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It Was Pure Chance That Enabled Primo Levi To Survive Auschwitz. Evaluate. Levi, P "If This Is A Man", Abacus, London, Uk (2004)

972 words - 4 pages

Although Primo Levi was the recipient of good fortune, he fundamentally survived Auschwitz because of resourceful improvisation and his ability to maintain a sense of humanity. Levi was not a particularly strong and capable prisoner and could easily have become a 'muselmann'. However, he was able to overcome his physical weaknesses by using his initiative to survive the brutality of the Lager. "To escape from Auschwitz was no small fortune" (p.57).Survival was the highest priority. Häftlinge had to be cunning and those who conformed to the myriad of rules perished. "For those who had no sound inner resources, for those who did not know how to draw from their own consciences" (p.39) were unable to cling to life. Levi learned that to survive he must "build around himself a tenuous barrier of defence" (p. 62). He sought to steal items of value and bargain with fellow Häftlinge for additional resources. However, he also discovered that other Häftlinge could equally steal from him, and so Levi learnt to become increasingly perceptive. "The law of the Lager said: 'eat your own bread, and if you can, that of your neighbour'" (p.166).Levi developed a suspicious mind and learnt never to reveal his secrets of success. He did not extend a helping hand unless it was to his benefit. "If someone finds a new method of avoiding the hardest work or a new art which yields him an ounce of bread, he will try to keep his method secret" (p.94). He will be revered by others, will become stronger and thus increase his chances of survival. There was no rest in the struggle to survive. "Everyone was desperately and ferociously alone" (p.94). Levi had no choice but to reject his peers as they created an unwanted burden.Levi realised that he was "not made of the stuff of those who resist" (p.109) so he quickly learnt the "art of economising on everything: on breath, movements, even thoughts" (p.138). He managed to place himself with Resnyk who was a good worker, strong and robust. This lessened the load for Levi. Teams of Häftlinge working in a chain learnt to "quicken the pace or even rest, according to who was passing" (p.138). Even toilet breaks became an exercise in energy conservation. Levi would delay his return to work for as long as possible. However, it was his realisation that he could save himself by becoming a Specialist that allowed him to escape the daily physical exertion and extreme temperatures associated with hard labour.Levi never lost the capacity to see his companions and himself as men and not things. He therefore avoided the humiliation and demoralisation which led so many to spiritual defeat. Those who became indifferent lost their identity. They were no longer men. They become empty inside and were "indifferent to the point of not even troubling to...

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