What is the theme of Primo Levi's Survival in Auschwitz?
Primo Levi's purpose in writing his detailed memoir of life in the most brutal and notorious of the German concentration camps, Survival in Auschwitz, is expressed quite simply by his choice of a title. Levi made no pretense towards producing a revelatory depiction of the fate of Europe's Jews during the 1940s. He did not produce this powerful portrait of man's inhumanity to man out of a need to expand the pursuit of justice beyond the confines of efforts already made by others. As he wrote in the preface to Survival in Auschwitz,
"As an account of atrocities . . . this book of mine adds nothing to what is already known to readers . . . It has not been written in order to formulate new accusations. It should be able, rather, to furnish documentation for a quiet study of certain aspects of the human mind."
In writing his memoir, Levi presented a straightforward picture of life in the concentration camps that was intended solely to add to the already voluminous evidence that the Holocaust occurred. He was an eye witness to the single most horrific chapter in human history, and his memoir exists solely for the purpose of testifying to the realities that existed. In presenting a theme for Survival in Auschwitz, then, one can only suggest something along the lines of 'herein lies a true depiction of man's inhumanity to man and the depths to which individuals will descend in order to survive under the most terrible of conditions.'