Is it possible to put a price on life? I do not mean somebody else's life but one's own. Can a definite price be set on life, or is it priceless? That is, does life have a value beyond any price? If so, then it is all right knowingly to send other people to be gassed, those prisoners who had been deprived by the almighty Germans of the right to live. Moreover, when death is inevitable is there any point in fighting for life? Is there really such a thing as a meaningful death? Is it better for a human being to face death, knowing that he is about to die, or is it better when death comes upon him suddenly, snuffing him out before he realizes what is happening?
In Auschwitz, a place where death was palpable, where the air was filled with death groans, those questions flowed through our minds continuously. For us these were not merely academic questions. The way you answered these questions determined the way you behaved toward other people, including those who were condemned to death. Those who asserted, "I want to live at any price," would put even their own parents into the car that was going to the crematorium. On the other hand, parents who wanted to live at any price put their small children into valises and then cast the valises aside. Those who asserted, "My life is priceless," dragged out prisoners who were hiding during the selection so that they themselves would be able to escape the danger.
It seems odd, but in Auschwitz everybody wanted to live. Suicides were very rare. In this terrible world there was room for hope and dreams. The most beautiful images of life after the war shimmered in the mind's eye. We imagined that after the war people would be richer for the experience and would create a paradise on earth, without wars and without persecution. Is it any wonder that everyone wanted to see the defeat of Germany and the world that would come into being after that took place? The real challenge was to find the will to overcome the animal instinct of survival at all cost, as reflected in the cynical proverb "Better a