The Auschwitz Report

Auschwitz Report Paperback, Verso; Reprint edition (March 3, 2015)

Among the first written accounts of the concentration camps—a major literary and historical discovery.

While in a Russian-administered holding camp in Katowice, Poland, in 1945, Primo Levi was asked to provide a report on living conditions in Auschwitz. Published the following year, it was subsequently forgotten and remained unknown to a wider public.

Dating from the weeks and months immediately after the war, Auschwitz Report details the authors’ harrowing deportation to Auschwitz, and how those who disembarked from the train were selected for work or extermination. As well as being a searing narrative of everyday life in the camp, and the organization and working of the gas chambers, it constitutes Levi’s first lucid attempts to come to terms with the raw horror of events that would drive him to create some of the greatest works of twentieth-century literature and testimony. Auschwitz Report is a major literary and historical discovery.

From Publishers Weekly
First published in Italy in 1946, this newly rediscovered early work by the celebrated late author of such Holocaust memoirs as Survival in Auschwitz—an eyewitness account of conditions at Buna-Monowitz, a satellite camp of Auschwitz—appears in English for the first time. The short report was written for the Russian authorities who had liberated the camp and were gathering information on German war crimes. While the report is not exactly a curiosity—one of the first written by eyewitnesses, it has an important place in Holocaust historiography—it contains little new information. Some of what it does contain—for instance, the authors thought the Sonderkommandos were criminal inmates rather than Jews—we now know to be inaccurate. Despite this, the publication of the document gives readers, and especially Holocaust scholars, new insights into Levi’s work. An excellent introduction by editor Gordon gives an astute overview of the stylistic and historical relationship between this work and Levi’s later autobiographical writings. Levi’s training as a chemist and his friend and fellow survivor De Benedetti’s training as a physician bring to the piece a dispassionate tone that has, in a sense, prefigured the best writing about the Holocaust. This is an important addition to Holocaust literature, but probably of limited interest to the general reader. (Oct.)

From The New Yorker
After the Red Army liberated Auschwitz, in 1945, the Russian command asked two ex-prisoners, Primo Levi, a young chemist, and his friend Leonardo De Benedetti, a physician, to write a report on the camp’s sanitary and medical arrangements. The following year, when the two men got home, they published their report in a medical journal and forgot about it. In this volume it appears in English for the first time. As Robert S. C. Gordon says in his thoughtful introduction, the book is important not just because it is the first published work by Levi; it contains the seeds of his great “Survival in Auschwitz.” This was the source of that book’s remarkable chapter on the camp’s infirmary. Stylistically, too, the “Report” can be seen as a trial run. It has the same noble sobriety as “Survival in Auschwitz,” lit with flashes of irony. The supreme irony, of course, is that Auschwitz had an infirmary at all.

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