I heard recently a statistic that claimed that more than 12% of the population of the UK (of adult age)had never even heard of Adolf Hitler. How many of those that did, I wondered, knew about what he did to European Jewry? Those who do know of the holocaust usually know of little other than Auschwitz but even then only think of it as a railway station with a path to the side that leads to a gas chamber, not as an actual camp where thousands struggled to live what life they were temporarily allowed in order to serve their murderes via forced labour.
Prison stories are always chilling but most think of prison as a place of holding until release, not death. What place does morality, conscience, hygiene and dignity have in a death camp?
Levi's description of camp life in 'Is this a Man'is not as brutal and disturbing as perhaps those related in Martin Gilbert's 'The Holocaust', the book seems less about the atrocities afflicted on the inmates but on how they survived them and further still retained the spirit and will to continue. In 'The Drowned and the Saved' Levi attempts to understand the German people of the Nazi era. How they endorsed or allowed themselves to be seduced by the Nazi ideology... by greed, vanity and hatred... to turn their backs on morality, truth and basic human goodness. Germany will always be remembered or rather tarnished because of the Nazis, it will always remain as much a part of their history as the Congo atrocities belonged to Leopold's Belgium, Australia's belong with the British and the on-going crimes visited on the Native Americans...
I have not the knowledge or right to really comment on his work or indeed on the work of any survivor. It is not my place even to judge those that commited the crimes. What is important is that I (and others of my age) know of them. For to be ignorant of it is not only a betrayal of those destroyed by it, but a further crime against those who survived it.