Survival in Auschwitz written by Primo Levi is a first-hand description of the atrocities which took place in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. The book provides an explicit depiction of camp life: the squalor, the insufficient food supply, the seemingly endless labour, cramped living space, and the barter-based economy which the prisoners lived. Levi through use of his simple yet powerful words outlined the motive behind Auschwitz, the tactical dehumanization and extermination of Jews. This paper will discuss experiences and reactions of Jews who labored in Auschwitz, and elaborate on the pre-Auschwitz experiences of Jews who were deported to Auschwitz and gassed to death on their arrival, which had not been included in Survival in Auschwitz.
Upon arrival into Auschwitz, Levi’s group of 650 was quickly divided into two groups. Only 135 of the 650 from Levi’s train were admitted into Auschwitz, the other 515 went immediately to the gas chambers. The remaining 135 are brought into the camp where they are immediately stripped naked, shaved, and tattooed on their arm a number which would become their identity. Levi recalled the confusion and humiliation he felt as he was forced to assimilate into his new surroundings. The process of admitting prisoners into the camp was hurried, as to not allow time to gather one’s thoughts.
Amongst the many discomforts of camp life the two most destructive were the insufficient amount of food, and the seemingly endless labour. The food rations were too small to ward off the hunger. Thousands of prisoners around Levi were suffering and dying as a result of this. The prisoners worked 16 hour days and if one were eventually to succumb to their exhaustion, they would be beaten. Levi recalls the barter-based economy of the camp, where prisoners would exchange valuables such as bread rations, clothes, and shoes. Levi quickly learned the importance of conserving everything, also to protect one’s...