Final Exam 2017

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?

              How many people were held at the camp?

p. 15    What made the day before departure from the detention camp surreal?

p. 16    What does Levi find absurd about the Germans' thinking and 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    How quickly are the prisoners dehumanized?

p.  19   What did Levi say to the woman who sat with him throughout the journey on the night before they arrived at Auschwitz?

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


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?

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. 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 prison band and 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?

p. 32    Describe the topography of the Auschwitz real estate market.

p. 33.   Describe the hierarchy of Auschwitz’s class system.

p. 33    What is the basic rule about all possessions at Auschwitz? (food, paper, wire, buttons, shoes)

p. 34    What are the rules at Auschwitz designed to do?

p. 35    How do you find the right job at the Buna Works?

p. 36    How does the nature of Time change at Auschwitz?

p. 37    How does the body rapidly change in this environment?