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If this is a Man, by Primo Levi Essay

« Mais l’Allemand comprit, et parla d’un ton grave à l’interprète en indiquant quelqu’un ; alors nous avons vu l’interprète avaler sa salive, puis il dit : « L’adjudant vous demande d’ôter votre bandage, on vous donnera celui de M. Coen. » Ces mots-là avaient été prononcés d’un ton amer, c’étaient le genre d’humour qui plaisait à l’Allemand. » (P28)

This passage is from the book written by Primo Levi, If this is a Man. Primo Levi was an Italian Jewish who had been deported to a concentration camp and then to a forced-labor camp near Auschwitz. He writes this book to show people from other religion and even people in general who didn’t know what was really going one, and tell the truth about those camps. In this book, Primo Levi talks about the ghastly conditions in which prisoners were living in and the atrocious treatment they suffered from. Unfortunately, Primo Levi was only one man in the middle of millions of other people who suffered from this racial policy.

Even if they just arrived the deportees with whom Primo Levi was with, they assisted at the humiliation of one of them; in despite of the serious tone of the German, we can see that humiliating people is one of the jokes the Germans like. Or maybe, conversely, not all the Germans were approving this humiliation technique because he didn’t laugh at all when he said the ‘joke’, he didn’t even smile or look satisfied. But it is more likely that he was just trying to humiliate them, like he maybe did with lots of others prisoners before and after them.

The fact that the German says to M. Bergmann, who had to wear a truss, that he had to remove it and take the one of M. Cohen rather come from mistreatment than other thing. This was one way the Germans felt that they had all the powers, that they would have been able to do everything, and humiliating Jewish was one of those things, to feel powerful and to take advantage of it. This can be a result of the end of World War I where the Germans had been humiliated to death, and they wanted a revenge and the Jewish where only a punchbag.

The mistreatment and the humiliation add to the reality of this extract, the fact that Germans who hated Jewish humiliate and mistreat them was more likely to happen. The truss history is probably unique or it may have happen a few times but it’s not something people get easily. I think that it really happened and that, and even if it did not take place, there is a good probability that an event like this one really take place. This passage is typical for the mentality of the Germans, the way that they operate before with the concentration camp and the extermination camp but it is exceptional in the way that even if they make the Jews become like beasts the Germans are still trying to humiliate them a maximum and used everything from them, from their energy to their hair.

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Second Gobbet

« Et même si Null Achtzehn n’est pas particulièrement éprouvé physiquement, personne ne veut travailler avec lui. Car tout lui est à ce point indifférent qu’il ne se soucie même plus d’éviter la fatigue et les coups, ni de chercher de quoi manger. Il exécute tous les ordres qu’on lui donne, et il est fort probable que lorsqu’on l’enverra à la mort, il ira avec la même indifférence. » (P60)

This passage is from the book written by Primo Levi, If this is a Man. Primo Levi was an Italian Jewish who had been deported to a concentration camp and then to a forced-labor camp near Auschwitz. He writes this book to show people from other religion and even people in general who didn’t know what was really going one, and tell the truth about those camps. In this book, Primo Levi talks about the ghastly conditions in which prisoners were living in and the atrocious treatment they suffered from. Unfortunately, Primo Levi was only one man in the middle of millions of other people who suffered from this racial policy.

Null Achtzehn was a young boy when he first entered in the camp; normally children and adolescent don’t survive in camps because they are a too big threat for the Germans. In his case, the Germans make him become like a machine, he’s indifferent to everything around him, and he’s like the perfect prisoner they want everyone to be, only doing what you are ordered to do, always obeying to what they said, like if he wasn’t human anymore. The fact that he didn’t care about being tired or beaten add to the similarity between Null Achtzehn and a machine or moreover a zombie.

No one in the camp wanted to work with him because they didn’t want to be affected and become like him, to become no one. Working with him could have made other prisoners give up on all their efforts to keep their humanity and to survive through all of this. A step to keep their humanity was too keep their names, trying to remember who they were. Null Achtzehn lost his humanity when people began to call him ‘Null Achtzehn’ which are the numbers zero and eighteen in German; they are the last numbers of his tattoo.

