Holocaust Remembrance Day

Auschwitz: still a meaningless name to us then, but at least it had to refer to somewhere on this earth. (If this is a man, Primo Levi)

We climb down, they make us enter an enormous empty room that is poorly heated. We have a terrible thirst. The weak gurgle of the water in the radiators makes us ferocious; we have had nothing to drink for four days. But there is also a tap and above it a card which says that it is forbidden to drink as the water is dirty. Nonsense. It seems obvious that the card is a joke, "they" know that we are dying of thirst and they put us in a room, and there is a tap, and Wassertrinken

Verboten. I drink and I incite my companions to do likewise, but I have to spit it out, the water is tepid and sweetish, with the smell of a swamp. This is hell. Today, in our times, hell must be like this. A huge, empty room: we are tired, standing on our feet, with a tap which drips while we cannot drink the water, and we wait for something which will certainly be terrible, and nothing happens and nothing continues to happen. What can one think about? One cannot think anymore, it is like being already dead. Someone sits down on the ground. The time passes drop by drop.


We have chosen this extract from the chapter On the bottom of If this is a man by Primo Levi in order to suggest a reflection on the “Holocaust Remembrance Day 2016”.


We think Levi’s writing simplicity and the nearly scientific precision of the words he uses to describe the arrival at Auschwitz represent one of the best means to enter the lucid madness of the human being in the grip of a delusion of grandeur and to glean from it the commitment of “never again”. Beyond ant rhetoric.


The rhythm of an infinite and inexplicable time is beaten by the “drop by drop” of undrinkable water from the tap, that begins to enter the mind, to dig into everyone’s thought with an exacerbating slowness. After four days spent without drinking anything, locked up in an apocalyptic journey.


The syntax expands in the recurring “and” that lengthens the paragraph beginning with the sentence “This is the hell”. It implies that the list of the ands will get longer and longer from that moment, in order to destroy human dignity and therefore the person.


There won’t be any “or”. Each possibility of choice is nullified.


We suggest not only to follow the interesting planned events which commemorate the Holocaust Remembrance Day, but also to go back to the witnesses books and to find a moment during the day to read some lines in solitude.


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