Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi

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Primo Levi, in his novel Survival in Auschwitz (2008), illustrates the atrocities inflicted upon the prisoners of the concentration camp by the Schutzstaffel, through dehumanization. Levi describes “the denial of humanness” constantly forced upon the prisoners through similes, metaphors, and imagery of animalistic and mechanistic dehumanization (“Dehumanization”). He makes his readers aware of the cruel reality in the concentration camp in order to help them examine the psychological effects dehumanization has not only on those dehumanized, but also on those who dehumanize. He establishes an earnest and reflective tone with his audience yearning to grasp the reality of genocide.

In Survival in Auschwitz, Primo Levi laments that men become “hollow” when deprived of everything they “love [and] possess” (Survival 27). He uses several similes comparing the men to animals which proves how their brutal treatment by the Schutzstaffel has dehumanized them. As Levi describes how he and the other inmates laboriously work in the Chemical Kommando, he states “Elias climbs like a monkey” (Survival 96). By comparing the way Elias climbs to a monkey, on all fours, it is apparent that he has lost his humanness. His behavior is likened to that of an animal which depicts the psychological damage subjected upon the inmates. A fight occurs in the camp and Levi portrays Elias’ punch “as powerful and accurate as a catapult” (Survival 96). This form of mechanistic dehumanization construes Elias “as cold, rigid, [and] interchangeable” as a result of their oppression (“Dehumanization”). Furthermore, Levi frequently refers to the inmates as “beasts” throughout the novel, especially when subjected to brutal violence by the Schutzstaffel (Survival 117). ...

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...lyzes man’s internal and external issues which conveys mankind’s human condition. Survival in Auschwitz conclusively depicts how mankind reacts to the deepest and most torturous oppression within our past. He proves undoubtedly that the majority of man will fall to corruption or fail completely and give up hope altogether in the struggle for survival. His rather alluring account on how to truly survive in the camp and “documentation...of certain aspects of the human mind” relay the process of their dehumanization (Survival 9). Levi ultimately deems man’s reaction to oppression and the backlash of their means.

Works Cited

"Dehumanization." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 01 May 2014. Web. 01 Jan. 2014.

Levi, Primo. Survival in Auschwitz. New York: Classic House, 2008. Print.

"Schutzstaffel." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 01 Apr. 2014. Web. 08 Jan. 2014.
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