Reading the novel Survival in Auschwitz by author Primo Levi leads one to wonder whether his survival is attributed to his indefinite will to survive or a very subservient streak of luck. Throughout the novel, he is time and again spared from the fate that supposedly lies ahead of all inhabitants of the death camp at Auschwitz. Whether it was falling ill at the most convenient times or coming in contact with prisoners who had a compassionate, albeit uncommon, disposition, it would seem as though the Gods were always smiling upon him. Although throughout the novel primo is characterized as a very willing and’s competent individual, one can not say that his personality or his training as a chemist were the sole factors of his survival. For the purposes of this essay, it is necessary to further address the possibility that maybe Primo Levi was just a lucky guy. The very first lines of the novel support without a doubt the fact that even Levi (H” # 174517) himself is aware of the capacity that luck plays in his life.
He begins the novel with the phrase “It was my good fortune to be deported to Auschwitz only in 1944, that is, after the German government had decided, owing to the growing scarcity of labour, to lengthen the average lifespan of the prisoners destined for eli mi- nation” (Levi 9).
So, had he been captured prior to 1944, his story might not have been told. Seeing as life in Monowitz (aka Buna or the L”a ger) was particularly brutal upon his arrival, one can only imagine the conditions that existed before the Nazi war machine experienced its labor shortage. When compelled to consider the conditions in which Levi was forced to live, it is clear to see that the will to survive must be complemented by another factor, as this will alone is not at all strong enough to sustain life. Not only are the authority figures brutish and sadistic, but the code among the prisoners themselves is even more cutthroat. In addition, the “cuisine” is terrible and is summed up in the following passage: .”..
... came. The first gas chamber to be used was built in Auschwitz I. The ... Auschwitz complex had reached 80, 839. That number rose higher and higher as the months past by and more prisoners ... Starting in March of 1942, trains arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau daily, carrying Jews from Europe. On ... experiments. The most widely known doctor at Auschwitz was Joseph Menge le. His experiments were ...
every two or three hours we have to get up to discharge ourselves of the great dose of water which during the day we are forced to absorb in the form of soup in order to satisfy our hunger… .” (Levi 61).
Furthermore, the camp is arranged in a hierarchical system with each group of prisoners having corresponding identification numbers tattooed on their arms, (ex. Numbers 174, 000 represented the Italian Jews) which further exacerbated the tension and contempt already manifested among the prisoners. On top were the SS men, who were superior supervisors of the various camps; next in line were the ka pos who were trustee inmates who supervised the prisoners; under them were the Aryan German criminals and political dissidents; underneath the pure-blooded germans were the Prominent-which was a unique group of people.
“It was the name given to camp officials from the H”aft ling-director to the K apos, to the cooks, the nurses, the night-guards, even to the hut sweepers” (Levi 90).
Included in this group were also some fort- unite Jewish prisoners, which Levi believes to be an anomaly. Levi writes .”.. if one offers a position of privilege to a few individuals in a state of slavery, exacting in ex- change the betrayal of a natural solidarity with their comrades, there will certainly be someone who will accept” (Levi 91).
Levi believed that when given command of his peers, the Jewish prominent will almost always abuse his power in order to display com- pet ency for the position as well as unload their hatred for their oppressors onto their sub- jets. Finally, the disoriented mass of religious Jews were on the bottom.
They were from various regions throughout Europe including-but not limited to-Italy, France, Poland, Germany, Hungary, Ukraine, Greece, Russia, etc. Although Levi was never chosen to be a “prominent en”, this did not matter as his training as a chemist turned out to be his liberating factor. He was one of three Jewish inmates chosen to work in a chemistry laboratory in the camp. Again Levi refers to his “luck” when he writes “So it would seem that fate… has arranged that we three… suffer neither hunger nor cold this winter” (Levi 140).
... was in May 1941 that 300 German prisoners were put in to the Natzweiler concentration camp. These prisoners lived about a kilometre away from ... were first three blocks were completed 500 more prisoners were shipped in, raising inmate numbers to a total of 800. Between ... please. Their housing conditions were so bad, prisoners died in the rooms with inmates crowding them. The guards treated them with ...
