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Is dit een mens

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In 1943, na de tweedeling van Italië, met de koning en de geallieerden in het zuiden en Mussolini in het noorden, trok Primo Levi als verzetsstrijder de bergen in, maar werd al na enkele maanden opgepakt. Als jood werd hij naar Auschwitz gedeporteerd, vanwaar hij als een van de weinigen terugkeerde. Onmiddellijk na de bevrijding schreef hij, aanvankelijk uit een chaotische In 1943, na de tweedeling van Italië, met de koning en de geallieerden in het zuiden en Mussolini in het noorden, trok Primo Levi als verzetsstrijder de bergen in, maar werd al na enkele maanden opgepakt. Als jood werd hij naar Auschwitz gedeporteerd, vanwaar hij als een van de weinigen terugkeerde. Onmiddellijk na de bevrijding schreef hij, aanvankelijk uit een chaotische, blinde drang Is dit een mens, dat wordt beschouwd als een van de klassieke getuigenissen over de jodenvervolging.


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In 1943, na de tweedeling van Italië, met de koning en de geallieerden in het zuiden en Mussolini in het noorden, trok Primo Levi als verzetsstrijder de bergen in, maar werd al na enkele maanden opgepakt. Als jood werd hij naar Auschwitz gedeporteerd, vanwaar hij als een van de weinigen terugkeerde. Onmiddellijk na de bevrijding schreef hij, aanvankelijk uit een chaotische In 1943, na de tweedeling van Italië, met de koning en de geallieerden in het zuiden en Mussolini in het noorden, trok Primo Levi als verzetsstrijder de bergen in, maar werd al na enkele maanden opgepakt. Als jood werd hij naar Auschwitz gedeporteerd, vanwaar hij als een van de weinigen terugkeerde. Onmiddellijk na de bevrijding schreef hij, aanvankelijk uit een chaotische, blinde drang Is dit een mens, dat wordt beschouwd als een van de klassieke getuigenissen over de jodenvervolging.

30 review for Is dit een mens

  1. 4 out of 5

    Petra hugged a guy who got Covid next day. Oh dear

    It's hard to say anything about this magnificent book that hasn't been said many times before, so I won't even try but just write a note on why I have an abiding sadness when I think of the author. Primo Levi lived all his life in the house of his birth in Turin, Italy apart from when he was in the concentration camp. Luckily he lived, just, through that awful, murderous year, and to all intents and purposes resumed the life of a chemist and author that the Nazis interrupted. He wrote The Periodi It's hard to say anything about this magnificent book that hasn't been said many times before, so I won't even try but just write a note on why I have an abiding sadness when I think of the author. Primo Levi lived all his life in the house of his birth in Turin, Italy apart from when he was in the concentration camp. Luckily he lived, just, through that awful, murderous year, and to all intents and purposes resumed the life of a chemist and author that the Nazis interrupted. He wrote The Periodic Table , lauded as the best science book ever written. Later he died from a fall down a narrow stairwell. It has been argued this wasn't suicide, but who climbs over banisters and falls down narrow stairwells except on purpose. As Elie Wiesel said, "Primo Levi died at Auschwitz forty years later". Alav HaShalom. Rest in Peace dear soul. Finished July 21, 2014. Reviewed Dec. 21, 2014.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Lea

    "Then for the first time we became aware that our language lacks words to express this offence, the demolition of a man. In a moment, with almost prophetic intuition, the reality was revealed to us: we had reached the bottom. It is not possible to sink lower than this; no human condition is more miserable than this, nor could it conceivably be so. Nothing belongs to us any more; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair; if we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they liste "Then for the first time we became aware that our language lacks words to express this offence, the demolition of a man. In a moment, with almost prophetic intuition, the reality was revealed to us: we had reached the bottom. It is not possible to sink lower than this; no human condition is more miserable than this, nor could it conceivably be so. Nothing belongs to us any more; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair; if we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they listen, they will not understand. They will even take away our name: and if we want to keep it, we will have to find ourselves the strength to do so, to manage somehow so that behind the name something of us, of us as we were, still remains." Primo Levi created the most magnificent, detailed and harrowing account of survival in Auschwitz. His writing style reflects the fact he is a chemist, a scientific observer of details of life, and at times can seem a bit dry, restrained and simple, yet it is perfectly compatible with the bleakness of the day-to-day life of the concentration camp. In his own words: "I never stopped recording the world and people around me, so much that I still have an unbelievably detailed image of them. I had an intense wish to understand, I was constantly pervaded by a curiosity that somebody afterward did, in fact, deem nothing less than cynical: the curiosity of the naturalist who finds himself transplanted into an environment that is monstrous but new, monstrously new." And as Philip Roth eloquently said; "If This Is a Man reads like the memoir of a theoretician of moral biochemistry who has himself been forcibly enlisted as the specimen organism to undergo laboratory experimentation of the most sinister kind." But Levi also has a side of a true artist and writer, and his poetic flare and profoundness come out in the descriptions of inner states, both his own and others. His mastery is in the capability to draw the reader in, to take the reader as his companion on this journey of a nightmare, submerging a person in existential dread of this way of existence. The dark point of human history that Levi had a misfortune to live through, is described with great detail, without rationalization, romanticization, or denial. Frankl describes hope and the silver lining of tragic experience, Wiesel describes the anger, depression and resentment towards God, and Levi describes the indifference and apathy found in the extreme condition of dehumanization, as well as a drive to survive that some lose and some maintain, the constant oscillation between hope and despair, giving the most realistic account of the inconsistency of inner state of prisoners in camp in constant hunger, extreme coldness, extensive futile never-ending hard work and perpetual deterioration of physical and mental health. Levi described in surgical precision is how a man can be transformed or broken down and, like a substance decomposing in a chemical reaction, losing his characteristic properties by the horrendous experience, extreme trauma he is exposed to. "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 judgement." The most horrifying thing about nazism is how calculated, structured and organized the brutality is, in cold machinery of evil and hatred, working precisely to destroy and exterminate. The most exquisite part of the novel is the scene of the execution of the rebel that tried to destroy the crematorium in Auschwitz. Here Levi has a moment of realization of his apathy and resignation and feels immense shame from the fact he has no strength left in him, no point of resistance to oppressors. "Alberto and I went back to the hut, and we could not look each other in the face. That man must have been tough, he must have been made of another metal than us if this condition of ours, which has broken us, could not bend him. Because we also are broken, conquered: even if we know how to adapt ourselves, even if we have finally learnt how to find our food and to resist the fatigue and cold, even if we return home. We lifted the menaschka on to the bunk and divided it, we satisfied the daily ragings of hunger, and now we are oppressed by shame." "The Russians can come now: there are no longer any strong men among us, the last one is now hanging above our heads, and as for the others, a few halters had been enough." Levi has no denial left, he completely exposes the human nature of himself and others that managed to survive concentration camps. Survival was an immensely difficult task, one that could not leave a person morally intact. Traits that are considered to be virtues in normal circumstances, like compassion, sincerity, hard work, compliance, were serious disadvantages in concentration camps that almost certainly led to death, while manipulation, theft, deceit, exploitation, brutality were the means to an end of successful survival. Levi gives us the insight that moral compromise was necessary for a prisoner in camps to survive more than three months, the usual duration of the ordinary camp resident if he was obedient, doing all the work, and eating only the food that was given to him. In camps, the will to survive and the will to power were entangled, as power structures and hierarchy were present among the prisoners. Concentration camps we set to destroy prisoners physically, mentally but also morally and spiritually, in complete stripping one of hope, dignity, integrity and humanity. Primo Levi is an interesting person, and after reading the book and his conversation with Philip Roth, I wanted to read more about his life. I'm planning to read the other two installments of the trilogy also. Levi was 25 years old when he was departed to camp, where we as imprisoned for one year. Before, he finished the university highly successfully, as one of the best students. His highly energetic approach to scientific endeavors was fueled by the lack of romantic and sexual experiences he longed for but did not have. He was profoundly influenced by the laws and prohibitions against Jews, as well as the bullying behavior of his classmates, which perpetuated the feeling of inadequacy and lack of confidence needed for approaching women. After his one year imprisonment in Auschwitz, Levi never quite got out of melancholy and depression, even though later on he founded a family, and had a successful career in chemistry as well as a writer. He died in unclear circumstances, from a fall down a narrow stairwell, suspected in suicidal intent. No doubt that Levi gave an immense gift to humanity, having the courage to relive in his memoir the most horrifying experience. I believe he suffered greatly for having a such sharp intelligent mind, one that remembered in high-resolution experiences that are too inhumane to even grasp, the mind that is both highly observant and painfully honest. Levi does not shy from human nature and the truth that he found about himself and others in horrendous circumstances. He painted his survival as mere luck, but with his actions he gave the experience meaning and purpose, in sharing it with humanity, making sure that the horror of the Holocaust never is forgotten, in giving us the most detailed study of the extent of hostility and terror man can adapt to, and at what cost. "You who live safe In your warm houses, You who find, returning in the evening, Hot food and friendly faces: Consider if this is a man Who works in the mud Who does not know peace Who fights for a scrap of bread Who dies because of a yes or a no...."

