Survival in Auschwitz Summary & Study Guide

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Survival in Auschwitz Summary & Study Guide Description

Survival in Auschwitz Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi.

Primo Levi, the author and subject of the autobiography, was arrested in December, 1943. An anti-Fascist, Italian Jew, he was sent to a prison camp in Italy and then deported to Auschwitz in February, 1944. Levi survived in Auschwitz largely because by 1944, the Nazis had suspended full-effort genocide in preference to enforced convict labor. When the camp was evacuated in January, 1945, Levi remained behind, a victim of Scarlet Fever. After surviving for ten final days in the abandoned and rapidly deteriorating camp, he was liberated by the arriving Soviet Army. After spending several months in a Soviet camp for former concentration camp inmates, Levi eventually returned to his home,Turin, in October of 1945.

Levi was born in Turin, Italy, at the end of July, 1919. He was raised in a liberal, Jewish family and received his education in chemistry from the University of Turin, graduating with honors in 1941. His early education included anti-Fascist components. During late 1943, the legal Italian government agreed to an armistice with the Allies. Around that time, Levi became involved in anti-Fascist politics. Shortly after the armistice, the German government assumed control of the Italian state and forcibly reinstated the Fascist Benito Mussolini as dictator. Levi, living in the German-occupied zone of Italy, joined the Italian resistance movement and, with several comrades, took to the wilderness in search of partisans. They were captured and arrested by the Fascist militia and detained for a few days. When Levi's Jewish heritage was discovered, he was sent to an internment camp at Fossoli near Modena.

In February, 1944, Levi and other Jews were transported to Auschwitz by means of cattle trucks. Of the six-hundred-and-fifty Jews in Levi's shipment, only twenty left Auschwitz alive. Levi notes that the average life expectancy within the camp system was three months for healthy new arrivals capable of work. Levi survived due to a confluence of circumstances. He possessed rudimentary German-language skills and quickly enhanced his abilities. He made fortunate friendships, which allowed him improved food allotments. And during November, 1944, his excellent, formal education in chemistry got him assigned to an indoor chemical laboratory;, therefore avoiding months of freezing temperatures and harsh physical work. His position in the laboratory also allowed for routine, petty thefts, which secured, via elaborate and clandestine arrangements, additional food.

In January, 1945, the Auschwitz camp systems were evacuated by the Nazis in the face of the Soviet advance. Inmates capable of walking were driven out into the winter and force-marched for many days—most died of exposure, hypothermia and summary executions. Levi, however, had contracted scarlet fever and was considered too ill to travel. He was thus abandoned in the Auschwitz infirmary when the camp was evacuated. Over the next ten days, he joined with a few other contagious inmates to secure a subsistence-level living. On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz was formally liberated by the Soviet army, and Levi and the other inmates were relocated to a convalescent camp for several months. Levi finally returned to him home in Turin in October, 1945, having survived eleven months confinement in Auschwitz.

His autobiography—the subject of this summary—was originally published in Italian as a limited printing in 1947. A later, Italian-language revision was published in 1958. The book was translated into English in 1959, and has been in nearly continuous publication since. Most English-language printings bear the title If This Is A Man; only the United States versions are commonly entitled Survival in Auschwitz. A variety of formats, editions, and revisions exist, many providing textually relevant appendices from a variety of sources, such as biographies or interviews. The book has been translated into numerous additional languages and is universally accepted as a classic work.

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