Like many other people have said here, I also have some background with the history of WWII and the Holocaust. Going into Levi’s text, I probably had more background with the issues and themes at hand than any other texts, and perhaps this is the reason the text was so touching to me. Being half-German myself, I spent a lot of my childhood listening to stories told by my dearest Oma, who was one of the lucky Jewish survivors from the Holocaust. She had thankfully escaped before the camps had began processing at the immense rates they did at Levi’s time, but she still had stories of being locked in her house’s basement eating nothing but potatoes for weeks on end until her escape. To this day, she can’t stand the starch-rich food.
One of the things that most intrigued me about this text was the amount of optimism and humanity that Levi kept throughout his experience at Auschwitz. At the core of his experiences he still believed that Nazi’s were humans like him, not monsters. He recognized that an event like this could happen to anyone; with the right amount of brainwashing, anybody could become a fascist or even a communist. What is also surprising is how quickly he published his thoughts and experiences, seemingly clear of any debilitating trauma that would have prevented most people from writing a text like this. His intellectuality shines through with his interesting recounting, his literary references and once again, the undertone of optimism that peaks through every now and then through the narrative. He also stresses the importance of certain characters he met in the camp; both good and bad, and as an audience, I connected and felt moved by characters like Alberto, Lorenzo, and Charles – they evoke a sense of reality into the camp which is staggering. All the characters also serve to represent certain idea; For example, I correlated Elias with how madness could be consequently magnified within the camp.
There is so much more I could discuss about the text, but from a first impression, it was overwhelmingly amazing. This is a masterpiece of a text and I am very glad to have read it.