Levi, Primo. Survival in Auschwitz; The Nazi Assault on Humanity. 1st edition.
New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996.
I. Survival in Auschwitz is the unique autobiographical account of how a young man endured the atrocities of a Nazi death camp and lived to tell the tale.
Primo Levi, a 24-year-old Jewish chemist from Turin Italy, was captured by the fascist militia in December 1943 and deported to Camp Buna-Monowitz in Auschwitz. The trip by train took 4 long days in a jam-packed boxcar without food or water. Once there, interrogations by the SS of age and health determined life as a prisoner or untimely death. Levi along with hundreds of fellow Jews were stripped of their clothes, given rags to wear, had their heads shaved and were tattooed with a number on their left arm for life. The number would be their solitary identity; it told time of entrance into the camp, the nationality of the individual and was the only way one could get their daily food rations.
In the camp, better known as the Lager, a man had to be cunning. He had to learn how to get extra soup and bread rations, avoidance of extremely hard labor whenever possible, and to never take your eyes off of your belongings or they would be stolen. It was as much survival of the smartest as it was survival of the fittest. It was every man for himself; you could not show pity on your fellow man, as it would lead to your own demise.
Because of his background as a chemist, Levi was eventually assigned to work at the factory laboratory, which was a welcomed change from the hard labor he had been part of. During his time at the factory, Levi sustained an injury and was sent to the infirmary, better known as "Ka-Be". It was either a place of refuge and rest, or a death sentence. Prisoners (haftlings) who recuperated went back to the Lager and those who didn't were selected for the gas chamber. Levi soon recovered and returned to what can only be described as hell.
In August of 44, news traveled to the Buna yards that the allies had landed in Normandy, and the Russians were pushing towards Auschwitz. For a fleeting moment there was hope of rescue, but the bombardments would go on for months. In January 45, Primo Levi fell ill to Scarlet Fever and returned to the Ka-Be. During this time, the Russians were getting closer to the camp, and the Germans decided to evacuate. All healthy patients would join the other haftlings for the evacuation march. They were never to be seen again.
Many of those left behind did not survive. They would succumb to the starvation, frigid cold, or their particular affliction. On January 27, 1945, with the aid of the Russians, Primo Levi was one of twenty or so men to leave the camp alive. He attributes his survival to sheer will, strength, intellect, but mostly luck.
II. This book is an excellent example of how Hitler and the Nazi's disregarded the idea of enlightenment. Chapter after chapter,...