Viktor Frankl, Primo Levi, and Roberto Benigni all provide a view of Nazi concentration camps. Frankl and LeviÆs views are quite similar, while BenigniÆs is markedly different. This paper examines the works of all three men to synthesize its thesis: Surviving a concentration camp depends on how one views the experience.
Viktor Frankl in ôManÆs Ultimate Search for Meaningö and Primo Levi in ôSurvival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanityö describe not only the horrors of Auschwitz but the reasoning that accompanies such unspeakable conditions and the wisdom they gained about survival in the midst of their experiences there. Both men through their suffering and their associations with other prisoners found insights about the type of outlook that is required to survive in a place like Auschwitz. Frankl quotes Albert Einstein: ôThe man who regards his life as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for lifeö (134). Frankl goes on to explain that:
Indeed, survival is dependent on direction. However, survival cannot be the supreme value. Unless life points to something beyond itself, survival is pointless and meaningless. It is not even possible (Frankl 134).
He concludes, therefore, that only those prisoners who were oriented toward some goal in the future were likely to survive (Frankl 135).
Primo LeviÆs view was that ôeven in this place one can survive, and therefore one must want to survive, to tell the story, to bear witnessö (36). He recounts the story of his fellow prisoner Steinlauf who continued to bathe even though there was no soap and despite the fact that coal dust would soon make him indistinguishable from his fellow prisoners who had not bathed (Levi 36). He then concludes that the way to survive is to save ôat least the skeleton, the scaffolding, the form of civilizationö (Levi 36).
ôLife is Beautifulö vs. LeviÆs and FranklÆs Descriptions