The Daily Dharma – June 28, 2021

Photograph by Jay Hemphill

It is apparent that the mere knowledge that a [person] was either a camp guard or a camp prisoner tells us almost nothing. Human kindness can be found in all groups, even those which as a whole it would be easy to condemn. The boundaries between groups overlapped and we must not try to simplify matters by saying that these [people] were angels and those were devils. Certainly, it was a considerable achievement for a guard or foreman to be kind to the prisoners in spite of all of the camp’s influences, and, on the other hand, the baseness of a prisoner who treated his own companions badly was exceptionally contemptable. Obviously, the prisoners found the lack of character in such [people] especially upsetting, while they were profoundly moved by the smallest kindness received from any of the guards. I remember how one day a foreman secretly gave me a piece of bread which I knew he must have saved from his breakfast ration. It was far more than the small piece of bread which moved me to tears at the time. It was the human “something” which this man also gave to me – the word and look which accompanied the gift.

Auschwitz survivor Viktor E. Frankl
from Man’s Search for Meaning