Survival in Auschwitz

Survival in Auschwitz


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In 1943, Primo Levi, a twenty-five-year-old chemist and "Italian citizen of Jewish race," was arrested by Italian fascists and deported from his native Turin to Auschwitz. Survival in Auschwitz is Levi's classic account of his ten months in the German death camp, a harrowing story of systematic cruelty and miraculous endurance. Remarkable for its simplicity, restraint, compassion, and even wit, Survival in Auschwitz remains a lasting testament to the indestructibility of the human spirit. Included in this new edition is an illuminating conversation between Philip Roth and Primo Levi never before published in book form.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780684826806
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication date: 09/01/1995
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 56,192
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Primo Levi was born in Turin, Italy, in 1919, and trained as a chemist. He was arrested as a member of the anti-Fascist resistance, and then deported to Auschwitz in 1944. Levi's experience in the death camp and his subsequent travels through Eastern Europe are the subject of his two classic memoirs, Survival in Auschwitz and The Reawakening (also available from Collier books), as well as Moments of Reprieve. In addition, he is the author of The Periodic Table, If Not Now, When?, which won the distinguished Viareggio and Campiello prizes when published in Italy in 1982, and most recently, The Monkeys Wrench. "The first thing that needs to be said about Primo Levi," as John Gross remarked in The New York Times, "is that he might well have become a writer, and a very good writer, under any conditions; he is gifted and highly perceptive, a man with a lively curiosity, humor, and a sense of style." Dr. Levi retired from his position as manager of a Turin chemical factory in 1977 to devote himself full-time to writing. He died in 1987.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

The Journey

I was captured by the Fascist Militia on 13 December 1943. I was twenty-four, with little wisdom, no experience and a decided tendency — encouraged by the life of segregation forced on me for the previous four years by the racial laws — to live in an unrealistic world of my own, a world inhabited by civilized Cartesian phantoms, by sincere male and bloodless female friendships. I cultivated a moderate and abstract sense of rebellion.

It had been by no means easy to flee into the mountains and to help set up what, both in my opinion and in that of friends little more experienced than myself, should have become a partisan band affiliated with the Resistance movement Justice and Liberty. Contacts, arms, money and the experience needed to acquire them were all missing. We lacked capable men, and instead we were swamped by a deluge of outcasts, in good or bad faith, who came from the plain in search of a non-existent military or political organization, of arms, or merely of protection, a hiding place, a fire, a pair of shoes.

At that time I had not yet been taught the doctrine I was later to learn so hurriedly in the Lager: that man is bound to pursue his own ends by all possible means, while he who errs but once pays dearly. So that I can only consider the following sequence of events justified. Three Fascist Militia companies, which had set out in the night to surprise a much more powerful and dangerous band than ours, broke into our refuge one spectral snowy dawn and took me down to the valley as a suspect person.

During the interrogations that followed, I preferred to admit my status of 'Italian citizen of Jewish race'. I felt that otherwise I would be unable to justify my presence in places too secluded even for an evacuee; while I believed (wrongly as was subsequently seen) that the admission of my political activity would have meant torture and certain death. As a Jew, I was sent to Fossoli, near Modena, where a vast detention camp, originally meant for English and American prisoners-of-war, collected all the numerous categories of people not approved of by the new-born Fascist Republic.

At the moment of my arrival, that is, at the end of January 1944, there were about one hundred and fifty Italian Jews in the camp, but within a few weeks their number rose to over six hundred. For the most part they consisted of entire families captured by the Fascists or Nazis through their imprudence or following secret accusations. A few had given themselves up spontaneously, reduced to desperation by the vagabond life, or because they lacked the means to survive, or to avoid separation from a captured relation, or even — absurdly — 'to be in conformity with the law'. There were also about a hundred Jugoslavian military internees and a few other foreigners who were politically suspect.

The arrival of a squad of German SS men should have made even the optimists doubtful; but we still managed to interpret the novelty in various ways without drawing the most obvious conclusions. Thus, despite everything, the announcement of the deportation caught us all unawares.

On 20 February, the Germans had inspected the camp with care and had publicly and loudly upbraided the Italian commissar for the defective organization of the kitchen service and for the scarce amount of wood distribution for heating; they even said that an infirmary would soon be opened. But on the morning of the 21st we learned that on the following day the Jews would be leaving. All the Jews, without exception. Even the children, even the old, even the ill. Our destination? Nobody knew. We should be prepared for a fortnight of travel. For every person missing at the roll-call, ten would be shot.

