Primo Levi’s "Survival in Auschwitz"

Resource Kit by
Philip Graubart

Module Content



Survival in Auschwitz is Primo Levi’s first-person account of his experiences during the Holocaust. Originally published in Italian in 1948 with the title If This Is a Man, the memoir takes the reader from Levi’s capture in Italy through his transport, his slave labor ordeal in the Auschwitz satellite factory Buna, and his survival under unspeakable conditions to his eventual liberation. In addition to recounting his experiences in precise, clinical, and sometimes ironic and detached prose, Levi muses on various topics such as the nature of ethics in the death camps, strategies for survival under duress, possibilities for forgiveness and reconciliation, and the imperative to bear witness. Many intellectual luminaries consider Survival in Auschwitz to be a literary masterpiece and essential to our understanding of the Holocaust. Until his suicide in 1989, Levi was one of Europe’s premier public intellectuals, publishing numerous memoirs, essays, novels, and stories, mostly on the topic of the Holocaust.

This kit offers resources to aid a close reading of the book, in addition to material and activities that facilitate deep conversations about the existential issues raised by Levi's representation of the Holocaust.

Cover image: Primo Levi, ca. 1950s. Unknown photographer; Mondadori Publishers.