The Life of Wolf Laitner Through The Eyes Of Victor Frankl

 on July 21, 2015
A Five Star Review
Living the hours, minutes, and seconds in a concentration camp has to be one of the most traumatic things a human being can live through. Wolf Laitner, a survivor of concentration camps remains silent about what he really experienced during that time. Wolf Laitner just like philosopher Viktor Frankl were not just survivors of concentration camps, but moved on in life with new goals and accomplishments. Laitner never lost hope, not when he was in the dark and intense moments of the concentration camps, nor when he went back out in the world and moved on. When Wolf Laitner was asked how did you survive? He answered “I was lucky.”
Laitner knew how to use his medical training background during these tough times to help other prisoners and sometimes it was rewarding for him. Giving simple massages sometimes could earn him a piece of bread. Going days without a meal, having to steal food to survive for one more day, hand lifting 50 pound sacks of cements for ten hours a day, witnessing babies being murdered, held at gun point to obey orders, sleeping on frozen brick factory floors, watching people starve to death are all moments imprinted in Wolf Laitner brain. They were all things he had lived through Hitler’s concentration camps.
In the words of Viktor Frankl, “Those who had sense of meaning and purpose kept their humanity even when suffering”, Meaning those who are suffering in life can understand reasons behind or see some kind of purpose that will help them survive the suffering period and make it through. Wolf Laitner moved on in life, he got married and had two children. He also continued with his career and his life. His life had reason and a meaning for him to still being alive. That is probably why he survived the horrors of concentration camp, at least that’s how Viktor Frankl would see it.
Dr. Wolf Laitner was very dedicated man, a man who was about five feet ten inches tall. Wolf was a man who women would crave with their eyes. He was also man who loved his family dearly. Wolf Laitner loved to spoil his wife and his children; he loved expensive cars, and wore tailored suits. He loved to make money, but also cared about his patients evenly. He was always well dressed and smelled great. His son Mort Laitner described him as perfect; he said his dad was blessed with equal parts of personality, intelligence and looks. As Viktor Frankl would say about this is that we humans are not just a body or brain but that we are a total body with brain and spirit. We each are unique, and Wolf Laitner was very unique in many ways. His intelligence is what represents his brain and his bravery spirit for breaking through such nightmares in life and wanting to stay alive, while still having energy to use his medical knowledge to help others stay alive during such scary moments in the concentration camp.
Wolf Laitner had a huge passion for his garden. Whenever he had some free time he would spend it in his garden. He loved getting his hands dirty while fertilizing and gardening in his perfect place. He spent a lot of the time fertilizing, he mulched and watered his plants. His hard work was paid off when his roses, daisies, buttercups, irises and geraniums would sprout and grow. This must have been his therapy, his happy place where he felt like nothing bother him and he could spend hours just him and his garden. His garden probably filled the left over emptiness he probably felt at times when his head filled with thoughts of the dark days at the camp. This is probably why he liked being in his garden so much and dedicated time to it. It gave him satisfaction and no time to feel emptiness like Viktor Frankl would describe it in his philosophy.
Wolf Laitner did a great job with his memory and his conscience by suppressing emotions and feelings towards the past, not that doing that does any good to anyone in life. Wolf Laitner once built a pigeon coop and his house would get filled with pigeon’s and even though they were not pretty birds. He and his son Mort loved to watch them come and eat off he ivy berries. His pigeons and his devotion to the pigeons was probably another way he would void his emptiness. Wolf would buy the pigeon’s 50 pounds bags of birdseeds during the winter to be able to feed them. Somehow those pigeons stuck by. His affection was only with those pigeons, because according to this son Mort his father never seemed to care much for any other bird not even his parakeets. In the eyes for Viktor Frankl those birds had a reason for being there and a reason for surviving strong winters. Unfortunately Wolf Laitner lost his pigeons to a raccoon or a fox, who massacred all the pigeons. Wolf Laitner with no emotion said, “I failed to protect them”. I wonder if this whole scenery took him back to days at camp, where people were beaten to death or hurt in every way during Hitler’s days. Wolf Laitner that day stormed out his house saying,” Why me?” “Why always me.” In moments like that he is questioning life, “Why do these things happen to me?” He is probably wondering why he had to suffer in life a lot, or why does life present with situations that hurt him.
The philosopher Viktor Frankl would answer him with there is a reason why all this has happens to you. You are unique in life and you are presented with situations because you will be able to handle them. This is why you’ve never lost hope, this is why you can always pick yourself back up and continue down the path and live on. Wolf Laitner raised his family in small Catskill Community in a village call Woodridge. It was located in the southeastern portion of New York State. Wolf sister Reina had contacted Wolf to let him know what a great opportunity for him has presented. One of the medical practioners that lived there by the name of Dr. William Fernhoff had just passed away in tragic car accident. There was a small house that was available for renting in the center of the town on Broadway. This was his chance to move in to a place where he was going to grow as a healthcare provider and shine. There was going to be many patients that he could care for and in a year he would be making great amount of money. Wolf Laitner decided to take chance and move on with the idea. This is how he ended up in the small community of Woodridge. Viktor Frankl would say there is a meaning for this call from his sister, there was a meaning for the availability of the house for rental. This was meant for him to come across and take the opportunity that had just been presented to him. It wasn’t all just negative in life for this man but his life does have meaning and good things will come for him. As his sister Reina said, “You will become the big fish in a small pond.”
After Wolf’s passing away, Mort was having a hard time letting go, his head kept remembering beautiful memories as a child with his father. Mort received a visit from two elderly men by the names of Saul and David. They appeared to be around their sixties or seventies. They both dressed similar to Wolf Laitner and had bore tattooed numbers in their forearms. They seemed like messengers, sent to give Mort a message or a piece of mind that will help him feel more at ease. They came to tell Mort how his father, Wolf, saved their lives during the end of the war. Mort was very familiar with words like that, from family and patients how his father has pushed them away from death and saved their lives. Mort was so intrigued he asked the elderly men how so? Then men continue to explain that it was during end of war they was dying, they had no weight and were starving, they were also ill. They were both 16 years old. Wolf knew they were still virgins. He went on telling them to continue to struggle, to not give up, you should stay alive. Wolf used his psychology technique by the telling Saul and David that making love to a woman is something they should experience and know how it is. Wolf was just keeping their minds off food and death.
Wolf Laitner could relate with Viktor Frankl because he basically was teaching the younger men that they should not give up. That not to keep thinking about what’s making them miserable and ill because they will continue to fall in the existential vacuum and drive themselves to nonexistence. The more they keep thinking about food, water and death the deeper they would fall in the hole and the easier death will come. Wolf voided their negative thoughts and emptiness with something that would distract them, he was successful because the men are there telling his son the story. What Wolf did for these two young men was give them hope, give them something to think about. He demonstrated that even though living through that nightmare, he was still able to keep himself alive and others by using this medical gift.
Wolf Laitner and Viktor Frankl are both similar in their ways of thinking and analyzing. Both men did relate to each other and are both definitely two amazing and unique men who went through similar powerful situations in life and survived to have their philosophies and their stories told.

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