After having read ‘If This is a Man’ by Primo Levi, I initially felt very overwhelmed by the themes that the book explores and the inhumane conditions of the concentration camp. However, after visiting the Holocaust Exhibition at the Imperial War Museum and having a discussion with my classmates, I gained more of an understanding of the book and of Nazi Germany.
Henry spoke about propaganda; he explained that there was a large amount occurring in schools and that the German youths would believe that this propaganda was right. He said that a maths questions in a German school exam was ‘There are forty-seven Jews in a room and fifteen Hitler youths, how many aliens are there?’. This shows that the Jews are perceived as aliens that don’t fit into society and how senseless it was that a whole nation of people could be so easily brainwashed. By learning this, I became more conscious of the abhorrent ways in which the people in the concentration camps were treated. Furthermore, due to the fact that that the Jews never had an opportunity to be free because of the long persecution from their country, I became more empathetic as to why the book has a rather detached tone.
By visiting the museum, I learnt more about the horrific conditions of Auschwitz from many short clips showing the state of the camps during the war. The way the SS soldiers moved the dead bodies around was utterly disrespectful, and by learning this I realised that, in the book, Levi was not exaggerating when he spoke about how people were shot and then their bodies were just left there as no one had the strength or energy to move them. It wasn’t until as late as January 1945 that Russian soldiers came to be the first people with enough strength to do anything about the bodies.
I gained more of an understanding about Hitler’s power and control during the war when Gemma spoke about a group of activists called the White Rose. She said that they wanted to oppose the Nazis, and they would ask questions such as ‘Do you want to be known as the despised country?’. This group of activists was executed, which therefore shows the extent of Hitler’s power and that the Nazis had complete control over everyone, especially in the camps.
Word count: 391
Date of completion: 6/10/2018
An exploration of the ‘path to salvation’ in chapter nine in Primo Levi’s If This is a Mani.
In Levi’s If This is a Man, the author draws attention to the theme of salvation in chapter nine, and explores the different characters’ routes to survival. Throughout this chapter, Levi poses the question of whether survival in Auschwitz necessitated a loss of humanity. As Primo Levi was a survivor of the Holocaust he was able to recall events of his experience, and he was aware that in his deepest thoughts, he was questioning humanity. In fact, “Levi asks himself if any memory of this human condition, emptied of any expectation of salvation, is worthy”[footnoteRef:1]. This questions his own thoug...