Italian Jewish Chemist, Writer and Holocaust Survivor
Primo Levi, fully Primo Michele Levi
Italian Jewish Chemist, Writer and Holocaust Survivor
For he who loses all often easily loses himself.
Here in the camp infirmary, the weather was ours: Places of pomegranate, legal visits and talking, talking ... wooden shack crammed with suffering humanity was filled with words of memories and a grief that German called Heimweh, a nice word that means grief at home. We knew where we come from - memories of the outside world inhabited our dreams and our vigils; We are establishing surprised that nothing we have not forgotten anyone called memory comes to us with painful clarity. But where we were going - we did not know. Whether we would survive the diseases and avoid the gas chambers, if we endure labor and hunger that test us? After that? Here temporarily spared insults and beating could be absorbed in themselves and reflect, and we made ??it clear that he will return. So far we traveled with sealed wagons; we are seen to lead to death our women and children; enslaved hundreds of times we went and came back marched to their humble work of burned people before us had occurred anonymous death. We would not go back. Nobody had to come here and bring the world together with a mark branded on our flesh, the bad news is what one dares to do to people here at Auschwitz.
I too entered the Lager as a nonbeliever, and as a nonbeliever I was liberated and have lived to this day.
In history and in life one sometimes seems to glimpse a ferocious law which states: to he that has, will be given; from he that has not, will be taken away.
It is, therefore, necessary to be suspicious of those who seek to convince us with means other than reason, and of charismatic leaders: we must be cautious about delegating to others our judgement and our will. Since it is difficult to distinguish true prophets from false, it is as well to regard all prophets with suspicion. It is better to renounce revealed truths, even if they exalt us by their splendor of if we find them convenient because we can acquire them gratis. It is better to content oneself with other more modest and less exiting truths, those one acquires painfully, little by little and without shortcuts, with study, discussion, and reasoning, those that can we verified and demonstrated.
No one must leave here and so carry to the world, together with the sign impressed on his skin, the evil tidings of what man's presumption made of man in Auschwitz.
Perhaps one cannot, what is more one must not, understand what happened, because to understand [the Holocaust] is almost to justify... no normal human being will ever be able to identify with Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels, Eichmann, and endless others. This dismays us, and at the same time gives us a sense of relief, because perhaps it is desirable that their words (and also, unfortunately, their deeds) cannot be comprehensible to us. They are non-human words and deeds, really counter-human...
The door opened with a crash, and the dark echoed with outlandish orders in that curt, barbaric barking of Germans in command which seems to give vent to a millennial anger.
The work of bestial degradation, begun by the victorious Germans, had been carried to its conclusion by the Germans in defeat.
To accuse another of having weak kidneys, lungs, or heart, is not a crime; on the contrary, saying he has a weak brain is a crime. To be considered stupid and to be told so is more painful than being called gluttonous, mendacious, violent, lascivious, lazy, cowardly: every weakness, every vice, has found its defenders, its rhetoric, its ennoblement and exaltation, but stupidity hasn't.
We are slaves, deprived of any rights, exposed to every insult, condemned to certain death, but that a right 'there and 'it remained, and we must defend it vigorously because it' s the last one: the right 'to refuse our consent.
For human nature is such that grief and pain - even simultaneously suffered - do not add up as a whole in our consciousness, but hide, the lesser behind the greater, according to a definite law of perspective. It is providential and is our means of surviving in the camp. And this is the reason why so often in free life one hears it said that man is never content.
Here we received the first blows: and it was so new and senseless that we felt no pain, neither in body nor in spirit. Only a profound amazement: how can one hit a man without anger?
I will tell just one more story... and I will tell it with the humility and restraint of him who knows from the start that his theme is desperate, his means feeble, and the trade of clothing facts in words is bound by its very nature to fail.
In order for the wheel to turn, for life to be lived, impurities are needed, and the impurities of impurities in the soil, too, as is known, if it is to be fertile. Dissension, diversity, the grain of salt and mustard are needed: Fascism does not want them, forbids them, and that's why you're not a Fascist; it wants everybody to be the same, and you are not. But immaculate virtue does not exist either, or if it exists it is detestable.
It seems superfluous to add that no fact has been invented.
Nostalgia is a fragile and tender anguish, basically different, more intimate, more human than the other pains we had endured till then... Nostalgia is a limpid and clean pain, but demanding; it permeates every minute of the day, permits no other thoughts and induces a need for escape.
Piu 'down so' we cannot 'go: the human condition more' miserable there ', and not' thinkable. Nothing more 'and' ours: we have removed the clothes, the shoes, the hair also; if we speak they will not listen, if we listen we do not understand. They also take your name: and if we want to preserve it, we should find in us the strength to do it, do it 'that behind the name something of us, of those that were, still remains.
The future of humanity is uncertain, even in the most prosperous countries, and the quality of life deteriorates; and yet I believe that what is being discovered about the infinitely large and infinitely small is sufficient to absolve this end of the century and millennium. What a very few are acquiring in knowledge of the physical world will perhaps cause this period not to be judged as a pure return of barbarism.
Then for the first time we became aware that our language lacks words to express this offence, the demolition of a man. In a moment, with almost prophetic intuition, the reality was revealed to us: we had reached the bottom. It is not possible to sink lower than this; no human condition is more miserable than this, nor could it conceivably be so. Nothing belongs to us anymore; they have taken away our clothes, our shoes, even our hair; if we speak, they will not listen to us, and if they listen, they will not understand. They will even take away our name: and if we want to keep it, we will have to find in ourselves the strength to do so, to manage somehow so that behind the name something of us, of us as we were, still remains.
To be considered stupid and to be told so is more painful than being called gluttonous, mendacious, violent, lascivious, lazy, cowardly: every weakness, every vice, has found its defenders, its rhetoric, its ennoblement and exaltation, but stupidity hasn?t.
We become aware, with amazement, that we have forgotten nothing, every memory evoked rises in front of us painfully clear.
Consider whether this is a man, who labors in the mud, who knows no peace, who fights for a crust of bread, who dies at a yes or a no.
For living men, the units of time always have a value, which increases in ratio to the strength of the internal resources of the person living through them; but for us, hours, days, months spilled out sluggishly from the future into the past, always too slowly, a valueless and superfluous material, of which we sought to rid ourselves as soon as possible. ... For us, history had stopped.
How can one hit a man without anger?