  3. 4 out of 5

    K.D. Absolutely

    This book is said to be one of the most important books ever written about Holocaust. What I am referring here are not the history books but the first-hand experiences written and narrated by the people who were there when the Holocaust happened. Since I read a handful of these, I can't disagree. I even think that, in some aspects, this could be the MOST important of them all. You see, Anne Frank wrote her diary at 13 while hiding in her house with her family so she was not able to include h This book is said to be one of the most important books ever written about Holocaust. What I am referring here are not the history books but the first-hand experiences written and narrated by the people who were there when the Holocaust happened. Since I read a handful of these, I can't disagree. I even think that, in some aspects, this could be the MOST important of them all. You see, Anne Frank wrote her diary at 13 while hiding in her house with her family so she was not able to include her harrowing experience in the concentration camp where she died. The writing was innocent, poignant and endearing but did not contain much. Victor Klemperer wrote his 3-volume diary but a good bulk of it was his experience trying to elude the authorities as he had an "Aryan" wife so, although he was asked to live in a ghetto, he did not experience being in a concentration camp. Imre Kertesz wrote his quasi-autobiographical novel telling the concentration camp experience of a 15-y/o boy, Gyorgy (George) in Auschwitz but he disavowed the strong biographical connection of the book to his life even if he was 14 when he was sent with his family to the camp. Last year, I was teary-eyed when I finished reading Elie Wiesel's since it was too emotional and the writing was haunting. However, Elie Wiesel was 16 during the Holocaust so he wrote from the perspective of a teenager. What I mean is that given that the tragedy was all sad and harrowing, we already knew the perspective of a child or a teenager from Anne Frank, Kertesz and Wiesel, so I thought I also would like to have the perspective of a grown-up survivor. This now is what Victor Frankl in his clinical book and Primo Levi in this book, provide. In their books, Victor Frankl and Primo Levi recounted WHAT THEY DID TO SURVIVE. I thought that this could have only been possible to come from thinking adults who are expected to be less emotional and more rational than most teenagers. Victor Frankl says that to survive, one has to hold on to the image of yourself stepping out of the camp and going back to your life prior to the concentration camp. Everyday, you think of yourself going back to your home, job, loved ones, hobby, etc. These happy images are so powerful, they will give you reason to hope and live. Primo Levi is more comprehensive and to-the-point. He says three: (1) organization; (2) pity and (3) theft. Levi survived using #1 as he was a summa cum laude chemistry graduate from Turin so he got lucky to be asked to work in the laboratory making synthetic rubber inside Auschwitz. But in this book, he gave examples of the prisoners who thrived using the other two or combinations or all the three. That's the reason why I said that this could, indeed, be the MOST important book written about the Holocaust. If it happens again (God forbid), you have the tips on how to survive. Those tips come from first hand experiences of people who experienced them. I mean, well, it is nice to cry and be sad after reading a book, but it better to have something like a survival handbook too.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Luís

    Unbearable, unbearable, intolerable, this testimony demonstrates pure horror carried by a fine intelligence and strength. Without either hatred or victimisation, Primo Levi tells the things seen, the things felt with disturbing but strangely captivating accuracy. What arouses interest here is this demonic machine in motion, this well-oiled Nazi system and this blatant dehumanisation in which vice, hierarchy, and the hunt for death persist. To those who will say that it is useless to read this book Unbearable, unbearable, intolerable, this testimony demonstrates pure horror carried by a fine intelligence and strength. Without either hatred or victimisation, Primo Levi tells the things seen, the things felt with disturbing but strangely captivating accuracy. What arouses interest here is this demonic machine in motion, this well-oiled Nazi system and this blatant dehumanisation in which vice, hierarchy, and the hunt for death persist. To those who will say that it is useless to read this book because they have had enough films, history lessons, various documentaries, visits to memorials ..., I answer that yes, we must. Confront this human misery to face our condition. Because in addition to this story's integrity, the admirable Primo Levi delivers a refined analysis of the human spirit, its faults and possibilities, its instinct for survival, and our animality. And if this book is essential today, it reminds us of what we are capable of, to evoke our daily lousy behaviour, our posture as free women and men.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sidharth Vardhan

    "Only an animal worries all the time about the next meal." - Naguib Mahfouz The desperation of the quote arising out of the idea that poor forced to live meal-to-meal might not be able to enjoy a human life can be found in Levi's memoir too. It's title coming from the poem that begins: "You who live safe In your warm houses, You who find, returning in the evening, Hot food and friendly faces: Consider if this is a man Who works in the mud Who does not know peace Who fights for a scrap of "Only an animal worries all the time about the next meal." - Naguib Mahfouz The desperation of the quote arising out of the idea that poor forced to live meal-to-meal might not be able to enjoy a human life can be found in Levi's memoir too. It's title coming from the poem that begins: "You who live safe In your warm houses, You who find, returning in the evening, Hot food and friendly faces: Consider if this is a man Who works in the mud Who does not know peace Who fights for a scrap of bread Who dies because of a yes or a no. . . ." Though Nazi violence is mentioned: "how can one hit a man without anger?" The book is more focused on the life of prisioners - how they survived while constantly feeling hunger (they would dream of food). How they learned to live the life of stealth, as people in such desperation circumstances are forced to - out of neccesity, nobody could survive the Auschwitz by being a nobel prisoner or by being altruistic to his fellow prisioners. They would avoid work as far as possible- even prefering being beaten to working "one does not normally die of blows, but one does of exhaustion, and badly" Stealing things - frequently from each other, trying to get up in the hierarchy that was present among prisioners. N0t all prisoners were equal, there were class divisions among prisioners - Jewish prisioners weren't the only one but they were the worst, there were transactions among Jewish prisioners as well as between Jewish prisioners and other prisioners - using daily rations as a unit of currancy of this underground economy. And there were informal classes among prisioners too based on where they come, based on numbers given to them - the lower numbers and higher numbers etc. And daily torments they had to go - constant hunger "One can hear the sleepers breathing and snoring; some groan and speak. Many lick their lips and move their jaws. They are dreaming of eating; this is also a collective dream." the uncleanliness (as soap was a luxury only available to those who managed to steal it from somewhere), the rule of Jungle - where you look up to someone who is able to have an unfair advantage even if he doesn't share it rather than questioning them on moral grounds (view spoiler)[- well, that applies to most captialist societies to some extent. (hide spoiler)] , the hopelessness: "… And for how long? But the old ones laugh at this question: they recognize the new arrivals by this question. They laugh and they do not reply. For months and years, the problem of the remote future has grown pale to them and has lost all intensity in face of the far more urgent and concrete problems of the near future: how much one will eat today, if it will snow, if there will be coal to unload."/I> Things like gratitude, sincerity and compassion came with a very serious disadvantage as they often are to poor. You couldn't trust the person with whom you shared your bed and this when even a small piece of metal wire or a spoon were tresure. However, the poverty imposed on them by Nazis -their name, their identity, their family and friends were all taken away from them. "Imagine now a man who is deprived of everyone he loves, and at the same time of his house, his habits, his clothes, in short, of everything he possesses: he will be a hollow man, reduced to suffering and needs, forgetful of dignity and restraint, for he who loses all often easily loses himself." ‘… Until one day there will be no more sense in saying: tomorrow."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sam

