Ellipsis Omnibus

Disillusioned but not disenchanted…

Primo Levi Reflection

On the whole the autobiographical book “Survival at Auschwitz” by Primo Levi is the story of one man’s experiences in the German death camps of World War II. Primo Levi, an Italian Jew, recounts his ten month stay in the Auschwitz death camp near Buna. He tells his true story of his struggling journey of survival within the camp going so far as to account his day to day activities in great detail, creating a believable and easily empathized with environment.

Despite “Survival at Auschwitz” being the horrifying story of one man’s experiences within a German death camp, Primo Levi tells the story magnificently. In his account he spares no detail and his descriptions of the environment, the relations with other prisoners as well as the guards, the living conditions, and the day to day activities to give the reader a true vision of the cruelty, the hopelessness and the uncertainty felt by the prisoners, or as they are called in the camps Haftlinge”. Primo Levi’s accounts truly give the reader a clear vision of what it must have been like to live daily in a German death camp.

My reflection upon the autobiographical work “Survival at Auschwitz” left me both in awe and wonder upon just what the prisoners, more specifically Primo Levi himself, had to and did endure within the German death camps. Furthermore it left me in awe as to the idea of groupthink and “obeying orders” of the SS troops that guarded, regulated, and executed prisoners within the camps. Such rallying behind a cause and groupthink couldn’t help but awaken the social-psychological side of my thought, bringing me question just how such action could come about.

Apart from this, awe for what the prisoners managed to endure, the indifference of many prisoners towards their fellows and the simple goals and frets of the prisoners also allowed a view which had not previously been realized or considered. In such questions as can a person be truly content and other ideas concerning human nature the autobiography borders upon philosophical or theoretical, nearly poetically relating these concepts. How people simply move from one worry to another is exemplified in vivid example in the book. In this case it is the story of how the prisoners constantly fretted concerning the winter, hoping only for the spring. Upon the arrival of the spring this fretting of the winter was replaced with the realization of the fretting for hunger, which was actually present during the winter as well but wasn’t properly realized until it was allowed to be the primary target of worry, allowing for psychological pondering on the subject of human worries.

In analysis of Primo Levi’s book it is found to be both well written and moving. One can only wonder how in such conditions an individual would be capable of recalling so much rather than just writing it all of as one large monotonous chunk of time rather not thought about. It is truly as the description of the book states a “lasting testament to the indestructibility of the human spirit.” Apart from this the book is wonderful as a mode of coming to grips with and learning more about the experiences of prisoners within the death camps and just how bad the war was in areas not commonly publicized within our society. Primo Levi describes with utmost detail a historical circumstance shared by thousands across Europe and through his first-hand account allows for the reader to get an insight that would otherwise be lost to time and memory.

All in all Primo Levi’s autobiographical and historical book “Survival at Auschwitz” is a stunning account of a man’s life, or lack of one, during his ten month term in the German death camp at Auschwitz. It is able to grip and stun the reader, wonderfully written despite its harsh topic. It is a piece of text that it well worth the read of any historian and gives much insight into the lives of some during World War II.

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"The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man."--G.K.Chesterton

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"This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle; wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to whosoever will think of it... It is by not thinking that we cease to wonder at it."--Thomas Carlyle, 'On Heroes & Hero Worship'
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