Experiences in a Concentration Camp Essay Example

The relationship between aesthetics (love of beauty) and the survival capacity of the prisoner is based on man’s attitude to his existence. From the “experience in the Concentration Camp” Frankl reveals that the immense tortures and hardship experienced in the concentration camps alienates the prisoners from their reality and thus most prisoners lose their aesthetic value (value for beauty).

However, those prisoners who remain and endure to the very end are those that still maintain their love for beauty (beauty in the prisoners’ context) comprises of caring for other prisoners and maintaining value for the fellow prisoners which can be depicted through kind acts such as sharing pieces of bread and soup with the rest of the prisoners. According to Frankl, a creative life and a life of enjoyment are completely banned from the prisoner which means that the prisoner ceases to be himself and wears over the skin of a different being meant to serve and please the master.

However, the prisoners attitude towards his existence and the value he attaches to himself even in the most difficult, dangerous and dark times keeps the prisoner going and in so doing the prisoner learns to appreciate (beauty) and subsequently the prisoner ends up loving beauty. Hence, aesthetics (love of beauty) plays a significant role in the survival capacity of the prisoner because it gives the prisoner strength and enriches his attitude for existence which in turn makes it possible for the prisoner to endure hardships in the camp.

Additionally, aesthetics has a significant relationship with the survival capacity of the prisoner because it serves as the constant reminder to the prisoner of his past life and how he used to enjoy his freedom and fulfilment in his life. It also reminds the prisoner of his likelihood to go back to those past days when he finishes serving his term in the camp. The love of beauty is the only thing that fuels the prisoner to continue with his life because it restores hope and gives the prisoner the much needed strength to survive in the camp.

According to Frankl, watching the sun rise and set was a reminder that a new thing was on the way and the beauty that came with the rising and setting of the sun reminded the prisoners that they were slowly moving from the start of their hard life in concentration camps nearing the end of their suffering. Hence, the love of beauty or aesthetics, although, limited to the prisoners due to their immense suffering and torturous life has a close relationship with the survival capacity of the prisoner.

Aesthetics deals with art. Art is closely related to the survival capacity of the prisoner because the more humour a prisoner engages himself in or creates through poems, songs or other bit of creativity helps to ease the burden “of being a prisoner” thus relieving the prisoner stressful moments as well as relieving the prisoner from bitter encounters and experiences which gives the prisoner the opportunity to perceive life differently thus giving the prisoner the strength to survive in the camp.

1.The more likely people to survive in the camps were the strong people. The reason for this is that suffering in the concentration camp had alienated the prisoners from any sensitivity and nothing mattered any more (Frankl, p. 30). Being strong was positively perceived as a better condition that would allow a prisoner to continue working. In contrast being weak was a quick ticket to death and the only measure of survival in the concentration camp was the strength depicted by the prisoner and not his/her sensitivity to issues in the camp.

Hence, the more likely people to survive in the camps were the strong people. As a matter of fact, the section criteria for who was to die and who was to live were based on the weakness depicted by the prisoners. A weakly prisoner was automatically listed among the death candidates while the strong prisoners were spared.

2. On page 32, a Moslem is defined as a man who looks miserable, down and out, emaciated and who cannot manage physical labour any longer (Frankl, p.32). A Moslem was a candidate for death because every weakly, emaciated, sickly and miserable man was through into the gas chambers. According to the description of a “Moslem” by one of the experienced prisoners, it is evident that Frank smiled because “he was singled out” as the only person who fit the description of a “Moslem” and therefore a candidate of death. Frankl also smiled because as a new arrival, he never understood the gravity of being a “Moslem” and thus his smile symbolised his ignorance of the words spoken by the experienced prisoner.

3. One of the phases of an inmate experience in the concentration camp is shock (Frankl, p. 28). This is the first phase which is catapulted by the fact that the inmate is separated from his previous life and enters into a completely new life. In this phase, the inmate is still divided about the reality things and lives as a dreamer without fully understanding the environment round him.

The second phase is the apathy stage (Frankl, p.33-34). In the apathy stage, the inmate is completely alienated from his previous life and suffers from emotional death. This means that the inmate is no longer afraid of any happening around him and leaves fate to take its course. Suffering becomes part and parcel of the inmate’s life.

The third stage is the psychology of the prisoner after liberation. In this stage, the prisoner begins to evaluate people in the prison. In this stage, two sets of human beings come to the mind of the free person (Frankl, p. 91). The decent and the indecent men. At this stage, the joy of freedom engulfs the person. At this stage, the free persons begin to learn the meaning of being pleased with life again an enjoying the beauty around them. Depersonalization characterizes the liberated prisoners where everything seems unreal.

4. The spiritual life of a prisoner deepens despite the enforced physical and mental primitiveness of life in the prison (Frankl, p.46). Prisoners are able to retreat from their terrible surroundings to a life of spiritual freedom and hence the spiritual life deepens.

5. According to Frankl (p.63) prisoners’ relationship with fate is based on his attitude to look at things from a different dimension. For example, the prisoners who perceived life negatively grew weak and sealed their fate (death). Those that perceived life positively grew stronger and sealed their fate (life). A significant percentage of the prisoner’s decision making capacity is alienated. However, the prisoner remains with a small level of capacity to make decision that seals his fate in the camp. Frankl tells of death in Tehran as an example of how prisoners in the concentration camp made decisions to run away from suffering only to encounter death ahead just like the servant ran from death only to encounter death waiting for him in Tehran. It is a lesson that can be applied in every decision a human being makes.

6. According to Frankl (p.80) true human freedom consist of the attitude a human being posses towards life. This is because a prisoner with a positive attitude towards his existence lives in freedom than a free person with a negative attitude towards his existence. The relationship between freedom and fate is embedded in the meaning a person attaches to his life (Frankl,p.80). The reason for this is that even in the most distressful occasions a person can attach a positive meaning into his life and thus seal his fate by disentangling himself from psychological slavery into psychological freedom. This is because life does not cease to have a meaning.

7. The dream was deceptive because the war did not come to an end on the prophesied date. The voice that spoke to him was the strong desire to see the war over and liberation come to the camp. It was the strong passion that he felt for freedom that brought the dream. The voice came from loss of belief in the future. Hence, the voice came from the mental and physical decay that made the most significant symptoms of an inmate that had already lost hope in the future (Frankl, p. 83).


Frankl, V. 1946. Man’s search for meaning: Experience in the Concentration Camp, Beacon Press.