    I will try not to overstate my feelings on this book. I believe this is one of (if not THE) most important book ever written. Everyone should read this book. It details Levi's journey from his home in Turin to Buchenwald. It is absolutely beautifully written. Levi's style of writing is unlike any other I've read. It is detailed, incredibly intelligent, moving, poignant, and in some way almost detached from his experience, which makes reading about it all the more moving and painful. To hear him I will try not to overstate my feelings on this book. I believe this is one of (if not THE) most important book ever written. Everyone should read this book. It details Levi's journey from his home in Turin to Buchenwald. It is absolutely beautifully written. Levi's style of writing is unlike any other I've read. It is detailed, incredibly intelligent, moving, poignant, and in some way almost detached from his experience, which makes reading about it all the more moving and painful. To hear him describe the horrors he saw and went through in such a third-person sort of way is truly heart-breaking. All of his works are amazing, but this is the one that I recommend to all of my friends. I've bought several people copies of this book, because I feel it is that important. We must never forget what happened. And we must never allow it to happen again.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Lilo

    There have been so many reviews written on Primo Levi’s “Survival in Auschwitz” that I have very little to add. It has been said many a time that “Survival in Auschwitz” (original title “If This is a Man”) IS THE BEST OF ALL HOLOCAUST MEMOIRS, and it may very well be. Primo Levi not only tells about his horrific experience, he also adds psychological and philosophical reflections, which make this Holocaust memoir unique. I would like to endorse the following review: https://www.goodreads.com/revi There have been so many reviews written on Primo Levi’s “Survival in Auschwitz” that I have very little to add. It has been said many a time that “Survival in Auschwitz” (original title “If This is a Man”) IS THE BEST OF ALL HOLOCAUST MEMOIRS, and it may very well be. Primo Levi not only tells about his horrific experience, he also adds psychological and philosophical reflections, which make this Holocaust memoir unique. I would like to endorse the following review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... I found it to the point.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    In 1943 Primo Levi was a chemist, was an Italian Jew, captured and sent to Auschwitz. This is his story, his telling of the day to day trials, horrors for the ten months he spent in the camp. There can be no way to read these stories without feeling anguish and horror. He tells this horror in a way that almost feels devoid of emotion. Very analytical. He also tells us the day to day events of his work camp that he calls a lager, a camp where questions are not answered, where one learns not to as In 1943 Primo Levi was a chemist, was an Italian Jew, captured and sent to Auschwitz. This is his story, his telling of the day to day trials, horrors for the ten months he spent in the camp. There can be no way to read these stories without feeling anguish and horror. He tells this horror in a way that almost feels devoid of emotion. Very analytical. He also tells us the day to day events of his work camp that he calls a lager, a camp where questions are not answered, where one learns not to ask. Where there is no tomorrow. Of the finishing number of people that come and go as new people arrive and others are selected to go to the ovens. He explains the psychogical state of becoming less than, beaten down, hope finished, just focusing on the here and now. Not enough food, not enough warmth, not enough of anything but work and more work from sunrise to sunset. He tells of the camp liberation by the Russians and how he was one of the lucky few still alive. Just horrific

  9. 5 out of 5

    Maciek

    "Here there is no why." Primo Levi was an Italian Jew who came to live in very troubled times. Born and raised in Turin, he was subjected to the fascist racial laws which discriminated against Jews and made finding employment very difficult; after the German occupation of Italy began, he joined the resistance movement but was quickly caught and transferred to an internment camp. When the camp itself came under German control, the authorities started arranging mass deportations of captured Jew "Here there is no why." Primo Levi was an Italian Jew who came to live in very troubled times. Born and raised in Turin, he was subjected to the fascist racial laws which discriminated against Jews and made finding employment very difficult; after the German occupation of Italy began, he joined the resistance movement but was quickly caught and transferred to an internment camp. When the camp itself came under German control, the authorities started arranging mass deportations of captured Jews to labor and death camps in the occupied east. Travelling in a cattle truck through cold and misery, Levi arrived at Auschwitz in February 1944. He was 25 years old, and would be one of the twenty Jews who remained alive from his transport of 650 people when the Red Army liberates the camp in January 1945. Survival in Auschwitz is the record of Levi's time at the camp, in his own words. It's worth noting that this is the title specifically picked for the American release; I much prefer the original Italian and English translation If This Is a Man , which conveys the tone and theme of the book much, much better. Survival in Auschwitz sounds almost like a...survival manual, a set of precepts that one should follow if one finds him or herself at such a place. If This Is a Man is taken from a poem by Levi which opens the book, and in which he asks his readers - sitting contendly in their warm, safe heated houses, to remember and think about what happened, never forget about it and pass this knowledge on to future generations: Consider if this is a man Who works in the mud, Who does not know peace, Who fights for a scrap of bread, Who dies because of a yes or a no. Consider if this is a woman Without hair and without name, With no more strength to remember, Her eyes empty and her womb cold Like a frog in winter. Levi's memoir is a chronicle of life inside a concentration camp, a world within a world; news from the outside world perpetrate the barbed wire very rarely and only at the end of the book, in the form of sound of distant artillery, which signify the slowly advancing Russians. and the growing panic among camp officials. Despite growing increasingly more deformed, squalid and haggard and their numbers thinning with every day, the camp had a cleaer hierarchical structure which had to be followed; and where there was no official hierarchy, a non-official one was quickly invented. When we think about concentration camps, we mostly remember their last and most gruesome part -the gas chambers and the crematorium. As important as they are, they are just a part of a larger whole - we often forget that people not only died in these camps, but also lived. Levi's memoir is a chronicle of life inside a concentration camp, which in his own word is equal to reaching the bottom, with no other condition possibly being more miserable, a total demolition of what makes a man: the removal of one's personal dignity and reducing people to a sequence of numbers, taking away all that they own, even their hair, being forced to exist in conditions which make existence impossible and reduced to purely biological beings, who struggle only to remain alive. Despite all this, incredibly, living is possible even in a place where it couldn't be, and because of the smallest things: even a non-windy day can make a world of difference for a prisoner and give him the impression of good fortune, because a windy and rainy day is so much worse than ordinary rain. Prisoners steal from each other, as is the custom, but also interact and barter with one another, and sometimes even form what in another world would be a friendship. The experience of reading this book is very intense, as Levi does not make excuses for either himself or his fellow prisoners and their behavior; he is not sentimental and self-pitying, and hides nothing. The memoir was first published in 1947, just two years after Auschwitz was liberated; his memory is still very fresh, and the images and events of Auschwitz are ingrained in his mind like the number on his forearm. Because of this, If This is a Man Levi's testament of the Holocaust is very immediate, and reads as if the events described in it happened just yesterday - and with this immediacy is its power, resulting in one of the most powerful passages in all of literature. Now everyone is busy scraping the bottom of his bowl with his spoon so as not to waste the last drops of the soup; a confused, metallic clatter, signifying the end of the day. Silence slowly prevails and then, from my bunk on the top row, I see and hear old Kuhn praying aloud, with his beret on his head, swaying backwards and forwards violently. Kuhn is thanking God because he has not been chosen. Kuhn is out of his senses. Does he not see Beppo the Greek in the bunk next to him, Beppo who is twenty years old and is going to the gas chamber the day after tomorrow and knows it and lies there looking fixedly at the light without saying anything and without eve'n thinking any more? Can Kuhn fail to realize that next time it will be his turn? Does Kuhn not understand that what has happened today is an abomination, which no propitiatory prayer, no pardon, no expiation by the guilty, which nothing at all in the power of man can ever clean again? If I was God, I would spit at Kuhn's prayer.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Orhan Pelinkovic

