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Survival in Auschwitz

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Andrew Wax Survival in Auschwitz 1. The physical space of Auschwitz seems to be very, very small with just enough room for everyone to live. There are numerous times throughout the book where Levi describes how miserable and uncomfortable the sleeping and living arrangements are. When describing the topography of his Lager, he says, “The corridors are so narrow that two people can barely pass together; the total area of the floor is so small that the inhabitants of the same block cannot all stay there at the same time” (Levi: 19). All of these terrible conditions are on top of the dehumanization process that the prisoners dealt with upon their arrival. They were all striped of their clothes and shaven bald so that everyone was essentially the same person. The Germans took away all of their rights and privileges right then and there. Levi describes this feeling as, “…now it is all over and we feel outside this world and the only thing is to obey” (Levi: 13). I think this quote describes perfectly the purpose these things serve in the camp. The Germans are trying to kill the prisoners’ souls and make them forget who they were and what the world was like before the Germans came to ultimate power. 2. I completely agree with Levi as he described this situation as a gigantic biological and social experiment. This whole situation was happening in Hitler’s peak of power and he was a very smart man. Had he stayed alive and in power, there is no doubt he would have used some of the things about the human race he and his men picked up on at the camps to his advantage. A line that describes this situation perfectly says, “Thousands of individuals, differing in age, condition, origin, language, culture and customs are enclosed within barbed wire: there they live a regular, controlled life…which is much more rigorous than any experimenter could have set up to establish what is essential and what adventitious to the conduct of the human animal in the struggle for life” (Levi: 61). The Germans used all these things in the camp to see how humans would react to certain, adverse situations. I would imagine you would learn a lot from observing humans in life or death circumstances. Some cool aspects that you saw throughout the story were developments of new social structures and even a currency based on how these humans adapted to their circumstances. 3. I do believe the language was very important in camp life. Many of these men in the camp did stereotype each other based on physical condition and such and it was very interesting with them using the terms good/evil and saved/drowned. These two groups are definitely visibly separate in the camp as time went on. Levi has a great quote about the saved/drowned phenomenon; “This division is much less evident in ordinary life; for there it rarely happens that a man loses himself” (61). Each man is really on his own so it is only up to him whether he survives. One of Levi’s friends that he met put this situation into great context. “ According to Henri’s theory, there are three methods open to man to escape extermination which still allow him to retain the name of man: organization, pity and theft”. (Levi 69). By strategically doing these couple things, one is able to stay strong enough to get through day by day. Levi ultimately survives by using his brain to its fullest extent. Yes, being chosen for the Laboratory helped, but it was essentially him being able to stay mentally strong throughout the camp to get him by day in and day out all the way to the end. Even though the physical aspects are almost unbearable in camp life, I think the mental side is even more important. 4. I think Levi wrote this to share a great, uplifting story of good overcoming evil. I do believe it is very hopeful and it shows that hope can go a long way. Levi persevered through so much including hunger, fatigue, and disease. It is great to read a story such as this one where something so great came out of something so bad. I do also think this is an awesome way, as a student, to learn about a historical event such as the holocaust. It’s great to have a first-hand account of how everything happens and see the details on how it all unfolded. Even though this was a tragedy in history, it still is a very interesting topic and I really think it was a great first-hand account.…...

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