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TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 18 November 2016
Two different books, originally published separately, written by Primo Levi; "If This Is A Man and The Truce". The first part is Primo Levi's account of the time he spent in Auschwitz and the second part follows his liberation from the camp and his long, torturous journey through Russia and parts of Europe to Italy. Levi describes his experiences in a simple, clean way which adds to the overall feeling of horror. The most haunting accounts are his descriptions of the psychological impact of a camp regime which sought only to break, de-humanize and kill. Levi begins his journey with a sense of total bewilderment, he had now idea Auschwitz existed until he arrived there, but he grows to display a huge amount of humanity and an uncanny ability to make profound, analytical insights into the nature of human beings. His account of life after the war and the breakdown of 'civilized' society is educational and an important part of World history. Immensely honest, emotional and well written. Recommended to all. I would also recommend "If This Is A Woman: Inside Ravensbruck: Hitler's Concentration Camp for Women" by Sarah Helm.
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on 22 June 2015
A deeply humbling experience. We should all read this quiet account by Primo Levi, a young Jewish Italian chemist, who bore witness to the unspeakable horrors of incarceration in Monowitz-Buna, one of several camps which were collectively 'Auschwitz'. His youth and fitness spared him from extermination.
Segregation - 'How old? Healthy or ill? - Thus, in an instant, our women, our parents, our children disappeared.'
'Indifferent SS men with faces of stone behaved with the calm assurance of people doing their normal duty of every day. A man staying an instant too long to say goodbye to his fiancée was knocked with a single blow to the ground. It was their everyday duty ............'
And so it began. They arrive at the camp. A brightly lit sign over the door reads Arbeit Macht Frei - work gives freedom.
Four days without water has given them a hideous thirst but a sign in the vast empty room, above the only tap reads Wassertrinken Verboten. He sees the sign as a joke for 'they' know we are dying of thirst - so he drinks but the water is tepid and sweetish with the smell of a swamp.
'This is hell. Today, in our times, hell must be like this. ......... a huge empty room with a tap which drips while we cannot drink the water, and we wait for something which will certainly be terrible, and nothing happens and nothing continues to happen. What can one think about? One cannot think any more, is like being already dead. .......... The time passes drop by drop.
Later. Naked, shorn, stripped and tattooed he says - 'Imagine now a man who is deprived of everyone he love, and at the same time of his house, his habits, his clothes, in short, of everything he possesses: he will be a hollow man, reduced to suffering and needs,
forgetful of dignity and restraint, for he who loses all often easily loses himself. He will be a man whose life or death can be lightly decided with no sense of human affinity, in the most unfortunate of cases, on the basis of a pure judgement of utility. It is in this way that one can understand the double sense of the term 'extermination camp', and it is now clear what we seek to express with the phrase: 'to lie on the bottom'.
I have not used my own words but those of Primo Levi to describe his manuscript, for that is what this book is - it would be insulting to his erudition, his dignity and courage. He survived the hell of the holocaust, living to tell the tale that the world must never forget.
I urge you to read this book and then read it again to make quite sure it is seared in your memory. It is the very least we can all do to honour Primo Levi.

'This is hell. Today, in our times, hell must be like this ...... we are tired, standing on our feet, with a tap which drips
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on 3 January 2018
A must read for anyone interested in survival stories from the holocaust. Very intelligently written this takes you through the most terrible of times where human strength and endurance is tested to the limit. Unimaginable horror that man inflicts upon another human being, senseless and barbaric this serves as a warning against this ever happening again! Absolutely terrifying what oppression and hatred can lead to!
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on 30 April 2018
This is an important book which needs to be read. Levi writes simply, beautifully and 'as a witness, not a victim.'
'If this is a man' is a journey into the very heart of darkness, yet it is written without anger or reprisal inherent. This is just how it happened. This is how far the race can fall.
By contrast, 'The Truce' is a return journey into the light, peopled with odd characters and odder events. True, most of us may well have buckled under such events, but Levi's light touch and fundamental humanity turn this into a picaresques odyssey in which generous action and a better version of humanity is possible and apparent.
But one is reminded that Levi will always carry Auschwitz with him.
'This needs to be read' is a phrase which shouts out 'worthiness' and may therefore turn off many. Don't be put off. Learn why these events must never be forgotten nor conveniently marginalised.
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on 28 January 2015
First thing. This book is not an enjoyable read. It is a painful read of what day to day life is like in Auschwitz but I felt I had to read it. It avoids any sentimentality, any analysis of why the holocaust happened or any anger or resentment on the part of the author. It's a very direct read and gets straight to the point. It really helps you to come close to the author and his experiences and it helps you to put yourself in the authors shoes and how you would feel if you were put in the same situation. It affects you even more when you discover that the author died in a suspected suicide later in life due to depression.

The man who was Primo Levi died in Auschwitz and Auschwitz claimed his life four decades later. It's easy to feel very disconnected to the holocaust as we feel it occurred so many decades ago, but this book brings it right back home.
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on 26 April 2015
This should be on every school's curriculum. The book is moving to the point of excruciating and a reminder of what man did to man in our lifetime. The book is incredible. I do not know how the author survived in the concentration camp for so long. It is therefore a testament to man's resilience too. Levi explains in detail what life was like on a daily basis, the rules of survival, the casual cruelty inflicted on the inmates. Of the 250 persons in his railway truck to the camp, only four survived. After reading this, it is amazing it was such a high number.
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on 26 July 2014
I am not Jewish but feel that everybody should read this. When my daughter is older I will make sure she does, as I feel this is a part of history that should never be forgotten. It is a very disturbing subject but written in a factual way not with hate or anger, which i found very moving as I'm not sure I could do that if I had been through the same journey. I find it rather disturbing that just yesterday I heard on the radio 4 about increase attacks on Jewish people in France, I will never be able to understand that mindset.
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on 22 June 2017
A gritty insightful read of the trials and trauma experienced by the author and those around him. Levi pulls no punches yet the pages contain compassion and,at times, remarkable humanity. I have yet to read the second part of the book "The Truce" so I cannot comment yet.
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on 2 June 2017
This is an incredible account by Primo Levi of his time in Auschwitz and of his frustratingly slow return to his home in Italy, I strongly recommend it to a wide readership. The horrors and struggles of many today are found first of all here.
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on 28 July 2017
Have read this book in paper back, this time on my kindle
I do take my time reading and Primo Levi shows through his story the suffering
Is almost like I am there, any one who doubts holocaust or wants to feel it needs to read
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