    Primo Levi narrates a moving autobiographical memoir of his survival in an Auschwitz concentration camp while deciding to spare the reader from the horrifying details and descriptions of the horrendous acts he and his fellow inmates had both witnessed and endured during their imprisonment. Hence, Levi, with his considerate approach, only in brief sentences and in a subtle manner, recalls the atrocities for which these concentration camps were so infamous. Rather, we learn more about Levi's though Primo Levi narrates a moving autobiographical memoir of his survival in an Auschwitz concentration camp while deciding to spare the reader from the horrifying details and descriptions of the horrendous acts he and his fellow inmates had both witnessed and endured during their imprisonment. Hence, Levi, with his considerate approach, only in brief sentences and in a subtle manner, recalls the atrocities for which these concentration camps were so infamous. Rather, we learn more about Levi's thoughts and dreams of sating his hunger, quenching his thirst, and struggling to overcome the harsh cold winters. We discover that gold teeth, spoons, tobacco, and bread were the main commodities of the camp. While the recipe for survival was achieved by evoking a sense of pity from your superiors, regularly engaging in theft, and learning the "underground art of economizing on everything, on breath, movements, even thoughts." This English edition of the original book is titled Survival in Auschwitz but I prefer the original title If This Is a Man (1947). Levi is an Italian Jewish citizen that worked as a chemist by day and a writer by night. I found his accounts convincing and his observations real. He doesn't ask for pity, he remains gentle with the reader but at the same time honest. His objective is not to emotionally exhaust his audience but to correctly depict the remaining images in his mind of the events that had occurred and to accurately illustrate the thoughts he had at the time.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    This book is perhaps easier to read than one might imagine. Primo Levi, aged 25, was attached to a resistance group in Italy. He had recently graduated from Turin University as a chemist, and he was Jewish. He was captured by German forces in 1944, and deported …. And from then on followed a year of hell in Auschwitz. Levi writes beautifully, but with a cool voice, so the reader is able to stand slightly back from the horrendous experiences that he describes. Not everyone is the same in the camp. N This book is perhaps easier to read than one might imagine. Primo Levi, aged 25, was attached to a resistance group in Italy. He had recently graduated from Turin University as a chemist, and he was Jewish. He was captured by German forces in 1944, and deported …. And from then on followed a year of hell in Auschwitz. Levi writes beautifully, but with a cool voice, so the reader is able to stand slightly back from the horrendous experiences that he describes. Not everyone is the same in the camp. Not only are there differences between prisoners (the groups include Jews and criminals, and people given political status), but there are differences between the men in each of these groups. “In history and in life one sometimes seems to glimpse a ferocious law which states: “to he that has, will be given; to he that has not, will be taken away”. In the Lager (camp), where man is alone and where the struggle for life is reduced to its primordial mechanism, this unjust law is openly in force, is recognized by all. With the adaptable, the strong and astute individuals, even the leaders willingly keep contacts, sometimes even friendly contact, because they hope later to perhaps derive some benefit. But with the Muselmänner, the men in decay, it is not even worth speaking….one knows that they are only here on a visit, that in a few weeks nothing will remain of them but a handful of ashes in some near-by field.” Levi’s story is one of survival of the fittest; not only those able to do the work physically required of them, but those who are intelligent, tenacious and cunning, who are able to think and act constructively even when they are starving, and everything around them is a gruelling treadmill of overwork and petty rules, of cold and lack of sleep, of wheeling and dealing to get an extra mouthful of bread. He even talks of rare friendship and cooperation, especially towards the end of the book, when he was moved to the sick block with scarlet fever. Others there are very ill with conditions like typhus and diphtheria. The Russians advance and the Germans desert the camp. Somehow, some of these sick prisoners - using every ounce of initiative and determination that they have left - hang on to life until the Russians arrive. Of the ninety-four men who were deported to Auschwitz from Levi's resistance group, only twenty-one survived.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Greta G

    Survival in Auschwitz A well-written, accessible testimony of day to day life in the Lager of Buna-Monowitz (Auschwitz), from January 1944 until its liberation on 27 January 1945. The struggle with hunger, cold, tiredness and sickness becomes almost tangible while reading the many true stories which are absorbingly told. The author's intelligent, insightful thoughts on the dehumanization caused by this constant struggle and humiliation of the Jewish prisoners, make this book a superior, timel Survival in Auschwitz A well-written, accessible testimony of day to day life in the Lager of Buna-Monowitz (Auschwitz), from January 1944 until its liberation on 27 January 1945. The struggle with hunger, cold, tiredness and sickness becomes almost tangible while reading the many true stories which are absorbingly told. The author's intelligent, insightful thoughts on the dehumanization caused by this constant struggle and humiliation of the Jewish prisoners, make this book a superior, timeless and mandatory read. While Elie Wiesel's Night fixates heavily on the struggle with faith, Primo Levi's memoir felt more universal because of its focus on humanity itself. “Auschwitz is outside of us, but it is all around us, in the air. The plague has died away, but the infection still lingers and it would be foolish to deny it. Rejection of human solidarity, obtuse and cynical indifference to the suffering of others, abdication of the intellect and of moral sense to the principle of authority, and above all, at the root of everything, a sweeping tide of cowardice, a colossal cowardice which masks itself as warring virtue, love of country and faith in an idea.” Don't miss out on this wonderful, stirring book. 10/10

