Wit is better than strength as to when surviving the Auschwitz Concentration camp. Primo Levi’s insightful memoir, Survival in Auschwitz, gives an idea to the reader about his time in the Nazi camp by thoroughly describing the events with ingenious word choice to create images in the minds of the person who reads it. To survive Primo Levi works alone using his knowledge, he works with others to rely on them for support and Levi sure knows how to avoid work that Nazis vigorously make him do. Strategies that the Jewish men and Primo Levi himself make, save their life in the Auschwitz concentration camp might keep them from the exploitation of harsh labor that Nazi regime enforces.
Most of the time, knowledge comes in Levi’s memoir in form of strategies of surviving in the camp. Over a period of time, our main character and some of the strugglers find the way to make their life easier in the camp by implementing ways of finding objects or making connections with others in the camp. By doing this the prisoners are able to ease the pain of labor and being able to avoid beatings by the guards. Thus setting up an important part of the book, because it explains a lot about the Jewish man (this being a book about the male concentration camp) and their will to withstand the almost certain death. Piero, for example, goes against his morals and ethics to stay in Ka-be, the hospital of the camp.
“His method consists of placing himself in line behind some authentic dysentery patient who offers a guarantee of success; …he switches over the pots in the middle of the crowd, and the deed is done. Piero knows what he is risking, but it has gone well so far,” (Levi, 54).
The imagery that is created by this quotation shows how desperate the men are and they would do anything to avoid work. Also, the way Levi uses diction to say “authentic dysentery patient” instead of outright blurting out men with diarrhea and blood in their feces. Thus this image creates the miserability of those who bare such painful disease on daily basis in Ka-be.
Piero is not the only one who knows how to avoid harsh labor, Primo Levi himself is able to get out of straining himself too much overwork. “I will try and place myself with Resnyk; he seems a good worker and being taller will support the greater part of the weight. I know that it is in the natural order of events that Resnyk refuse me with disdain… , ” (Levi, 67). It is important as it also explores the avoidance of labor because Levi is scrawny and weak thus he wants to find a way not to perform as much work as he would have to initially. It is even visually understandable, that if Resnyk is larger and stronger than Levi, a reader might see why he would choose this robust man as a partner. Though going to Ka-be was not always great, as you are stripped of all possessions at the entry and have to reacquire them once you are out.
While being able to survive alone is great, working together as a community is much more effective, because two heads are better than one. Primo Levi and Alberto are friends for a long time now and having the luck of being in the same camp is immense. “In fact, by now we two are bound by a tight bond of alliance, by which every ‘organized’ scrap is divided into two strictly equal parts. He has no reason to envy me, as he neither hope nor desire to enter the Laboratory, ” (Levi, 138). This the relationship between Alberto and Levi is strong even though Alberto has to still work at normal camp pace, while Levi gets to sit in a Laboratory mixing chemicals. Before Levi enters the chemical factory for work, he is actually is somewhat jealous of Alberto. This is due to him being able to find connections and get the supplies, such as spoons, knife or even extra ration of food like bread and soup. Imagine being in such concentration camp with your friend, while being afraid to die, you have to find ways of not being killed by Nazi regime who only wants strong workers. This is what these two friends go through and many others. Working as a community is key to survival, but not showing it is even more important.
Though it still comes down to Levi to survive on his own. It is difficult to do when you are weak and scrawny, but his knowledge of chemistry saves him in the long run. Primo Levi goes to tryouts to work in the chemical factory and luckily he gets the job. Initially, the first “four to unload sacks from the wagon, seven to carry them down, four to pile them up in the deposit. We form that last squad, I, Alberto, Iss and the Dutchman,” (Levi, 102). Easy time for Levi has not yet come, but he becomes one of the lucky ones to be in the laboratory instead of in the treterrous and cold outside. It would be quite an image to remember in this memoir when Levi was chosen to work in the laboratory, as it symbolizes freedom from harsh work.
Though some Jewish men found an unusual way to survive in the camp; though it was not lasting. The prisoners in Auschwitz were assigned to work in the gas chambers or crematoriums. The very place their own people were burning alive or suffocating from the toxic gas. The workers in the gas chambers and crematoriums did earn special privileges, like extra food ration or not working outside in harsh conditions. Though these conditions are not too great, because they watch people being killed. This is an effective part of the memoir because it helps the readers to visualize just how sadistic the Nazis were and what the poor Jewish men go through in the camp. It would be hard to imagine for anyone to watch someone they know killed alive and after drag their body out of the gas chamber. Levi did not witness this atrocity himself, but he has a vague recollection about the Sonderkommando.
“Last month one of the crematoriums at Birkenau had been blown up. None of us knows (and perhaps no one will ever know) exactly how the exploit was carried out: there was the talk of the Sonderkommando, the Special Kommando attached to the gas chambers…” (Levi, 149).
The Nazi regime wants to keep the prisoners intact, thus no one really had many ideas about the Sonderkommando, even these poor fellow men would love to warn their people about what really goes on. Levi has a hard time to paint a picture in his head about this gruesome event that is going and has been going during his presence in camp.
In the end, if you were clueless on how to survive in Auschwitz, the death was imminent. Strategies of survival are the only thing that keeps Levi and other prisoners alive in times of Auschwitz concentration camp. Either the men worked alone or they make friendships that aid their survival or simply these men knew how to avoid work. The precise word choice and descriptive imagery aid in the understanding of Primo Levi’s memoir, Survival in Auschwitz. Physically strong was not the way to survive in Auschwitz, but using your knowledge is more effective.