Only a minority of ingenuous and deluded souls continued to hope; we others had often spoken with the Polish and Croat refugees and we knew what departure meant.

For people condemned to death, tradition prescribes an austere ceremony, calculated to emphasize that all passions and anger have died down, and that the act of justice represents only a sad duty towards society which moves even the executioner to pity for the victim. Thus the condemned man is shielded from all external cares, he is granted solitude and, should he want it, spiritual comfort; in short, care is taken that he should feel around him neither hatred nor arbitrariness, only necessity and justice, and by means of punishment, pardon.

But to us this was not granted, for we were many and time was short. And in any case, what had we to repent, for what crime did we need pardon? The Italian commissar accordingly decreed that all services should continue to function until the final notice: the kitchens remained open, the corvées for cleaning worked as usual, and even the teachers of the little school gave lessons until the evening, as on other days. But that evening the children were given no homework.

And night came, and it was such a night that one knew that human eyes would not witness it and survive. Everyone felt this: not one of the guards, neither Italian nor German, had the courage to come and see what men do when they know they have to die.

All took leave from life in the manner which most suited them. Some praying, some deliberately drunk, others lustfully intoxicated for the last time. But the mothers stayed up to prepare the food for the journey with tender care, and washed their children and packed the luggage; and at dawn the barbed wire was full of children's washing hung out in the wind to dry. Nor did they forget the diapers, the toys, the cushions and the hundred other small things which mothers remember and which children always need. Would you not do the same? If you and your child were going to be killed tomorrow, would you not give him to eat today?

In hut 6A old Gattegno lived with his wife and numerous children and grandchildren and his sons- and daughters-in-law. All the men were carpenters, they had come from Tripoli after many long journeys, and had always carried with them the tools of their trade, their kitchen utensils and their accordions and violins to play and dance to after the day's work. They were happy and pious folk. Their women were the first to silently and rapidly finish the preparations for the journey in order to have time for mourning. When all was ready, the food cooked, the bundles tied together, they unloosened their hair, took off their shoes, placed the Yahrzeit candles on the ground and lit them according to the customs of their fathers, and sat on the bare soil in a circle for the lamentations, praying and weeping all the night. We collected in a group in front of their door, and we experienced within ourselves a grief that was new for us, the ancient grief of the people that has no land, the grief without hope of the exodus which is renewed every century.

Dawn came on us like a betrayer; it seemed as though the new sun rose as an ally of our enemies to assist in our destruction. The different emotions that overcame us, of resignation, of futile rebellion, of religious abandon, of fear, of despair, now joined together after a sleepless night in a collective, uncontrolled panic. The time for meditation, the time for decision was over, and all reason dissolved into a tumult, across which flashed the happy memories of our homes, still so near in time and space, as painful as the thrusts of a sword.

Many things were then said and done among us; but of these it is better that there remain no memory.

With the absurd precision to which we later had to accustom ourselves, the Germans held the roll-call. At the end the officer asked 'Wieviel Stück?' The corporal saluted smartly and replied that there were six hundred and fifty 'pieces' and that all was in order. They then loaded us on to the buses and took us to the station of Carpi. Here the train was waiting for us, with our escort for the journey. Here we received the first blows: and it was so new and senseless that we felt no pain, neither in body nor in spirit. Only a profound amazement: how can one hit a man without anger?

There were twelve goods wagons for six hundred and fifty men; in mine we were only forty-five, but it was a small wagon. Here then, before our very eyes, under our very feet, was one of those notorious transport trains, those which never return, and of which, shuddering and always a little incredulous, we had so often heard speak. Exactly like this, detail for detail: goods wagons closed from the outside, with men, women and children pressed together without pity, like cheap merchandise, for a journey towards nothingness, a journey down there, towards the bottom. This time it is us who are inside.

