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The Holocaust And Dehumanization In Primo Levi's Survival In Auschwitz

3239 words - 13 pages

The Holocaust and Dehumanization as seen in Primo Levi's Survival in AuschwitzIn 1941, Adolf Hitler began his unethical devastation of European Jews. From Kaiserwald to Auschwitz, extermination camps were scattered across the continent. Within these camps along with general labor camps, Jews were treated in such horrid ways that even the thought causes one to shutter his or her eyes. After the Holocaust was over, survivors were the root of many queries regarding what it means to be human and who exactly we are in this world. Primo Levi was one of these survivors, and in Survival in Auschwitz, he provides one of the most insightful accounts of the Holocaust that exists in the world today. Levi's autobiographical story answers the question of what it means to be human through his vivid testaments of dehumanization of himself and those around him, his use and analysis of religion, and his discussion on the true meaning of survival in such horrid conditions.Dehumanization is universal in nature in that it has existed for centuries. Whether one examines torture practices of the ancient Aztecs or current day torture methods of various countries, it is seen that truly, nothing has differed. Despite controversy after controversy, people continue to take part in such practices. It is the deprivation of our most natural rights as humans, and there is no greater circumstance where this is seen other than the Holocaust. In Levi's case, it was the worst form of dehumanization that the world has ever seen and probably will ever see. Beginning with the moment Levi entered Auschwitz, he and so many other Jews were assigned a number. This is the beginning of the process of dehumanization: the stripping of his identity. By losing something that is taken for granted in every part of the world, Levi and all the other Jews alienate themselves from themselves. They lose all senses of purpose and hope, and thus are reduced to mere mammals. Through Levi's story and all of the events of the Holocaust, it has become evident that "One needs the personal awareness of the necessity of implication in and belonging to a community" (Frunza 2). The victims of the Holocaust were forced to wander aimlessly, like zombies, without purpose, hope, or a simple sense of belonging. Confined to cramped living quarters and limited to minimal amounts of bread, Levi examined the change in himself and his fellow men. Showers became gifts; more than one slice of bread was a godsend; the task of emptying a bucket of feces and urine was inevitable but highly avoided; beatings were a routine. Each man underwent both physical changes and psychological changes. One specific instance in which this is evident is when Levi discusses the idea of dreams. Dreams were the only speck of humanity that some men had left, but yet, even the most seemingly pleasant dreams were sometimes the worst. They would wake up only to face the crushing reality that all was lost. All of these encompass the essence of what...

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