Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Primo Levi

Primo Levi

Overview
Primo Michele Levi was an Italian Jewish
History of the Jews in Italy
The history of the Jews in Italy goes back over two thousand years. Jews have been present in Italy from the Roman period until the present.-Antiquity:-Pre-Christian Rome:...

 chemist and writer. He was the author of two novels and several collections of short stories, essays, and poems, but is best known for If This Is a Man
If This Is a Man
If This Is a Man is a work by the Italian writer, Primo Levi, describing his 11 months—from February 21, 1944 until liberation on January 27, 1945—in the German concentration camp at Auschwitz in Poland, during the Second World War...

, his account of the year he spent as a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp
Auschwitz concentration camp
Concentration camp Auschwitz was a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II...

 in Nazi
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

-occupied Poland. He was an atheist.

Levi was born in Turin
Turin
Turin is a city and major business and cultural centre in northern Italy, capital of the Piedmont region, located mainly on the left bank of the Po River and surrounded by the Alpine arch. The population of the city proper is 909,193 while the population of the urban area is estimated by Eurostat...

 at Corso Re Umberto 75 into a liberal Jewish family. His father Cesare worked for the manufacturing firm Ganz
Ganz
The Ganz electric works in Budapest is probably best known for the manufacture of tramcars, but was also a pioneer in the application of three-phase alternating current to electric railways. Ganz also made / makes: ships , bridge steel structures , high voltage equipment...

 and spent much of his time working abroad in Hungary, where Ganz was based.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Primo Levi'
Start a new discussion about 'Primo Levi'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Quotations

Those who deny Auschwitz would be ready to remake it.

Interview with Daniel Toaff, Sorgenti di Vita (1983-04-25); trans. Mirto Stone

We who survived the Camps are not true witnesses. We are those who, through prevarication, skill or luck, never touched bottom. Those who have, and who have seen the face of the Gorgon, did not return, or returned wordless.

As quoted in The Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-1991 (by Eric Hobsbawm|Eric J. Hobsbawm) :Also known as Survival at Auschwitz (US publication title)

A country is considered the more civilised the more the wisdom and efficiency of its laws hinder a weak man from becoming too weak and a powerful one too powerful.

I am not even alive enough to know how to kill myself.

In history and in life one sometimes seems to glimpse a ferocious law which states: "to he that has, will be given; from he that has not, will be taken away."

Encyclopedia
Primo Michele Levi was an Italian Jewish
History of the Jews in Italy
The history of the Jews in Italy goes back over two thousand years. Jews have been present in Italy from the Roman period until the present.-Antiquity:-Pre-Christian Rome:...

 chemist and writer. He was the author of two novels and several collections of short stories, essays, and poems, but is best known for If This Is a Man
If This Is a Man
If This Is a Man is a work by the Italian writer, Primo Levi, describing his 11 months—from February 21, 1944 until liberation on January 27, 1945—in the German concentration camp at Auschwitz in Poland, during the Second World War...

, his account of the year he spent as a prisoner in the Auschwitz concentration camp
Auschwitz concentration camp
Concentration camp Auschwitz was a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II...

 in Nazi
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

-occupied Poland. He was an atheist.

Early life


Levi was born in Turin
Turin
Turin is a city and major business and cultural centre in northern Italy, capital of the Piedmont region, located mainly on the left bank of the Po River and surrounded by the Alpine arch. The population of the city proper is 909,193 while the population of the urban area is estimated by Eurostat...

 at Corso Re Umberto 75 into a liberal Jewish family. His father Cesare worked for the manufacturing firm Ganz
Ganz
The Ganz electric works in Budapest is probably best known for the manufacture of tramcars, but was also a pioneer in the application of three-phase alternating current to electric railways. Ganz also made / makes: ships , bridge steel structures , high voltage equipment...

 and spent much of his time working abroad in Hungary, where Ganz was based. Cesare was an avid reader and autodidact. Levi’s mother Ester, known to everyone as Rina, was well educated, having attended the . She too was an avid reader, played the piano and spoke fluent French. The marriage between Rina and Cesare was arranged by Rina’s father. On their wedding day, Rina’s father, Cesare Luzzati, gave Rina the apartment at where Primo Levi was to live for almost his entire life.

In 1921 Anna Maria, Levi's sister was born; he was to remain close to her all of his life. In 1925 he entered the primary school in Turin. A thin and delicate child, he was shy and thought of himself as being ugly, but he excelled academically. His school record includes long periods of absence during which time he was tutored at home at first by Emilia Glauda and then by Marisa Zini, daughter of philosopher Zino Zini. Summers were spent with his mother in the Waldensian valleys south-west of Turin where Rina rented a farmhouse. His father remained in Turin partly because of his dislike of the rural life, but also because of his infidelities.

In September 1930 he entered the Royal Gymnasium a year ahead of normal entrance requirements. In class he was the youngest, the shortest and the cleverest as well as being the only Jew. For these reasons, he was bullied. In August 1932, following two years at the Talmud Torah
Talmud Torah
Talmud Torah schools were created in the Jewish world, both Ashkenazic and Sephardic, as a form of public primary school for boys of modest backgrounds, where they were given an elementary education in Hebrew, the Scriptures , and the Talmud...

 school in Turin, he sang in the local synagogue
Synagogue
A synagogue is a Jewish house of prayer. This use of the Greek term synagogue originates in the Septuagint where it sometimes translates the Hebrew word for assembly, kahal...

 for his Bar Mitzvah. In 1933, as was expected of all young Italian schoolboys, he joined the Avanguardisti movement for young Fascists
Italian Fascism
Italian Fascism also known as Fascism with a capital "F" refers to the original fascist ideology in Italy. This ideology is associated with the National Fascist Party which under Benito Mussolini ruled the Kingdom of Italy from 1922 until 1943, the Republican Fascist Party which ruled the Italian...

