Sunday, June 10, 2007

Survival in Auschwitz

The Book: Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. Nonfiction.

Guest review by Chaim Chusid.

For a man to utter the words "Auschwitz was my true University" means that the books he writes and the messages he portrays are not to be taken lightly.

Primo Levi was an Italian Jew, to whom Jewishness really had no great meaning. He later said that he was "shocked into confronting his Jewishness by the wild course of events that allowed the Holocaust to occur."

There is not a lot I can say about his book. It is written in the same style as one would write a diary. The pure and raw emotion of the writer shines through every single page.

To read this book is to experience the darkest of night through the eyes of an author with incisive and true intellect, an absolute portrayal of what occurred in the simplest of terms during the darkest of times.

[NOTE by Shpitz: but for some Anne Frank excerpts, I have yet to read a Holocaust memoir. These books dripping of raw bloody pain are just cuts through the heart of readers so vividly familiar with its truth. They put you, especially when you're in a state of valuable possessions of life - namely husband and children - in an agonizing state of fear. Is it selfish to resign to knowing just about a grandchild of Holocaust survivors typically know (I dare say a lot) or is it insensitive to cushion oneself from a terrible era that's still so sore we can see it on our grandparent's limbs?]

Suggest a Book!


Shtreimel said...

Shpitz, read, read, and read again. We were shaped by the survivors, formed into what we are by what they went through. The first step in self-awareness for us Chasidim has to be the study of the holocaust.

Thanks to you I shall be borrowing the book for my local library.

Skeleton said...

Suggestion: Elie Wiesel's Night. For goths or those with extra-strong stomachs, Elie Wiesel's Dawn. I gave up somewhere between the pages of Dawn, feeling like an utter imbecile and weakling at being unable to tolerate in print what survivors were able to survive in reality. But the bite was too horrible. It is impossible to read about the golden-haired twelve-year-old prostitute without feeling one's guts rise to their throat. The saddest aspect of it was that Night is nonfiction and Dawn is fiction, of a ghostwritten sort that was reality to so many of our grandparents. We can stand in awe of them, at their having retained any vestige of normalcy after experiencing the devil's playground.

chchick said...

I've always been drawn to read any holocaust memoir I've come across. I felt obligated to read it if someone bothered to write about it. Can't stand most Holocaust "fiction". Isn't there enough of the real thing going around that we have to make up stories? But truthfully I find it too painful to watch holocaust movies.

Skeleton said...

chchick - It depends on type of fiction, whether it's grounded in reality or of the cheap-thrill variety. The Nazis were thorough; they left few witnesses. Over 6 million stories got buried or turned into nothingness, and some of the Holocaust "fiction" out there is hardly fictional, but rather, ghostwritten. The author may not have experienced the story himself or herself, but among so many millions it's pretty likely someone did. Treblinka (by Jean-Francois Steiner) may not be completely historically accurate and is classed as fiction, but does it really matter whether there were 40 or 75 survivors? Whether the hauptshahrfuhrer's name was Franz or Heinz? Even the infamous Wilkomirski "hoax" (author of Fragments, still worth reading as fiction) ceases to be outrageous or a lie when I think about the 1.5 million children killed in that hell, including many relatives of mine. Can we say with certainty they did not experience what is supposed to be fiction? Or is it a fairer supposition that they did, but unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately...) they didn't stick around to write about it?

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