Sooner or later in life everyone discovers that perfect happiness is unrealizable, but there are few who pause to consider the antithesis: that perfect unhappiness is equally unattainable. The obstacles preventing the realization of both these extreme states are of the same nature: they derive from our human condition which is opposed to everything infinite. Our ever-insufficient knowledge of the future opposes it: and this is called, in the one instance, hope, and in the other, uncertainty of the following day. The certainty of death opposes it: for it places a limit on every joy, but also on every grief. The inevitable material cares oppose it: for as they poison every lasting happiness, they equally assiduously distract us from our misfortunes and make our consciousness of them intermittent and hence supportable.

It was the very discomfort, the blows, the cold, the thirst that kept us aloft in the void of bottomless despair, both during the journey and after. It was not the will to live, nor a conscious resignation; for few are the men capable of such resolution, and we were but a common sample of humanity.

The doors had been closed at once, but the train did not move until evening. We had learnt of our destination with relief. Auschwitz: a name without significance for us at that time, but it at least implied some place on this earth.

The train travelled slowly, with long, unnerving halts. Through the slit we saw the tall pale cliffs of the Adige Valley and the names of the last Italian cities disappear behind us. We passed the Brenner at midday of the second day and everyone stood up, but no one said a word. The thought of the return journey stuck in my heart, and I cruelly pictured to myself the inhuman joy of that other journey, with doors open, no one wanting to flee, and the first Italian names...and I looked around and wondered how many, among that poor human dust, would be struck by fate. Among the forty-five people in my wagon only four saw their homes again; and it was by far the most fortunate wagon.

We suffered from thirst and cold; at every stop we clamoured for water, or even a handful of snow, but we were rarely heard; the soldiers of the escort drove off anybody who tried to approach the convoy. Two young mothers, nursing their children, groaned night and day, begging for water. Our state of nervous tension made the hunger, exhaustion and lack of sleep seem less of a torment. But the hours of darkness were nightmares without end.

There are few men who know how to go to their deaths with dignity, and often they are not those whom one would expect. Few know how to remain silent and respect the silence of others. Our restless sleep was often interrupted by noisy and futile disputes, by curses, by kicks and blows blindly delivered to ward off some encroaching and inevitable contact. Then someone would light a candle, and its mournful flicker would reveal an obscure agitation, a human mass, extended across the floor, confused and continuous, sluggish and aching, rising here and there in sudden convulsions and immediately collapsing again in exhaustion.

Through the slit, known and unknown names of Austrian cities, Salzburg, Vienna, then Czech, finally Polish names. On the evening of the fourth day the cold became intense: the train ran through interminable black pine forests, climbing perceptibly. The snow was high. It must have been a branch line as the stations were small and almost deserted. During the halts, no one tried any more to communicate with the outside world: we felt ourselves by now 'on the other side'. There was a long halt in open country. The train started up with extreme slowness, and the convoy stopped for the last time, in the dead of night, in the middle of a dark silent plain.

On both sides of the track rows of red and white lights appeared as far as the eye could see; but there was none of that confusion of sounds which betrays inhabited places even from a distance. By the wretched light of the last candle, with the rhythm of the wheels, with every human sound now silenced, we awaited what was to happen.

Next to me, crushed against me for the whole journey, there had been a woman. We had known each other for many years, and the misfortune had struck us together, but we knew little of each other. Now, in the hour of decision, we said to each other things that are never said among the living. We said farewell and it was short; everybody said farewell to life through his neighbour. We had no more fear.

The climax came suddenly. The door opened with a crash, and the dark echoed with outlandish orders in that curt, barbaric barking of Germans in command which seems to give vent to a millennial anger. A vast platform appeared before us, lit up by reflectors. A little beyond it, a row of lorries. Then everything was silent again. Someone translated: we had to climb down with our luggage and deposit it alongside the train. In a moment the platform was swarming with shadows. But we were afraid to break that silence: everyone busied himself with his luggage, searched for someone else, oiled to somebody, but timidly, in a whisper.

A dozen SS men stood around, legs akimbo, with an indifferent air. At a certain moment they moved among us, and in a subdued tone of voice, with faces of stone, began to interrogate us rapidly, one by one, in bad Italian. They did not interrogate everybody, only a few: 'How old? Healthy or ill?' And on the basis of the reply they pointed in two different directions.

