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Holocaust Literature and Film Notes

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Holocaust Literature and Film Notes:

Genocide: Killing the tribe; Geno (tribe); Cide (killing)

  • armenian → 1915-1923: foundation of modern turkey and wanting the pure religion; 1.5 million victims
  • Nazi Genocide → 1941-1945: nazi period is 1933-1945
  • Bosnia → 1992-1995: 8 thousand victims because they were muslim bosnians; Ethnic cleansing
  •  Rwandan → 1994 → only lasted 100 days; victims were the tutsis. The minority that had certain privileges
  • Darfur (sudan) → 2004- present
  • Rohingya → Myanmar (Burma); Buddhist country

Holocaust (1941-1945): genocide of the Jews in Europe; 11 million Jews left after 1941

Shoah: cautrasophie

Antisemitism: prejudice or hatred of Jews

Deicide and Vatican II:  The killing of God and conference in the 1960s held by Pope John that says that the Jews didn't kill.

Passion Plays: Middle ages of how people reacted Easter

Ghettos/ expulsions: where the Jews were forced to live and keep in control of the jews. When Jews were forced out of certain areas and forced into new states.

Conversion: making the Jews to change to christianity because Jesus was a Jew

Luther: 16th century and was founder of the protestant reformation. Wrote a book on “Jews and their lies” and was an antisemitism → anger towards jews

Pogroms: anti-jewish riots and scapegoating → Eastern Europe where there was violence against jews

Emancipation: the french revolution (1789): lots of jews were supports because all people are created equal and we are all citizens. First doctrine of Church and State.  Ghettos were thrown open and Jews were joining the whole population of Europe.  

Colonialism and Imperialism: 19 century, where european powers were dividing the world. Europe conquered people and concluded that they were superior to everyone else. Hierarchy of races and the white races were destined to rule

Social Darwinism and Eugenics: Survival of the Fittest → scientific way of organizing society. They people that we think are the highest should be the ones to provide children (Positive). The lowest people should not have children and should be sterilized (Negative)

World War 1 and the Bolshevik Revolution: mass wars that lead to the cheaping of life → 1917 while world war 1 was raging, the left wing revolution, Lenin, the leader. Jews were to blamed for capitalism and the revolution → Stab in the back: Germany would have won if the Jews Bankers didn't find play a role, where they found the jews in favor money wise.

National Socialism: Hitler, Race and Space: 1920’s, Hitler was writing that Jews were the problems and that they should be eliminated. Hitler wanted to force them to emigrate and his idea was to purify the Aryan Race. Hitler needed to give them space, which was all the space in Poland. 3 million Jews lived in Poland

Euthanasia programs: children who exhibited mental illness or handicapped that they should be put to death. First people to die before the Jews by the Nazis

Forced emigration, appropriations of property: Jews were forced to leave and couldn't bring anything so the Nazis got all the property and items from the Jews.

Kristallnacht (November 1938): the night of the broken glass, organized offense by the  Nazis hooligans, who would go out and break the jewish owners shops windows.

World War II: begins 1939

Victims of the Holocaust:  the victims included Jews, Roma (Gypsies), Slavs, and Gays

Victims of World War II (Broadly understood):


  1. What “need” does Levi hope to satisfy by writing this book?
  • He is trying to free himself from everything that is happening (Internal Liberation) and wants everyone to know what happened to him and everyone else.

