Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi, translated by Stuart Woolf

Primo Levi’s memoir of his time in the Auschwitz concentration camp was originally published with the title If This Is a Man. It is written in a matter-of-fact style. The facts speak for themselves.

Levi says that survival was mainly a question of luck, although the captives had some freedom of movement, which allowed many of them to “organize” ways to improve their chances.

Aside from the most obvious questions, this book raises some questions for the reader: How would I react to living in such conditions? How am I reacting to the conditions I’m living in now? 

Levi writes: “It is lucky that it is not windy today. Strange, how in some way one always has the impression of being fortunate, how some chance happening, perhaps infinitesimal, stops us crossing the threshold of despair and allows us to live. It is raining, but it is not windy….Or it is raining, windy, and you have the usual hunger, and then you think that if you really had to, if you really felt nothing in your heart but suffering and tedium,…well, even in that case, at any moment you want you could always go and touch the electric wire-fence, or throw yourself under the shunting trains, and then it would stop raining”.  (3/1/12)

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