. He avoided rifle drill
Drill team
A drill team can be one of four different entities:# A Military Drill Team is marching unit that performs routines based on military drill. Military drill teams perform either armed or unarmed....

 by joining the ski
Ski
A ski is a long, flat device worn on the foot, usually attached through a boot, designed to help the wearer slide smoothly over snow. Originally intended as an aid to travel in snowy regions, they are now mainly used for recreational and sporting purposes...

 division, and then spent every Saturday during the season on the slopes above Turin. As a young boy Levi was plagued by illness, particularly chest infections, but he was keen to participate in physical activity. In his teens Levi and a few of his friends would sneak into a disused sports stadium and conduct athletic competitions.

In July 1934 at the age of 14, he sat the exams for the , a Lyceum
Lyceum
The lyceum is a category of educational institution defined within the education system of many countries, mainly in Europe. The definition varies between countries; usually it is a type of secondary school.-History:...

 (sixth form) specialising in the classics
Classics
Classics is the branch of the Humanities comprising the languages, literature, philosophy, history, art, archaeology and other culture of the ancient Mediterranean world ; especially Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome during Classical Antiquity Classics (sometimes encompassing Classical Studies or...

 and was admitted that autumn. The school was noted for its well-known anti-Fascist
Anti-fascism
Anti-fascism is the opposition to fascist ideologies, groups and individuals, such as that of the resistance movements during World War II. The related term antifa derives from Antifaschismus, which is German for anti-fascism; it refers to individuals and groups on the left of the political...

 teachers, amongst them the philosopher Norberto Bobbio
Norberto Bobbio
Norberto Bobbio was an Italian philosopher of law and political sciences and a historian of political thought. He also wrote regularly for the Turin-based daily La Stampa....

, and for a few months Cesare Pavese
Cesare Pavese
Cesare Pavese was an Italian poet, novelist, literary critic and translator; he is widely considered among the major authors of the 20th century in his home country.- Early life and education :...

, also an anti-Fascist and later to become one of Italy's best-known novelists. Levi continued to be bullied during his time at the Lyceum although he was now in a class with six other Jews. Upon reading Concerning the Nature of Things by Sir William Bragg, Levi decided that he wanted to be a chemist
Chemist
A chemist is a scientist trained in the study of chemistry. Chemists study the composition of matter and its properties such as density and acidity. Chemists carefully describe the properties they study in terms of quantities, with detail on the level of molecules and their component atoms...

. Levi matriculated
Matriculation
Matriculation, in the broadest sense, means to be registered or added to a list, from the Latin matricula – little list. In Scottish heraldry, for instance, a matriculation is a registration of armorial bearings...

 from the school in 1937 despite being accused of ignoring a call-up to the Italian Royal Navy
Regia Marina
The Regia Marina dates from the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861 after Italian unification...

 the week before his exams were due to begin. As a result of this incident, and possibly some antisemitic bias in the marking, Levi had to retake his Italian paper. At the end of the summer he passed his exams and in October he enrolled at the University of Turin
University of Turin
The University of Turin is a university in the city of Turin in the Piedmont region of north-western Italy...

, to study chemistry. The registered intake of eighty hopefuls spent three months taking lectures in preparation for their colloquio or oral examination when the eighty would be reduced to twenty. The following February Levi graduated onto the full-time chemistry course.

Initially, Fascist Italy was not ideologically antisemitic. Some Italian Jews joined the Fascist movement, and the Fascist regime, following the Lateran Treaty with the Catholic Church, had subscribed a similar agreement with the Italian Jewish Communities in the 1930s. But the growing political kinship with Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

 brought, in July 1938, the promulgation of the so-called Manifesto of the Race, which claimed that there existed a pure Italian race and that Italians were Aryans. In September 1938 the Fascist government
Italian Fascism
Italian Fascism also known as Fascism with a capital "F" refers to the original fascist ideology in Italy. This ideology is associated with the National Fascist Party which under Benito Mussolini ruled the Kingdom of Italy from 1922 until 1943, the Republican Fascist Party which ruled the Italian...

 introduced racial laws which, amongst other things, prohibited Jewish citizens from attending state schools. Jewish students who had begun their course of study were permitted to continue them, but new Jewish students were barred from entering university. It was therefore fortuitous that Levi had matriculated a year early, as he would not otherwise have been permitted to take a degree.

In 1939 Levi began his love affair with hiking
Hiking
Hiking is an outdoor activity which consists of walking in natural environments, often in mountainous or other scenic terrain. People often hike on hiking trails. It is such a popular activity that there are numerous hiking organizations worldwide. The health benefits of different types of hiking...

 in the mountains. His friend Sandro Delmaestro taught him how to hike and they spent many week-ends in the mountains above Turin. Physical exertion, the risk and the battle with the elements here supplied him with an outlet for all the frustrations in his life. In June 1940 Italy declared war against Britain and France, and the first air raids
Airstrike
An air strike is an attack on a specific objective by military aircraft during an offensive mission. Air strikes are commonly delivered from aircraft such as fighters, bombers, ground attack aircraft, attack helicopters, and others...

 on Turin began two days later. Levi’s studies continued during the bombardments, and an additional strain on the family was imposed when his father became bedridden with bowel cancer.

Chemistry


However, because of the new antisemitic laws and the increasing intensity of prevalent Fascism, Levi had difficulty finding a supervisor for his graduation thesis which was on the subject of Walden inversion
Walden inversion
Walden inversion is the inversion of a chiral center in a molecule in a chemical reaction. Since a molecule can form two enantiomers around a chiral center, the Walden inversion converts the configuration of the molecule from one enantiomeric form to the other. For example, in a SN2 reaction,...

, a study of the asymmetry of the carbon
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

 atom. Eventually taken on by Dr. Nicolò Dallaporta he graduated in the summer of 1941 with full marks and merit, having submitted additional theses on x-rays
X-ray
X-radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation. X-rays have a wavelength in the range of 0.01 to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz and energies in the range 120 eV to 120 keV. They are shorter in wavelength than UV rays and longer than gamma...

 and electrostatic energy
Electric potential energy
Electric potential energy, or electrostatic potential energy, is a potential energy that results from conservative Coulomb forces and is associated with the configuration of a particular set of point charges within a defined system...