Everything was as silent as an aquarium, or as in certain dream sequences. We had expected something more apocalyptic: they seemed simple police agents. It was disconcerting and disarming. Someone dared to ask for his luggage: they replied, 'luggage afterwards'. Someone else did not want to leave his wife: they said, 'together again afterwards'. Many mothers did not want to be separated from their children: they said 'good, good, stay with child'. They behaved with the calm assurance of people doing their normal duty of every day. But Renzo stayed an instant too long to say good-bye to Francesca, his fiancée, and with a single blow they knocked him to the ground. It was their everyday duty.

In less than ten minutes all the fit men had been collected together in a group. What happened to the others, to the women, to the children, to the old men, we could establish neither then nor later: the night swallowed them up, purely and simply. Today, however, we know that in that rapid and summary choice each one of us had been judged capable or not of working usefully for the Reich; we know that of our convoy no more than ninety-six men and twenty-nine women entered the respective camps of Monowitz-Buna and Birkenau, and that of all the others, more than five hundred in number, not one was living two days later. We also know that not even this tenuous priciple of discrimination between fit and unfit was always followed, and that later the simpler method was often adopted of merely opening both the doors of the wagon without warning or instructions to the new arrivals. Those who by chance climbed down on one side of the convoy entered the camp; the others went to the gas chamber.

This is the reason why three-year-old Emilia died: the historical necessity of killing the children of Jews was self-demonstrative to the Germans. Emilia, daughter of Aldo Levi of Milan, was a curious, ambitious, cheerful, intelligent child; her parents had succeeded in washing her during the journey in the packed car in a tub with tepid water which the degenerate German engineer had allowed them to draw from the engine that was dragging us all to death.

Thus, in an instant, our women, our parents, our children disappeared. We saw them for a short while as an obscure mass at the other end of the platform; then we saw nothing more.

Instead, two groups of strange individuals emerged into the light of the lamps. They walked in squads, in rows of three, with an odd, embarrassed step, head dangling in front, arms rigid. On their heads they wore comic berets and were all dressed in long striped overcoats, which even by night and from a distance looked filthy and in rags. They walked in a large circle around us, never drawing near, and in silence began to busy themselves with our luggage and to climb in and out of the empty wagons.

We looked at each other without a word. It was all incomprehensible and mad, but one thing we had understood. This was the metamorphosis that awaited us. Tomorrow we would be like them.

Without knowing how I found myself loaded on to a lorry with thirty others; the lorry sped into the night at full speed. It was covered and we could not see outside, but by the shaking we could tell that the road had many curves and bumps. Are we unguarded? Throw ourselves down? It is too late, too late, we are all 'down'. In any case we are soon aware that we are not without guard. He is a strange guard, a German soldier bristling with arms. We do not see him because of the thick darkness, but we feel the hard contact every time that a lurch of the lorry throws us all in a heap. At a certain point he switches on a pocket torch and instead of shouting threats of damnation at us, he asks us courteously, one by one, in German and in pidgin language, if we have any money or watches to give him, seeing that they will not be useful to us any more. This is no order, no regulation: it is obvious that it is a small private initiative of our Charon. The matter stirs us to anger and laughter and brings relief.

"A Conversation with Primo Levi by Philip Roth" copyright © 1986 Philip Roth

Table of Contents


Author's Preface

The Journey

On the Bottom



Our Nights

The Work

A Good Day

This Side of Good and Evil

The Drowned and the Saved

Chemical Examination

The Can to of Ulysses

The Events of the Summer

October 1944


Die drei Leute vom Labor

The Last One

The Story of Ten Days

A Conversation with Primo Levi by Philip Roth

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Italo Calvino One of the most important and gifted writers of our time.

David Caute, New Statesman Survival in Auschwitz is a stark prose poem on the deepest sufferings of man told without self-pity, but with a muted passion and intensity, an occasional cry of anguish, which makes it one of the most remarkable documents I have ever read.

Meredith Tax, The Village Voice More than anything else I've read or seen, Levi's books helped me not only to grasp the reality of genocide but to figure out what it means for people like me who grew up sheltered from the storm.

The Times Literary Supplement (London) Survival in Auschwitz has the inevitability of the true work of art.