  1. Who is the “you” to whom the prefatory poem is addressed? Who are the man and woman?
  • The who is the people who are living in peace and have not gone through all of the struggles that they have gone through. The man is the Jews who have been going through everything that they have been going through. The woman is all the jews that are forgetting who they are as people. Germans were demunizating them and making them as worthless. History is going to repeat itself if we do not fix our problem and listen to everything that has happened.
  1. What are the 650 ‘pieces’ the german soldiers speaks of? More generally, how might language be understood as a tool of dehumanization?  
  •  The 650 pieces are the Jews who were lined up going to Camp Auschwitz and this is generally dehumanizing because they are being treated as worthless. They have names but are treated as if they are scum and a problem that needs to be removed.
  1. Note the repeated references to madness and insanity on these pages. What is Levi trying to convey about the train trip and the arrival at Auschwitz?
  • He tries to convey that this place isn’t like a normal place, this place is like hell but the Jews believed that at least this was a place. The train was very cramp and only 4 people out of the 45 would see their home on the way to Auschwitz. I think the silences represents the silence of crossing over and them realizing that this is going to very bad. Realizing that they know they are going from the good world to the bad world. It becomes unreal and they were terrified → silence of terror.
  1.  Note the repeated references to madness and insanity on these pages. What is Levi trying to convey about his first hours  at Auschwitz?
  •  The Jews, that were men were being seperated to see who was fit to work and who was not fit to work. If they were not fit to work then they were sent to the crematoria, where they would be killed in minutes. The train was about 20 minutes and first seen was “Work makes you Free”. They have to go through initiation that is pretty much hell. It’s a work camp that would last long hours. They all get tattoos with numbers, where from their will be their name for now on.
  1. What does Levi mean by the expression “the demolition of a man”? How is this process initiated here? What two senses of extermination are implied in the term of “extermination camp”?
  •  At camp, they are not treated as humans. They are treated as scum, they are stripped away from their name and given a tattooed number and stripped of their clothes where they are provided certain clothing and patch if they were an Italian- Jew, a politician or Criminals. They are learned that the only way out is the chimney, which means that the only way they are free is if they are dead.
  • They were their to be starved and not even given them clean water. Extermination of the soul and the body → they lost the physical and mental ability of the Jews (dehumanization).
  • The jews were seen less than the politicians and the criminals.
  1. According to Steinlauf, why are the prisoners obligated to survive?  
  •  The prisoners are obligated to survive because Jews need to be able to tell their story and express what this world is really like.  The camps are trying to break you down and make you seem as nothing so it is so easy to  kill you off. They should not consent to being dehumanized, you need to live your life to the fullest.
  • We should want to survive because you need to be out their to tell your story and prove to everyone what has happened.
  1. Who is Null Achtzehn? What is the significance about him?
  •  He was a young jew that levi had ran into that has lost everything. He was emptied of all of his qualities and couldn't even remember anything about him. This camp has produced this emptiness and he is very weak.
  1. According to Levi, what is the bad about being in Ka-Be (the infirmary)?
  •  The Ka-Be gives them time to think about all the things that they have lost. This makes them very emotional and makes them reflect on everything that they have gone through. He can realize how many people have died and are pretty much dead inside. They realized that the only way out is leaving dead.


  1.  What is the dream (or nightmare) that all the prisoners share?
  •  The dream that all the prisoners share is that they are trying to recount the stories about what has happened to him at camp to his family and friends but no one is listening to him because the people won't be able to understand what he has gone through.
  1.  Why do you think Levi describes  the camp’s black market in such detail? What is his interest here?
  •  This is the last real humane thing that they can be apart of that occurred on the outside world. Everything that they do in the camp is regulated and given no choices. This is how they make their way of income and how make some sense of society.
  • He is showing how everyone is out for themselves and that there is no honest in the deals. It is an economic perspective of how little items are so precious to others. He is interested in the ethical and socially purpose of how people interact with each other.
  1.  How do the two categories of prisoners, the drowned and the saved, reverse the typical moral implications of being”saved” and “lost”? What are the characteristics of the Saved? Of the Drowned?
  •  The drowned are the people who couldn't sacrifice their ability and couldn't deal with camp. They are killed and were seen very selfish and couldn't give up certain aspects. they accepted the faith that was going to happen to them.The saved are the Jews that changed and adapted to the changes in the camp. They are willing to do what they are told and are still living and working in the camps. They are willing to change to survive.
  • The saved had less humanity than the drowned.
  • The drowned are physically weak → drew a blank eye of what is happening to them. They don't think about what is going on and just have them without a trace of thought. They have no story or no story, meaning that none of them survive to tell their story.


  1.  What is Levi’s attitude toward Doktor Pannwitz?
  •  Levi is one of the lucky ones in this case because he is a chemist and knows how to work with the synthetic rubber. Levi views Doktor Pannwitz as very curious about his work and would want to meet with him outside of the camp. They are both chemists so Doktor Pannwitz views his as a intelligent tool that he can use. From this Levi feels disrespected by this because he was being treated equal as him and dehumanized him.

