In times of adversity, some extraordinary individuals rise above their circumstances, providing hope and inspiration to others. One such individual is Viktor Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist, Holocaust survivor, and author.

Shortly after surrendering to federal prison, Michael Santos encouraged me to read Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning. I had to read slowly, twice. It was a lot to take in. Frankl has become an inspiration and a symbol of strength–he embodies the best of the human spirit.

As a crisis manager, a Jew, and a former prisoner, I find Frankl’s life and teachings profoundly inspiring. Through this blog and podcast, I want to share why Viktor Frankl is such an extraordinary person (note some of this blog comes from my prison journal).

Finding Meaning in Suffering:

Frankly endured the worst tragedy–watching his family summarily get executed in the concentration camps. Throughout his harrowing experience, Frankl realized that suffering can help people overcome the most painful circumstances. He believed that we can choose our response even in the face of adversity. This perspective allowed him to maintain a sense of purpose, helping him survive and thrive even amidst the horrors of the Holocaust. Frankl’s philosophy provided perspective and valuable lessons for me. After all, I was enduring time in a minimum security camp. In no way did my experience even come close to what Viktor Frankl endured. If he endured, can’t I in a situation 1000 billion times easier than him?

Resilience and Inner Strength:

One word you can use to describe Frankl follows: resilient! My goodness. He refused to let his spirit be crushed despite enduring countless horrors and witnessing unimaginable atrocities. Frankl’s ability to maintain his inner strength and find meaning in everyday speaks to the power of his resilience. This man never succumbed to despair nor did he complain. I wish I read this book when the feds showed up at my home on April 28, 2008.

Embracing Freedom and Responsibility:

While Frankl could not change his surroundings, he could choose his values, attitude and actions. Like any successful prisoner, he focused on what he could and could not control (this was a powerful message for me in prison and something Michael constantly reinforced to me). Viktor Frankl believed that we can decide how to respond even in the face of adversity. This notion places tremendous responsibility on us to make conscious choices that align with our values and contribute positively to the world. Frankl’s teachings remind us that our inner freedom and responsibility to choose how we respond remain intact despite external circumstances.

Empathy and Connection:

Frankl’s experiences in the concentration camps reinforced the importance of empathy and human connection. He witnessed firsthand the power of compassion and solidarity among prisoners, which helped them endure the unimaginable. Frankl’s emphasis on the need for human connection echoes through his book and teachings, reminding us of our shared humanity. No matter what challenges we face, understanding and empathy toward others can bring solace and strength during difficult times.

I proudly share Viktor Frankl’s book with friends, family members and clients. As a crisis manager, a Jew, and someone who has experienced imprisonment, I find Frankl’s story particularly poignant.

Justin Paperny