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Survival In Auschwitz 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
i have always been really interested in the holocaust, so when i found survival in auschwitz on a bookshelf in my house, i couldnt wait to read it. it was a very good and intense book, and at times i believe it was above my level of comprehension. i am only 14, but a mature reader. i think it will have a bigger effect on me when i re-read it in a few years, but i still loved it, and if you enjoy holocasut books, it is a must-read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Primo Levi's account of his time in Auschwitz was horrifying to the extreme. I read this book in a college-level Holocaust course. The descent your mind must make into the world of Auschwitz is torturous and difficult, but the final result is a better understanding of the atrocities carried out by Nazi Germany. Definitely a profitable read, but be prepared to be shocked.
maria2302 More than 1 year ago
In this story the only main character in the book was Primo, who is also the narrator. Promo was a brave soul who spook the truth about how the Jewish community was treated during the holocaust. Throughout the entire book he described how Germans brutally treated Jewish people. I was emotionally connected to the book, well I was reading I could metal image the scenarios and put myself in his shoes. The book contains graphic and violent events which causes the reader to feel sad. I strongly encourage to read the book till the end find out how he gets out of Auschwitz.
Sue5 More than 1 year ago
A required read for a college course on religion, my daughter recommended this to me.  I recommend it to you. Maybe this should be required early in our education.  A strong people makes a strong country. We need to keep our children informed to protect our freedom.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story needs ro be read by anyone that says this is not real. No one makes this facts up.
NativeSon More than 1 year ago
Primo Levi, the author and subject of the autobiography, was arrested in December, 1943. An anti-Fascist, Italian Jew, he was sent to a prison camp in Italy and then deported to Auschwitz in February, 1944. Levi survived in Auschwitz largely because by 1944, the Nazis had suspended full-effort genocide in preference to enforced convict labor. When the camp was evacuated in January, 1945. This book goes deep into man and what his valus are and what his view on life and death are when faced with extream trials. The story was true and we should not forget, so we don't make the same mistakes. Chapter 3: Why do some prisoners bother to wash when they can? Chapter 7: How has life in Auschwitz changed the prisoners' values?
Cougar_H More than 1 year ago
This book was one of the most challenging i have ever read. With all of the unfamiliar vocabulary, complex situations, and the straight on sadness, it was a very intricate and brilliant novel. When everyone had evacuated the camp, Primo and about 20 others who were ill with scarlet fever, had been forced to stay, and it was he who saved them with his courage and stubbornness to stay alive, Primo had to go out in the freezing cold to find food and warmth. In a shorter version, he kept the saying "put others before yourself" in his mind even though for 10 long months all his concentration was on how to get through even a single day. People nowadays are so consumed with their lives that they can't even be kind to one another unless it has to do with money. If you were in Primo's shoes, tell me, what would you've done? While reading "Survival in Auschwitz", Primo makes you stop and think about what's really going on and how one thing affects everything! In his book it says "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 more to fear; no acts of violence, no words of defiance, not even a look of judgment left." I think Levi wrote his book because he wanted to show us just how everything from the torture to the faith was so true and heartbreaking. Primo Levi has written an outstanding book that will blow your mind.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Survival in Auschwitz, by Primo Levi, takes place in the early to mid 1940¿s. This story of cruelty and survival is about the ten months Levi was forced to live in the concentration camp. This is a well-written book which expresses feelings of excitement, sarcasm, fear, and relief. This book was incredibly enjoyable to read. Levi¿s style is both original and powerful, and he portrays his point in an effective manner. Levi told his story using mainly his own experiences, intertwined with some history on the Holocaust. This was a convincing story of the life in Auschwitz.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Primo Levi¿s memoir, Survival in Auschwitz, is a moving account of one young man¿s struggle for survival in the notorious Polish concentration camp. Levi employs a unique narrative structure, emphasizing the power of words both thematically and stylistically. Levi is only twenty-five when he enters the camp, and his storytelling does much to reveal the devastating impact that concentration camps had on the psyche and on the spirit. Levi confronts the harsh reality of what life in Auschwitz means, and how different it is from any form of civilization. ¿Here the struggle to survive is without respite,¿ he writes, ¿because everyone is desperately and ferociously alone¿ (88). One of the evil images that haunts Levi will haunt readers as well: ¿an emaciated man, with head dropped and shoulders curved, on whose face and in whose eyes not a trace of a thought is to be seen¿ (90). In clear contrast to the camp¿s dehumanizing effects on its