In This Review

Primo Levi’s Resistance: Rebels and Collaborators in Occupied Italy
Primo Levi’s Resistance: Rebels and Collaborators in Occupied Italy
By Sergio Luzzatto. Translated by Frederika Randall
Metropolitan Books, 2016, 304 pp

Primo Levi may well be the most celebrated chronicler of the experience of European Jews in the middle of the last century. His first masterpiece, If This Is a Man (known in the United States as Survival in Auschwitz), was first published in Italian in 1947 and described in horrifying detail how Auschwitz turned inmates into beasts—an insight based on his own experience as a prisoner there. His subsequent writings examined how memories of the Holocaust placed barriers between survivors and those who never experienced the camps. He committed suicide in 1987 by throwing himself down a stairwell. This book tells the little-known story of Levi’s brief time as a member of the Italian antifascist resistance. He faced complex moral dilemmas, notably the decision to murder fellow partisans so that the group as a whole could survive—a step that eventually led to Levi’s internment at Auschwitz. Luzzatto, an award-winning Italian historian, writes in a sensitive and insightful manner about times and troubles no one should forget.