In my office, well in sight, are the remains of a bed’s part coming from a concentration camp with a profile of the Virgin Mary engraved. This is all that the nazis returned to my grandfather, about his best friend, a catholic priest, caught by the Gestapo for hiding Jewish children. Father de Soil had no family left and he died. Later, my grandfather was arrested as it was discovered that he was the leader in that ring of judges, priests and nuns who were hiding the children. He was caught late in the war and lucky to survive. He had asked his friends in the Resistance to hide his beloved ones, should he fall. This is how my family discovered Switzerland. And this is where my strong sense of rebelliousness comes from when faced with injustice.
Recently, my daughter came home with a text of Romain Gary, extracted from a famous novel of his, The Roots of Heaven relating survival in concentration camps (thanks to Nick McRoberts for the translation):
“One day, for example, Robert had entered the block mimicking the attitude of a man giving his arm to a woman. We had collapsed, dirty, disgusted, desperate … Those who were not too exhausted whined, complained and cursed aloud. Robert moved through the room, continuing to offer his arm to the imaginary woman before our stunned eyes, then he made the gesture to invite her to sit on his bed. There was, despite the general apathy, some expressions of interest. The guys rose up on one elbow and looked with amazement at Robert courting his invisible wife. Sometimes he touched her chin, sometimes he kissed her hand, sometimes he whispered something in her ear and bowed from time to time in front of her with the courtesy of a bear, when suddenly, seeing that Janin was scratching himself, he approached and threw him a blanket…
Few people better personify the notion of “Sense of Purpose and Meaning” than the Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. Dr. Frankl was from Jewish origin. When the persecutions started under Nazi influence, he chose to stay in Austria to support his patients. He ended up being arrested in 1942 and deported to the concentration camp of Theresienstadt with his wife, Tilly Grosser and both his parents. As a psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl was interested in what was pushing some people to want to live or survive at any cost, and what was driving those who had suicidal tendencies.
Shortly before they were arrested by the Nazis, Tilly hid the manuscript of her husband’s writing on the sense of Purpose in the lining of his jacket. The first day they had arrived at the camp, after being separated, the manuscript was discovered and the work of a whole life sadistically destroyed by a “guard” in front of Viktor’s eyes… His parents, then his wife died in different concentration camps, Viktor himself “migrated” through Auschwitz and Türkheim prior to finally being freed.
As soon as liberated, he wrote a book in reflection of his concentration camp’s experience called: “Man’s search for Meaning”. Frankl explains how his theory (finding a meaning in everything of life) helped him survive the Holocaust. His manuscript had been destroyed as soon as arriving in the Camp? He would use his stay there as an opportunity to check his theory versus reality… Amongst the stories Frankl brought back from this journey to Horror, was the fact that inmates would always be able to predict when one of them was going to die: that person would suddenly declare having no further reason to continue fighting for their life… and soon after they were gone.
For Nokians before the disaster, “Connecting People” used to be a transcending Purpose. In DCNS, a state owned industrial group building ships for several armies around the world, each employee feels personally responsible for the lives of the sailors who will board their ships or submarines. Every banker at Julius Baer, feels responsible for the wealth their clients entrust them with and take it as a personal fault if their client is disappointed… Being able to create such a strong Sense of Purpose is fundamental, to us leaders when we want to get the best out of our people.
Have a great week all, mine will be in São-Paulo…