victims, Levi uses language to stir the hearts of his readers. In a kind of dictionary of suffering, he gives the reader the terms of his old existence: Buna, where young men labor in a factory that will never produce synthetic rubber; Ka-Be, the infirmary where Levi is granted a few weeks¿ rest to recover from a foot injury, and Selekcja, the Polish word for ¿selection,¿ that seals the fate of those marked for the crematorium. Because the camp contains Jews and other prisoners from all parts of Europe, facility with multiple languages represents a survival tool as well as a mark of education. Levi tells the success story of young man, Henri, who is able to cultivate many contacts because he speaks four languages. In one of the book¿s most heart-stirring passages, Levi attempts to translate Dante¿s canto of Ulysses into French in an effort to increase a friend¿s understanding of his heritage and the remnants of his humanity (112). As Levi notes in the foreword, his narrative is not strictly chronological¿the main events are in 1944, but Levi does not give dates to events until the last few days in camp, after the Germans have evacuated. In one chapter, Levi has to ask himself, ¿How many months have gone by since we entered the camp?¿ Eventually he asks the more sobering question, ¿how many of us will be alive at the new year?¿ (136). That Levi can begin to keep track of time after the camp¿s liquidation signifies his return to a life where the future is more than another day of deprivation and suffering. At one point, Levi notes that the camp term for ¿never,¿ is morgen früh, German for tomorrow morning (133). Though Levi¿s book is powerful for the factual events it recounts, the questions it raises leave the most lasting impact. Survival in Auschwitz asks what makes a human, what it takes to destroy that humanity, and humanity is recovered. Many readers wishing to learn more about the Holocaust or concentration camps will find Levi¿s work powerful and enriching. Perhaps more importantly, these readers will continue to ask Levi¿s questions in today¿s society.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
In this and his other books Primo Levi without disintegrating into the rhetoric of hate teaches all of us the evils of out of control zealotry and the necessity for all of us to maintain a constant vigil to prevent such horrors from reoccuring. I cannot recommend enough that you read this and 'The Drowned and the Saved'. These two books should be required reading for every person and would, if learned from by the reader make both a better person and a better society for all. I cannot recommend Primo Levi's work enough -- if you only read two more books in your life these two are the ones to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the great books of the 20th century, in which a deeply humane man describes his experiences without rancor. Pity about the sensational title used in the US, though; in Britain you will find the book with its correct Italian title, 'If this is a man'. More eliptical, more poetic, but closer to Levi's humane vision.
cenneidigh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Wow, what a story. This is not about the Germans and much as it is about the way the Jews treated each other. Very sad and well written.
tatasmagik on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Tremendously moving, heart-breaking, sobering and inspiring. A well-written account of one man's survival of the absolute bottom of humanity. Difficult to read at times.
agnesmack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was one of the most difficult books I've ever read. Not in it's word usage or general prose style, but reading about this man's experience in Auschwitz and knowing that it was real . . . I had a really hard time getting through it.This was the story of Primo Levi, a man who lived in Auschwitz and managed to survive. As I was reading this, I kept thinking about how strange the human's want to survive is. If I were in his position, I am not sure that I would continue fighting. I'm not sure I could keep working 18 hours a day, eating one scrap of bread, 1/2 a pint of soup and sleeping on the ground. I'm not sure I would prefer being beaten to being killed. I think I'd prefer they just shoot me. Primo, on the other hand, never gives up - though he does lose hope.I flagged so much of this book. I both want everyone I know to read this book immediately, and also for no one I know to ever read this book. I am going to just pick a passage at random because I can't go through and read everything I've marked. It's too much and it makes me too sad."For human nature is such that grief and pain - even simultaneously suffered - do not add up as a whole in our consciousness, but hide, the lesser behind the greater, according to a definite law of perspective. It is providential and is our means of surviving in the camp. And this is the reason why so often in free life one hears it said that man is never content. In fact it is not a question of human incapacity for a state of absolute happiness, but o an ever-insufficient knowledge of the complex nature of the state of unhappiness; so that the single name of the major cause is given to all its causes, which are composite and set out in an order of urgency. And if the most immediate cause of stress comes to an end, you are grievously amazed to see that another lies behind; and in reality a whole series of others....At sunset, the siren of the Feierabend sounds, the end of work; and as we are all satiated, at least for a few hours, no quarrels arise, we feel good, the Kapo feels no urge to hit us, and we are able to think of our mothers and wives, which usually does not happen. For a few hours, we can be unhappy in the manner of free men."* * * *It was affecting, moving and devastating. I don't know what else to say about it.
