There is this woman in my life, my Uncle’s mother, who I have known since I was quite young. As a child, there were three things I knew about Huggy (as we kids called her) she is tiny (about 4’6″), she is French, and she always wears long sleeves.
Growing up Jewish, the holocaust was a key part of my religious education. French Jews were imprisoned? Huggy is a French Jew. It took place in the 1940s? Huggy was growing up then. Piecing realizations together until figuring out Huguette was a Holocaust survivor.
Huggy entered Auschwitz with her family when she was about 12, and due to treatment/malnutrition in the camp did not grow. She is tattooed with her ID number on her for arm. She and her brother were the only surviving members of the family. She is an Auschwitz survivor.
Reading Levi’s book, you can understand the gravity, and hopelessness of the situation he is in. However, he preaches that hope, compassion, and looking out for each other were the key to survival. I don’t think that Huguette would agree with any of these tactics and plans, to her there were those who were lucky enough to survive, and those who weren’t.
In 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.