Primo Levi was perhaps the most insightful memoirist writing about the Concentration Camps. He calls the camp by its German name "Lager" and the inmates are "Haftlings". Levi was both a poet and a chemist. He has the poetical power of intense feeling and the detached nature of the scientist.
The Concentration Camp becomes a kind of scientific experiment to elucidate certain characteristics of human nature. The goal of the inmate is to survive. There are in Levi's dichotomy the "drowned and the saved".
The inmate is a man without inhibitions for civilization has been stripped away by the brutality of the camp. Every person is alone. To sink, to be "drowned" is easy. One has to battle to live. One needs an advantage to survive--a priviledged job, a commrade who helps one to steal. For those who live by what they are given will die of starvation, of disease, of back-breaking labor.
This volume combines 2 of Levi's memoirs which were originally published separately: "Survival in Auschwitz" is his camp experience and "The Reawakening" is his journey home.
Levi writes, "Precisely because the lager was a great machine to reduce us to beasts we must not become beasts,...we must want to survive...to bear witness."