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Course Hero. "Survival in Auschwitz Study Guide." January 18, 2018. Accessed November 16, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Survival-in-Auschwitz/.

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Course Hero, "Survival in Auschwitz Study Guide," January 18, 2018, accessed November 16, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Survival-in-Auschwitz/.

Survival in Auschwitz | Symbols

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Triangles

The prisoners at Auschwitz were marked by triangles that signified their status. Within the Lager (camp) where Primo Levi was held were those wearing green triangles (to denote a criminal). Others wore red triangles (to mark a political prisoner). The Jews wore not a triangle but a red and yellow Magen David (Star of David). Even within the group of those marked for death in the extermination and slave labor camp, the Jews were marked differently.

Shoes

Shoes are both a symbol and a means of torture. When one arrived at the camp, all items—including shoes and clothes—were taken. The prisoners were dehumanized by this. It also served as a way to cause them suffering. Ill-fitting, mismatched shoes with heavy wooden soles were a daily and constant way to add to the pain of those imprisoned at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When prisoners went to the hospital ward, they again surrendered their shoes. Everything about the process was designed to increase the suffering and dehumanization of the prisoners. Shoes represented a process to achieve both of those objectives simultaneously.

Numbers

The numbers tattooed on their arms are among the most visible and obvious symbols of the Nazi attempt to dehumanize the prisoners. Each prisoner was tattooed with a series of numbers. He must show his number to receive his meager soup and bread ration. The numbers indicated several things—when the prisoner entered the camp and the nationality of the prisoner. The manifestation of this dehumanization is the case of the prisoner Null Achtzehn (018) who, according to Levi, no longer recalls his own name. The reader will also note that tattoos are forbidden according to the Torah. The dehumanization of being identified only by a tattoo is doubly foul for an observant Jew.

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