Survival in Auschwitz

Invocation

The book is introduced by a poem. The curious construction "If .." invites the reader to make a judgement. It alludes to the treatment of people as Untermenschen (German for "sub-human"), and to Levi's examination of the degree to which it was possible for a prisoner in Auschwitz to retain his or her humanity. The poem explains the title and sets the theme of the book: humanity in the midst of inhumanity.

The last part of the poem, beginning "meditate," explains Levi's purpose in having written it: to record what happened so that later generations will ponder (a more literal translation of meditare) the significance of the events he lived through. It also parallels the language of the V'ahavta, the Jewish prayer that commands followers to remember and pass on the teachings of their faith.

  • Se questo è un uomo
  • Voi che vivete sicuri
  • Nelle vostre tiepide case
  • voi che trovate tornando a sera
  • Il cibo caldo e visi amici:
  • Considerate se questo è un uomo
  • Che lavora nel fango
  • Che non conosce pace
  • Che lotta per mezzo pane
  • Che muore per un sì o per un no.
  • Considerate se questa è una donna
  • Senza capelli e senza nome
  • Senza più forza di ricordare
  • Vuoti gli occhi e freddo il grembo
  • Come una rana d'inverno.
  • Meditate che questo è stato
  • Vi comando queste parole.
  • Scolpitele nel vostro cuore
  • Stando in casa andando per via
  • Coricandovi alzandovi
  • Ripetetele ai vostri figli.
  • O vi si sfaccia la casa
  • La malattia vi impedisca
  • I vostri nati torcano il viso da voi.
  • If This Is a Man
  • You who live safe
  • In your warm houses,
  • You who find, returning in the evening,
  • Hot food and friendly faces:
  • Consider if this is a man
  • Who works in the mud,
  • Who does not know peace,
  • Who fights for a scrap of bread,
  • Who dies because of a yes or a no.
  • Consider if this is a woman
  • Without hair and without name,
  • With no more strength to remember,
  • Her eyes empty and her womb cold
  • Like a frog in winter.
  • Meditate that this came about:
  • I commend these words to you.
  • Carve them in your hearts
  • At home, in the street,
  • Going to bed, rising;
  • Repeat them to your children.
  • Or may your house fall apart,
  • May illness impede you,
  • May your children turn their faces from you.
  • Ist das ein Mensch?
  • Ihr, die ihr gesichert lebet
  • In behaglicher Wohnung;
  • Ihr, die ihr abends beim Heimkehren
  • Warme Speise findet und vertraute Gesichter:
  • Denket, ob dies ein Mann sei,
  • Der schuftet in Schlamm,
  • Der Frieden nicht kennt,
  • Der kämpft um ein halbes Brot,
  • Der stirbt auf ein Ja oder Nein.
  • Denket, ob dies eine Frau sei,
  • Die kein Haar mehr hat und keinen Namen,
  • Die zum Erinnern keine Kraft mehr hat,
  • Leer die Augen und kalt ihr Schoß
  • Wie im Winter die Kröte.
  • Denket, daß solches gewesen.
  • Es sollen sein diese Worte in eurem Herzen.
  • Ihr sollt über sie sinnen, wenn ihr sitzet
  • In einem Hause, wenn ihr geht auf euren Wegen,
  • Wenn ihr euch niederlegt und wenn ihr aufsteht;
  • Ihr sollt sie einschärfen euern Kindern.
  • Oder eure Wohnstatt soll zerbrechen,
  • Krankheit soll euch niederringen,
  • Eure Kinder sollen das Antlitz von euch wenden.

This content is from Wikipedia. GradeSaver is providing this content as a courtesy until we can offer a professionally written study guide by one of our staff editors. We do not consider this content professional or citable. Please use your discretion when relying on it.