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If This Is A Man, Essential Revision Notes

If This Is A Man

by Primo Levi

Leaving Certificate English

Revision Notes

© 2018

© 2018.

All revision notes have been produced by mockness ltd for

Table of Contents

Background and the Author 4


Summary 5

Characters 6

Primo Levi 6

Alberto 6

Steinlauf 6

Charles and Arthur 7

Lorenzo 7

The Saved (Chapter 9) 7

Schepschel 7

Alfred L 8

Elias 8

Henri 8

Alex 8

Doktor Ingenieur Pannwitz 8

The Laboratory Ladies 9

Themes with Supporting Quotations 10

Visions 10

Freedom and confinement 11

Dehumanisation and suffering 13

Language and communication 14

Race 16

Perseverance 17

Strategies and choices 19

The arbitrary and the absurd 20

Cultural Context and General Vision and Viewpoint 23

The importance of If This Was A Man in the context of the Holocaust 23

Background and the Author

Having joined a small group of anti-Fascist partisans hidden in the Italian forests, Primo Levi was captured by the Fascists in 1943 and sent to a detention camp in Italy. Soon after, he and the other captured Italian Jews were transported to Auschwitz concentration camp.

Levi was put to work at brutally hard labour—something he'd never known as a highly educated chemist. Against all odds, he survived the camp despite a long, horrific year, during which he faced starvation, bone-numbing cold, and disease. In January 1945, the Nazis abandoned the camp when facing the imminent advance Soviet army and their constant bombing of the camp. They took the healthy prisoners with them.

Levi, sick with scarlet fever in the camp infirmary, was left to fend for himself and the other sick prisoners in the destroyed camp. After ten days of misery in the freezing cold, with bodies piling up and conditions deteriorating, the emaciated prisoners still alive were finally rescued by the Soviet army.

Levi wrote his memoir, originally titled Se questo è un uomo (in English, If this is a man), in 1946, about a year after being set free from the camp. His work is an act of bearing witness to the horrors he had seen and und...

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