On another level what this book does is to bring the reader face-to-face with the reality of human evil. Through the detailed and intense descriptions that the author provides of environment in which he lived during the years in Auschwitz, we gain a unique insight into the tangible face and reality of evil. In the process of reading the book we are forced to face a number of very difficult and uncomfortable questions. This refers largely to the question of human nature and the evil that resides within the human heart. Is this an intrinsic part of human nature or does evil only emerge as a result of certain severe and unusual circumstances? The answer to this question is complex and is not given unequivocally in the book. What is implied however is that evil is a part of human being but that good is also present and can manifest itself in response to evil actions. One interpretation of the book is that both evil and goodness reside within the human being.
This dualism or dichotomy between human good and evil is central to the meaning of the personal narrative, although the nature of evil often overwhelms the good, leading to complete dehumanization. Despite this, in the cruel and unforgiving environment of Auschwitz Levi does refer to rare incidents of kindness and compassion.
When Levi first enters the camp he meets a Polish Jew Named Schlome. Levi is confused and terrified and in the midst of these horrors and he converses with Scholme, who instinctively understands his feelings and terror. Scholme then comes towards Levi and embraces him in a show of deep understanding and compassion for his situation even though he is in the same situation (Levi, 1958, p. 31). This is a gesture of understanding and common human
references the authors' general ideas, rather than specific evidence they present. And some of the sources are in German, which make it difficult to trace his sources or even read the titles of many of the articles used in writing his piece.
The most data-driven aspects of Frei's article come at the end, when he examines the differences between how guilty Stasi members were treated after the unification with Germany, versus how Nazis were treated at the end of the war. There was widespread condemnation of the Stasi, notes Frei, and the government was upfront and honest in allowing citizens to search the available records. But using this liberalism as evidence of a changed attitude towards German historical crimes seems like an overly broad logical leap
The bulk of Frei's evidence comes at the end of the article, in which he discusses various 21st century German government initiatives to engage in reevaluation of the past, and the recent efforts to study the Holocaust and its meaning and to memorialize it in tangible and intangible ways. But his three-generation theory of Holocaust intellectual history, while intriguing, is not substantiated with enough empirical evidence. Frei's broad thesis seems better-suited to a book rather than a relatively short article in an academic journal.
Frei, Norbert. (2010, September). 1945-1949-1989: dealing with two German pasts.
The Australian Journal of Politics and History. Retrieved October 24, 2010 through
FindArticles.com at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_go1877/is_3_56/ai_n55422670/
Levi, Primo, S.J. Woolf, and Philip Roth. Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity.
New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. Print.