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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 10 June 1997
It would be easy to bluntly horrify the reader in a book about life in a death camp, but Levi is not content to appeal to the emotions. He has an intellectual fascination with details, and the psychology of genocide. By a dispassionate and careful treatment of the very difficult material, he manages to write a compelling book about a terrible subject. And the emotional effect does not suffer from this approach--because Levi does not manipulate them, the reader's feelings are deeper and more lasting.
In one chapter, Levi describes how many of the prisoners, after fourteen hours of manual labor, would assemble in one corner of the camp in a market. They would trade rations and stolen goods. Levi describes how the market followed classical economic laws. Whenever I remember this I am freshly amazed at the resilience of life, and the ability of people to live and think and work in the most adverse conditions. It is remarkable that I finished a book about the Holocaust with a better opinion of mankind than I started with; I think the fact that the book affected me this way is the best recommendation.
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on 31 July 1997
In a more perfect life, this book should be science fiction. Primo Levi deposits us in a world where the typical convivality that makes human society bearable has been eliminated and replaced by a horrible premise: humans may only live if they can do work useful to the state. "Survival in Auschwitz" plays the theme out. Those who are unable to work are immediately killed, using the most efficient means possible. Those who survive must find ways to maintain the illusion of usefulness with the least possible exertion. Instead of brotherhood, there is commerce, a black market where a stolen bar of soap is traded for a loaf of bread; the soap allows the owner to maintain a more healthy appearance while the bread feeds its owner for another day. We see property in its most base form. A spoon, a bowl, a few trinkets cleverly used, that is all a person can hold at a time. It's instructive to read this book as an insight into homelessness. What kind of place is this where we create humiliated zombies, shuffling behind their carts containing all their worldly possessions? How long can we let the State fight against the innate emotion that tells us that no-one should go hungry while we eat and no-one should be homeless while we have shelter?

What always amazes me about the Holocaust is the sheer improbability of the story of each of its survivors. This is the horror. For every shining genius of the stature of Primo Levi, there are thousands of other amazing people, gassed and murdered in the showers filled with Zyklon-B.
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on 7 July 2008
A great work, but 'Survival in Auschwitz' is just the American name for 'If This Is A Man', which is published in Britain together with 'The Truce' in a single volume. Amazon has it, and it's better value as well as a better title.
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on 5 July 1998
An incredible book... Levi's straightforward and almost unemotional tone often disguises the horror of what he is describing. I'd recommend reading it at least twice... I've read it three times now and each time I get something more. Few of us can truly understand the circumstances Levi lived through, but it is important to try.
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on 18 September 2007
There has been much great literature written by holocaust survivors, and this one is just about as good as any.

Primo Levi describes in "Survival in Auschwitz" the scheme by which those who could were able to maintain some sort of existance. Those unable to work are gassed, shot or beaten to death. Those who manage to survive are those who find ways to make themselves useful, without actual serioius exertion on the meagre rations. The lifeblood of the camp is "organising" - a black market where a stolen bar of soap is traded for a slice of bread; a potato for a scarf.

One difference between Levi and other Holocaust memoirs, is that he does not rely on an emotional appeal. He produces a trully excellent and insightful disposition of the the psychology of genocide. The emotional effects stems from Levis astute analysis, rather than being explicity given, an as such and as such are probably actually more effective.

It is a strange aspect of holocaust literatre, that in describing such terrible events they can engender such positive feelings in the reader. The way that those such as Levi can survive the horrors and somehow come out the other end as full human beings is inspiring to us all.
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on 22 February 2005
Following the Auschwitz anniversary, I decided to read a lot more about the holocaust than I knew. Survival in Auschwitz by primo Levi was one of the books I read and loved. I consider it to be one of the most well-written, touching and compelling memoirs about the holocaust. Promo Levi is an excellent writer, with deep, lucid and compelling prose and insightful writing style. This book is one of the most influential books of my life.
After reading this book, I can't imagine any person not honestly feeling for humanity, and becoming compassionate no matter what the circumstance is. This well-depicted book is a recommendation for those interested in the plight of mankind in wars and other man-made and natural disasters. Read it and you will rave and pass it on to your friends.
This is a well recommended Holocaust book along with DISCIPLES OF FORTUNE,PERIODIC TABLE, NIGHT
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on 9 March 1999
please read this book. I have long studied WWII, no other work as so affected me to the extent of this book. Levi explains the ultimate horror. Imagine being stripped of everying, honor, clothing, self esteem. Self and worthiness. It is maddening. Levi produces a realistic, traumatic and horrifying portrait of what people went through not more than 54 years ago. Lest we repeat this lesson, it is important to listen to those like Levi. We all are capable of the ativistic characteristics of those we wish to distance ourselves from.
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on 29 January 1997
Without any sense of trying to make the experience any more horrifying than it was Primo Levi describes the day to day existence with clarity. THe few moments of decency he experiences in the book are to be cherished as he presents the most compelling reason for and against the continued survival of the human race. Primo Levi is a writer too compelling to put down. For the cour you are with him as he becomes a machination of the Reich, and as he reclaims his humanity in the last chapter.
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on 13 September 2006
I have been interested in WW2 for many years, a friend bought me this book and said it was a "must read." I knew it was about Auschwitz, but had no idea how hard Primo Levi's harrowing story would hit me. At one point I was actually crying as I read the book (which is very out of character for me). Primo Levi actually made me feel as if I was there with him, amongst all that death and suffering. How this great man survived ten months in Aushwitz is amazing, this book really is a testament to the strength of the human spirit. I was saddened to learn that Mr Levi committed suicide in the 1980's and only hope if others read his story it touches them as it did me.
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on 12 October 2015
This English translation of the Italian original book was first published under the title 'If this was a man.' Anyone who has a copy will be disappointed if they buy this one under the impression that it is something else. It is, of course superb.
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