Britt84 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Very impressive; good read for anybody who wants to know more about what happened in Auschwitz, how the people lived there. Stunning and beautifully written.
ARICANA on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In 1943, Primo Levi, a twenty-five-year-old chemist and "Italian citizen of Jewish race," was arrested by Italian fascists and deported from his native Turin to Auschwitz. Survival in Auschwitz is Levi's classic account of his ten months in the German death camp, a harrowing story of systematic cruelty and miraculous endurance. Remarkable for its simplicity, restraint, compassion, and even wit, Survival in Auschwitz remains a lasting testament to the indestructibility of the human spirit.
Tpoi on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Chemical engineer and accidental tourist who would bear witness to the fascism and Auschwitz with clarity, metaphor, and deliberate realism.
multifaceted on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I read ¿Survival in Auschwitz¿, I really did like it, though not in the usual kind of way, where you start crying because it rattles your emotions so entirely (ok, so maybe that¿s just *my* usual reaction to books I love, haha). It does rattle your emotions, but in a much more strange (and perhaps complex) way. But, for a while after reading this book, I didn¿t think about it, and hence forgot some of the information. Then I started thinking about it the one day, and a scene from the book came flooding back to me. In it, Levi is walking under surveillance of a guard; the guard dirties his hands and, without thinking much of it at all, uses Levi as a rag on which he can clean himself. It just struck me as something so cruel and horrible, although the act isn¿t really described as being violent. It was as if Levi, the prisoner, wasn¿t even human¿as if he wasn¿t alive at all¿like he was just a rag, something disposable with which you can clean your hands on and then rid yourself of. This may not be the most exemplary detail of how dehumanizing life was described as being for the prisoners in Auschwitz in this book (Levi, of course, goes over this theme many times, along with showing how many struggled to stay human in the midst of it all), but it is the one that affected me the most. It opened my eyes in a way none of the other Holocaust stories, diaries and essays I¿ve read have done before. Primo Levi doesn¿t just describe his actions and his luck at survival (or lack thereof) like most Holocaust books do¿he also gives a glimpse into the complex relationship between the prisoners and their captives, as well as the equally complicated relationship between prisoners themselves. For reasons such as these, this novel is also much better, in a sense, than many of the other Holocaust works I have read.
michaelbartley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A dark book about living and surviving in Auschwitz. Levi takes you from the moment he is captured to his last day. He struggles not only to live but also to remain human. This is a very powerful book
Angelic55blonde on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a small yet powerful book that is a great addition to the Holocaust studies. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone!
rslynch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book has such a sense of beauty, pain, and attention to detail. In some ways I wish I could wipe these experiences from survivors' minds and replace it with something pleasant or benign. Then i read stories like this and realize how much of their lives sprung from their experience, which shaped every thing that came after and shaded all that came before. I wish more people would read these accounts and know the truth of the human experience and the triumph of spirit.
booklove2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An alternate title of this is 'If This Is A Man' which is on the '1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die' list. That makes this one of the very few non-fiction books on the list. I don't know why they'd only include a couple. I think they should limit the list to fiction, but this one is very worthy of being on it anyway. Primo Levi was a Jewish man living in Italy that was sent to Auschwitz. He says he writes things in order of urgency, the order details need to go on the page. But Levi's way of describing things is so perfect and heartbreaking. It seems simple yet calculated, and says exactly enough. A reoccurring dream Levi had, that he found others in the camp also had, was that he would try to tell people his story, even his own sister, and no one would listen. They would walk away. Because of this dream, I can imagine him composing the words in his head while he was in the camps, which would be a good reason to survive the horrors of the Holocaust: to tell others your story and warn them of what could one day happen again. So I think this was an important book for Levi to write and also an important book for anyone to read. One of the essential books on the Holocaust.
bcquinnsmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Don't think that any of Primo Levi's books are just your run of the mill (if there are such things) holocaust stories. He lived it. Here he relates what survival in a concentration camp means, and what those who have been reduced to subhumans must do simply in order to survive. It is one of Levi's best.
donttalktofreaks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Deeply moving and disturbing story of a man's time at the dreaded death camp.