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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A survivor of hell, writing with compassion and wisdom
I read this book during the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 as I wondered what would happen to the Lebanese I was meeting who had collaborated with the Israeli occupiers. Who exactly was guilty? And how guilty were they?
Levi writes about guilt in the horrific circumstances of the Nazi concentration camp, mulling over those who co-operated with the Nazis...
Published on 24 Sep 2004 by Gareth Smyth

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10 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Death camp survivor
The author, Primo Levi, tries to understand the criminal and insane rationale behind Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Bergen-Belsen. Dismissing stereotyped images of brutal Nazi torturers and helpless victims, Levi draws extensively on his own experiences and substantial intellect to delve into the minds and motives of oppressors and oppressed alike. He describes the horror of...
Published on 4 Aug 2007 by David I. Howells


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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A survivor of hell, writing with compassion and wisdom, 24 Sep 2004
By 
Gareth Smyth "Enjilos" (County Mayo, Ireland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Drowned And The Saved (Abacus Books) (Paperback)
I read this book during the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 as I wondered what would happen to the Lebanese I was meeting who had collaborated with the Israeli occupiers. Who exactly was guilty? And how guilty were they?
Levi writes about guilt in the horrific circumstances of the Nazi concentration camp, mulling over those who co-operated with the Nazis (working, eg, as cleaners)if only to extend their lives by a short period. He writes with an astonishing humanity and humility, and with a strange detachment that makes his observations more telling.
Having survived such a hell, he felt the guilt of the 'saved' that he had seen so many 'drown' and he wrote as a man of compassion and wisdom. Levi will make you cry and take you to the depths, but somehow make you feel stronger.
Surely one of the most important books of the twentieth century.
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28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An analytical look at the Holocaust from a Witness, 23 Jan 2002
This review is from: The Drowned And The Saved (Abacus Books) (Paperback)
Levi once again manages to concisely delve into the topic of the Holocaust. Here he refers to his experiences to confront the deeper issues of life in the Lager and the after effects it had on the survivors, the Saved. It can best be surmised as a collection of essays that address various topics, (including, but not exclusively): the fallacies of memories, prisoners who cooperated with the Nazis, the importance of communication and language in the Lager, the guilt felt by survivors and the response from his German readers. If you have read Levi's autobiographical works, then this is a necessary accompaniment. The only negative thing I have to say about this edition is the review on the back jacket which so firmly states that Levi's death was a suicide, and makes conjectures as to why he did so. His death is a mystery and will always remain as such.(Good content, bad cover!)
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How does one survive in a world built to murder you?, 23 Aug 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Drowned And The Saved (Abacus Books) (Paperback)
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.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Gray Zone..., 17 Mar 2011
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Drowned And The Saved (Abacus Books) (Paperback)
This is Primo Levi's last reflections on the Holocaust. His most famous book, published shortly after his experience in it, is entitled in the English language version, Survival In Auschwitz This collection of essays was written almost 40 years later, shortly before his death. It will never be definitely determined if he committed suicide in 1987, but the possibility that he may have adds poignancy to the various passages in these essays in which he discusses the suicide of other survivors of the Holocaust, including his friend, and fellow intellectual, Jean Améry. In the essay fittingly entitled "Stereotypes," Levi was quite clear about why he felt these essays were necessary: "... the gap that exists and grows wider every year between things as they were `down there' and things as they are represented by the current imagination fed by approximative books, films, and myths. It slides fatally toward simplification and stereotype, a trend against which I would like here to erect a dike."

To that end, one of the very strongest essays in this collection is entitled "The Gray Zone." Levi says "It is a gray zone, poorly defined, where the two camps of masters and servants both diverge and converge. This gray zone possesses an incredibly complicated internal structure and contains within itself enough to confuse our need to judge." The author goes on to describe a system - a `primitive' one, to use his word, where humans have regressed towards earlier societal models, where the first blows and kicks that a new arrival receives are all too often delivered by their fellow inmates, some with the status of "Capos," as opposed to the individuals who are normally considered the ultimate in sadistic behavior, the SS. As Levi says: "Vying for prestige also came into play, a seemingly irrepressible need in our civilization: the despised crowd of seniors was prone to recognize in the new arrival a target on which to vent its humiliation, to find compensation at his expense, to build for itself and at his expense a figure of a lower rank on whom to discharge the burden of the offenses received from above." As Levi describes, much of the experience of a new arrival would parallel that of a new conscript to basic army training, including the haircut. In the same essay there is an excellent depiction of Chaim Rumkowski, who was the self-styled leader of the Lodz ghetto, before he too was deported to the concentration camps, or, to use the author's word, the "Lager."