  13. 4 out of 5

    Raul Bimenyimana

    It's been some days since I last finished reading this book. It's an incredible book that's difficult to review. As the title suggests, it's the memoir of a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. Primo Levi was twenty five when he was arrested by Fascist Militia in Italy while in a resistance group and first taken to a detention camp, and later deported to Auschwitz. In the author's preface, Levi apologizes for the fragmentary structure of the book, an apology that he shouldn't have made beca It's been some days since I last finished reading this book. It's an incredible book that's difficult to review. As the title suggests, it's the memoir of a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. Primo Levi was twenty five when he was arrested by Fascist Militia in Italy while in a resistance group and first taken to a detention camp, and later deported to Auschwitz. In the author's preface, Levi apologizes for the fragmentary structure of the book, an apology that he shouldn't have made because the urgency that gave rise to the structure is felt in the experiences told and the structure itself. There's no self-flattery, even in moments when I thought there ought to have been, but instead this is an honest and bold account of one of the worst tragedies in modern times. It tells of life within the camp which is referred to as the Lager, the relationships between those who were interred, the physical and psychological toll of hard useless and senseless labour and inhumane conditions faced, as well as the constant threat of death. In the preface Levi states: "As an account of atrocities, therefore, this book of mine adds nothing to what is already known to readers throughout the world on the disturbing question of the death camps. It has not been written in order to formulate new accusations; it should be able, rather, to furnish documentation for a quiet study of certain aspects of the human mind. Many people – many nations – can find themselves holding, more or less wittingly, that 'every stranger is an enemy'. For the most part this conviction lies deep down like some latent infection; it betrays itself only in random, disconnected acts, and does not lie at the base of a system of reason. But when this does come about, when the unspoken dogma becomes the major premiss in a syllogism, then, at the end of the chain, there is the Lager. Here is the product of a conception of the world carried rigorously to its logical conclusion; so long as the conception subsists, the conclusion remains to threaten us. The story of the death camps should be understood by everyone as a sinister alarm-signal." I think that should be more than enough reason for anyone to read this important book.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Roy Lotz

    It is difficult to say anything about this book that has not been said a thousand times before. Survival in Auschwitz is a horrific account of Levi’s internment in the most infamous of concentration camps. Personal accounts of death camps have—tragically—become something of a genre in the 20th century. Yet no matter how many times one reads about this historical atrocity, the shock is just as powerful. Levi’s book is no doubt among the most moving and insightful of these testimonies, for his eloq It is difficult to say anything about this book that has not been said a thousand times before. Survival in Auschwitz is a horrific account of Levi’s internment in the most infamous of concentration camps. Personal accounts of death camps have—tragically—become something of a genre in the 20th century. Yet no matter how many times one reads about this historical atrocity, the shock is just as powerful. Levi’s book is no doubt among the most moving and insightful of these testimonies, for his eloquence as much as for his chillingly impassive tone. His cool and even detached manner give this book the full weight of an eye-witness report. And yet what Levi describes is so outside of my experience that I feel myself mentally rebelling—trying to deny it as impossible. Indeed, I do not think one can properly accommodate the fact of the Holocaust into one’s everyday assumptions about human behavior. Imagining the Holocaust as a living possibility—something that ordinary people did and can still do, something your neighbors and perhaps yourself can do—is just too chilling to internalize. In two weeks I will, myself, be standing in Auschwitz, and I will see with my own eyes that horrid gateway. Levi has helped to prepare me.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Markus

    Si c’est un Homme By Primo Levi (1919-1987) This the narrative of the author’s ordeal during his detention at the Auschwitz death camp from his arrest in February 1944 by fascist Italian militia. To his liberation in January 1945 by the arrival of the Russian Army. Much has been written about the Nazi death camps, but few books have been written by survivors. There were very few of them. From all Italian prisoners transferred to the camps, only about five percent succeeded in returning home. Primo Le Si c’est un Homme By Primo Levi (1919-1987) This the narrative of the author’s ordeal during his detention at the Auschwitz death camp from his arrest in February 1944 by fascist Italian militia. To his liberation in January 1945 by the arrival of the Russian Army. Much has been written about the Nazi death camps, but few books have been written by survivors. There were very few of them. From all Italian prisoners transferred to the camps, only about five percent succeeded in returning home. Primo Levi’s survival can be considered a miracle, given the unspeakable cruelty of the circumstances. He tells us that he would not have survived the winter 1945 had he not been selected, as he was chemist by profession, to work in a laboratory in the adjacent rubber factory, and for the fact that in January 1945 the war came to an end when the Russian army bombarded the Concentration Camp and shortly afterwards liberated the prisoners. The narrative of the arrest, the transport from Italy to Poland, in closed train wagons of thousands of prisoners, men, women, children and old people, for days and days, without food or drinking water, is in itself of unspeakable cruelty. But the subsequent events are even worse when getting off the train; everyone was brutally separated, families, men, women, children. Everyone disappearing into the night in different directions, without a word of explanation or time to say a single word. The winter in Poland is freezing. The prisoners were stripped naked, their heads shaved and then provided with some rags for clothing, personal names deleted and a serial number tattooed under the skin of the arm. A person no longer existed. The prisoners were counted and called up by number. Then they were packed into camp buildings, already housing thousands of prisoners. The daily sufferings were extreme, the author remembers all the horrible details, but my vocabulary is too weak, emotions too strong. Hunger, cold, work, humiliation, sickness. Human relations that are no longer human. The fight for survival is the survival of the fittest. Everyone being desperately and fiercely on his own. When new trains with thousands of prisoners arrived, the camp could not contain them all, selections were made, and the weak, ill, tired or worn were mercilessly eliminated, transferred to gas chambers and cremation ovens. The narrative ends on the morning of January 1945, when the Russian army arrived at the camp. This book was composed in the first few months after Levy's return, his memory tormented and urged him to write as long as he remembered all the atrocious details. It was first refused by all the major editors, then edited in only 2500 units. When the editor closed up, the book disappeared and was forgotten. Only in 1958 when the book was re-edited its success remained permanent to this date. I am glad I came across this work, even if it hard to read. Emotionally difficult to digest. It will remain forever in my memory. It should be read by every politically conscious person as a reminder of what fascism will inevitably lead to, if it gains a foothold in any government, in any country.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lewis Weinstein

    A remarkable telling of the horror the Germans created at Auschwitz, and what was necessary in order to survive. From the first arrival ... We have to form rows of five, with intervals of two yards between man and man; then we have to undress and make a bundle of the clothes in a special manner, the woolen garments on one side, all the rest on the other; we must take off our shoes but pay great attention that they are not stolen. Many incredible reflective passages ... ... There is nowhere to look A remarkable telling of the horror the Germans created at Auschwitz, and what was necessary in order to survive. From the first arrival ... We have to form rows of five, with intervals of two yards between man and man; then we have to undress and make a bundle of the clothes in a special manner, the woolen garments on one side, all the rest on the other; we must take off our shoes but pay great attention that they are not stolen. Many incredible reflective passages ... ... There is nowhere to look in a mirror, but our appearance stands in front of us, reflected in a hundred livid faces, in a hundred miserable and sordid puppets. We are transformed into the phantoms glimpsed yesterday evening. ... Nothing belongs to us anymore; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair; if we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they listen, they will not understand. They will even take away our name: and if we want to keep it, we will have to find in ourselves the strength to do so ... Such will be our life. Every day, according to the established rhythm, Ausrücken and Einrücken, go out and come in; work, sleep and eat; fall ill, get better or die. ...And for how long? But the old ones laugh at this question: they recognize the new arrivals by this question. They laugh and they do not reply. ... already my own body is no longer mine: my belly is swollen, my limbs emaciated, my face is thick in the morning, hollow in the evening; some of us have yellow skin, others grey. When we do not meet for a few days we hardly recognize each other. ... In this place it is practically pointless to wash every day in the turbid water of the filthy washbasins for purposes of cleanliness and health; but it is most important as a symptom of remaining vitality, and necessary as an instrument of moral survival. and finally ... The Germans were no longer there. The towers were empty. … The Lager, hardly dead, had already begun to decompose. No more water, or electricity, broken windows and doors slamming to in the wind, loose iron-sheets from the roofs screeching, ashes from the fire drifting high, afar.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    Very well written. A recount of Life In Hell on Earth.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kelsey

