The first manuscript for Se questo è un uomo was completed by Levi in December 1946. In January 1947, the manuscript was rejected by Einaudi. Levi managed to find a smaller publisher, De Silva, who printed 2,500 copies of the book, 1,500 of which were sold, mostly in his home town of Turin. In 1957, Einaudi agreed to reprint it, and interest in it increased.
An English translation by Stuart Woolf was published in 1959, and a German translation by Heinz Reidt appeared in 1961, titled Ist das ein Mensch?, as was a French edition. All translations were completed under the supervision of Levi. He was particularly careful to oversee the German translation, writing in The Drowned and the Saved:
I did not trust my German publisher. I wrote him an almost insolent letter: I warned him not to remove or change a single word in the text, and I insisted that he send me the manuscript of the translation in batches ... I wanted to check on not merely its lexical but also its inner faithfulness.
Robert S. C. Gordon writes that Levi went on to develop a close relationship with Reidt. The German edition contains a special preface addressed to the German people, which Levi said he wrote out of passionate necessity to remind them what they had done.
If This Is a Man is often published with Levi's second work of witness, The Truce (Italian title: La Tregua).