. His degree certificate bore the remark, "of Jewish race". The racial laws prevented Levi from finding a suitable permanent position after he had graduated.

In December 1941 Levi was approached and clandestinely offered a job at an asbestos mine at San Vittore
San Vittore
San Vittore may refer to:* San Vittore, Switzerland, a municipality in Graubünden, Switzerland* San Vittore del Lazio, a comune in Lazio, Italy* San Vittore Olona, a comune in Lombardy, Italy...

. The project he was given was to extract nickel
Nickel
Nickel is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Ni and atomic number 28. It is a silvery-white lustrous metal with a slight golden tinge. Nickel belongs to the transition metals and is hard and ductile...

 from the mine spoil, a challenge he accepted with pleasure. It was not lost on Levi that should he be successful he would be aiding the German war effort, which was suffering nickel shortages in the production of armaments. The job required Levi to work under a false name with false papers. In March 1942 while he was working at the mine Levi’s father died.

In June 1942, due to the deteriorating situation in Turin, Levi left the mine and went to work in Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

. He had been recruited through a fellow student at Turin University who was now working for the Swiss
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 firm of A Wander Ltd on a project to extract an anti-diabetic from vegetable matter. He could take the job because the racial laws did not apply to Swiss companies. It soon became clear that the project had no chance of succeeding, but it was in no one's interest to say so.

In September 1943, after the new Italian government under Marshal Pietro Badoglio
Pietro Badoglio
Pietro Badoglio, 1st Duke of Addis Abeba, 1st Marquess of Sabotino was an Italian soldier and politician...

 signed an armistice with the Allies, the former leader Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

 was rescued from imprisonment by the Germans
Unternehmen Eiche
The Gran Sasso raid refers to Operation Eiche , the rescue of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini by German paratroopers and Waffen-SS commandos in September 1943, during World War II...

 and installed as head of the Italian Social Republic
Italian Social Republic
The Italian Social Republic was a puppet state of Nazi Germany led by the "Duce of the Nation" and "Minister of Foreign Affairs" Benito Mussolini and his Republican Fascist Party. The RSI exercised nominal sovereignty in northern Italy but was largely dependent on the Wehrmacht to maintain control...

, a puppet state in German-occupied northern Italy. Levi returned home to Turin to find his mother and sister having taken refuge in their holiday home La Saccarello in the hills outside Turin. They all then embarked to Saint-Vincent
Saint-Vincent, Italy
Saint-Vincent is a town and comune in the Aosta Valley region of north-western Italy. Saint-Vincent , is a popular summer holiday resort with mineral springs .-Geography:...

 in the Aosta Valley where they could be hidden. Being pursued by the authorities they moved up the hillside to Amay in the Colle di Joux. Amay was on the route to Switzerland that was followed by Allied prisoners of war and refugees trying to escape the Germans.

The Italian resistance movement
Italian resistance movement
The Italian resistance is the umbrella term for the various partisan forces formed by pro-Allied Italians during World War II...

 became increasingly active in the German-occupied zone. Levi and a number of comrades took to the foothills of the Alps and in October joined the liberal Giustizia e Libertà
Giustizia e Libertà
Giustizia e Libertà was an Italian anti-fascist organization, active from 1929 to 1945.- Italian anti-fascist organization :The anti-fascist organization Giustizia e Libertà was founded in Paris in 1929 by the Italian refugees Carlo Rosselli, Emilio Lussu, Alberto Tarchiani, and Ernesto Rossi...

 partisan movement. Completely untrained for such a venture, he and his companions were quickly arrested by the Fascist militia
MVSN
MVSN can refer to:* The Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale of the Italian Fascist movement.* The Milice de Volontaires de la Sécurité Nationale better known as the Tonton Macoutes....

.

When told he would be shot as an Italian partisan, he confessed to being Jewish and was then sent to an internment camp for Jews at Fossoli near Modena
Modena
Modena is a city and comune on the south side of the Po Valley, in the Province of Modena in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy....

. Primo Levi's writings held at Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem
Yad Vashem is Israel's official memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, established in 1953 through the Yad Vashem Law passed by the Knesset, Israel's parliament....

 indicate that as long as Fossoli was under Italian, rather than Nazi German control, he was not harmed. "We were given, on a regular basis, a food ration destined for the soldiers", Levi's testimony stated, "and at the end of January 1944, we were taken to Fossoli on a passenger train. Our conditions in the camp were quite good. There was no talk of executions and the atmosphere was quite calm. We were allowed to keep the money we had brought with us and to receive money from the outside. We worked in the kitchen in turn and performed other services in the camp. We even prepared a dining room, a rather sparse one, I must admit."

Auschwitz



When Fossoli fell into the hands of the Germans, the Jews were rounded up for deportation. On 21 February 1944, the inmates of the camp were transported in twelve cramped cattle trucks to Monowitz
Auschwitz concentration camp
Concentration camp Auschwitz was a network of Nazi concentration and extermination camps built and operated by the Third Reich in Polish areas annexed by Nazi Germany during World War II...

, one of the three main camps in the Auschwitz concentration camp complex (his record number was 174,517). Levi spent eleven months there before the camp was liberated
Liberty
Liberty is a moral and political principle, or Right, that identifies the condition in which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions...

 by the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 on January 18, 1945. Of the 650 Italian Jews in his shipment, Levi was one of only twenty who left the camps alive. The average life expectancy of a new entrant was three months.

Levi knew some German from reading German publications on chemistry; he quickly oriented himself to life in the camp without attracting the attention of the privileged inmates; he used bread to pay a more experienced Italian prisoner for German lessons and orientation in Auschwitz; and he received a smuggled soup ration each day from Lorenzo Perrone
Lorenzo Perrone
Lorenzo Perrone was one of a group of skilled Italian bricklayers working under contract to the Boetti company, who were transferred to Auschwitz according to the camp expansion plan....

