Auschwitz Testimonies: 1945-1986
November 2017, Polity
In 1945, soon after the liberation of Auschwitz, Soviet authorities in control of the Kattowitz (Katowice) camp in Poland asked Primo Levi and his fellow captive Leonardo De Benedetti to compile a detailed report on the sanitary conditions they witnessed in Auschwitz. The result was an extraordinary testimony and one of the first accounts of the extermination camps ever written. Their report, published in a medical journal in 1946, marked the beginnings of Levi’s life-long work as writer, analyst and witness.
In the subsequent four decades, Levi never ceased to recount his experiences in Auschwitz in a wide variety of texts, many of which are assembled together here for the first time, alongside other testimony from De Benedetti. From early research into the fate of their companions to the deposition written for Eichmann’s trial, Auschwitz Testimonies is a rich mosaic of documents, memories and critical reflections of great historic and human value.
Underpinned by his characteristically clear language, rigorous method and deep psychological insight, this collection of testimonies, reports and analyses reaffirms Primo Levi’s position as one of the most important chroniclers of the Holocaust.
Leonardo De Benedetti (1898-1983), also a native of Turin, was captured and deported to Auschwitz in the same year as Levi. After liberation, he resumed his work as a physician.
"One of the most important and gifted writers of our time."
"The triumph of human identity and worth over the pathology of human destruction glows virtually everywhere in Levi's writing ...Time and time again we are moved by his narratives of how men refuse erasure."
"Primo Levi's poise was one of the greatest achievements in the history of the human spirit. His writing restored the honor of humanism after Auschwitz."
"Whether as witness or imaginative artist, Levi stands high among the truly essential European writers of the past century."
Michael Dirda, Washington Post
"Levi writes of unspeakable things with charity, clarity and objectivity."
"Their unvarnished testimony speaks volumes about the weight of responsibility felt by survivors such as Levi to ensure that the world never forgot the "insane dream of building a thousand-year empire upon millions of corpses and slaves."
The Sydney Morning Herald