Prior to reading “Survival in Auschwitz,” I always thought Freud had a point when he said we repress our most traumatic memories. While that may be true to some extent, I found that for the majority of cases, we don’t repress our worst memories- and this autobiography, if you believe it to be a true account, is proof. And I believe that everything that happens in Levi’s book is a true event of what actually happened. Levi’s memory of events is excellent. He remembers all the details. While I personally have a very good memory (it’s true, I can still tell you who was in my Kindergarten class and what they were like), I find that the majority of people I know don’t have very good memories. Some can’t even remember past Grade 7! Anyway, Levi’s great memory for events was the first thing that stood out for me while I was reading his book.
Another thing that stood out was the fact that Levi writes with little to no self-pity. I have read other Holocaust memoirs that were very emotional and full of phrases like “WHAT KIND OF WORLD IS THIS?” or “HOW CAN THEY DO THIS TO ME?” Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the treatment they went through was horrific and they are entitled to ask such questions. And Levi does quietly, in a subtle manner, question whether the camp he lives in is even fit for humans. My point is that he doesn’t show self-pity. He writes as if he were a roving camera that simply captures what he observes as a camp inmate. This is not a book that goes along the lines of, This is what happened to me and it made me feel horrible so I want sympathy from you people. Rather, this book is more about what Levi observes and how he has kept in contact with other camp inmates after they were liberated. I admire Levi for the fact that he was able to calmly, as well as simply, state what happened to him during the years he spent in Auschwitz. I don’t think he ever succumbs to hysterics or breaks down either.
I noticed that, in some ways, Levi’s reserved manner of narrating makes him, as the narrator, seem like a lifeless shadow. He can feel emotions, but he doesn’t outwardly fly off into a fit of passions, condemning his living conditions. Of course, all camp inmates will eventually become shadows of their former living selves over time. Levi’s method of narration emphasizes how the people in the camps are slowly stripped of their former hopes and ambitions, because even living to the next day is uncertain. He gives me the impression, through his way of calm, outwardly emotionless way of speaking, that he is a very tired individual. He tells you what happens, but he leaves out how he feels about the events (but there are some cases in which he does, I admit). It’s almost as if, as time progresses, his emotions are dying. His spirit self is leaving him. And undoubtedly, this is true for perhaps all camp inmates.