The World’s Oldest Holocaust Survivor: Viktor Frankl’s ‘Will to Meaning’ In Action

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at

It was the famous Holocaust survivor, psychiatrist and founder of the Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy, Viktor Frankl, who frequently drew upon Friedrich Nietzsche’s insightful maxim to explain the core philosophy of his existential analysis: “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.” 

Throughout the various stages of his life, Frankl collated both empirical and anecdotal evidence which supported the centrality of a ‘will to meaning’ in overcoming the cruel blows of fate that life inevitably brings.  Nowhere was this more evident for Frankl than in the concentration camps where sheer survival was a gargantuan task that required self-transcendence and focus on a will to survive and ultimately to prosper. Throughout his writings he makes reference to those whom he met, in the most dire of circumstances, but who still retained and exhibited a strong will to meaning.

Today, I came across an inspiring story that exemplifies Frankl’s worldview.  Alice Herz-Sommer, who at 109 years old is the world’s oldest pianist, as well as its oldest Holocaust survivor, is the focus of a short documentary entitled ‘The Lady In Number 6’.  The film’s producer, Nick Reed, talking to The Algemeiner said this of Alice: “She just on all things has this philosophy that is incredibly positive. She’s just naturally, instinctively somehow along her journey picked up this process where her brain is always in a positive loop,” He continues: “People who have seen the film are just amazed that this woman has been able to take something like the Holocaust and turn it into a positive,” 

Alice’s passion in life was, and still is, music.  It was music that sustained her in the concentration camp and it is music that has sustained her in her life since.  Her will to meaning is incredibly strong as her passion for life is undiminished.

You can watch an extended trailer for the film here:


One response to “The World’s Oldest Holocaust Survivor: Viktor Frankl’s ‘Will to Meaning’ In Action”

  1. Impressive blog


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