Essay: Survival in Auschwitz

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[. . .] Their only pertinent identification was their religion. Levi says in one part of the book, "A fifth Haftling stands at the door patiently and monotonously asking every civilian who enters loosening his belt: 'Etes-vous francais?'" (Levi 69). Nothing else is known about this man, if he is good or bad, kind or wicked. He is French which separates him from the Italian Levi, but at the same time he is a Haftling which makes them the same. With this being the case, it was common for prisoners in the camps to form strong relationships, particularly since they had been deprived of their loved ones. In using the word Haftling, Levi may be explaining how the Jews all became something of a single entity in their misery.

The final reason why Levi might have chosen to use the word Haftling throughout his book is because after all these years he is defiant of the people who captured and imprisoned him. After he is liberated along with the other people at Auschwitz, Levi says, "It really meant that the Lager was dead. It was the first human gesture that occurred among us. I believe that that moment can be dated as the beginning of the change by which we who had not died slowly changed from Haftling to men again" (160). Despite everything that the Nazis had put him through, Levi had survived. He uses the term as an act of rebellion; no matter what they called him, not matter what he did, Levi survived.

In his book Survival in Auschwitz, Levi uses mostly Italian or English in the translated text. However, he uses certain German terms in the book. These are not accidental, but rather quite intentional. Through the use of these terms Levi expresses eternal conflict over this time in his life. Some part of him absorbed German words and culture whether he was aware of it or not. He also uses this term to honor the other people who were in the same position as himself, and perhaps the greatest reason behind his choice is an act of defiance against his personal enemies.

Works Cited

Levi, Primo, S.J. Woolf, and Philip Roth. Survival in Auschwitz: The Nazi Assault on Humanity.

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Survival in Auschwitz.  (2013, April 15).  Retrieved August 23, 2019, from

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"Survival in Auschwitz."  April 15, 2013.  Accessed August 23, 2019.