One must say that to be chosen as one of the three men, out of the 10, 000 which comprised the L”a ger, can only be attributed to luck. In addition to his envied position in the L”a ger, his background as a chemist also proved vital when the prisoners had to fend for themselves after the germans abandoned the camp due to the encroachment of the Russian army. Since all municipal provisions were deserted as a result of the hasty departure of the Germans, it was Levi who was able to light the stove using flints stolen from the laboratory. This in turn enabled them to melt snow for water and cook the potatoes and cabbage that they were able to salvage. It was also Levi who used an abandoned battery from the lorry to finally provide light in their room. Furthermore, Levi’s luck also appeared to be beneficial in that it allowed him to make the acquaintance of inmates who appeared to be just as honest and forthcoming as him.
Although Levi’s relationships with his comrades were always respectful and genuine, at times he appears to be emotionally removed from them. Aside from Alberto, who was Levi’s best friend from Turin, Levi came in contact with many men whose selflessness was by no means deterred by their degrading situation. Among the “compatriots” that stick out to Levi is Jean who was an Alsatian student. Jean was given the post of “Pi kolo” which was a very relaxed assignment which includes the duties of .”.. messenger-clerk… cleaning of the hut…
[and] the distribution of tools… .” (Levi 109).
Jean’s post entitled him lots of leniency which he did not hesitate to share with Levi such as accompanying him to fetch the soup. In return, Levi taught him Italian using The Canto of Ulysses. Another comrade that Levi seems to have fond memories of is an Italian civilian worker, who was a POW named Lorenzo. .”..
... officers are acting as role models. Anderson found that young inmates living under a controlled environment or "milieu therapy" recidivate ... Anderson, J. , Burns, J. , & Dyson, L. , (1999). Boot Camps: An Intermediate Sanction. New York: University Press of America. Hebert ... dollars. Another reason that it worked was because the men would work day and night producing quality goods that were ...
[He] brought me a piece of bread and the remainder of his ration everyday for six months; he gave a vest of his… ; he wrote a postcard on my behalf to Italy and brought me the reply. For all this he neither asked nor accepted any reward… .” (Levi 119).
This was an incredible stroke of luck on Levi’s behalf as this was not at all the typical relationship among the inmates, nor between Levi and those he truly considered friends. This is an environment where you must shower with your belongings wedged between your knees or run the risk of them being stolen.
An environment where meals consist of watery soup that is purposely not stirred so as to save the bottom, most fulfilling rations for the officials in the camps. An environment where every man is for himself, yet one man still finds the compassion to actually care about his fellow man. Levi’s last and most rewarding stroke of luck occurs when he unexpectedly contracted Scarlet fever just before the Russians reached the camp, thus avoiding the death march that the healthier inmates faced. He along with the in firmed inmates-few of which, namely two Frenchmen Charles and Arthur, he also considers lifelong friends-were left behind in the infirmary also known as Ka-Be, and is described as “the L”a ger without its physical discomforts”, because they were too sick to travel. “All the healthy prisoners… they must have been about twenty thousand…
almost in their entirety vanished during the evacuation march: Alberto was among them” (Levi 155).
Thus once again, Levi had escaped a most certain death. What is also fascinating is the fact that out of the eleven H”aft ling that survived the ten-day period between abandonment and rescue, only two died-one in a temporary Russian hospital weeks after liberation. After reading a novel of this magnitude, one can not assume that luck did not play a significant part in Levi’s survival. As Levi himself acknowledges, “We were ninety-six when we arrived, we, the Italians of convoy 174, 000; only twenty-nine of us survived until October, and of these, eight went into selection” (Levi 136).
... Romeo and Juliet, the social environment is the major aspect of ... Power of Love which insisted that the social environment did not effect a love in progress. All ... that is always there regardless of it's environment. This shows that a social influence does not ... social environment, in which love is taking place, effected the people that are in love. In stories like ...
That left 21 Italian survivors, how fortunate was he to be among them! Primo Levi’s voice in this novel is so emotionless, that one is forced to jettison all biases regarding the Holocaust until completion of the novel.
He does not concern himself with how the reader will look at his role in the story he tells; it is his story, thus the reader need only read and formulate their own conclusions. Because his is the story that so many will never get the chance to tell. He comes off as the quiet submissive type, yet underneath this facade is a very perceptive and clever human being. In fact, the saying “still waters run deep” just about sums up Levi’s personality. Recalling what was just written of Levi’s personality, it was premature to say that pure luck was the only guiding force in Levi’s survival; some credit must be given to the individual also. So it is of utmost importance to mention that his determination to survive and to provide an accurate, albeit, detailed account of what he had endured was also a major factor in Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz..