IT was my good fortune to be deported to Auschwitz only in. , that is, after the German Government had decided, owing to the growing scarcity of labour. concentrafon camp guards at Auschwitz: “These were not monsters. I didn't see a single monster in my fme in the camp. Instead I saw people like you and I who. or because they lacked the means to survive, or to knew that human eyes would not witness it and survive. . Auschwitz: a name without.

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Survival In Auschwitz by Primo Levi - The true and harrowing account of Primo Levi's experience at the German concentration camp of Auschwitz and his. from Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. Background – Prim Levi ( – ) was an Italian chemist. In , he was deported to Auschwitz, a Nazi. Editorial Reviews. Review. Survival in Auschwitz is a mostly straightforward narrative, beginning with Primo Levi's deportation from Turin, Italy .

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. 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 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.

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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. They have sought out what food they could find. Some are roasting potatoes around fires or melting snow so they have water. Charles and Levi find a stove and a wheelbarrow. They also find potatoes that they leave with Arthur, who falls "unconscious from the cold.

One of the others, Towarowski, suggests that they "each of them offer a slice of bread to us three who had been working. Prisoners collect what they can use. Charles and Levi find a pile of frozen cabbages and turnips. Using a pickaxe, they chip free "about pounds" of them. They also find salt and a can with "perhaps twelve gallons" of water. Later in the day, Levi finds a vehicle battery and takes it to the room, so they have light.

He notes that for the last three days, they had seen Germans pass by in retreat. The Polish civilians are also gone. Levi thinks on his fellow patients. Towarowski is a year-old Franco-Pole.

Sertelet is a year-old peasant from the Vosges mountains in Germany. Alcalai is a Jewish glazier. Schenck is a Slovak Jewish businessman. Levi tells the patients they need to start thinking of going home.

They need to mind their own dishes and they should not share soup.

They are to stay in their beds other than to use the latrine. He sees that the guards have left quickly. On one table, Charles and Levi find frozen soup and beer; elsewhere they find "piles of valuable things. These corpses they left outside in the snow because "nobody had the strength to bury them. The next ward to the infectious diseases ward is for dysentery.

The floor is "covered by a layer of frozen excrement," and the patients are groaning and begging. Levi takes them a bowl of water and the leftover soup in the evening. They cry out from then on "with the accents of all the languages of Europe, accompanied by incomprehensible prayers. Lakmaker, a year-old Dutch Jew, has been ill with typhus, scarlet fever, and a "serious cardiac illness.

Charles and Levi do their best to clean him with the straw from the mattress and return him to his bed. Charles and Levi exit through the wire—which has been beaten down by others. Charles exclaims that they are outside.

It is the first time since his arrest that Levi is "free, without armed guards, without wire fences between myself and home. They take the potatoes back and have boiled potatoes, potato soup, and potato pancakes. Sertelet, however, cannot eat. He is worsening. Three times it turned her round with all the waters; and at the fourth, it lifted up the stern so that our prow plunged deep, as pleased an Other.

That the search for knowledge leads to Auschwitz? The centrality of annihilating violence is manifested not only by the actual war aimed at the obliteration of Troy and its people but espe- cially by the repeated scenes in which mercy is requested and bribes are offered but death is dealt out to the enemy Trojan, suitor for reasons deemed sufficient by the one holding the sword. In this sense, The Iliad is the poem not only of force, as Simone [56] Weil puts it, but of annihilating force: Iliad 6.

Survival was defi- ance of this rule, an effort mostly justified by the will to tell the story.

Having seen the others, the drowned, Levi cannot turn away. What is the significance of the well-known scene in which the dying implore the survivor to live in order to tell? This adds another dimension to the suffering involved in tell- ing the story. As in the dream, if Levi is to live up to his obligation to tell, he must repeatedly return to Auschwitz.

And we were glad but this soon turned to sorrow for out of the new land a whirlwind rose and hammered at our ship, against her bow. Inferno, canto 26, lines —38 These crucial omitted lines must correspond to the flash of intuition. Even if they are a faithful, mimetic representation of the episode as it occurred, the episode is arranged as art and as such contains the erased message as erased, not only forgotten.

Perhaps Levi is discuss- ing the legacy of the Enlightenment and its downfall in Auschwitz; however, it seems to go beyond that, to say something about the limits of knowledge and the nature of human progress. Ulysses and his companions see Mount Purgatory and are happy; it is the tallest mountain they have ever seen. But quickly that land turns into the source of disaster.

Multiple layers of meaning are at play here, almost as if the wind from purgatory explains why one is at the gates of hell. Dante and Ulysses are seeking something that brings them to where they are; so what has Levi sought that brings him to the soup line with Pikolo?

Levi acknowledges that he does not possess the faith required to enter purgatory. As Dante reaches paradise, he finds that even here there are degrees of separation from God.

Survival In Auschwitz

They are in paradise, yet as Beatrice explains, [58]. Paradiso, canto 4, lines —11 No.

Perhaps what Levi sees is how the camps, in order to exist and function, depended on a million lesser evils. It is probably safe to say that throughout the Third Reich and its occupation zones, men and women collaborated in the worst evil, precisely out of calculations of lesser evil. The idea of banality is lost on this reader and must have made more sense against a conception of a Nazi monster.

