Viktor Frankl, Primo Levi, and Roberto Benigni all provide a view of Nazi concentration camps. Frankl and Levi's views are quite similar, while Benigni's 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 "Man's Ultimate Search for Meaning" and Primo Levi in "Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity" 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: "The man who regards his life as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life" (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 Levi's view was that "even in this place one can survive, and therefore one must want to survive, to tell the story, to bear witness" (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 "at least the skeleton, the scaffolding, the form of civilization" (Levi 36).
"Life is Beautiful" vs. Levi's and Frankl's Descriptions