  1. Why would Levi be willing to give up his soup in order to remember a few lines of Dante’s Inferno?
  • Levi is willing to give up his soup because  


  1. Discuss the significance of Lorenzo. Why is he important to Levi and how does he fit into the lager themes in this book about dehumanization? What does Levi mean when he states “ the personages of these pages are not men”?
  • Italian civilian worker who gives Levi extra food.
  •  Lorenzo teaches levi that there is still a reason to be alive and that he needs to be a man. He shows him there is a reason to not let them dehumanize them.  Lorenzo is very kind and gives him food throughout the chapters and also teaches him how to trade.
  • Lorenzo fits into lager them about dehumanization in the way that he is trying to keep everyone to have a positive attitude and that there is a reason to be here. They have to survive to be able to tell their story.
  • I think levi means that the writings that he has on other pages do not exhibit the qualities that lorenzo was promoting and showed that he was becoming weak and become weak.

  1. “If the lagers had lasted longer a new harsh language would have been born” why?
  • There are new immigrants that were coming in who were stronger and just arrived. None of the people in the camp speak the same language because they are from all over. Fights would have soon because at this point they had no food or water. They were being starved and there would be no hope left in camp that they were going to survive. They would let the soldiers dehumanize them and pretty much become useless and worthless.
  • Some things were getting so awful that there wasn't any more words to describe it anymore → language would be changing just to describe how hungry and how horrible things were.
  1. Why is Levi so indignant about Kuhn’s prayer? More generally, what do you take to be Levi’s view of the concept of the divine in the face of Auschwitz?
  • Levi is indignant about Kuhn’s prayer because he was thanking god for not being picked and also he was happy that all of those people were being killed. He was praying that they would be killed and not him. Kuhn doesn't feel bad for the people who are going to be killed like he should.
  • Levi doesn't really believe in God because if there was a god then why would he be putting them through this and listening to these prayers. God wouldn't be letting all of these people die. He is losing hope that there is an sense of them getting out and telling his story.
  • believes Kuhn is out of his senses, prayer cannot save him from being gassed
  1. What has Kraus failed to understand about life and death in lager?
  • In this camp, they are only going to keep you alive if you can do a job fast and effectively. It has nothing to do with your age, it has to do with your health and how you work under conditions. Kraus has been working very slowly and have also been missing his job sometimes. He is killing himself with exhaustion and starvation.
  • He doesn't understand it is better to be beaten because you wont die from being beaten but you could die from exhaustion form work.
  • Pretend to work but don't actually work hard


  1. Discuss the prisoners’ sense of time.
  • The prisoners’ sense of time is assembly time
  • The prisoners sense of time is by their schedule and when the winter is coming. When the first snow falls this is when they know that winter is coming. They do not really know what day it is or how long they have been there.  Their schedules are the same everyday where the work → get examined and checked for lice → eat → go to the bunks sleep.
  • The workers know the time by when people arrive and leave the camp. For example at 4:30, the english prisoners are leaving and at 5, the ukrainian girls leave.

  1. Why are the “peaceful moments” in the lab painful for Levi?
  • The peaceful moments in the lab are painful for levi because this is time where he can reflect on his old life and compare it to where he is right now. He can listen to the girls talk about their christmas plans and their fiancee. He has no idea what has happened to his family and everything has changed so drastically in the time that he has been there.

  1. Describe the content and tone of these pages (150). Why are Alberto and Primo “oppressed by shame”? What have the successes described earlier in the chapter to do with sense of shame?
  • Alberto and primo are oppressed with shame because of how they look. They are seeing females for the first time in awhile and they are disgusted with how they look. No female would look at them when they are so skinny, their head shaved and starved.
  • They are also oppressed with shame because the soldiers have broke them, they have took away the humanization that they said they would never give away. They know are believing that there is no reason to live.
  • They are executing the another inmate because this jew participated in the role of blowing up one of the huts → levi did not feel like he could fight back and felt ashamed.
  • Also he is playing a role of the survivor and has been taking food and not sharing with everyone else who is struggling. He is being smart and making way to earn more bread → breaking the broom and caring it piece by piece from the lab. He puts it together with sheep wire and nails that he also gets from the lab.
  • They are ashamed because they are not fighting back but instead they are just laying back and watching.
  1. How does Levi know “that the lager was dead”?  
  • Levi knew the lager was dead when the soldier gave bread to him without him having to beg for it.  It was the first human gesture that occurred and levi  believed that at that moment who had not died slowly changed from Haflinge to men again. This was the first sign that the German have lost control and that the Jews were seen as people again.
  • it was starting point of the prisoners becoming human, who are willing to share their food by feeling thankful to the workers.



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