Primo Levi Survival in Auschwitz Essay

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Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz

Primo Levi

Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz

Reading Primo Levi's book Survival in Auschwitz is an experience which raises a host of important existential questions. These questions refer to the meaning of life and human nature and more specifically to the question of evil that exists in the human heart. This book also explores the other side of human nature and the extreme endurance and strength that lives within the human heart.

Survival in Auschwitz provides insight into the life of Levi during his period in the Auschwitz concentration camp during the Second World War. The narrative begins with his arrest as an Italian Jew in 1944 and his deportation. The book ends with the liberation of the camp in 1945. The horrors of his experience begins when Levi, with 650 other Jews, is loaded on as freight train and has to undergo a four-day journey to the camp without any food, water or rest. On arrival at the camp a selection process takes place and only 135 of the 650 passengers are admitted to the camp, the other 515 passengers are condemned to the gas chambers.

The book is essentially a personal narrative and one of the most painful aspects emphasized in the narration and description of these experiences is the loss of personal freedom that being as prisoner in the concentration camp means.
The loss of freedom and autonomy during the process of incarceration and afterwards is in essence a loss of human feeling for the individual to the machine-like evil of the concentration camp and those who control events.

What strikes one from early on in the book is this reduction of humanity and humaneness to the lowest possible levels, which can be seen as the true horror of Auschwitz. Both physical human life as well as the essential values of human nature is subjugated by the most intense cruelty and barbaric disregard for human values such as compassion. This is what makes this description of a personal experience of Auschwitz so intolerable.

For example, Levi with hundreds of others is stripped naked, his head is shaven and he is given a nondescript uniform with an identification number tattooed on his arm. In other words, all vestiges of his freedom and human identity are eradicated and he feels a sense of both humiliation and confusion as he attempts to assimilate and deal with his new, terrifying situation.

The book therefore raises a number of intriguing and deeply disturbing questions. In the light of the events and experiences in the camp, the question is raised as to….....

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