In 1943, 16 year-old Paul Steinberg was arrested in Paris and deported to Auschwitz. He survived the death camp due in part to his admitted ruthlessness and not a little to luck. Some 50 years later, Steinberg describes his strategies for survival, the maneouvres and tactics he applied with cold competence. In an unsparing act of self-examination ...
In 1943, 16 year-old Paul Steinberg was arrested in Paris and deported to Auschwitz. He survived the death camp due in part to his admitted ruthlessness and not a little to luck. Some 50 years later, Steinberg describes his strategies for survival, the maneouvres and tactics he applied with cold competence. In an unsparing act of self-examination he traces his passage from artless adolescent to a ruthless creature determined to do anything to live. Steinberg was assigned to work in the camp's laboratory alongside Primo Levi, who would later immortalize his fellow inmate as "Henri", the ultimate survivor, the paradigm of the prisoner who clung to life at the cost of his own humanity. Of Levi's judgment, Steinberg says, "no doubt he saw straight. I probably was that creature, prepared to use whatever means I had available. I will never know whether I am entitled to ask for clemency from the jury." But, he asks, "is it so wrong to survive?".
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Publishers Weekly, 2000-08-04 In If This Is a Man, Primo Levi describes Henri, a fellow inmate at Auschwitz, as a strategist of survival: flattering, stealing and endlessly manipulating the kapos and other prisoners for his own survival. Levi's empathy is challenged as Henri instills in Levi "a slight sense of defeat" and the fear that Levi has been "not a man to him, but an instrument in his hands." Now, 40 years later, SteinbergDthe "Henri" of Levi's bookDhas written his own memoir, which is both an answer to the other man's work and an explanation of his life and actions. Written in spare, highly unsentimental prose not unlike Levi's, balancing stark, horrific descriptions of life in the camps with self-critical meditations on the very purpose of writing such a memoir, Steinberg's book stands as a shocking rejoinder to Levi. Detailing his arrestDhe was a brilliant 16-year-old student in France when he was deported to AuschwitzDand his life at the camp, Steinberg describes himself as crossing the "gulf that separates adolescence... and adulthood" by deciding to "become a player in the game": "that cold and calculating creature singled out by Levi." Unrelenting in his descriptions of his plans for survivalDbefriending and sharing choice food with a brutal camp kapo, using violence against an elderly Jewish inmate to reinforce Steinberg's own position of security, and lying about being JewishDthe author is unapologetic for how he survived. With brutal honesty and frightening self-examination, Steinberg dissects himself and forces readers to reexamine what morality means in the face of unremitting horror. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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