Tag: Auschwitz

Checking Your Privilege At Auschwitz

Primo Levi, 1976 appendix to If This Is a Man: We should recall that in some camps uprisings did take place: in Treblinka, in Sobibór, and even in Birkenau, one of the sub-camps of Auschwitz…In all instances, they were planned and led by prisoners who were in some sense privileged, and so in better physical and spiritual condition than the ordinary prisoners. This should not be surprising: only at first glance does it seem paradoxical that the ones who revolt are those who suffer least.

All that good, expensive gas wasted on the Jews!

People sometimes ask why I’m a fan of Hannah Arendt. I’ve a complicated relationship to her work, so I wouldn’t characterize myself as a complete fan. But I do love reading her, and one of the reasons I do is that she had such a brutal and unforgiving sense of irony, which she often held in reserve for only the most morally addled sectors of the bourgeoisie. (In this respect she was quite like Brecht and other Weimar modernists.) Nowhere is this more on display than in Eichmann in Jerusalem, which is probably my favorite Arendt text. Here’s a representative passage (pp. 110-111). My next story is even more to the point, since it concerns someone who was not a “leader,” […]