Primo Levi’s memoir highlights the shocking and appalling conditions Jewish prisoners had to endure during their time at Auschwitz. Levi throughout the novel mentions that there were two types of people who lived in the camp: the musselman and those who had the will to fight and survive. The musselman were those who were resigned to death. They were generally the weakest members of the prisoners. Levi described them as quiet and just going through the motions of their daily lives. Not long after they arrive in the camp, usually about one month, they died and were taken away, becoming a vague and soon forgotten part of everyone’s memory from their time there. Then there were people like Lorenzo and Alberto who retained the mental fight to survive. Though they lived day by day, the did whatever it took to ensure they were in the best shape possible, whether it was acquiring extra food or clothing.
After highlighting the two types of people who lived in the camp, the question is, which category did Levi fall into? Yes, Levi did survive, but some of his actions fell into the musselman category. He was a weak individual, exemplified by the fact that no one wanted to work with him in the fields. He occasionally spoke about how he stopped trying to understand the world around him and stopped thinking about the future. Yet at the same time, he displays the type of survival instincts needed to make it through Auschwitz. He learns the system of bartering and leverages every trick possible to ensure he gets extra food, rests longer, and acquires extra belongings like clothes. In the end it’s probably easy to just say he was a fighter. But he never really says it himself or goes into detail on which type of person he was.