Analysis of the Theme of Survival in Auschwitz
Survival in Auschwitz tells of the horrifying and inhuman conditions of life in the Auschwitz death camp as personally witnessed and experienced by the author, Primo Levi. Levi is an Italian Jew and chemist, who at the age of twenty-five, was arrested with an Italian resistance group and sent to the Nazi Auschwitz death camp in Poland in the end of 1943. For ten terrible months, Levi endured the cruel and inhuman death camp where men slaved away until it was time for them to die. Levi thoroughly presents the hopeless existence of the prisoners in Auschwitz, whose most basic human rights were stripped away, when in Chapter 2 he states, "Imagine now a man who is deprived of everyone he loves, and at the same time of his house, his habits, his clothes, in short, of everything he possesses: he will be a hollow man, reduced to suffering and needs, forgetful of dignity and restraint, for he who loses all often easily loses himself" (27). With Survival in Auschwitz, Primo Levi provides a stark examination of human survival in the dehumanized society of a Nazi death camp. Throughout the book, Levi reinforces the theme that the prisoners of the death camp are reduced to being no longer men, but instead animals that must struggle to survive day by day or face certain death.
In Chapter 2, appropriately titled "On the Bottom", Levi discusses his experience of being processed as a prisoner into Auschwitz and the realization that they will not be treated with any human regard. He and all the prisoners who arrive with him are stripped of everything they own and are shaved, disinfected, and tagged like they were livestock. Once the prisoners have been processed and they see what they have become, Levi describes the supreme indignation of their treatment as "the demolition of a man" and all realize that "It is not possible to sink lower than this, no human condition is more miserable than this, nor could it conceivably be so" (26-27). All the Jewish prisoners of the camp have
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