BookAnalysis: If this isa man
The book “If this is a man”by Primo Levi illustrates the challenges that the prisoners had toundergo in the hands of the Fascist Militia and the German guardstoo. More specifically, it shows the horrific experience and theheavy work they had to undertake in the detention camps. Apart fromthat, the poor working conditions and the insufficient food and waterhindered their ability to work efficiently. This essay highlights thefirst five chapters of “If this is a man” that details thehorrific experience that Primo Levi and other detainees underwent inthe detention camp.
The first chapter shows howthe Fascist Militia in Italy captured Primo Levi among other membersof a small group that was trying to start a resistance. The chapterreveals how the prisoners were divided into two groups that had theJews and the non-Jews. On the other hand, the Italian Jews such asPrimo were taken to the detention camps. The narrator illustrates howPrimo was afraid of the poor living conditions in the detention campsand the way they were treated like animals (Primo,1991). For instance, ifone of them escaped, ten other Jews were shot. Unfortunately, theyare even placed on a freight train that is heading to Auschwitz, andon the way, they have to go without food, water and enough clothes toprotect them from the cold. The first chapter creates the backgroundand the setting that Primo and the other captives were held.
The second chapter illustratesthe duties that the prisoners had to undertake as they were in thedetention camps. Both the ragged clothing as well as the worn-outshoes includes some of the things they were given by the Germanguards. The German guards even tattooed the prison number on the armsof each of them (Primo,1991). Regardless of the tiring jobs, they have to undertake theyare left without enough food and water that will give them thestrength needed.
The third chapter reveals thesurvival tips that Primo and the other prisoners used in ensuringthat they had enough food. For instance, they start sharing the smallportions of bread and even use them as money. The prisoners end upexchanging bread for other commodities that might be of use in theprisons.
The fourth chapter shows howPrimo injures his leg and he the Ka-Be that is the medical clinicoffers the required medical help even if he had to wait in the linefor a longer time. It also reveals how the German guards areheartless, and they even took away Primo belongings while he waswaiting on the line at the medical clinic (Primo,1991). Shockingly, thenurse reveals that his weak body shows that he is ready for thecrematorium since he will not be able to engage in physicalactivities that they are supposed to do. More importantly, Primo usesthat opportunity to rest from work since he spends all the day at theKa-Be where he meets other prisoners. Evidently, the time at theKa-Be exposes him to other enlightened prisoners and the things theyhave planned to undertake.
Chapter Five looks at Primo’sstay in Block 45 that seems more comfortable than the previous one.In this case, he is even assigned the room with his friend Alberto tooccupy it. The nights have people walking around sewing worn-outshoes and taking care of the feet wounds while they get portions ofbread in return. The nights also provide peaceful sleep where theydream about their time back home and how things were great backthere.
Inconclusion, the first five chapters of the book present thechallenges that the Jews underwent while they were in the detentioncamps. Together with the other prisoners, they are forced to workunder poor conditions and the insufficient food and water evenworsens the situation. All in all, the first five chapters reveal theway that the camps were created and the conditions that they had toundergo.
Primo Levi. IfThis Is a Man and The Truce,Translated by Stuart Woolf and Paul Bailey. Little, Brown Book Group,Jan 1, 1991.