    First off, I must point out that I think it is very difficult to rate someone's personal and emotional account of an event in their life, and even more so when it was a tragedy like the holocaust. That being said, I of course rated the novel five stars, because it is not only a completely true account but it was also written brilliantly. I had the chance before I read this book to read "Man's Search for Meaning", which is another book about the experiences of a survivor of a concentration camp, First off, I must point out that I think it is very difficult to rate someone's personal and emotional account of an event in their life, and even more so when it was a tragedy like the holocaust. That being said, I of course rated the novel five stars, because it is not only a completely true account but it was also written brilliantly. I had the chance before I read this book to read "Man's Search for Meaning", which is another book about the experiences of a survivor of a concentration camp, and while it was interesting and meaningful, I found it much harder to engage in it, as the writer was a psychologist who analyzed every human behavior, much of which went over my head. I suppose I could describe the two books as this: The man who thought (Primo Levi) and the man who felt (Viktor Frankl). I commend this book because it has a much more straight-forward approach to Primo Levi's trials in Auschwitz, an Italian citizen who was arrested after being discovered as part of a resistance against the Nazi regime. Primo makes it very clear what conditions were like, and not only does he make you feel startlingly so like you were there yourself, but he does not hide the fact that some of the things he did were not very compassionate. He explains to the reader that the prisoners of the camp were stripped of their humanity, and the way that he survived was not by sharing his bread or taking pity, but by looking mostly out for himself. Most of all, he survived by his intelligence and immense amount of luck. Primo had several close calls while in the camp and I assure you that as you near the end, you will be touched as he becomes reacquainted with a bit of his humanity. He does make a point in interviews later in his life, however, to mention that victims cannot have the compassion that they carried before the monstrous Holocaust.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Khush

    Just after reading a few pages, I didn't want to continue reading the book. I felt like it would get more depressive and perhaps gruesome. Somehow I continued to reading, and realized that Levi is such a wonderful man. The writing is measured, humane, and above all wise. As I finished reading it, I felt like I was in a good company. His way of telling the story is nothing but constructive. Not with big acts of cruelty but with small gestures he would reveal what people can do to one another. Dur Just after reading a few pages, I didn't want to continue reading the book. I felt like it would get more depressive and perhaps gruesome. Somehow I continued to reading, and realized that Levi is such a wonderful man. The writing is measured, humane, and above all wise. As I finished reading it, I felt like I was in a good company. His way of telling the story is nothing but constructive. Not with big acts of cruelty but with small gestures he would reveal what people can do to one another. During epidemic (including this one) we hear that the poor suffer the most. They are also the ones who die in large numbers. In a perverse way, this theory also holds true for Nazi camps. Levi tells us that highly skilled people who went into Nazi camps, even though they were fraction of total population, they were in majority of those who survived. Clearly, the Nazis even in their hatred were quite pragmatic, mirroring the ''sly'' Jews (as Jews are portrayed in western narratives). What I like most about the book is that there is always room for compassion, irrespective of what the crime is, who the criminals (or victims) are. Levi narrative shows that compassion.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Adam Dalva

    Really incredible piece of writing whose non-American title, If This Is A Man, gets the point of the work across much better. This is no retroactively heroic how-to guide, but instead a bewildered, surreal look at the draining horror of the mundane in Auschwitz. Levi's lack of sentimentality is remarkable, and the book mixes compulsive page-turning with sharp analysis of the human condition. It is, of course, brutal, but its insights and moments of practical beauty make it a must read. The last Really incredible piece of writing whose non-American title, If This Is A Man, gets the point of the work across much better. This is no retroactively heroic how-to guide, but instead a bewildered, surreal look at the draining horror of the mundane in Auschwitz. Levi's lack of sentimentality is remarkable, and the book mixes compulsive page-turning with sharp analysis of the human condition. It is, of course, brutal, but its insights and moments of practical beauty make it a must read. The last chapter, in particular, as the contagious patients who've been left behind after evacuation band together and try to survive, will stay with you. Maus had long been my gold-standard in this horrible genre, but Levi surpasses it.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Anu

    One of the most tragic things about this book for me, other than the fact that the events of the book themselves transpired, is that Primo Levi committed suicide. Not that the man and his book need an introduction, but I need to make a point. I'm going to refer to the book by its intended name: If This is A Man, and here's why. For the entirety of the book, in more ways than one, Levi challenges the reader to change their perception of what makes a man. Some of this has to do with the way one is One of the most tragic things about this book for me, other than the fact that the events of the book themselves transpired, is that Primo Levi committed suicide. Not that the man and his book need an introduction, but I need to make a point. I'm going to refer to the book by its intended name: If This is A Man, and here's why. For the entirety of the book, in more ways than one, Levi challenges the reader to change their perception of what makes a man. Some of this has to do with the way one is transported back to 1944 Italy, to a day where Jews are piled into a train. To a day where your survival may very well depend on which side of the train you are piled into. A lot of it has to do with Levi willing the reader to question some of the decisions he and his peers took. And in both these aspects, he hits the nail on the head. If this is a man, is his life so arbitrary? If this is a man, wouldn't he do everything he could to survive? If this is a man? I study war crimes for a living. Books like Is This a Man are, unfortunately, my bread and butter. Of all the books I've read on genocide, of all the Holocaust literature I've read, of all the hundreds of papers I've read on the subject, there is one thing that makes If This is a Man stand out. Intimacy. Intimacy of thought, of words, and of dreams. Levi talks not just of the things said, but of those left unsaid. He talks of moments of profound understanding and depth, but not of what was said. And that part of history, the part we can never take away from him, from any of them, is the part we can't see or understand. The power of what is left unsaid, and the right of the author to leave them so.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kirstine

    What do you say about a book such as this? Other than it’s important to read it? I’m not sure. This is Primo Levi’s eye witness account, his version of his personal experiences being a prisoner in Auschwitz during WWII. It’s not exaggerated, it’s not put into a neat narrative, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Which may be what makes it all the more powerful. He writes in a way that’s almost analytical, each chapter covers a particular subject or theme. There’s little thought given to chro What do you say about a book such as this? Other than it’s important to read it? I’m not sure. This is Primo Levi’s eye witness account, his version of his personal experiences being a prisoner in Auschwitz during WWII. It’s not exaggerated, it’s not put into a neat narrative, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Which may be what makes it all the more powerful. He writes in a way that’s almost analytical, each chapter covers a particular subject or theme. There’s little thought given to chronology, instead he hones in on details, on people he remembers, on rules and how they were enforced. The descriptions are realistic, and almost emotionless. Almost. This witness account is by its very nature exceptional. By surviving Primo Levi is an exception, as most others who ended up where he did died, and hence the title: this is the story of surviving in Auschwitz, not merely being there. And surviving is a different matter altogether. Surviving requires something more than simply existing. All eye witness accounts are different. You use whatever language you have, whatever way of telling the story that makes sense to you, and you give the world a piece of lived history. You can’t criticize it from a literary perspective, it’s beyond that, you may be able to find flaws in it from a historical perspective, but you can’t judge the quality of someone’s lived experience, not when they lived through something like this. Whatever way they decide to tell it, is the way it needs to be told. There are fascinating discussions about trauma and witness literature, because it stands outside of everything we’re used to. Can something as traumatic as Auschwitz be written about in a meaningful way? Does it have to be meaningful? Is it simply important it exists? Should someone who wasn’t there ever write about it – are they allowed? It’s difficult and complex and there is no clear answer. If we don’t write about it, if we don’t reproduce the experiences of traumatic things – even when those who experienced them pass away – then someday we will forget about it. It’ll slip out of our cultural memory, even though books like this exists, even though someone dared bear witness. But it’s a subject where one needs to tread carefully. Because it’s about lived lives, and there are people who have to live with the memories of being there. Even after they’re gone, that will have to be respected. So what do you say about a work such as this? Not a lot. You simply read it. You simply admire what it must have taken to write it. And you remember how important it is to stand up against evil – whatever form it takes. It takes very little, in the end, to make a person feel less than human, and it shouldn’t happen, ever. But it did happen, it’s still happening in different shapes, and it could happen again. I hope this book never fades away. I hope we don’t forget.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Matthew Ted

