Survival in Auschwitz | Study Guide

Primo Levi

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Survival in Auschwitz | Chapter 14 : Kraus | Summary

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Summary

Levi speaks of the rain. It is November, cold and wet. Levi is at his work detail with Alberto, Gounan, Kraus, and Clausner. Kraus is struggling, and Levi "began to make a long speech to him." He tells Kraus that he dreamed of him, dreamed of him as a free man and in the dream gave him bread. He tells him they were warm and dry. Kraus makes statements that Levi believes are "promises and prophecies" but in Hungarian. The chapter closes with Levi pronouncing "poor silly Kraus" and clarifying that none of it is true, that he's not dreamed of Kraus at all.

Analysis

This chapter is unusual. In it, Levi highlights the monotony of the work detail, the cold weather, and ultimately, his own efforts to console a fellow prisoner. It is a kind act, but in the telling of it, Levi ends with telling the reader that none of what he told Kraus was true. He does not say that he was speaking to be kind, nor does he add that this is an example of his humanity. If anything, he downplays it.

In the context of the text as a whole, the reader might recall the chapter about the drowned and the saved. Levi is doing for Kraus what Alberto and Steinlauf and others have done for him. He is creating hope for Kraus. His dismissal of his actions here stands out. Levi, as with many survivors of an extreme event, quite likely would have experienced a degree of survivor guilt. He began the text noting that there were 650 Italian Jews sent to Auschwitz at the same time. All but four of them died. Feeling unworthy of being spared when so many people have died is a common experience for survivors. After Levi died from a fall in what was ruled a suicide, Elie Wiesel said, "Primo Levi died at Auschwitz forty years later."

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