, an Italian civilian bricklayer, working as forced labourer. His professional qualifications were also useful: in mid-November 1944 he was able to secure a position as an assistant in IG Farben
IG Farben
I.G. Farbenindustrie AG was a German chemical industry conglomerate. Its name is taken from Interessen-Gemeinschaft Farbenindustrie AG . The company was formed in 1925 from a number of major companies that had been working together closely since World War I...

's Buna Werke
Buna Werke
Buna Rubber was named by BASF Ag, and through 1988 Buna was remaining a trade name of BASF. According to Joseph Borkin in his book entitled "The Crimes and Punishment of IG Farben", BASF Ag was the majority financier for Auschwitz 4, a camp that contained a production site for production of...

 laboratory that was intended to produce synthetic rubber
Synthetic rubber
Synthetic rubber is is any type of artificial elastomer, invariably a polymer. An elastomer is a material with the mechanical property that it can undergo much more elastic deformation under stress than most materials and still return to its previous size without permanent deformation...

, thereby avoiding hard labour
Penal labour
Penal labour is a form of unfree labour in which prisoners perform work, typically manual labour. The work may be light or hard, depending on the context. Forms of sentence which involve penal labour include penal servitude and imprisonment with hard labour...

 in freezing outdoor temperatures. Shortly before the camp was liberated by the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

, he fell ill with scarlet fever
Scarlet fever
Scarlet fever is a disease caused by exotoxin released by Streptococcus pyogenes. Once a major cause of death, it is now effectively treated with antibiotics...

 and was placed in the camp's sanatorium (camp hospital
Hospital
A hospital is a health care institution providing patient treatment by specialized staff and equipment. Hospitals often, but not always, provide for inpatient care or longer-term patient stays....

). On January 18, 1945, the SS
Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

 hurriedly evacuated the camp as the Red Army approached, forcing all but the gravely ill on a long death march
Death marches (Holocaust)
The death marches refer to the forcible movement between Autumn 1944 and late April 1945 by Nazi Germany of thousands of prisoners from German concentration camps near the war front to camps inside Germany.-General:...

 that led to the death of the vast majority of the remaining prisoners. Levi's illness spared him this fate.

Although liberated on 27 January 1945, Levi did not reach Turin until 19 October 1945. After spending some time in a Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 camp for former concentration camp inmates, as a result of the Armistice between Italy and Allied armed forces he embarked on an arduous journey home in the company of former pre-1946 Italian prisoners of war
Prisoner of war
A prisoner of war or enemy prisoner of war is a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict...

 from the Royal Italian Army in Russia
Italian Army in Russia
The Italian Army in Russia was an army-sized unit of the Italian Royal Army which fought on the Eastern Front during World War II...

. His long railway journey home to Turin took him on a circuitous route from Poland, through Bielorussia, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Austria and Germany.

1946-1960


Levi was almost unrecognisable on his return to Turin. Malnutrition edema had bloated his face. Sporting a scrawny beard and wearing an old Red Army uniform he arrived back at Corso Re Umberto. The next few months gave him an opportunity to recover physically, re-establish contact with surviving friends and family and to start looking for work. However, Levi was understandably suffering from psychological trauma. Having been unable to find work in Turin he started to look for work in Milan. On his train journeys he started to tell people he met stories about his time at Auschwitz. At a Jewish New Year party in 1946 he met Lucia Morpurgo who offered to teach him to dance. Levi fell in love with Lucia. At about this time he started writing poetry about his experiences in the Lager.

On 21 January 1946 he started work at DUCO, a Du Pont Company paint factory, outside Turin. As the train service out to the factory was so limited Levi stayed in the factory dormitory during the week, which gave him the opportunity to write undisturbed. It was here that he started to write down the first draft of If This Is a Man
If This Is a Man
If This Is a Man is a work by the Italian writer, Primo Levi, describing his 11 months—from February 21, 1944 until liberation on January 27, 1945—in the German concentration camp at Auschwitz in Poland, during the Second World War...

. Every day he would scribble down notes on train tickets and scraps of paper as memories came to him. At the end of February he had ten pages detailing the last ten days between the German evacuation and the arrival of the Red Army. For the next ten months the book took shape in his dormitory as he typed up his recollections each night.

On 22 December 1946, the manuscript was complete. Lucia, who now reciprocated Levi’s love, helped him to edit it, to make the narrative flow more naturally. In January 1947 Levi was taking the finished manuscript around publishers, but the wounds he was describing were still too fresh and he had no literary experience to give him a reputation as an author.

Eventually Levi found a publisher, Franco Antonicelli, through a friend of his sister’s. Antonicelli was an amateur publisher, but as an active anti-Fascist he was supportive of the idea of the book. At the end of June 1947, Levi suddenly left DUCO and teamed up with an old friend Alberto Salmoni to run a chemical consultancy from the top floor of Salmoni’s parents’ house. Many of Levi’s experiences of this time found their way into his later writing. They made most of their money from making and supplying stannous chloride for mirror makers, delivering the unstable chemical by bicycle across the city. The attempts to make lipsticks from reptile excreta and a coloured enamel
Tooth enamel
Tooth enamel, along with dentin, cementum, and dental pulp is one of the four major tissues that make up the tooth in vertebrates. It is the hardest and most highly mineralized substance in the human body. Tooth enamel is also found in the dermal denticles of sharks...

 to coat teeth were turned into short stories. Accidents in their laboratory filled the Salmoni house with unpleasant smells and corrosive gases.

In September 1947, Levi married Lucia and a month later on the 11th October If This Is a Man was published with a print run of 2000 copies. In April 1948, with Lucia pregnant with their first child, Levi decided that the life of an independent chemist was too precarious and agreed to go and work for Federico Accatti in the family paint business which traded under the name SIVA. In October 1948 Levi’s first child, his daughter Lisa, was born.