    137th book of 2020. In the wake of books like this, anything I say is rather useless. I don’t believe in “essential” books – I never seriously implore that someone must read any certain books (other than wanting friends to read my favourite novels). Primo Levi is possibly the one writer who I would say to the world, This is essential reading. This book was published here in England as If This is a Man; my parents returned recently from Tavistock with a Folio of this book as a gift. I own the book 137th book of 2020. In the wake of books like this, anything I say is rather useless. I don’t believe in “essential” books – I never seriously implore that someone must read any certain books (other than wanting friends to read my favourite novels). Primo Levi is possibly the one writer who I would say to the world, This is essential reading. This book was published here in England as If This is a Man; my parents returned recently from Tavistock with a Folio of this book as a gift. I own the book already but being gifted the Folio only urged me to read it sooner. When I first read Levi several years ago (Moments of Reprieve) I told my lecturer that I was sad he was gone, sadder still that he had committed suicide after so many years of writing about what had happened to him, after spreading such knowledge and humanity… Though, perhaps, that is what drove him to do what he did. My lecturer, the same lecturer I have mentioned in countless reviews, D., replied that he fancied the world was a better place with Primo Levi on it. One cannot read any of Levi’s books, I don’t think, without being shocked two things. Firstly, his utter honesty – not just his honesty about the events, but the honesty about himself. He calls himself clumsy and weak. He, above all else, gives no time to blaming the Germans, hating them, or even wanting to claim revenge. My Folio edition ends with an Afterword, a Q&A with Levi himself, in which someone asked why he didn’t hate the Germans or seem to want revenge. Despite the long answer, this line alone distils the tone of Levi’s answer and also a hint to his character: My personal temperament is not inclined to hatred. I regard it as bestial, crude, and prefer on the contrary that my actions and thoughts, as far as possible, should be the product of reason; therefore I have never cultivated within myself hatred as a desire for revenge, or as a desire to inflict suffering on my real or presumed enemy, or as a private vendetta. Even less do I accept hatred as directed collectively as an ethnic group, for example, all the Germans; if I accepted it, I would feel that i was following the precepts of Nazism, which was founded precisely on national and racial hatred. You see, his humility is astounding. In an answer to another question he says, Only in this case am I, a non-Christian, prepared to follow the Jewish and Christian precept of forgiving my enemy, because an enemy who sees the error of his ways ceases to be an enemy. But enough about the Afterword. This was Levi’s first book, which focuses on his time in Auschwitz, as many of his other books do. It is perhaps slightly more descriptive than his other works that I have read; the previously mentioned Moments of Reprieve focuses on both characters and incidents, but focuses less on imparting knowledge and understanding to the camps and how they operated. It is a difficult read, as one can imagine; I found I could only read it when I was alone, when I was feeling thoughtful and reflective; it is not a book to be read in snatches on a busy train, or at the dinner table. Levi requires attention. And how can one be sat with friends and family laughing around them as they read before them, I am not even alive enough to know how to kill myself. Levi proclaims, Today I think that if for no other reason than that an Auschwitz existed, no one in our age should speak of Providence. - and who are we to deny that claim from a man who has endured what he has endured? In 2013, or perhaps 2014, I visited Auschwitz myself. I cannot think what time of year it was, but there was snow on the ground, or else trodden snow, ice. The space alarmed me, the sweeping land that the camp sat on; the expanse of white earth made the place more desolate, more empty. Some of it has faded from my memory, but like novels one has read in the past, though the events themselves have faded, the impressions have not. People wandered about in silence. The only true memory that stands in my mind’s eye, clear as day, was the tank, the size of an aquarium tank in my memory, filled with shoes. We were warned by the tour guide before entering that this was disturbing, that it was difficult to witness, and indeed, several girls excused themselves from the room. I hadn’t read any Primo Levi back then, I was only sixteen years old. I do not know if I will ever return to it, or if it will be left like that, a half-formed and hazy memory, that stings ever so slightly, when recalled. If I can say it stings to recall, I cannot fathom the power and the numbness that it stirred in others. In the Afterword Levi says that he returned twice to the camp. I have no more to say; I feel fickle when attempting to. Any comment I make is hardly a mark on the immeasurable weight that the history here has. It is best then to leave Levi’s work as lumps in our throats, stones in the deceiving smoothness of our world. And a reminder too, that there are still concentration camps on our planet today.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Greta G

    A well-written, accessible testimony of day to day life in the Lager of Buna-Monowitz (Auschwitz), from January 1944 until its liberation on 27 January 1945. The struggle with hunger, cold, tiredness and sickness becomes almost tangible while reading the many true stories which are absorbingly told. The author's insightful thoughts on the dehumanization caused by this constant struggle and the humiliation of the Jewish prisoners, make this book a superior, timeless and mandatory read. A well-written, accessible testimony of day to day life in the Lager of Buna-Monowitz (Auschwitz), from January 1944 until its liberation on 27 January 1945. The struggle with hunger, cold, tiredness and sickness becomes almost tangible while reading the many true stories which are absorbingly told. The author's insightful thoughts on the dehumanization caused by this constant struggle and the humiliation of the Jewish prisoners, make this book a superior, timeless and mandatory read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Towley

    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 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.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Sotiris Karaiskos

