Final Exam 2016: The Cosmic Salon:


Survival in Auschwitz, pp.9-38






At the outset Primo tells us that he writes these memoirs for two basic reasons:

  • First, to warn us of the danger that we face when we allow the conviction that strangers are enemies to become ‘a major premise in a syllogism’. What does that mean?
  • Second, he describes the urge to tell the truth as ‘an immediate and violent need’ felt by every prisoner in the lager. Therefore, the form of his memoir is fragmentary, the episodes ordered only by the urgency of his need to describe them.



Paragraph: 26-27 Explain the double sense of the term “extermination camp. What are the key ingredients to the Nazi psychological assault on the prisoners?


The Journey


Discussion Questions:


p. 13    How does Levi describe himself before his capture and deportation?

p. 13    What was the nature of his brief experience as a partisan?

p. 13    Why did he identify himself during his interrogation as a Jew and not as member of    

             the political resistance?

p. 15    What made the day before departure surreal?

p. 16    What does Levi find absurd about the Germans methods?

p. 17    Why does Levi argue that perfect unhappiness is unattainable?

p. 18    Describe the impact of the conditions of the boxcar on the character of the prisoners.

p. 18    Describe the impact of the conditions of the boxcar on the behavior of the prisoners. How quickly are the prisoners dehumanized?

p. 19    What made the selections on the platform ‘dreamlike’?  How many of the Italian Jews   survive their first night in Auschwitz?

p. 20    Describe the ‘Canada’ detachment of prisoners who welcomed the prisoners.



On the Bottom


26-27 Explain the double sense of the term “extermination camp. What are the key   

          ingredients to the Nazi psychological assault on the prisoners?

p. 23   List the orders given to the prisoners upon arrival at the disinfection center.

p. 24   Describe what happens in the shower room.

p. 24   What is the gist of the Prisoner Doctor’s speech?

p. 27    What does Levi find at ‘the bottom’? What psychological challenge will survival 

            require to be overcome?

p. 28    What is Levi’s number? Why are the prisoners numbered? How can the history of the camp be explained in numbers? Why are those with high numbers regarded with ridicule?

p. 29    When Primo reaches for an icicle, it is knocked from his hand by a kapo. When he asks, “Why?”, he is told, “There is no why here.” What does that mean?

p. 30    What is the purpose of The Parade? Why are the prisoners forced to march in this manner? What is its purpose? (The Tune ‘Rosamunda')


YET p. 31    How does Primo describe Schlome's  face, a face he never saw again?