Survival in Auschwitz, pp.9-38
At the outset Primo tells us that he writes these memoirs for two basic reasons:
First, to warn us of the danger that we face when we allow the conviction that strangers are enemies to become ‘a major premise in a syllogism’. What does that mean?
Second, he describes the urge to tell the truth as ‘an immediate and violent need’ felt by every prisoner in the lager. Therefore, the form of his memoir is fragmentary, the episodes ordered only by the urgency of his need to describe them.
p. 13 How does Levi describe himself before his capture and deportation?
p. 13 What was the nature of his brief experience as a partisan?
p. 13 During his interrogation why did he identify himself as a Jew?
p. 15 What made the day before the Jews’ departure for Auschwitz surreal?
p. 16 What does Levi immediately find absurd about the German’s use of violence?
p. 17 How many of the people in Levi's boxcar would survive Auschwitz and make the return journey home?
p. 18 Describe the impact of the conditions of the boxcar on the behavior of the prisoners. How quickly are the prisoners dehumanized?
p. 19 What made the selections on the platform ‘dreamlike’? How many of the Italian Jews survive their first night in Auschwitz?
p. 20 Describe the ‘Canada’ detachment of prisoners who welcomed the prisoners.
p. 23 List the orders given to the prisoners upon arrival at the disinfection center.
p. 24 Describe what happens in the shower room.
p. 24 What is the gist of the Prisoner Doctor’s speech?
p. 28 Why do the Nazis tattoo the prisoners with numbers? (How can the history of the camp be explained in numbers?) Does that make it rational?
p. 29 What does the French boy tell Primo when he asks if the Germans will return his toothbrush?
p. 29 When Primo reaches for an icicle, it is knocked from his hand by a kapo. When he asks, “Why?”, he is told, “There is no why here.” What does that mean?
p. 30 Read out loud the description of The Parade. Why are the prisoners forced to march in this manner? What is its purpose?
p. 34 What is the most basic fact of life at Auschwitz? What kind of economy is created in these conditions? What would Malthus say about it? What would Darwin?
YET p. 31 How does Primo describe Schlome’s face, a face he never saw again?
Paragraph: Explain the double sense of the term “extermination camp”. What aspect of the prisoner’s character is targeted by the Nazis?