Report On Primo Levi


Report On Primo Levi Essay, Research Paper

His 113 ? Final Paper on The Drowned and the Saved

I chose to use option one for the last writing assignment. I can understand

where some of Primo Levi?s ideas are coming from. It is hard to argue with

someone that actually lived through the terrible events in World War II and in

the concentration camps. There are some similarities between the death camps and

the ideas of a modern society, but there are also some differences. It appears

to me that the Nazis tried to use and portray enlightenment ideas to justify

their actions. The Nazis also succeeded in using their prisoners against each

other so that they did not have to the dirty work themselves.

I agree with Levi in the sense that horrible situations can make good people

do horrible things. This idea was shown every time that someone was beaten,

killed or starved in the concentration camps. In many cases people that suffered

the same misfortune at the beginning were abusing the other Jews that came into

the camp. If the prisoners were able to live long enough and help out the Nazis

they were able to achieve a higher social status or privilege within the

concentration camp universe.

The ?gray zone? is a good example of how people?s minds can be beaten

down and corrupted when they are suffering severely. Someone living in the

United States during present times could very easily criticize the prisoners who

were helping run the camps for their actions. Obviously there was anger in the

senior prisoners, but I don?t think that is the reason they were mean to the

new arrivals. The guards had been in the camps long enough to figure out how to

survive and knew that the easiest way to get yourself killed was to show that

you had your own will. Prisoners that acted like they had been beaten and were

willing to do what the SS wanted actually had a chance to survive. In a subtle

way the camp guards were trying to break the spirit of the new arrivals to show

them how to stay alive and that they needed to look out for themselves.

Many of the brutal prisoners that managed to survive to the end of the war,

as time progressed after the war, had less recollection of the hardships that

they caused for the other prisoners. Some of the SS guards who were people with

a conscience suffered from the same suppression of memory. Primo Levi talks, in

his book, about human memory and what effects the events that are retained in a

person?s memory. This definitely worked to the advantage of the Nazis in World

War II. Traumatic events sometimes cause a person to block out unpleasant parts

of a memory. The events in the concentration camps were made so horrible that

many people had a tendency to forget the details. For this reason, I believe

that this type of war could definitely happen again. I do think the chances of

it happening again are very slim and that in today?s society as a whole people

are more educated and reminded of what really happened. People need to be

reminded continuously so that they are not subject to the same manipulation that

happened to the Germans in World War II. One difference between then and now is,

in general, people in the more powerful nations of the world are more educated.

That is one reason why the possibility of such horrible events happening again

would not be probable.

The Nazis were able to make Germans of all types believe that killing people

was the only way to change Germany and the world. By shipping out all the Jews

to Poland and getting them off of German soil citizens of Germany were kept from

seeing the horrible things that were happening to the Jews. Although everyone

must have known what was going on, the atrocities were out of sight and out of

mind. The German citizens were able to buy cheap houses and businesses that were

owned by the victims of the death camps. Since the pure blooded German people

were able to benefit, they were willing to accept the idea of the Jews being

deported. The Nazis were able to keep uprisings to a minimal level because the

killing was concentrated to the camps. The camps were even kept separate from

each other so their massive scale was not as apparent.

Hitler began the war by selling the idea that he was creating the perfect

race. That is one way in which he was able to spark German nationalism in an

enormous scale. He effectively made people believe that killing was horrible,

but it was necessary for liberty, equality, and fraternity. This is where I

disagree from primo Levi. While enlightenment ideas were used to justify the

things that happened, most enlightenment ideas were not used. Although the Nazis

were using these ideas to maintain support and nationalism, the actual

intentions of Hitler were different. Hitler was able to create a sense of

fraternity in Germany by getting rid of people that had different religious

beliefs than everyone else.

One enlightenment idea that has been important in many revolutions was

education. Hitler tried to keep people from being educated by burning books and

eliminating intellectual types of people. Hitler them gave them his book, Mein

Kampf, to read. I have never actually looked at his book but I have heard that

if people had paid attention to what it said, they would have known what he was

planning to do. Hitler made them think that the only education they needed was

skills that would enable them to do the work that they were doing. Since many of

the German people had jobs at the time, they were content.

I think the idea of regeneration through violence can definitely be an

enlightenment idea depending upon how it is used and also depending upon the

purpose of the violence. In previous revolutions there was some horrifying

actions taken by groups of people just as there was in WW II. In the other

examples of regeneration through violence there was a group or groups of people

that banded together against some sort of injustice or oppression. At the time

there was very few other ways to solve the problems at hand. The Nazis tried to

create a false sense of fraternity, but in the process of doing it he depended

upon people?s ignorance to manipulate them into following him and not a common

cause. Hitler attempted to eliminate education, which is a very important

enlightenment idea. Hitler, before WW II, did succeed in building up Germany.

His primary goal through his leadership in Germany was to take over Europe. This

was not the goal of most people in Germany, but they were led into supporting a

cause that they really didn?t understand. WW II was not an example of

regeneration through violence it was just violence. Violence has definitely

proven to be a part of enlightenment, in some cases, throughout history.

I think that what happened in World War II was maybe a little out of the

ordinary, but history has proven that one way to facilitate change is through

violence. One of the key criteria to a revolution through change is the need for

a common goal or reason for the violence. In the case of Germany there was no

common goal to create an idea of fraternity among the people. Everyone saw that

they had a job and that if they didn?t do their job and follow Hitler they

would have to suffer harsh consequences. Everyone did what they had to do out of

fear and was short of options at the time.

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