By Viktor E. Frankl
The director Tim Blake Nelson had me read this book as part of my preparation for The Grey Zone. Frankl, who survived Auschwitz, writes that human beings want meaning in their lives. He argues that those at Auschwitz who had something to live for—a person they loved or an ideal or a cause they could dedicate their behavior to—were better able to survive in the camps. He suggests there is a way to be an exemplary human being even in the face of an awful fate that one cannot change. I tried to give that feeling to my character—a woman who is helping smuggle gunpowder out of the factory where she's working to other rebels among the inmates at Auschwitz. (Their efforts result in the destruction of one of the crematoriums.) She has dedicated her life to the cause of trying to slow down the machinery of death, and she's willing to die for it.