A major trauma for Levi during this period was the decline and death of Lorenzo Perrone
Lorenzo Perrone
Lorenzo Perrone was one of a group of skilled Italian bricklayers working under contract to the Boetti company, who were transferred to Auschwitz according to the camp expansion plan....

. Lorenzo was an Italian, civilian worker in the Lager, who for six months in the camp, gave the remainder of his ration and a piece of bread to Levi without asking anything in return. Levi juxtaposes Lorenzo against everyone else in the camp, prisoners and guards alike, as someone who has managed to preserve his humanity. After the war Lorenzo could not cope with the memories of what he saw and descended into alcoholism. Levi made several trips to rescue his old friend from the streets, but in 1952 Lorenzo died.

In 1950, having demonstrated his ample chemical talents to Accatti, he was made Technical Director at SIVA. As SIVA’s principal chemist and trouble shooter Levi travelled abroad. He made several trips to Germany and carefully engineered his contacts with senior German businessmen and scientists. Wearing short sleeved shirts he made sure they saw his prison camp number tattooed on his arm, and he engaged them on the depravity of the Nazis and the lack of redemption sought by most Germans, many of whom had been involved in the exploitation of slave labour during the war.

He was also involved in organisations pledged to remembering the horror of the camps. In 1954 he visited Buchenwald to mark the ninth anniversary of the camps liberation from the Nazis. There were many such anniversaries over the years and Levi dutifully attended them to tell and retell his memories. In July 1957, his son Renzo was born, almost certainly named after his saviour Lorenzo Perrone.

Despite a positive review by Italo Calvino
Italo Calvino
Italo Calvino was an Italian journalist and writer of short stories and novels. His best known works include the Our Ancestors trilogy , the Cosmicomics collection of short stories , and the novels Invisible Cities and If on a winter's night a traveler .Lionised in Britain and the United States,...

 in , only 1,500 copies of If This Is a Man were sold. Levi had to wait till 1958 before Einaudi published it, in a revised form.

In 1958 Stuart Woolf, in close collaboration with Levi, translated If This Is a Man into English and it was published in the UK in 1959 by Orion Press. Also in 1959 Heinz Riedt, also under close supervision by Levi, translated it into German. As one of Levi’s primary reasons for writing the book was to get the German people to realise what had been done in their name, and to accept at least partial responsibility, this translation was perhaps the most significant.

1961-1974


Levi began writing The Truce early in 1961 and it was published in 1963, almost 16 years after his first book, and the same year it won the first annual Premio Campiello
Premio Campiello
The Premio Campiello is an annual Italian literary prize.A Jury of Literary Experts identifies books published during the year and, in a public hearing, selects five of those as finalists. These books are called il Premio Selezione Campiello...

 literary award. It is often published in one volume with If This Is a Man, as it covers his long return from Auschwitz. Levi's reputation was growing. He regularly contributed articles to , the Turin newspaper. He wished to be known also as a writer about subjects other than his deportation.

Also in 1963 came his first major bout of depression. At the time he had two young children, a responsible job at a factory where accidents could and did have terrible consequences, he travelled, became a public figure, and yet the memory of what happened less than twenty years earlier still burned in his mind. Today we recognise the link between stress and depression, but then it was not the case. Also the drugs available to him, several of which he was prescribed over the years, had variable efficacy and side effects.

In 1964 he collaborated on a radio play based upon If This Is a Man with the state broadcaster RAI
RAI
RAI — Radiotelevisione italiana S.p.A. known until 1954 as Radio Audizioni Italiane, is the Italian state owned public service broadcaster controlled by the Ministry of Economic Development. Rai is the biggest television company in Italy...

, and in 1966 with a theatre production.
He published two volumes of science fiction short stories under the pen name of Damiano Malabaila which explored ethical and philosophical questions as well as imagining the impact upon society of inventions which many would consider beneficial, but which, he saw, would have serious implications. Many of the stories from the two books (Natural Histories) published in 1966 and (Structural Defect) published in 1971 were later released in English as .

In 1974 he arranged to go into semi-retirement from SIVA in order to allow him more time to write, as well as removing the burden of responsibility for managing the paint plant.

1975-1987


In 1975 a collection of Levi’s poetry was published under the title (The Bremen Beer Hall), published in English as : Collected Poems.

He also wrote two other highly praised memoirs, (Moments of Reprieve) was published in 1978 and (The Periodic Table) in 1975. Moments of Reprieve deals with characters he observed during imprisonment. The Periodic Table is a collection of short pieces, mostly episodes from his life but also two short stories that he wrote before his time in Auschwitz, all related in some way to one of the chemical elements. At London's Royal Institution
Royal Institution
The Royal Institution of Great Britain is an organization devoted to scientific education and research, based in London.-Overview:...

 on 19 October 2006 it was voted onto the shortlist for the best science book ever
Best science book ever
On October 19, 2006 the Royal Institution of Great Britain named The Periodic Table, by Primo Levi, the best science book ever. After taking nominations from many scientists in various disciplines, authors, and other notable people the Royal Institution compiled a shortlist of books for...

 written.

Levi retired as a part-time consultant at the SIVA paint factory in 1977 to devote himself full-time to writing. Like all of his books, 1978's La chiave a stella (published in the US in 1986 as The Monkey's Wrench and in the UK in 1987 as The Wrench) is difficult to categorize. In some reviews it is described as a collection of stories about work and workers told by a narrator, Faussone, resembling Levi himself. Others have called it a novel common characters appear in the stories. Based upon a Fiat-run town in Russia called Togliattigrad, it portrays the engineer as a hero on whom others depend. The underlying philosophy is that to have pride in one's work is necessary for a fulfillment. The engineer, Faussone, travels the world as an expert in erecting cranes and bridges. This work aroused criticism from left-wing critics because he did not describe the working conditions on the assembly lines at FIAT. However, it brought Levi a wider audience in Italy and The Wrench
The Wrench
The Wrench, published in the US under the title of The Monkey's Wrench, was one of Primo Levi's collections of stories ....

won the Strega Prize
Strega Prize
The Strega Prize is the most prestigious Italian literary award. It has been awarded annually since 1947 for the best work of prose fiction by an Italian author and first published between 1 May of the previous year and 30 April...

 in 1979. Most of the stories involve solving industrial problems using troubleshooting
Troubleshooting
Troubleshooting is a form of problem solving, often applied to repair failed products or processes. It is a logical, systematic search for the source of a problem so that it can be solved, and so the product or process can be made operational again. Troubleshooting is needed to develop and...

 skills and clearly many stories come from the author's personal experiences.