Should the Holocaust be capitalized, and none of the others, such as the Armenian or Cambodian? To Levi's credit, he does refer to the others; and in particular mentions the auto-genocide in Cambodia a few times. But Levi, perhaps naturally, leans towards the primacy of the evil of the one that almost killed him. I consider this a sterile debate, and often think of the young soldier in the movie "Hearts and Minds" who took some form of solace in stating that he lost both his legs in one of the "largest ambushes of the war." And I compare that to Remarque's treatment of his protagonist, who died on a day that was so quiet and still that the high command confined itself to a single sentence: Erich Maria Remarque's "All Quiet on the Western Front" - Erich Maria Remarque (Bloom's Modern Critical Interpretations) The evil has occurred to the individual; does the magnitude of the context make it more or less tragic? For Americans, the greater responsibility should lay with the holocaust that we helped provoke rather than the one we helped to stop.

The essays are only 200 pages long, but are so rich in insights. Levi stresses that those that survived in the Lagers invariably were in some "special circumstances," as he was, both being a chemist, and having contracted scarlet fever just as all the others were forced on a death march prior to the liberation of the camp by the Soviet Army. He has an entire essay on the gratuitous "useless" violence in the camps. The author has the eye for the telling, and often times ironic details: for example, the Jews were forbidden from playing music that was composed by Aryans, yet, since there were no other musicians available, in the camps they were permitted, even compelled, to play the requisite band marches. I found the final section particularly significant: the letters that Levi had received from his German readers, which presented a broad range of responses, from continued rationalizations to compelling sorrow from those with "hands that were clean."

Should be required reading in all our schools. An excellent 5-star plus read.

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on April 23, 2010)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life in the grey zone, powerfully and movingly articulated, 31 Oct 2012
By 
Jeremy Bevan (West Midlands, UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Drowned And The Saved (Abacus Books) (Paperback)
In this fine collection of essays, the late Primo Levi reflects on the Jewish experience of the Nazi death camps. Given the suffering he experienced, Levi writes with a remarkable objectivity, which makes his observations all the more powerful. In perhaps the book's best chapter, Levi describes the terrible moral ambiguity that attended life and death in the `grey zone' of the camps, with its compromises and necessary moral relativity. There's anger, too, attendant on the infliction of pointless day-to-day suffering on camp inmates in what Levi describes as `useless violence'. And complexity, as Levi articulates the sense of shame that attends having survived the camps, rather than having, like the `drowned' of the title, paid the ultimate price as a witness to evil. In a moving coda to the work, Levi discusses some of the correspondence with Germans that his writing on the camps engendered. While some of them are appallingly self-exculpatory, others show a genuine contrition and a desire to understand the roots of the Holocaust, the better to prevent a recurrence.

This edition comes with a short but useful introduction by Paul Bailey, penned in the year of Levi's death.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sensitive depiction of the holocaust, 24 Oct 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Drowned And The Saved (Abacus Books) (Paperback)
Primo Levi's superb and moving account of his experiences of Auschwitz KZ. Now that there seems to be a nascent industry of books and films about this tragic episode in Europe's history, it is important to read the experiences of someone who was actually there. Worth a thousand "Schindler's List"s and the like...
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How does one survive in a world built to murder you?, 23 Aug 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: The Drowned And The Saved (Abacus Books) (Paperback)
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 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.
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A testament to humanity, 15 Dec 2013
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This review is from: The Drowned And The Saved (Abacus Books) (Paperback)
Levi is one of humanity's most admirable individuals, heroic for reasons he would be much too modest to accept. In death he stands among the immortals. With this series of essays he takes a look at features of the Lagers and those who populated them. He makes realistic assessments of the ones who survived, how they were not the boldest or the most principled, but were often the rattiest and basest. Those were the conditions of the concentration camp. As great a book as any in Levi's output, this is required reading.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A moving and thought provoking account of the Holocaust, 17 Mar 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Drowned And The Saved (Abacus Books) (Paperback)
Moving, thought provoking and upsetting. It made me want to read it until I reached the very end without pausing for breath. The recollection of the crematoria reminds us of man's inhumanity to his fellow men. Levi reminds us all that this could happen again.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Purchase of The Drowned and the Saved, 12 Nov 2011
This review is from: The Drowned And The Saved (Abacus Books) (Paperback)
A book which gives much food for thought - writiten in an impressive manner by an Itlanian Parmacist who was in a German concentration camp during WW2.
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