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Wall Street Journal. The Tragedy of Survival

Edward Rothstein.

The Lager’s inmates struggle with each other, snitch on each other, fight over rations, cheat the innocent. It is a ‘war of all against all.’

Does great suffering bring great wisdom? Does it lead to sophisticated moral views and subtle political positions? So it would seem, given the visionary status we grant those who have suffered grievously at human hands. By the time the writer Primo Levi attained literary renown in the 1980s, he was regarded as just such a seer. Born in Turin, Italy, in 1919, Levi said that he had “the good fortune” to be sent to Auschwitz in 1944—good fortune because, by that late date, Nazi Germany was extending the life span of some Jews in order to maximize labor yield. As a chemist, Levi eventually obtained a reprieve from…


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