How does one survive in Auschwitz?

InĀ Survival in Auschwitz, the author Primo Levi captures the reader into the harsh reality of life in the infamous Nazi concentration and extermination camp. Primo Levi is a young Jewish-Italian man who, in 1943 at the age of 24, was captured by the Nazi fascists while hiding in the woods and stripped of everything that belonged to him including his name.

Auschwitz is probably the most well known out of all the Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Primo Levi spends almost an entire year, what to him seemed like an eternity, being starved, badly beaten and worked until he could no longer breathe. The camp presented extremely unsanitary conditions and prisoners were fed little to nothing, as they were given soup with scraps of potato and cabbage. During this time, Primo struggled to maintain a sense of humanity and never saw an end to his suffering. After spending almost an entire year in these devastating conditions the Nazi’s abandoned these camps with the threat of the invading Soviet Union and after surviving on their own they were eventually rescued.

To answer the topic question, “How does one survive Auschwitz?”, Primo presents severals cases and points. For one to survive Auschwitz you must be extremely lucky, know German, never give up hope, maintain good health as best you can and most importantly have compassion. Compassion is something Primo learns when he meets the ever so kind Lorenzo, who isn’t a prisoner but yet a civilian worker, who constantly provides food secretly to Primo and talks with him. Primo says, “I believe that it was really due to Lorenzo that I am alive today; and not so much for his material aid, as for his having constantly reminded me of his presence, by his natural and plain manner of being good, that there still existed a just world outside of our own, something and someone still pure and whole, not corrupt, not savage, not extraneous to hatred and terror; something difficult to define, a remote possibility of good, but for which it was worth surviving.” (121) Compassion in Auschwitz means having a community of people who look out for each other and share their resources to maximize the entire groups chances of survival. This sense of community helped maintain sanity for Primo and through his inspiration that he found from Lorenzo that he was able to survive Auschwitz.


2 thoughts on “How does one survive in Auschwitz?

  1. I find the idea of community very interesting in terms of using it to “survive Auschwitz.” I think that this can be true in many different situations. Having other people around you who are going through the same thing is often really helpful and makes you feel as though you are not alone. For example, students who take a particularly difficult course together may bond over just how difficult it is and how they are all struggling. Obviously, this is not the same extent of suffering that the people in Auschwitz felt. In addition, Auschwitz is often the most (and often the only) concentration camp discussed in detail. I would find it really interesting to hear from other concentration camp survivors and see what helped them to survive.

  2. I also agree with the fact that Levi contributes a majority of his survival to Lorenzo and the idea that something else out there still existed. For those stuck inside Auschwitz, it was incredibly easy to forget about the real world. One of the purpose of these camps was to dehumanize and strip any importance away from the prisoners. After losing what are to be considered simple things such as a name, or a title, you not only lose hope, but you become wrapped up in this cruel prison. It becomes easy to forget that a completely different world existed outside of the fences. Thanks to Lorenzo, Levi was constantly reminded that a better place existed, it gave him something to look forward to.

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