes of free men. “Freedom” we repeated to ourselves, and yet we could not grasp it. We had said this word so often during all the years we dreamed about it, that it had lost its meaning. Its reality did not penetrate into our consciousness; we could not grasp the fact that freedom was ours.
According to Dr. Frankl, freedom can actually be foreign to those who experience it for the first time (or for the first time in a long time).
How are you managing the freedom Jesus has granted you?
Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. Buccaneer Books, 1992, Pages 94-95.
Topics Illustrated Include:
World War II
(Resource cataloged by David R Smith)