It is a strange thing that the Germans let a young boy stay alive in a camp. Hitler was thinking that children could be a harm for them because, when they grow up, they could rebel against the German government. The Nazis assassinated 1.5 millions of children, in total. For them, they were only eating food for nothing because they were too young to work but exceptions can happen sometimes so it is no impossible that Null Achtzehn was young when he first came in the camp, and having no family or tutor to guide him may have help his transition into a machine and a number. This passage is exceptional, it is a really strange thing that the Germans let this child alive even if he has nothing human left inside him; maybe they saw no more harm in him anymore.

http://www.lettres.ac-versailles.fr/spip.php?article468
http://craunkids.pbworks.com/w/page/23522934/Who%20did%20Hitler%20kill%20and%20why

Third Gobbet

« Chacun de nous sort nu du Tagesraum dans l’air froid d’octobre, franchit au pas de course sous les yeux des trois hommes les quelques pas qui séparent les deux portes, remet sa fiche au SS et rentre par la porte du dortoir. Le SS, pendant la fraction de seconde qui s’écoule entre un passage et l’autre, décide du sort de chacun en nous jetant un coup d’oeil de face et de dos, et passe la fiche à l’homme de droite ou à celui de gauche : ce qui signifie pour chacun de nous la vie ou la mort. Une baraque de deux cents hommes est « faite » en trois ou quatre minutes, et un camp entier de douze mille hommes en un après-midi.

Moi, comprimé dans l’amas de chair vivante, j’ai senti peu à peu la pression se relâcher de moi, et rapidement mon tour est venu. Comme les autres, je suis passé d’un pas souple énergique, en cherchant à tenir la tête haute, la poitrine bombée et les muscles tendus et saillants. Du coin de l’œil, j’ai essayé de regarder par-dessus mon épaule et il m’a semblé voir ma fiche passer à droite.

Au fur et à mesure que nous rentrons dans le dortoir, nous pouvons nous rhabiller. Personne ne connaît encore avec certitude son propre destin, avant tout il faut savoir si les fiches condamnées sont celles de droite ou de gauche. Désormais ce n’est plus la peine de se ménager les uns les autres ou d’avoir des scrupules superstitieux. Tout le monde se précipite autour des plus vieux, des plus décrépits, des plus « musulmans » : si leurs fiches sont allées à gauche, on peut être sûr que la gauche est le côté des condamnés. » (P199-200)

This passage is from the book written by Primo Levi, If this is a Man. Primo Levi was an Italian Jewish who had been deported to a concentration camp and then to a forced-labor camp near Auschwitz. He writes this book to show people from other religion and even people in general who didn’t know what was really going one, and tell the truth about those camps. In this book, Primo Levi talks about the ghastly conditions in which prisoners were living in and the atrocious treatment they suffered from. Unfortunately, Primo Levi was only one man in the middle of millions of other people who suffered from this racial policy.

In the camp, you live in atrocious conditions, you’re undernourished, you have to work until you die of exhaustion and your life is controlled by men who can decide at any time if you will live or die. This is what happens in the passage, a SS just take the cards of the prisoners who are naked outside and just choose the ones who can continue to work or not; the ones who will survive in the camp or not. It was a terrible emotional ordeal for the prisoners, because they have one chance on two to survive, or they’ll die; all of it depends if the SS put their cards to the left or to the right but after the trick is to know which one of these stacks will die.

The way the SS choose is not only because they like the prisoner or not but mostly on his capacity to work or not. This is how a life of a deported looked like in a forced-labored camp: you wake up every morning in a little bed that you’re sharing with someone you don’t even know in the middle of two hundred other men then, you go to work for the day – of course, during the day, you have meals but only in small quantities – then you come back to your ‘Block’ and you get back to bed with the stranger. And you repeat that until you are too tired or you get ill that you can’t work anymore and then you’ll be exterminate. This entire act is only to use the Jewish, make them work to death and then kill them and sometimes they play with them, like in this passage.

This passage is more likely to have taken place because we often heard about the well-organization of the Germans. And the SS wasn’t completely taking cards and just saying that this person should die or not because he likes them or not, he was looking at if they were in good shape to work or not. I’m sure this passage had really happen, it coordinates perfectly with their mentality and how they acted before with the Jewish. We always heard that the Jewish were mistreated and this confirmed that they were taken as beasts. This extract was typical for the German’s way of thinking but exceptional for us to imagine that we let people do that to other human just on the pretext that their blood weren’t ‘pure’.


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