Italian Jewish Chemist, Writer and Holocaust Survivor
Primo Levi, fully Primo Michele Levi
Italian Jewish Chemist, Writer and Holocaust Survivor
Logic and morality made it impossible to accept an illogical and immoral reality; they engendered a rejection of reality which as a rule led the cultivated man rapidly to despair. But the varieties of the man-animal are innumerable, and I saw and have described men of refined culture, especially if young, throw all this overboard, simplify and barbarize themselves, and survive. A simple man, accustomed not to ask questions of himself, was beyond the reach of the useless torment of asking himself why.
Our camp had taught insane proximity to danger and death risk visnem rope because we eat more, it seemed sensible, even obvious choice.
Strange, somehow you always have the impression of being lucky, that some circumstance, perhaps infinitesimal, we retain the brink and grant us to live.
The sea's only gifts are harsh blows and, occasionally, the chance to feel strong. Now, I don't know much about the sea, but I do know that that's the way it is here. And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong, to measure yourself at least once, to find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions, facing blind, deaf stone alone, with nothing to help you but your own hands and your own head.
They sensed that what had happened around them and in their presence, and in them, was irrevocable. Never again could it be cleansed; it would prove that man, the human species - we, in short - had the potential to construct an enormity of pain, and that pain is the only force created from nothing, without cost and without effort. It is enough not to see, not to listen, not to act.
Today, I think that if for no other reason than that an Auschwitz existed, no one in our age should speak of Providence.
We too are so dazzled by power and money as to forget our essential fragility, forget that all of us our in the ghetto, that the ghetto is fenced in, that beyond the fence stands the lords of death, and not far away the train is waiting.
Everybody is somebody's Jew. And today the Palestinians are the Jews of the Israelis.
He never asked nor accepted any reward, because he was good and simple and did not think that one did good for a reward.
I felt a silent appreciation for lust. Of course, I'd tried, as you would not have tried ... In those days, in which quite fearlessly expecting death, fed my soul a breaking desire for everything to all kinds of human experiences cursed his previous life that I felt that I utilized the bad and insufficient, and I felt the time is poured between my fingers ran from my body minute by minute as bleeding that will not stop. I became a prospector and yet how, not to get rich, but to try this new skill to get back to land, air and water, of which I shared a wider every day abyss and to rediscover their profession a chemist in its proper, primary form, namely Scheidekunst, the art of ripping metal from rock ...
I'm a libertine, but it's not my specialty.
It is man who kills, man who creates or suffers injustice; it is no longer man who, having lost all restraint, shares his bed with a corpse. Whoever waits for his neighbor to die in order to take his piece of bread is, albeit guiltless, further from the model of thinking man than the most primitive pigmy or the most vicious sadist.
Man is a centaur, a tangle of flesh and mind, divine inspiration and dust.
Our ignorance allowed us to live, as you are in the mountains, and your rope is frayed and about to break, but you don't know it and feel safe.
That precisely because the Lager was a great machine to reduce us to beasts, we must not become beasts; that even in this place one can survive, and therefore one must want to survive, to tell the story, to bear witness; and that to survive we must force ourselves to save at least the skeleton, the scaffolding, the form of civilization. We are slaves, deprived of every right, exposed to every insult, condemned to certain death, but we still possess one power, and we must defend it with all our strength for it is the last?the power to refuse our consent.
The soup-kitchen was behind the cathedral; it remained only to determine which, of the many and beautiful churches of Cracow, was the cathedral. Whom could one ask, and how? A priest walked by; I would ask the priest. Now the priest, young and of benign appearance, understood neither French nor German; as a result, for the first and only time in my post-scholastic career, I reaped the fruits of years of classical studies, carrying on the most extravagant and chaotic of conversations in Latin. After the initial request for information (Pater optime, ubi est menas pauperorum?), we began to speak confusedly of everything, of my being a Jew, of the Lager (castra? better: Lager, only too likely to be understood by everybody), of Italy, of the danger of speaking German in public (which I was to understand soon after, by direct experience), and of innumerable other things, to which the unusual dress of the language gave a curious air of the remotest past.
This cell belongs to a brain, and it is my brain, the brain of me who is writing; and the cell in question, and within it the atom in question, is in charge of my writing, in a gigantic minuscule game which nobody has yet described. It is that which at this instant, issuing out of a labyrinthine tangle of yeses and nos, makes my hand run along a certain path on the paper, mark it with these volutes that are signs: a double snap, up and down, between two levels of energy, guides this hand of mine to impress on the paper this dot, here, this one.
Today, this true today when I'm sitting at a table and I write, I myself am not convinced that these things really happened.
We travelled here in the sealed wagons; we saw our women and our children leave towards nothingness; we, transformed into slaves, have marched a hundred times backwards and forwards to our silent labors, killed in our spirit long before our anonymous death. 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.
After the planet becomes theirs, many millions of years will have to pass before a beetle particularly loved by God, at the end of its calculations will find written on a sheet of paper in letters of fire that energy is equal to the mass multiplied by the square of the velocity of light. The new kings of the world will live tranquilly for a long time, confining themselves to devouring each other and being parasites among each other on a cottage industry scale.
But where we're going, we do not know. We may fail to survive the diseases and escape selections, we may endure the effort and hunger that we dissolve: then? Here, currently far from curses and beatings, once again we return to ourselves and meditate and then appears clear that we will not return. We have traveled all the way here in sealed wagons! We have seen how the way of nothingness leaving our wives and children; Once you have made ??us slaves, we marched hundreds of times back and forth in vain, extinguished the soul before faceless death. We will not be back. From here, nobody is allowed to go out, because in the world could bring, along with the sign imprinted into the body, a mean news about how much man needs courage, in Auschwitz, to be a man.
All the bargaining-transactions outlined above are based on the smuggling of materials belonging to the Lager. This is why the SS are so eager to suppress them: the very gold of our teeth is their property, as sooner or later, torn from the mouths of the living or the dead; it ends up in their hands. So it is natural that they should take care that the gold does not leave the camp.
By order of the Commander male and female rabbits they lived in separate cells strict sexual abstinence. But once a night raid without causing much more damage, smashed all cells so that in the morning we found the rabbits indiscriminate and selflessly devoted to breeding campaign: do not give the bombs were scared.
All they discover more or less early in their life, that perfect happiness is not feasible, but few would rather dwell on the opposite view: that this is also a perfect misery. The moments that are opposed to the creation of both the two states-limits are of the same nature: these arise from our human condition, which is the enemy of every infinite. It opposes our ever insufficient knowledge of the future; and this is called, in one case, hope, and in the other, uncertainty of tomorrow.
Caselli was a modest, taciturn man, in whose sad but proud eyes could be read: - He is a great scientist, and as his 'famulus', I am also a little great; - I, though humble, know things that he does not know; - I know him better than he knows himself; I foresee his acts; - I have power over him; I defend and protect him; - I can say bad things about him because I love him; that is not granted to you.