In 1984 his only novel, If Not Now, When?--or his second novel, if "The Monkey's Wrench" is considered as such--was published. It traces the fortunes of a group of Jewish partisans
Jewish partisans
Jewish partisans were fighters in irregular military groups participating in the Jewish resistance movement against Nazi Germany and its collaborators during World War II....

 behind German lines during World War II as they seek to continue their fight against the occupier and survive. With the idea of reaching Palestine
Palestine
Palestine is a conventional name, among others, used to describe the geographic region between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, and various adjoining lands....

 to take part in the construction of a Jewish national home
Jewish state
A homeland for the Jewish people was an idea that rose to the fore in the 19th century in the wake of growing anti-Semitism and Jewish assimilation. Jewish emancipation in Europe paved the way for two ideological solutions to the Jewish Question: cultural assimilation, as envisaged by Moses...

 their ultimate objective, the partisan band reaches Poland and then German territory before the surviving members are officially received in territory held by the Western allies as displaced persons. Finally, they succeed in reaching Italy, on their way to Palestine. The novel won both the and the . The book had its origin in Levi’s train journey home, narrated in The Truce. At one point in the journey a band of Zionists hitch their own wagon to the refugee train. Levi was impressed by their strength, resolve, organisation, and sense of purpose.

Levi became a major literary figure in Italy. The Truce became a standard text in Italian schools. His books were translated into many other languages. In 1985, he flew to America for a speaking tour of twenty days. The trip, on which he was accompanied by Lucia, was very draining for him. In the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 his early works were not acceptable to censors because they portrayed Soviet soldiers as slovenly and disorderly rather than heroic. In Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, a country formed partly by Jewish refugee
Refugee
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

s who escaped horrors more or less the same as Levi experienced, Levi's works were not translated until after his death.

In March 1985 he wrote the introduction to the re-publication of the autobiography of who was commandant of Auschwitz concentration camp from 1940 to 1943. In it he writes "It's filled with evil.....and reading it is agony".

Also in 1985 a volume of essays, previously published in , were published under the title (Other People’s Trades). Levi used to write these stories and hoard them away, releasing them to at the rate of almost one a week. The essays ranged from book reviews, ponderings about strange things in nature to fictional short stories.

In 1986 his book (The Drowned and the Saved), was published. In it he tried to analyse why people behaved the way they did at Auschwitz, and why some survived whilst others perished. In his typical style he makes no judgments but presents the evidence and asks the questions. For example, one essay examines what he calls "The Grey Area", those Jews who did the Germans' dirty work for them and kept the rest of the prisoners in line. What made a concert violinist behave as a callous taskmaster?

Also in 1986 another collection of short stories, previously published in , was assembled and published as (some of which were published in the English volume The Mirror Maker).

At the time of his death, in April 1987, he was working on another selection of essays called The Double Bond which took the form of letters to . These essays are very personal in nature. Approximately five or six chapters of this manuscript exist. Carole Angier, in her biography of Levi, describes how she tracked some of these essays down, but that others were being kept away from public view by Levi’s close friends, to whom he distributed them, and they may have been destroyed.

In March 2007 Harper's Magazine published an English translation of Levi's story , about a fictitious weapon that is fatal at close range but harmless more than a meter away. It originally appeared in his 1971 book , but was published in English for the first time by Harper's.

A Tranquil Star, a collection of seventeen stories translated into English by Ann Goldstein and Alessandra Bastagli http://www.penguin.co.uk/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9780713999556,00.html http://www2.wwnorton.com/catalog/spring07/006468.htm was published in April 2007.

Views on Nazism and antisemitism


What drove Levi to write If This Is a Man was a desire to bear witness to the horrors of the Nazis' attempt to exterminate the Jewish people. He read many accounts of witnesses and survivors and attended meetings of survivors, becoming in the end a symbolic figure for anti-fascists in Italy.

Levi visited over 130 schools to talk about his experiences in Auschwitz. He was shocked by revisionist attitudes that tried to rewrite the history of the camps as less horrific, what is now referred to as Holocaust denial
Holocaust denial
Holocaust denial is the act of denying the genocide of Jews in World War II, usually referred to as the Holocaust. The key claims of Holocaust denial are: the German Nazi government had no official policy or intention of exterminating Jews, Nazi authorities did not use extermination camps and gas...

. His view was that the Nazi death camps and the attempted annihilation of the Jews was a horror unique in history because the aim was the complete destruction of a race by one that saw itself as superior; it was highly organized and mechanized; it entailed the degradation of Jews even to the point of using their ashes as materials for paths.

With the publication in the late 1960s and 1970s of the works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was aRussian and Soviet novelist, dramatist, and historian. Through his often-suppressed writings, he helped to raise global awareness of the Gulag, the Soviet Union's forced labor camp system – particularly in The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of...

, the world became aware that the Soviet regime used camps (gulags) to repress dissidents who might be imprisoned for as much as twenty years. There were similarities with the Lager; the hard physical work and poor rations. Levi rejected, however, the idea that The Gulag Archipelago
The Gulag Archipelago
The Gulag Archipelago is a book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn based on the Soviet forced labor and concentration camp system. The three-volume book is a narrative relying on eyewitness testimony and primary research material, as well as the author's own experiences as a prisoner in a gulag labor camp...

and the system of the Nazi ; see Nazi concentration camps
Nazi concentration camps
Nazi Germany maintained concentration camps throughout the territories it controlled. The first Nazi concentration camps set up in Germany were greatly expanded after the Reichstag fire of 1933, and were intended to hold political prisoners and opponents of the regime...

