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The Bully Pulpit

Viktor Frankl

In the middle of Viktor Frankl’s tour de force chronicle of his survival of the Holocaust, Man’s Search for Meaning, there is a particular moment when existence at Dachau goes from dark to pitch black. It is the winter of 1944, several months after the D-Day invasions and thus the point in which Hitler’s Third Reich, sensing the writing on the wall, ratchets up the noxious gears of its Final Solution. The markers of this period are evoked by arresting phrases like Robert Jay Lifton’s “wild euthanasia” and Nicholson Baker’s “human smoke,” and can be seen crystalized in Schindler’s List, when an initially puzzled Liam Neeson sees ash fall from a clear sky as he wanders amidst children playing in a bourgeoisie town square.

For Frankl and his work group, these portents are worsened by the fact that they are being incrementally starved after refusing to identify a fellow prisoner suspected of stealing potatoes from a camp store house. Several days into…

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