Analyzing Survival in Auschwitz Term Paper

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Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. Discussing their daily activities in the concentration camps, their physical and psychological problems that they encountered, how the people behaved, and our own personal reflections on the situation.

Survival in Auschwitz

Auschwitz, Poland is a concentration camp built 150 miles outside Warsaw in May 1940. The commander is Rudolf Hoss and is staffed by SS Death's Head units. Primo Levi, a 24-year-old man who has been a prisoner here since early 1944. He studied chemistry at the University of Turin and graduated in 1941. He moved to northern Italy to join the resistance against Benito Mussolini but was captured in December 1943 and sent to Auschwitz.

He tells us it was a four-day train trip in crammed boxcars with nothing to eat or drink, midnight arrival, the first of many summary interrogations that led to either a slavish existence or swift death. Clothes taken, hair shaved, naked and cold, already starving: and this was just the beginning.

The camp, or lager, is a society with certain unforgiving laws, many of which are derived not from the guards but the prisoners. The camp is divided between those who will drown (the muselmann) and those who may survive. A man has to be cunning: if one follows the rules, one dies. It was you against everyone else, you had to keep an eye on your clothes, bowl, or spoon, or another prisoner would steal them. There was no pity for your fellows. Pity lead to death. Apart from the indispensable ingredient of luck, survival depended on one's ability to learn how to cope with an artificially created Hobbesian state of nature, an incessant war of all against all.

Beginning from the first day, when we entered the camp of Monowitz, there was a thorough search.
They asked everyone their age and level of education and skill and this was one of my fortunes. I said I was a chemist, without knowing that we were assigned to a chemical products factory; and later on this brought me a few advantages, because in the last 2 months I worked inside a lab.

"To sink is the easiest of matters; it is enough to carry out all the orders one receives, to eat only the ration, to observe the discipline of the work and the camp. Experience showed that only exceptionally could one survive more than three months in this way. All the Muselmanner who finished in the gas chambers have the same story, or more exactly, have no story; they follow the same slope down to the bottom, like streams that run down to the sea. On their entry into the camp, they are overcome before they can adapt themselves. They are beaten by time, they do not begin to learn German, to disentangle the infernal knot of laws and prohibitions until their body is already in decay, and nothing can save them from selections or from death by exhaustion.

Monowitz, with l0,000 prisoners, was part of an industry which was an enormous chemical trust. The point was to build a new factory of chemical products over an area of some 6 square Km. The construction was….....

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