Perhaps, as Levi suggests, there is nothing banal about evil, only something terribly small, lesser. After a very brief episode of trying to resist in the mountains, Levi, along with his companions, was captured by the Fascist militias: One of them, right in front of me, had his back to me and from his belt hung a hand grenade, one of those German hand grenades with a wooden handle that explode in time.

Gold, the incorruptible element, against which the other collaborative metals are measured, frames the story. Levi is not gold, but in some odd way, without any good reason, he measures himself and others measure him against it. The moment in which he did not reach out for the grenade involves a certain kind of [59] courage, different from the one required to survive.

Later in the chapter the question of courage is raised again as Levi, transferred to Consider If This Is a Man a prison, is allowed to heat up in the boiler room with a recently caught smuggler. Although it is not always clear if the West as it is in- voked actually exists, we may say, with the poem, that there is a Jewish Jewish West to the Jewish East.

Levi himself in a sense is the West to these Social Jews. Levi engages the very antisemitic image of the Ostjuden, the image that many Western Jews struggled so hard to disassociate themselves from.

The image is a complex amalgam of ideas, of Shabbat bread and salt, and of the Jews, who are the salt of the earth—but too much salt is unsavory. I myself am the grain of salt and the mustard seed. Reluc- [61] tant as he may be, Ulysses is tricked by the suspicious Palamedes, who places Telemachus in front of the plough yoked to an ox and a horse, Consider If This Is a Man causing him to reveal his sanity by veering away. The closing lines join the bibli- cal reference to Dante in a most terrible and dark manner.

Moses pleads with God and the sentence is commuted; what remains is the poor tenacious seed, revealed now as those that have survived. Il seme, the seed, leads directly back to the canto of Ulysses and to Ulysses addressing his shipmates: Attempting to evade war, Ulysses feigns madness, and the poem establishes an analogy with the God of the Hebrews who withdrew from war, a mad gesture, oddly connected to the Ostjuden, the non- Western.

Coaxed out of his madness by the fate of his child, Ulysses goes to war, in which it turns out he excels. When he finally returns, he supposedly has a happy nostos, or homecoming, as Hans Blumen- berg and many others have put it. Ulysses returning home is a posttraumatic figure turning his own home into Troy, slaughtering the suitors. The first, as Levi himself points out, is a discussion of Israel by proxy, engaging questions of Jews and power in a form of Jewish republic created in the woods.

Did the sowing of salt render the land a place of death, implying perhaps that it is madness to avoid sovereignty and war? It is [62] a question of what remains for the survivor: Jewish A new wagon was travelling with us towards Italy at the end of our train Social crammed with young Jews, boys and girls, coming from all the countries Studies of Eastern Europe.

A ship was waiting for them at Bari; they had downloadd their wagon, and it had proved the simplest thing in the world to attach it to our train: I was amazed, but they laughed at my amazement: They felt immensely free and strong, lords of the world and of their destinies. Using all his experience in the camp and the resourcefulness of a veteran, Levi and his compan- ions survived, but not without turning many of the other hungry, cold, and dying inmates away from their heated quarters.

Ulysses is not present in this episode, but another Italian classic ap- pears explicitly. The Decameron is about the collapse of a society during the plague, and the decision of Boccaccio to tell of the plague as he did must have made an impression on Levi.

Having chosen Griselda for her humility, Gualtieri decides to test her love in cruel and unnatu- [63] ral ways. Pretending to kill their children, he sends her away in shame. After horrible suffering, which she accepts serenely, Griselda is restored, Consider If This Is a Man as is the biblical Job, returning home to husband and children.

How It All Goes Down

They highlight the impossibility for Levi of being re- stored by virtue of return. Employing Boccaccio to seal his tale of survival, Levi delivers a final irony, telling his tale of horror within a literary tradition that moves from genocide to the plague with a mere wag of the tongue. The irony is in realizing that to the victims, the witnesses, any story told about Auschwitz will always be what The Decameron is to the dying of Florence: Roberta S.

Kremer Albany, , — I doubt that the reference the author cites to Lamentations 1: Marco Belpoliti Turin, , — Castronovo [64] Milan, For a discussion of the two cultures as scientific Studies and humanistic, see ibid. Enrico Mattioda No. Ruth Feldman and Brian Swann London, , 9. For the Italian, see Primo Levi, Opere, 3 vols. Turin, , 3: Piero Boitani and Richard Ambrosini, eds. White pays attention to the same passage. Stanislao G. Pugliese New York, , — Marco Belpoliti Cambridge, , Israel and the Armenian Genocide New Brunswick, , 9.

Rich- ard Lattimore New York, Ernesto Ferrero Turin, , The Austere Humanist, ed. Joseph Farrel Bern, , — London, , 5: See Jacques Derrida, Dis- semination, trans.We should be prepared for a fortnight of travel. The doors had been closed at once, but the train did not move until evening.

He is worsening. Levi treats the subject with his usual depth and tact in the chilling story of Rumkowsky and the Lodz ghetto. Here the train was waiting for us, with our escort for the journey.

But to us this was not granted, for we were many and time was short. A Personal Anthology London, , 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. We passed the Brenner at midday of the second day and everyone stood up, but no one said a word.

CHELSIE from Jackson
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