The Story of One Author: Survival in Auschwitz
Survival in Auschwitz, written by Primo Levi, is the story of the Author himself and his time spent in Auschwitz, a German death camp/slave labor subcamp Auschwitz III, also known as Monowitz. The Lager, Mr. Levi commented, is one that “we would like to consider being pre-eminently a gigantic biological and social experiment.” It would be an experiment that would include thousands of human beings all differing in age, health condition, language, and lived kept like animals in enclosed barbed wire fences. They would be forced to live the life of a slave with inadequate needs in the struggle for life under the Nazi assault on humanity. Levi explained that this experiment was the reality of a man’s ability to dig himself in, to secrete a shell, and to build around himself a tenuous barrier of defense even in apparently desperate circumstances.
“Nothing belongs to us anymore; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair; if we speak, they will not listen, and if they listen, they will not understand. They will even take away our name: and if we want to keep it, we will have to find ourselves the strength to do so, to manage somehow so that behind the name something of us, of us as we were, still remains.” After arriving to the camp and being stripped of one’s identity, they will each come to learn that besides a few friendships some will make, they are alone, desperately alone. “One knows that they are only here on a visit, that in a few weeks nothing will remain of them but a handful of ashes in some nearby field and a crossed outnumber on a register.” At this point, these men have lost their families, their identities, and any self-respect and have to come to terms with the fact that they’re going to die, and when they do they’ll be alone. The physical pains of life inside the Lager and the horrible living conditions proved to not only hurt the body but the mind as well. Each had their own way of dealing with their strife, but for most it was silence. “One loses the habit of hoping in the Lager, and even of believing in one’s own reason. In the Lager it is useless to think because events happen for the most part in an unforeseeable manner; and it is harmful because it keeps alive a sensitivity which is a source of pain, and which some providential natural law dulls when suffering passes a certain limit.” Five months into his imprisonment at the Lager, Levi speaks of the new Haftling in comparison to himself and the others that arrived with and before him. “We were old Haftlinge: our wisdom lay in ‘not trying to understand’, not imagining the future, not tormenting ourselves as to how and when it would all be over; not asking others or ourselves any questions.” Days are spent in agony, worked to the bone in inadequate clothing and shoes in less than favorable temperatures, and are only provided just a small enough ration of soup and bread to slowly starve their bodies. The soup in return would create havoc on their bodies at night with diarrhea as they try and rest. Even if the soup hadn’t upset their digestion system, their dreams would be enough. “Our nights drag on. The dream of the story are woven into a texture of more indistinct images: the suffering of the day, composed of hunger, blows, cold, exhaustion, and fear, turn at night-time into shapeless nightmares of unheard-of violence, which in free life would only occur during a fever. One wakes up at every moment, frozen with terror, shaking in every limb, under the impression of an order shouted out by a voice full of anger in a language not understood.”
Primo Levi was a smart man who learned very quickly what he needed to do to keep his mind strong and to survive and that was to become a specialist. Once he would become a specialist that would mean that he would no longer have to work outside and he would be less likely to be a part of the selection for execution. He also made two friends Alberto and Lorenzo. Lorenzo is accredited with the reason in that Primo Levi lived through the camp as he “constantly reminded me by his presence that there still existed a just world outside our own, something and someone still pure and whole, not corrupt, not savage, extraneous to hatred and terror; some-thing difficult to define, a remote possibility of good, but for which it was worth surviving.”
Levi spent ten months in the German death camp. He would return home again, on January 27, 1945, while in the KaBe sick with Scarlet Fever, the Russians would enter the deserted camp and remove the survivors. Primo Levi became a writer after he got out, he made 2000 copies of a printing published in Italy in October. In the decade that followed, Levi turned his attention to family life, marrying Lucia Morqurgo, with whom he’d have two children, and working briefly as a chemical consultant before returning to a position at a paint factory. Primo Levi committed suicide in 1987 by hurtling down several flights of stairs in Turin, Italy.
Levi wanted this story about this assault on humanity shared with everyone, he believed writing serves to communicate, transmit information or feelings from mind to mind, and from time to time. “To destroy a man is difficult, almost as difficult as to create one: it has not been easy, nor quick, but you Germans have succeeded. Here we are, docile under your gaze; from our side, you have nothing to fear, no acts of violence, no words of defiance, not even a look of judgment.” “We are broken, conquered: even if we know how to adapt ourselves, even if we have finally learned how to find our food and to resist the fatigue and cold, even if we return home.” I think the holocaust was a very bad part of our history and that it could happen again in our future if we don’t learn from the tragedy.
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Survival in Auschwitz, written by Primo Levi, is the story of the Author himself and his time spent in Auschwitz, a German death camp/slave labor subcamp Auschwitz III, also known […]