Was Holocaust Survivor Viktor Frankl Gassed at Auschwitz?

Published: 2001-12-01

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A recent article has revealed that Viktor Frankl, the famous psychiatrist and emblematic Auschwitz survivor, greatly embroidered on his meager time at Auschwitz. This news casts a shadow over the veracity of Frankl’s famous memoir, Man’s Search for Meaning. Of even more interest, however, is a question that arises when considering the Auschwitz State Museum’s records regarding Frankl’s time at Birkenau: Was Viktor Frankl gassed at Auschwitz?

Few men who emerged from the camps can match the late Viktor Frankl for acclaim. A psychiatrist from Vienna who died in 1997, Frankl gained international renown for the theories of mental health he expounded through his psychiatric school, logotherapy. Inextricably bound up with Frankl’s fame, teachings, and moral authority was his experience of the German concentration camps, above all Auschwitz, as described in Man’s Search for Meaning (U.S., 1959) a worldwide bestseller that has been ranked as one of the ten most influential books of the twentieth century by the Library of Congress.

In his reminiscence, Frankl recounted his stay at Auschwitz as if it had lasted an eternity. Now comes Timothy Pytell, adjunct professor of history at the Cooper Union in New York City, to inform us that, based on his research for an intellectual biography of Frankl, the celebrated survivor spent at most three days at Auschwitz, while in transit from Theresienstadt in Bohemia to a subcamp of Dachau in October 1944. As Pytell observes, a reader of Man’s Search for Meaning would “be stunned to discover that Frankl spent only a few days in Auschwitz.” In the book, Frankl devotes some thirty pages to Auschwitz. Besides recording his experiences on arrival (shaving, showering, delousing, etc.), Frankl makes observations about the lot of inmates there that strongly imply that, at the very least, he spent months, not days, at the camp. (“We had to wear the same shirts for half a year, until they had lost all appearance of being shirts.”) As Pytell writes of Frankl’s depiction of his stay at Auschwitz: “But if truth be told, Frankl’s rendition is contradictory and profoundly deceptive.”

Pytell notes that Frankl was transferred from Theresienstadt on October 19, 1944, on a train that carried 1500 persons to Auschwitz, and that the prisoner’s log of the Dachau sub-camp Kaufering III records Frankl’s arrival on October 25, 1944. Indeed, Frankl himself told the American evangelist Robert Schuller, in an interview published in Schuller’s magazine Possibilities (March–April 1991): “I was in Auschwitz only three or four days … I was sent to a barrack and we were all transported to a camp in Bavaria.” Thus the credibility of yet another star survivor has been tested and found wanting. Like the testimony of Miklos Nyiszli, Filip Müller, Rudolf Vrba, Mel Mermelstein, and a host of other eyewitness oracles, Viktor Frankl’s Auschwitz stories are now an embarrassment to the Holocaust industry, rather than an indictment of the Germans.

There’s more, however. While Pytell wasn’t up to examining the implications of Frankl’s stay at Auschwitz for the reliability of the camp’s official history, records compiled by exterminationist researcher of Theresienstadt H. G. Adler and by the Auschwitz State Museum make clear that if Frankl arrived at Auschwitz on October 20, 1944, he must have left Theresienstadt on a train with 1,500 passengers, designated “Es.” The English-language edition of the supposedly authoritative Auschwitz Chronicle, 1939-45 (editor Danuta Czech, London: I.B.Tauris, 1990), based on material from the Auschwitz State Museum, reports of that train:

October 20

1,500 Jewish men, women, and children are sent in an RSHA transport from the ghetto in Theresienstadt. After the selection, 169 women are admitted to the transit camp and 173 men as prisoners to the camp. The men receive Nos. B-13307-B-13479. The remaining 1,158 people are killed in the gas chamber of Crematorium III.

Now, while Viktor Frankl reports at length in his chatty memoir about his reception at Auschwitz (including the obligatory brush with Dr. Mengele), he says not a word about being registered, assigned a number, tattooed with that number, or transferred to the Auschwitz Stammlager, the permanent camp). Thus one can conclude that he was not admitted as a prisoner to the camp. And the Chronicle’s entry speaks of no surviving, non-registered persons from that shipment. Ergo, according to the Auschwitz Chronicle, and the records on which it claims to be based, Viktor Frankl must have gassed nearly fifty-three years before his widely announced death in September 1997. Who was it, then, who was sent out of Auschwitz a few days later, and went on to write all those books?

As Robert Faurisson, Carlo Mattogno, Enrique Aynat Eknes, Jürgen Graf, and other revisionist researchers have made plain, there is a way out of this seeming quandary. The survival of Frankl, like the survival of sundry other persons counted dead by the record keepers at the Auschwitz State Museum – most notably French and Euro-politician Simone Veil – was due, not to some miraculous intervention, but to the sloppy and dishonest research of the Auschwitz authorities. Despite recent revisions in the Chronicle that allow for the survival of some non-registered inmates, the widely consulted reference continues to consign, more or less automatically, arrivals not officially assigned to the Auschwitz camp to the gas chambers.

No doubt if the Auschwitz records were open to a thorough revisionist combing, we would learn of many more survivors who are counted, officially, as gassed. Needless to say, such life-affirming findings are entirely unwelcome to the Holocaust industrialists, whether at the Auschwitz State Museum, or the Red Cross’s international tracing center at Arolsen, Germany, or at Yad Vashem in Israel. And – who knows? – stating that Viktor Frankl wasn’t gassed might earn one a fine, or a prison sentence, in more than one “democracy.”

Editor's Note: Timothy Pytell, "The Missing Pieces of the Puzzle: A Reflection on the Odd Career of Viktor Frankl," History, Vol. 35, No. 2, Apri; 2000, pp. 281-306.

Ignorance gives politicians a free hand to exploit the politics of envy. Our education system creates a growing surplus of that ignorance.
—Walter E. Williams

Additional information about this document
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Author(s): Theodore J. O'Keefe
Title: Was Holocaust Survivor Viktor Frankl Gassed at Auschwitz?
Sources: The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 20, no. 5+6 (September/December 2001), pp. 10f.
Published: 2001-12-01
First posted on CODOH: April 20, 2013, 7 p.m.
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