Survival in Auschwitz

We have thoroughly explored how racist policies were slowly augmented over time in Nazi Germany. Even with this rise of anti-Semitic policies, Hitler and the Nazi party were able to win the hearts and minds of the German people while simultaneously crushing the Jewish community in Germany and all over the territory Hitler conquered during the war. In his memoir, Levi says, “To destroy a man is difficult, almost as difficult as to create one: it has not been easy, nor quick, but you Germans have succeeded” (p 150). At this point in the memoir, it seems as though Levi is accepting that the Germans had succeeded in destroying the will of the Jewish people to defy the Nazis and live on. While the treatment of the Jews under some of Hitler’s earlier racist laws was definitely terrible, the degrading and despicable treatment of Jews in camps like Auschwitz takes this to a whole new level. With this, do you agree with the assessment that the Nazis successfully “destroyed” the will of Jews like Levi?

2 Replies to “Survival in Auschwitz”

  1. I think Christian makes an compelling argument here, and I believe that while it is easy to think that Levi is talking for the entire Jewish community, I feel like that may be stretched. The main reason I think that is due to the idea that there were still many Jews and people from other walks of life resisting against Hitler and his policies such as those in Denmark and other nations we have discussed before. That’s not to undermine his point, as I do believe a large portion of the Jewish population did feel “destroyed” and “broken” once they were rounded up by the Germans and sent to work or to death. Where my question is drawn from is the early excerpt of Levi’s memoir. From pages 10-13, he talks about the somewhat organized selection process that took place at train stations, and how other than one instance, the SS guards actually seemed to treat people kindly and as humans. Do you think that this is the human side of these officers coming out, and maybe a sense of empathy towards people they know are being sent to death? Or is it that they are just following their orders and not trying to cause chaos among the massive crowd of Jews in front of them.

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