Survival in Auschwitz is a mostly straightforward narrative, beginning with Primo Levi’s deportation from Turin, Italy, to the Auschwitz concentration camp, in Poland in 1943. Levi, then a 25-year-old chemist, spent 10 months in the camp. Even Levi’s most graphic descriptions of the horrors he witnessed and endured there, are marked by a restraint and wit, that not only gives readers access to his experience, but confronts them with it in stark ethical and emotional terms: “At dawn the barbed wire was full of children’s washing hung out in the wind to dry. Nor did they forget the diapers, the toys, the cushions and the hundred other small things which mothers remember, and which children always need. Would you not do the same? If you and your child were going to be killed tomorrow, would you not give him something to eat today?” –Michael Joseph Gross
Book Review: ★★★★★★
This is a book that is both interesting and harrowing, all at the same time. Short in its presentation, Mr. Levi tells of his story of his arrest and transport to the infamous Auschwitz work/extermination camp during the Holocaust. Told in the first person narrative form, the book is presented from an intellectual standpoint, with a certain amount of emotional disconnect. And yet it is this emotional disconnect that is the most moving, and disturbing of all.
The intellectualizing of the dehumanization process that occurred in this hell on Earth is not only troubling to the reader, but it demands the mental acknowledgment of the process that occurred when these events happened. Simply put, the reader realizes that this was a systematic, mentally conceive process of dehumanization. Thought out and instigated by other humans, it is a look at the ultimate crime from the most intimate level. The story of the group that arrived with Mr. Levi — and the mentally contrived, and specially designed process that transpired walks the reader — step by agonizing step — through this systematical dehumanization. From the stripping away of the cloths, the sheering of the hair, and ultimately the replacement of their name with a number becomes a very refined process in Mr. Levi’s writing.
Stripped of all humanity, the book demands the question of how far can a person descend before they lose that which makes them human? And through the course of this transformation, is it possible for that which was to continue to survive. To call this book a survival story is is an understatement, since it is the basis of what it really means to survive. Few people will ever have to know what it means to be deprived of everything. In fact most people cannot truly imagine what it means to be deprived of everything because they always have something — even if that something is only the self, the individual. This book is the close look into what happens when even that is deprived of a person.
An amazingly intense look into the conceived plan of extermination of the Jewish population — this book is more than a simple Holocaust story. It is the look into what it means to be deprived of even the most basic to each and every individual, and how someone can survive that process. An excellent read — however, I do recommend it with caution. It is a disturbing look into the systematized process of stripping humans of humanity.
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