Sunday, November 30, 2003

Survival at Auschwitz by Primo Levi

True story of an Italian Jew who was captured by the Nazis in 1944 and sent to Auschwitz. Very moving at times but in some respects lacking.

Lacking? How do you mean, lacking? Well, it sounds awful to say, but I did not find it gruesome enough.

There were moments that made you feel like crying, like when they got off the train and were immediately sorted into groups—those that could be of use in the labor camp and those who could not and would be sent within 48 hours to a gas chamber or a crematorium or both. The former, all able-bodied young men. The latter, all the women, elderly, and children. To think of being separated from your child or your wife under such circumstances and to speculate which would be more awful—to know what fate had in store for them, or to not know and never find out.

There were other moments that made you shake your head and wonder how such things could ever happen, but knowing at the same time that they did and that they made their own twisted kind of sense. Like the way the prisoners had to keep everything they had with them at every moment to keep them from being stolen—showering with their soup bowls clutched between their knees. Or the way those who tried to get out of work for a day due to their diarrhea would be lined up and brought before the doctor one by one and given 60 seconds to squat over a pot to prove that they were indeed ill. The dozens who stood in line desperately trying to hold it in so they could deliver when their turn came, and those who made it having their excrement examined to make sure it was soupy enough to qualify.

There were some of these things there, but not enough. Surely there were more, dozens, hundreds more, but so few seemed to make it to the page. There were some interesting things said about the human condition and the type of individual who survived such an ordeal, but now, barely a day later, very few of those thoughts have stayed with me.

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Survival at Auschwitz by Primo Levi
on Amazon
Primo Levi on Wikipedia
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