    One of the most staggering books about the Holocaust, and especially about the terribly things that happened in the largest concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau. But this which makes it stand out from the multitude of related books, is the fact that it actually involves much more than a denunciation of the greatest crime of the Nazis. Through its pages, of course, this is highlighted but the author insists more on the effect this situation had on the prisoners of the camp and on those involved One of the most staggering books about the Holocaust, and especially about the terribly things that happened in the largest concentration camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau. But this which makes it stand out from the multitude of related books, is the fact that it actually involves much more than a denunciation of the greatest crime of the Nazis. Through its pages, of course, this is highlighted but the author insists more on the effect this situation had on the prisoners of the camp and on those involved in its operation. Between the barbed wire there was a separate world where morality was of no importance and the rules of human civilization were distorted in the worst way. To be able to survive in these inhumane conditions the prisoners took refuge to whatever their instincts imposed on them, even if it meant doing things that would not have passed through their minds. Grabing this minimal food from their fellow prisoners, sealing objects that might be useful to them, exerting violence even on the weakest, even cooperating with the Nazis in critical areas for the operation of the camp. The worst, however, was that all this violence that was exercised to them could not unite them and so the selfish behavior was the norm. Even the guards, however, did not remain unaffected, so the corruption of the human nature that led them into this position made them part of anything worst. This is what the writer is more concerned with than anything else, within the camp did the real human nature appeared? Is this man? A beast who can do everything for his survival and use any power given to him in the most awful way? Those who survived were the most unscrupulous or just the luckiest ones? In the end a spark of humanity left in this hell? These and many other questions concern us by reading this book and I think that the writer makes the greatest contribution to this part of humanity that does not want to forget. You see, the point is not simply to know the facts and to express our regret and anger about the millions of victims of the holocaust, it is to realize that it was not an isolated event, a crime made by some that were the exception to the human species but something imposed by the activation of the darkest instincts of man. We need to concentrate on these if we want this tragedy never to be repeated, and this cold look that this book gives us is a very important tool in this direction. Ένα από τα πιο συγκλονιστικά βιβλία για το ολοκαύτωμα και συγκεκριμένα για όσα τρομερά διαδραματίζονταν στο μεγαλύτερο στρατόπεδο συγκέντρωσης, το Άουσβιτς-Μπίρκεναου. Αυτό, όμως, που το κάνει να ξεχωρίζει από το πλήθος των σχετικών βιβλίων είναι το γεγονός ότι στην πραγματικότητα περιλαμβάνει πολλά περισσότερα από μία καταγγελία του μεγαλύτερου εγκλήματος των ναζί. Μέσα από τις σελίδες του αναδεικνύεται φυσικά το ίδιο το γεγονός αλλά ο συγγραφέας επιμένει περισσότερο στην επίδραση που είχε αυτή η κατάσταση στους έγκλειστους του στρατοπέδου και σε όσους εμπλέκονταν από τη λειτουργία του. Ανάμεσα στα συρματοπλέγματα είχε δημιουργηθεί ένας ξεχωριστός κόσμος όπου η ηθική δεν έχει καμία σημασία και οι κανόνες του ανθρώπινου πολιτισμού διαστρεβλώνονται με τον χειρότερο τρόπο. Για να μπορέσουν να επιβιώσουν σε αυτές τις απάνθρωπες συνθήκες οι κρατούμενοι κατέφευγαν σε οτιδήποτε τους επέβαλε το ένστικτό τους, ακόμα και αν αυτό σήμαινε να κάνουν πράγματα που σε φυσιολογικές συνθήκες ούτε που θα τους περνούσαν από το μυαλό. Αρπαγή αυτού του ελάχιστου φαγητού από τους συγκρατούμενούς τους, κλοπές αντικειμένων που θα μπορούσαν να τους φανούν χρήσιμα, άσκηση βίας ακόμα και στους πιο αδύναμους, ακόμα και συνεργασία με τους ναζί σε κρίσιμους τομείς για τη λειτουργία του στρατοπέδου. Το χειρότερο, όμως, ήταν ότι όλη αυτή η βία που τους ασκούνταν στο μεγαλύτερο βαθμό δεν μπορούσε να τους ενώσει και έτσι η εγωιστική συμπεριφορά ήταν συνηθισμένη. Ακόμα και οι φύλακες, όμως, δεν παρέμεναν ανεπηρέαστοι, με αποτέλεσμα η διαφθορά της ανθρώπινης φύσης που τους έφερε σε αυτή τη θέση να τους κάνει να γίνονται συμμέτοχοι σε ότι χειρότερο. Αυτό είναι που απασχολεί τον συγγραφέα περισσότερο από οτιδήποτε άλλο, μέσα στο στρατόπεδο άραγε αναδείχθηκε η πραγματική ανθρώπινη φύση; Αυτό είναι ο άνθρωπος; Ένα θηρίο που μπορεί να κάνει τα πάντα για την επιβίωσή του και να χρησιμοποιήσει οποιαδήποτε εξουσία του δίνεται με τον πιο απαίσιο τρόπο; Αυτοί που επιβίωσαν ήταν οι πιο αδίστακτοι ή απλά οι πιο τυχεροί; Στο τέλος μπόρεσε να μείνει μία σπίθα ανθρωπιάς μέσα σε αυτή την κόλαση; Αυτά και άλλα πολλά ερωτήματα μας απασχολούν διαβάζοντας αυτό το βιβλίο και νομίζω ότι έτσι ο συγγραφέας κάνει τη μεγαλύτερη προσφορά σε αυτό το κομμάτι της ανθρωπότητας που δε θέλει να ξεχάσει. Βλέπετε, το ζητούμενο δεν είναι απλά να γνωρίζουμε τα γεγονότα και να εκφράζουμε την λύπη και το θυμό μας για τα εκατομμύρια θύματα του ολοκαυτώματος, είναι να συνειδητοποιήσουμε ότι δεν ήταν για ένα μεμονωμένο γεγονός, ένα έγκλημα που έκαναν κάποιοι που ήταν η εξαίρεση στο ανθρώπινο είδος αλλά κάτι που επιβλήθηκε από την ενεργοποίηση των πιο σκοτεινών ενστίκτων του ανθρώπου. Σε αυτά πρέπει να επικεντρωθούμε άμα θέλουμε αυτή η τραγωδία να μην επαναληφθεί ποτέ και αυτή η ψυχρή ματιά που μας δίνει αυτό το βιβλίο είναι ένα πολύ σημαντικό εργαλείο προς αυτή την κατεύθυνση.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Vince Will Iam

    I was impressed beyond words with such display of humility and humanity. This is a heart-wrenching and illuminating testimony. Everyone has heard about concentration camps in history classes or on television but this narrative has little to do with history books. It is far more powerful I think because we keep in touch with reality and human feelings in such a way we will never come closer to with history books One man's life experience weaves together an entire community of men and women. The a I was impressed beyond words with such display of humility and humanity. This is a heart-wrenching and illuminating testimony. Everyone has heard about concentration camps in history classes or on television but this narrative has little to do with history books. It is far more powerful I think because we keep in touch with reality and human feelings in such a way we will never come closer to with history books One man's life experience weaves together an entire community of men and women. The author's afterword is extremely relevant in its acting as a warning against passionate speeches and prophets. Primo Levi followed the same line in his account--though he condemned the evils of nazism, he clearly avoided any use of excessive emotion or exaggerated statements, which enables the reader to form his own judgement. This book and its teachings should be passed on to every single student in the world to keep them away from zealotry and darkness.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    I don’t know why this book did not speak to me more than it did. I read any and everything I can about the Holocaust – a subject I am obsessed with for some unknown reason. Levi was in the camp for a year and describes the horrors in what seemed to me a very dispassionate manner. He speaks of the constant hunger and the freezing cold with insufficient clothing, but his ‘voice’ is like coming from an onlooker. I found the camp’s ‘trading system’ he describes of interest – an entire chapter is devot I don’t know why this book did not speak to me more than it did. I read any and everything I can about the Holocaust – a subject I am obsessed with for some unknown reason. Levi was in the camp for a year and describes the horrors in what seemed to me a very dispassionate manner. He speaks of the constant hunger and the freezing cold with insufficient clothing, but his ‘voice’ is like coming from an onlooker. I found the camp’s ‘trading system’ he describes of interest – an entire chapter is devoted to it. Perhaps because Levi wrote this book long after his time in the camp it is more introspective, rather a meditation on his thoughts and feelings at the time; he sounds to be in a reflective mood, looking back. I hate to give a book like this 3* but it lacks the feeling and urgency that I expected.

  29. 5 out of 5

    AC

    A disturbng and important book. Levi's distinction between the drowned and the saved in ch. 9 is especially interesting. The writing is a bit formal and the translation also is slghtly stuff. And, of course, we have all read s omuch of this now (and seen so much of it -- in other places...in this horrid century) that its force (pub. in 1958) is somewhat attenuate. Yet Levi's ntelligence is such that the book retains a permanent value. A disturbng and important book. Levi's distinction between the drowned and the saved in ch. 9 is especially interesting. The writing is a bit formal and the translation also is slghtly stuff. And, of course, we have all read s omuch of this now (and seen so much of it -- in other places...in this horrid century) that its force (pub. in 1958) is somewhat attenuate. Yet Levi's ntelligence is such that the book retains a permanent value.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bfisher

    If Goodreads had a ten-star rating scheme, I would have wanted to give this book eleven stars. This book is a message from the dark heart of the darkest century. Everyone should read this book; if they did, it might help make the 21st century less calamitous than the 20th century.

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