Survival In Auschwitz By Primo Levi

1007 words - 4 pages

Primo Levi, in his novel Survival in Auschwitz (2008), illustrates the atrocities inflicted upon the prisoners of the concentration camp by the Schutzstaffel, through dehumanization. Levi describes “the denial of humanness” constantly forced upon the prisoners through similes, metaphors, and imagery of animalistic and mechanistic dehumanization (“Dehumanization”). He makes his readers aware of the cruel reality in the concentration camp in order to help them examine the psychological effects dehumanization has not only on those dehumanized, but also on those who dehumanize. He establishes an earnest and reflective tone with his audience yearning to grasp the reality of genocide.
In Survival in Auschwitz, Primo Levi laments that men become “hollow” when deprived of everything they “love [and] possess” (Survival 27). He uses several similes comparing the men to animals which proves how their brutal treatment by the Schutzstaffel has dehumanized them. As Levi describes how he and the other inmates laboriously work in the Chemical Kommando, he states “Elias climbs like a monkey” (Survival 96). By comparing the way Elias climbs to a monkey, on all fours, it is apparent that he has lost his humanness. His behavior is likened to that of an animal which depicts the psychological damage subjected upon the inmates. A fight occurs in the camp and Levi portrays Elias’ punch “as powerful and accurate as a catapult” (Survival 96). This form of mechanistic dehumanization construes Elias “as cold, rigid, [and] interchangeable” as a result of their oppression (“Dehumanization”). Furthermore, Levi frequently refers to the inmates as “beasts” throughout the novel, especially when subjected to brutal violence by the Schutzstaffel (Survival 117). Because the Schutzstaffel treat them as subhuman and more like animals, they act as inhumanly depraved people. Levi’s ability to demonstrate the adversities of their oppression illustrates the dehumanization of the prisoners.
The inmates eat soup while in the camp. When the time comes for them to get their bowls filled, Levi professes they “have an animal hurry” to consume their food (Survival 69). This metaphor suggests the men’s animalistic behavior due to their severe thirst and hunger. The concept of dehumanization carried out by the Schutzstaffel primarily targets the prisoners‘ “identity” and “community” (“Dehumanization”). Each man’s struggle to survive in Auschwitz depends on their principal focus of themselves. They can “no longer elicit compassion or other moral responses”, every man endures on his own, and they cannot think of others. Ironically, waiting around to pass time satisfies the inmates; “ [they] are always happy to wait” (Survival 104). Levi rationalizes their content when Alex tells them to wait and says they have “the complete obtuse inertia of spiders in old webs” (Survival 104). He compares his Kommando to spiders, as they sit lifelessly, trapped in an abandoned labyrinth. The action of...

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