While in a Russian-administered holding camp in Katowice, Poland, in 1945, Primo Levi was asked to provide a report on living conditions in Auschwitz. Published the following year, it was then forgotten, and has until now remained unknown to a wider public.
Dating from the weeks and months immediately after the war, Auschwitz Report represents a fascinating and unusual return to the very earliest phase of Holocaust testimony. It details the author’s deportation to Auschwitz, selections for work and extermination, everyday life in the camp, and the organization and working of the gas chambers. It constitutes Levi’s first, astonishingly lucid attempts to come to terms with the raw horror of events that would drive him to create some of the greatest works of twentieth-century literature and testimony. Auschwitz Report is a major literary and historical discovery.
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A chemist by training, Primo Levi (1919–1987) was arrested as an anti-fascist partisan during World War II, and deported to Auschwitz in 1944. His books include The Drowned and the Saved, If This Is a Man and The Periodic Table. He died in 1987. Norton will publish The Complete Works of Primo Levi in 2010.From Publishers Weekly:
First published in Italy in 1946, this newly rediscovered early work by the celebrated late author of such Holocaust memoirs as Survival in Auschwitz—an eyewitness account of conditions at Buna-Monowitz, a satellite camp of Auschwitz—appears in English for the first time. The short report was written for the Russian authorities who had liberated the camp and were gathering information on German war crimes. While the report is not exactly a curiosity—one of the first written by eyewitnesses, it has an important place in Holocaust historiography—it contains little new information. Some of what it does contain—for instance, the authors thought the Sonderkommandos were criminal inmates rather than Jews—we now know to be inaccurate. Despite this, the publication of the document gives readers, and especially Holocaust scholars, new insights into Levi's work. An excellent introduction by editor Gordon gives an astute overview of the stylistic and historical relationship between this work and Levi's later autobiographical writings. Levi's training as a chemist and his friend and fellow survivor De Benedetti's training as a physician bring to the piece a dispassionate tone that has, in a sense, prefigured the best writing about the Holocaust. This is an important addition to Holocaust literature, but probably of limited interest to the general reader. (Oct.)
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