Survival in Auschwitz

Topics: Morality, Ethics, Auschwitz concentration camp Pages: 5 (1718 words) Published: November 22, 2013
Survival in Auschwitz
The Holocaust is considered one of the worst genocides in history, known for it’s merciless killings and torture of Jews and other outcasts. The cruelness of the genocide can be witnessed first hand in the novel Survival in Auschwitz. Survival in Auschwitz was written by Primo Levi, an Italian Jew who was a prisoner in the concentration camp of Auschwitz when he was the age of twenty-four. He managed to leave Auschwitz alive, and dedicated the rest of his life to writing about the Holocaust and his experiences. Levi goes into detail about the horrors of the camp, and explains how prison effects how humans act morally. The Nazis degrade the Jews so deeply that they view them as animals, not important enough to receive basic human needs. Being treated as an animal takes a large toll on the normal ethics that the Jews practice outside of prison. It becomes evident how the prisoners change the way they act throughout their stay at Auschwitz. Because of being treated as non-humans, the Jews resorted to stealing and stopped helping others. According to Primo Levi, the Nazis dehumanized concentration camp internees; as a result, Jews were forced to create their own corrupt system of morals to survive.

There is no question that the guarding Nazis dehumanized the Jews in Auschwitz. The acts Nazis committed against Jews are described in detail throughout the entire novel. This is depicted in the beginning of the novel; when the Jews are taken from their homes they are immediately shoved into packed lorries, comparable to how animals are shipped. However, when the Jews arrive at Auschwitz, the Nazis have them under false pretenses that life in the prison does not have to be miserable. A man comes in to tell the Jews that if they work hard they will be rewarded; that there will be concerts and football matches, and suggests that they will be fed decently. However, the promise is not kept, and the dehumanization of the Jews really begins once they start work in the camp. The Jews are stripped of all their belongings, signifying the first step of their dehumanization. Primo Levi comments on how this type of treatment leaves the prisoners feeling. “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” (Levi 27). This quote accurately sums up how being treated by the Nazis takes a toll on the Jews, leaving them questioning who they are and how they should behave morally. Besides all of their possessions being confiscated from them, the prisoners in the camp are then subjected to starvation and harsh labor. The Nazis literally view them as work animals, causing the guards to have no qualms about whipping the prisoners. It would seem that this kind of abuse would be devastating to Jews, but their minds adjust to this treatment and they come to expect it. Levi recalls a time when his task was to unload a heavy, cast-iron cylinder from a wagon. He is so completely exhausted by the end of the work, that he is looking for any motivation to move his legs and finish the job. Talking of how the Nazis beat him, Levi states, “…some of them beat us from pure bestiality and violence, but others beat us when we are under a load almost livingly, accompanying the blows with exhortations, as cart-drivers do with willing horses” (Levi 67). There is no better example in Survival in Auschwitz than this quote, demonstrating how the Jews actually begin to think of themselves as animals.

Living in this new world where they are dehumanized and are treated with no respect, the Jews begin to question how they are to function in this world. There are many rules placed on the prisoners, yet they are backwards from the rules that are implemented in normal society. Though...
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