Italian Jewish Chemist, Writer and Holocaust Survivor
Primo Levi, fully Primo Michele Levi
Italian Jewish Chemist, Writer and Holocaust Survivor
In the space of a few minutes the sky turned black and it began to rain.
It was not worth to have twenty years if we are not allowed the luxury of being wrong way
Nothing can be said: nothing sure, nothing probable, nothing honest. Better to err through omission than through commission: better to refrain from steering the fate of others, since it is already so difficult to navigate one's own.
Sandro was surprised when I tried to explain to him some of the ideas that at the time I was confusedly cultivating. That the nobility of man, acquired in a hundred centuries of trial and error, lay in making himself the conquerer of matter, and that I had enrolled in chemistry because I wanted to remain faithful to this nobility. That conquering matter is to understand it, and understanding matter is necessary to understanding the universe and ourselves: and that therefore Mendeleev's Periodic Table, which just during those weeks we were laboriously learning to unravel, was poetry, loftier and more solemn than all the poetry we had swallowed down in liceo; and come to think of it, it even rhymed!
The institution represented an attempt to shift onto others ? specifically, the victims ? the burden of guilt, so that they were deprived of even the solace of innocence.
There is Auschwitz, and so there cannot be God.
To many, individuals or peoples, it can happen to believe, more or less consciously, that every stranger is an enemy. For the most part this conviction lies at the bottom of the hearts as latent infection; It manifests itself only in occasional acts and uncoordinated, and is not at the origin of a system of thought. But when this happens, when the unspoken dogma becomes the major premise of a syllogism, then, at the end of the chain, it is the Lager.
We felt, and so it was, that nothing full of death where for ten days we strolled as lights turned off had found its solid core, a condensation nucleus: four armed men, but not armed against us; four messengers of peace, from the rough and boyish faces beneath their heavy fur hats. Not greeted, not smiling; they seemed oppressed not only by compassion but by a confused restraint which sealed their lips and bound their eyes to the funereal scene. It was the same shame we know so well, that drowned us after the selections, and every time he touched us assist or submit to an outrage: the shame the Germans did not know, what the right test in front of the wrong committed by others, and remorse that exists, which has been introduced irrevocably into the world of things that exist, and that its goodwill was little, or no, and should not have availed in defense. So for us even the hour of liberty rang out grave and closed and he filled our souls at a time of joy and a painful sense of decency, so we wanted to wash our consciences and our memories of the ugliness that lay: and sorrow, because we felt that this could not happen that nothing ever could happen good and pure to erase our past, and that the scars of would remain within us forever, and in the memories of those who saw it, and in the places where it happened, and stories that we made. Because, and this is the tremendous privilege of our generation and of my people, none better than we ever could grasp the incurable nature of the offense, which spreads like a contagion. E 'foolish to think that human justice can eradicate. It is an inexhaustible source of evil; it breaks the body and soul of the submerged, it stifles them and renders them abject; it returns as ignominy over the oppressors, is perpetuated as hatred survivors; and swarms in a thousand ways, against the will of all, as revenge, as a moral capitulation, as denial, as weariness, as renunciation.
Destroy the home is difficult, almost as much as creating it: it was not easy, it was not fast, but you have achieved Germans. Here we are docile in front of your eyes: our side no longer have to fear nothing or acts of rebellion, or words of challenge, even an accusatory look.
For us, on the contrary, the Lager is not a punishment; for us, no end is foreseen and the Lager is nothing but a manner of living assigned to us, without limits of time, in the bosom of the Germanic social organism.
I am constantly amazed by man's inhumanity to man.
If it is impossible to understand, you need to know, because what happened, can return, the conscience may again be deceived and darkened: ours too.
In this place everything is forbidden, not for hidden reasons, but because the camp has been created for that purpose.
It was the shame we knew so well, the shame that drowned us after the selections, and every time we had to watch, or submit to, some outrage: the shame that the Germans did not know, that the just man experiences at another man's crime; the feeling of guilt that such a crime should exist, that it should have been introduced irrevocably into the world of things that exist, and that his will for good should have proved too weak or null, and should not have availed in defense.
Nothing, Gedaleh said. They?re there to make the Germans wonder why they?re there. We?ve wasted maybe two minutes; they?re methodical, they?ll waste a lot more.
She had asked the older women: What is that fire? And they had replied: It is we who are burning.
The Lager and 'a great machine to reduce us to beasts, we must not become beasts; that even in this place you can 'survive, to tell, to bear witness; and that to live and 'force ourselves to save at least the skeleton, the scaffolding, the form of civilization'.
There is no greater vanity to strive to be swallowed whole moral systems developed by others, under other skies.
To the Germans, these Jewish foreigners, so different from the local bourgeois Jews who had, with discipline, allowed themselves to be rounded up and slaughtered, seemed suspect: too quick, too energetic, dirty, tattered, proud, unpredictable, primitive, too Russian. The Jews found it impossible, and at the same time necessary, to distinguish the headhunters they had eluded and on whom they had taken passionate revenge from these shy, reserved old people, these blond, polite children who looked in at the station doors as if through the bars of the zoo. They aren't the ones, no; but it's their father, their teachers, their sons, themselves yesterday and tomorrow. How to resolve the puzzle? It can't be solved. Leave: as soon as possible. This land, too, is searing under our feet, this neat, trim town, loving order, this sweet bland air of full summer also scorches Leave, leave: we haven't come from the depths of Polessia in order to go to sleep in the Wartesaal of Plauen-am-Elster, and to while away our waiting with group snapshots and the Red Cross soup.
We must be listened to: above and beyond our personal experience, we have collectively witnessed a fundamental unexpected event, fundamental precisely because unexpected, not foreseen by anyone. It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say. It can happen, and it can happen everywhere.
Destroying man is hard, almost as much as creating it: it was not easy, was not short, but you did it, the Germans. Here we are docile under your eyes: from our side you have nothing more to fear: no acts of revolt, no words of defiance, not one judge look.
From this rocky love those asbestos only a few of broaching my evenings in the mine were born two talked about the islands and freedom - first to my Prishta to write after school with his writings by force.
I am not even alive enough to know how to kill myself.
If it is true that there is no greater sorrow than to remember a happy time in a state of misery, it is just as true that calling up a moment of anguish in a tranquil mood, seated quietly at one's desk, is a source of profound satisfaction.
Interviewer: Is it possible to abolish man's humanity? Levi: Unfortunately, yes. Unfortunately, yes; and that is really the characteristic of the Nazi lager [concentration camp]. About the others, I don't know, because I don't know them; perhaps in Russia the same thing happens. It's to abolish man's personality, inside and outside: not only of the prisoner, but also of the jailer. He too lost his personality in the lager. These are two different itineraries, but with the same result, and I would say that only a few had the good fortune of remaining aware during their imprisonment; some regained their awareness of the experience later, but during it, they had lost it; many forgot everything. They did not record their experiences in their mind. They didn't impress on their memory track. Thus it happened to all, a profound modification in their personality. Most of all, our sensibility lost sharpness, so that the memories of our home had fallen into second place; the memory of family had fallen into second place in face of urgent needs, of hunger, of the necessity to protect oneself against cold, beatings, fatigue... all of this brought about some reactions which we could call animal-like; we were like work animals.