Frankl was assigned to lay railroad tracks. Certainly below his education and expectations. He had to decide what kind of person he would be in response to his circumstances. He quickly discerned that he could only control his inner response to his sufferings. Dehumanization was at the top of the Nazi’s agenda. Some prisoners went along with the degradation and others retreated into themselves and focused on happier memories.
What Frankl realized was that some prisoners beat back dehumanization by small acts of dignity and compassion. He took advantage of his horrible experience in the camps to study people under the worst conditions imaginable! He told his fellow prisoners that God was watching them – a friend, a wife, somebody – who did not want to be disappointed. In the muddle, the corpses, and the grime, he said, “I called to the Lord from my narrow prison and he answered me in the freedom of space.”