A quote from the book I’m reading:
The observations of this one case and the conclusion drawn from them are in accordance with something that was drawn to my attention by theÂ chiefÂ doctor of our concentration camp. The death rate in the week between Christmas, 1944, and New Year’s, 1945, increased in camp beyond all previous experience. In his opinion, the explanation of this increase did not lie in the harder working conditions or the deterioration of our food supplies or a change of weather or new epidemics. It was simply that the majority of the prisoners had lived in the naive hope that they woruld be home again by Christmas. As the time drew near and there was no encouraging news, the prisoners lost courage and disappointment overcame them. This had a dangerous influcence on their power of resistance and a great number of them died.
As we said before, any attempt to restore a man’s inner strength in the camp had first to succeed in showing him some future goal. Nietzsche’s words, ‘He who has a why to live for a can bear with almost any how” could be the guiding motto for all psychotherapeutic and psychohygienic efforts regarding prisoners. Whenever there was an opportunity for it, one had to give them a why – a aim – for their lives, in order to strengthen them to bear the terrible how of their existence. Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost. The typical reply with which such a man rejected all encouraging arguments was, “I have nothing to expect from life anymore”