Ever since the holocaust occurred, it is attested that morality is submissive in severe conditions. Morality stopped to be contained by the barbed wires of the concentration camps. Inside the camps, inmates were not dealt like human beings and thus abided by animal-like actions needed to subsist. In his autobiographical novel Se questo è un uomo (If This Is a Man or Survival in Auschwitz), the “ordinary moral world” (86), as Primo Levi calls it, stops to persist. The definition and usage of words such as “just,” “unjust,” “good,” and “evil” start out to merge and the disagreement between these opposites turn vague. Continued existence in Auschwitz demanded abolition of one’s dignity and self-respect. Vulnerability to unending dehumanization certainly directs one to be dehumanized, thrusting one to take refuge on mental, social, and physical adaptation to be able to preserve one’s existence and character. This adjustment causes the line, separating right from wrong, to deform.
Primo Levi, a survivor, gives account on his incarceration in the Monowitz- Buna concentration camp. Setting out with his capture in December of 1943 by the fascist militia, the text conforms to Primo Levi’s struggle in the succeeding twelve months as an inmate in the Monowitz- Buna concentration camp, seven kilometers at the east of Auschwitz. Upon arriving in the camp, Primo Levi (narrates in first-person) who has a doctor's degree in chemistry, embarks a domain that leaves him astonished; simply by building literary notes to Dante’s Inferno can he will be able to draw its contours. Following the degrading intake measures, he actualizes that the objective of the location to which they were brought is the physical and psychological devastation of the inmates. The inmate Levi, “Number 174517,” discovers further regarding the camp and the cruel circumstances there.
If This Is a Man, connotes that in Auschwitz, even one’s involvement in the human race may be questioned. Transformed into “one single grey machine”, Haftlinge are plucked of all conservative forms of identity; all clothes and personal items are impounded and even names are exchanged with six-digit numbers. The Haftlinge are further dehumanized when, as device in this machine, they are eroded against their fellow inmates in practically hopeless competition, becoming “enemies or rivals”, seemingly mere impediments to each other’s personal chances for survival. The dominating attitude in the camp is, “You will be chosen [for extermination]. I will be excluded.”
Primo Levi depicts circumstantially and attentively the daily procedures, grave labor, and maltreatment by prisoner officials and SS men, the innumerable molestations leading into every subject of life that opposes everything once anticipated. His accurate portrayal of individual occurrences and procedures let the reader gather the vainness and terror that distinguish the camp and the inmates’ communication with each other—and suggests how the Lager...