) were equivalent. The death rate in the gulags was estimated at 30% at worst, he wrote, while in the Lager he estimated it was 90–98%. The aim of the was to eliminate the Jewish race. No one was excluded. No-one could renounce Judaism; the Nazis treated Jews as a racial group rather than a religious one. Many children were taken to the camps, and almost all died.The purpose of the Nazi camps was not the same as that of the Soviet gulags, Levi wrote in an appendix of If This Is a Man, though it is a "lugubrious comparison between two models of hell".

Levi himself, along with most of Turin's Jewish intellectuals, was not religiously observant. It was the Fascist race laws and the Nazi camps that made him feel Jewish. Levi writes in clear almost scientific style about his experiences in Auschwitz, showing no lasting hatred of the Germans. This has led some commentators to suggest that he had forgiven them, though Levi denied this.

Death


Levi died on 11 April 1987, when he fell from the interior landing of his third-story apartment in Turin to the ground floor below. Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel
Sir Eliezer "Elie" Wiesel KBE; born September 30, 1928) is a Hungarian-born Jewish-American writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate, and Holocaust survivor. He is the author of 57 books, including Night, a work based on his experiences as a prisoner in the Auschwitz, Buna, and...

 said at the time that "Primo Levi died at Auschwitz forty years earlier".

The coroner interpreted Levi's death as suicide, and three of his biographers (Angier, Thomson and Anissimov) agree with this interpretation. In his later life Levi indicated he was suffering from depression: factors may have included responsibility for his elderly mother and mother-in-law, with whom he was living in the same apartment, and the traumatic effects of memory.

However, Oxford sociologist Diego Gambetta
Diego Gambetta
Diego Gambetta is an Italian born social scientist. He is a professor of sociology at the University of Oxford and an official fellow at Nuffield College. He is well known for his vivid and unconventional applications of economic theory and a rational choice approach to understanding a variety of...

 has argued that the conventional assumption of Levi's death by 'suicide' is not well justified by either factual or inferred evidence. Levi left no suicide note, and no other clear indication that he had thoughts of taking his own life. In Gambetta's view, documents and testimony indicate immediate and ongoing plans at the time of his death. Rita Levi Montalcini, a close friend of Levi, commented that "If Levi wanted to kill himself he, a chemical engineer by profession, would have known better ways than jumping into a narrow stairwell with the risk of remaining paralyzed." Also, Gambetta has pointed out that Levi had complained to his physician of dizziness in the days before his death, and concludes (from a visit to the apartment complex) that it is more plausible to assume Levi lost his balance and fell accidentally to his death.

Popular culture references

  • A quotation from Levi appears on the sleeve of popular Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers
    Manic Street Preachers
    Manic Street Preachers are a Welsh alternative rock band, formed in 1986. They are James Dean Bradfield, Nicky Wire, Richey Edwards and Sean Moore. The band are part of the Cardiff music scene, and were at their most prominent during the 1990s...

     second album, Gold Against the Soul
    Gold Against the Soul
    Gold Against the Soul is the second album by Welsh rock band Manic Street Preachers released on June 14, 1993.All lyrics were written by Nicky Wire and Richey James Edwards, all music was written by James Dean Bradfield and Sean Moore.-Album overview:...

    . The quote's origin is from Levi's poem "Song of Those Who Died In Vain". In an interview for the TV program Raw Soup in 1993, Manics guitarist Richey Edwards said that "Primo Levi was a beautiful person."
  • "Primo on the Parapet" is a song by Peter Hammill
    Peter Hammill
    Peter Joseph Andrew Hammill is an English singer-songwriter, and a founding member of the progressive rock band Van der Graaf Generator. Most noted for his vocal abilities, his main instruments are guitar and piano...

     dedicated to Primo Levi. The refrain says:
Here's a toast to Primo,
let's learn not to forget.
Here's a toast to Primo,
forgive but don't forget.
  • David Blaine
    David Blaine
    David Blaine is an American illusionist and endurance artist. He is best known for his high-profile feats of endurance, and has made his name as a performer of street and close-up magic. He has set and broken several world records...

     has Primo Levi's concentration camp number, 174517, from Auschwitz tattooed on his left forearm.
  • In the Academy Award winning 2003 film by Denys Arcand
    Denys Arcand
    Georges-Henri Denys Arcand, is a Canadian film director, screenwriter and producer. He has won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 2004 for The Barbarian Invasions...

    , (The Barbarian Invasions), the main character expresses outrage at the apparent apathy of the Roman Catholic Church
    Roman Catholic Church
    The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

     during World War II
    World War II
    World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

     toward the Holocaust: which translates to: "Pius XII sitting on his ass in his gilded Vatican, while Primo Levi was taken to Auschwitz... It's despicable! Hideous!". In another scene the same character wishes that he had written The Gulag Archipelago
    The Gulag Archipelago
    The Gulag Archipelago is a book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn based on the Soviet forced labor and concentration camp system. The three-volume book is a narrative relying on eyewitness testimony and primary research material, as well as the author's own experiences as a prisoner in a gulag labor camp...

    by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
    Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
    Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn was aRussian and Soviet novelist, dramatist, and historian. Through his often-suppressed writings, he helped to raise global awareness of the Gulag, the Soviet Union's forced labor camp system – particularly in The Gulag Archipelago and One Day in the Life of...

     and Levi's The Periodic Table
    The Periodic Table (book)
    The Periodic Table is a collection of short stories by Primo Levi, published in 1975, named after the periodic table in chemistry. In 2006, the Royal Institution of Great Britain named it the best science book ever ....

    . Later in the same film, a French edition of If This Is A Man is prominently shown on the same character's bookshelf).
  • Christopher Hitchens
    Christopher Hitchens
    Christopher Eric Hitchens is an Anglo-American author and journalist whose books, essays, and journalistic career span more than four decades. He has been a columnist and literary critic at The Atlantic, Vanity Fair, Slate, World Affairs, The Nation, Free Inquiry, and became a media fellow at the...

