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The Black Hole of Auschwitz

The Black Hole of Auschwitz

Primo Levi, Marco Belpoliti (Editor), Sharon Wood (Translated by)

ISBN: 978-1-509-52623-9

May 2017, Polity

240 pages



The Black Hole of Auschwitz brings together Levi’s writings on the Holocaust and his experiences of the concentration camp, as well as those on his own accidental status as a writer and his chosen profession of chemist. In this book Levi rails intelligently and eloquently against what he saw as the ebb of compassion and interest in the Holocaust, and the yearly assault on the veracity and moral weight of the testimonies of its survivors. For Levi, to keep writing and, through writing, to understand why the Holocaust could happen, was nothing less than a safeguard against the loss of a collective memory of the atrocities perpetrated against the Jewish people.

This moving book not only reveals the care and conviction with which he wrote about the Holocaust, but also shows the range of Levi’s interests and the skill, thoughtfulness and sensitivity he brought to all his subjects. The consistency and moral force of Levi’s reflections and the clarity and intimacy of his style will make this book appeal to a wide readership, including those who have read and been moved by his masterpiece If This is a Man.

Through the Looking Glass: Preface to the Italian Edition.

Note to the Texts.


1. Deportees. Anniversary.

2. The Monument at Auschwitz.

3. ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’.

4. The Time of Swastikas.

5. Preface to the German Edition of If This is a Man.

6. Preface to the School Edition of the Truce.

7. Resistance in the Camps.

8. Preface to Y. Katzenelson’s The Song of the Murdered Jewish People.

9. Note to the Theatre Version of If This is a Man.

10. Preface to L.Poliakov’s Auschwitz.

11. To the Young: Preface to If This a Man.

12. A Past We Thought Would Never Return.

13. Preface to J. Presser’s The Night of the Girondins.

14. Films and Swastikas.

15. Letter to Latanzio: ‘Resign’.

16. Women to the Slaughter.

17. So That the SS do not Return.

18. It began with Kristallnacht.

19. Jean Améry, Philosopher and Suicide.

20. But We Were There.

21. Concentration Camp at Italy’s Door.

22. No Return to the Holocausts of the Past (Nazi.

Massacres, Crowds and the TV).

23. Images of Holocaust.

24. Europe in Hell.

25. Anne Frank, the Voice of History.

26. Seekers of Lies to Deny the Holocaust.

27. To the Visitor.

28. You Tell Me if This is Fortunate Jew.

29. The Pharaoh with the Swastika.

30. Preface to H. Langbein’s People in Auschwitz.

31. Why See These Images Again?.

32. Preface to R. Höss’s Commadant of Aushwitz.

33. The Black Hole of Auschwitz.

34. Preface to La vita offesa.

35. To Our Generation.


36. The Writer Who is Not a Writer.

37. Racial Intolerance.

38. Preface to L. Caglioti’s I due volti della chimica (The.

Two Faces of Chemistry).

39. We See No Other Adam in the Neighbourhood.

40. Horseshoe Nails.

41. Let’s See How Much has Come True.

42. Our First Ancestors were Not Animals.

43. Collectors of Torments.

44. Brute Force.

45. Note to Franz Kafka’s The Trial.

46. Asymmetry and Life.

47. Preface to Jews in Turin.

48. Itinerary of a Jewish Writer.

49. With the Key of Science.

50. Preface to The Jews of Eastern Europe.

51. What was it that Burned Up in Space?.

52. The Plague has No Frontiers.

53. The Community of Venice and its Ancient Cemetery.

54. The Philosopher-Engineer and his Forbidden Dreams.

55. Guest of Captain Nemo.

Index of Names.

"One of the most important and gifted writers of our time."

Italo Calvino

  • This volume contains a selection of Primo Levi’s writings which shows at once the range of his interests, and the skill, thoughtfulness and sensitivity he brought to his subjects.

  • The first part of this collection brings together Levi’s passionate and powerful articles about the holocaust and the concentration camp, including “Arbeit Macht Frei” and “With Anne Frank, history spoke”.

  • The second part contains some of his best literary prefaces, his writing on his own literary output (such as “The writer who is not a writer”) and his essays on chemistry and science (such as “Asymmetry and Life”).

  • These writings will appeal to a wide readership, not only to those who have read and been moved by Primo Levi’s masterpiece, “If this is a Man”.