At the entrance to the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp was inscribed the phrase “Arbeit Macht Frei” literally translated to mean “Work Brings Freedom”. There could not have been a more sadistically brutal paradox between the said phrase and the dignity stripping heinous activities that were forced upon the pitiful inhabitants shepherded into the camp by the Nazis during the end of World War II.
Primo Levi spent a year in the despicable cauldron of Auschwitz-Birkenau as thousands of fellow Jews perished all around him, succumbing to Hitler’s genocidal policy of “die endlosung der Judenfrage” or “The Final Solution” which in its rudimentary terms meant a systematic elimination of Jews. In the precision engineered gas chambers and overworked crematoria designed and devised by the Champion of Auschwitz, Rudolf Hoss, approximately a million Jews were exterminated in various ingenious ways ranging from unspeakable medical experiments to forced starvation.
In this essential work on the Holocaust, Primo Levi reflects upon the stirrings and emotions of both the barbaric oppressor and the bewildered oppressed. Blending philosophy with psychology, Levi recollects the haunting incidents at Auschwitz that will for ever shame humanity. Levi teaches us all that it is an extremely challenging task to comprehend “how not to be” rather than understanding “how to be”. Attributing his survival to a mix of fortune and fortitude, Levi tried to analyse the mind set responsible for driving the Kapos and Sonderkommandos to perform acts which by any stretch of consideration would be considered despicable. Levi’s imprimatur has the necessary impact of scarring. No reader can obliterate with ease the trauma highlighting the pages of this work (even if she were to pull all stops to do so). A surge of repulsion, remorse and guilt rack the reader even if she is far removed from the goings on in the concentration camp. A sense of abdicated responsibility assails the thoughts. No degree of atonement is sufficient enough to alleviate the ethnic cleansing carried on in the death camp. The Nuremberg trials provide, but a bare modicum of justice as many perpetrators of horror (such as Dr.Josef Mengele the experimenter of humans) lived a long and normal life before meeting their maker.
“The Drowned and The Saved” needs to be read by every literate man and woman for mankind cannot afford to have an insane relapse of the kind that if suffered from during the rule of a megalomaniac called Adolf Hitler.
“The Drowned and The Saved” – Resuscitating humanity!