    ' book The Portable Atheist, a collection of extracts of atheist texts, is dedicated to the memory of Levi "who had the moral fortitude to refuse false consolation even while enduring the 'selection' process in Auschwitz". The dedication then quotes Levi in The Drowned and the Saved
    The Drowned and the Saved
    The Drowned and the Saved is a book of essays on life in the Nazi Vernichtungslager by Italian-Jewish author and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, drawing on his personal experience as an inmate of Auschwitz. Whereas If This is a Man was autobiographical The Drowned and the Saved is an attempt at an...

    , asserting, "I too entered the Lager as a nonbeliever, and as a nonbeliever I was liberated and have lived to this day."
  • Part of Levi's short story "Bear Meat" is quoted by Emile Hirsch
    Emile Hirsch
    Emile Davenport Hirsch is an American television and film actor. He began performing in the late 1990s, appearing in several television films and series, and became known as a film actor after roles in Lords of Dogtown, The Emperor's Club, The Girl Next Door, Alpha Dog, and Into the Wild. In...

     playing Christopher McCandless in the 2007 film Into the Wild
    Into the Wild (film)
    Into the Wild is a 2007 American biographical drama film directed by Sean Penn. It is an adaptation of 1996 non-fiction book of the same name by Jon Krakauer based on the travels of Christopher McCandless across North America in the early 1990s. The film stars Emile Hirsch as McCandless with...

    .
  • The German metalcore band Heaven Shall Burn named their song "If This Is a Man" after the autobiography of the same name.
  • Inspired by Primo Levi, Primo Levi Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to studying the history and culture of Italian Jewry, opened its doors in NYC in 2003. http://www.primolevicenter.org
  • French singer Mylène Farmer
    Mylène Farmer
    Mylène Farmer, , born Marie-Hélène Jeanne Gautier, , , is a French singer, songwriter, occasional actress and author....

    's 1999 single, "Souviens-toi du jour
    Souviens-toi du jour
    "Souviens-toi du jour" is a 1999 song recorded by French singer-songwriter Mylène Farmer. It was the third single from her fifth studio album Innamoramento and was released on 2 September 1999. Inspired by Primo Levi's book If This Is a Man, the song deals with the theme of the Holocaust...

    ", refers to If This Is a Man
    If This Is a Man
    If This Is a Man is a work by the Italian writer, Primo Levi, describing his 11 months—from February 21, 1944 until liberation on January 27, 1945—in the German concentration camp at Auschwitz in Poland, during the Second World War...

    in the lyrics.
  • A street in the Talpiot
    Talpiot
    Talpiot , is a neighborhood in southeast Jerusalem, Israel, established in 1922 by Zionist pioneers.-Etymology:The name Talpiot derives from a verse in Song of Songs 4:4 – "Thy neck is like the tower of David, built with turrets." According to rabbinic sources, Talpiot refers to the Temple...

     neighbourhood of Jerusalem, Israel is named after him.
  • Leonard Cohen
    Leonard Cohen
    Leonard Norman Cohen, is a Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, poet and novelist. Cohen published his first book of poetry in Montreal in 1956 and his first novel in 1963. His work often explores religion, isolation, sexuality and interpersonal relationships...

    's 1964 book of poetry Flowers for Hitler
    Flowers for Hitler
    Flowers for Hitler is Canadian poet Leonard Cohen's third collection of poetry, first published in 1964 by McClelland and Stewart. Like other artworks regarding Adolf Hitler as a subject, it was somewhat controversial in its day...

    , which itself deals with the Holocaust, uses quotation from Levi's Auschwitz memoirs as its motto.
  • The film Crimes and Misdemeanors
    Crimes and Misdemeanors
    Crimes and Misdemeanors is a 1989 black comedy written, directed by and co-starring Woody Allen, alongside Martin Landau, Mia Farrow, Anjelica Huston, Jerry Orbach, Alan Alda, Sam Waterston and Joanna Gleason....

    contains a character named Prof. Louis Levi, a philosopher who is based on Primo Levi.

Adaptations

  • If This Is a Man
    If This Is a Man
    If This Is a Man is a work by the Italian writer, Primo Levi, describing his 11 months—from February 21, 1944 until liberation on January 27, 1945—in the German concentration camp at Auschwitz in Poland, during the Second World War...

    was adapted by Antony Sher
    Antony Sher
    Sir Antony Sher, KBE is a double Olivier Award winning South African-born British actor, writer, theatre director and painter.- Early years :...

     into a one-man stage production Primo
    Primo (2005 film)
    Primo is a 2005 film directed by Richard Wilson, starring the BAFTA-nominated Antony Sher and broadcast by HBO and the BBC.This film is a recording of the Royal National Theatre production of the play Primo, also directed by Wilson...

    in 2004. A version of this production was broadcast on BBC4 in the UK on September 20, 2007. http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2007/09_september/13/primo.shtml
  • The 1997 Film (The Truce
    The Truce (1997 film)
    The Truce is a 1997 film directed by Francesco Rosi, written by Tonino Guerra, based on Primo Levi's autobiography, The Truce. The film deals with Primo Levi's experiences returning from the concentration camp at Auschwitz during the Second World War....

    ), starring John Turturro
    John Turturro
    John Michael Turturro is an American actor, writer and director known for his roles in the films Do the Right Thing , Miller's Crossing , Barton Fink , Quiz Show , The Big Lebowski , O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the Transformers film series...

    , recounts Levi's long journey home after his liberation from Auschwitz.
  • The 2001 film The Grey Zone is based upon the second chapter from The Drowned and the Saved
    The Drowned and the Saved
    The Drowned and the Saved is a book of essays on life in the Nazi Vernichtungslager by Italian-Jewish author and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi, drawing on his personal experience as an inmate of Auschwitz. Whereas If This is a Man was autobiographical The Drowned and the Saved is an attempt at an...

    .

External links