Primo Levi — Surviving Auschwitz

Primo Levi

Primo Levi

The Italian Jewish chemist and author, Primo Levi [1919 – 1987], was a notable survivor of Auschwitz whose powerful writing was second to none when it came to describing his experiences. If you haven’t yet read any of his books, it’s time to add them to your list. He was liberated from the concentration camp by Russia’s Red Army in January 1945 but was not able to return to Italy until four months later. His journey took him through Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Austria, and Germany and he did not arrive in Turin until 19th October, 1945.

“You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find warm food
And friendly faces when you return home.
Consider if this is a man
Who works in mud,
Who knows no peace,
Who fights for a crust of bread,
Who dies by a yes or no.
Consider if this is a woman
Without hair, without name,
Without the strength to remember,
Empty are her eyes, cold her womb,
Like a frog in winter.
Never forget that this has happened.
Remember these words.
Engrave them in your hearts,
When at home or in the street,
When lying down, when getting up.
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your houses be destroyed,
May illness strike you down,
May your offspring turn their faces from you.”
― Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz

“Even in this place one can survive, and therefore one must want to survive, to tell the story, to bear witness; and that to survive we must force ourselves to save at least the skeleton, the scaffolding, the form of civilization. We are slaves, deprived of every right, exposed to every insult, condemned to certain death, but we still possess one power, and we must defend it with all our strength for it is the last — the power to refuse our consent.”
― Primo Levi, Survival in Auschwitz

V.E. Day — Winston Churchill

Churchill_waves_to_crowds

“My dear friends, this is your hour. This is not victory of a party or of any class. It’s a victory of the great British nation as a whole. We were the first, in this ancient island, to draw the sword against tyranny. After a while we were left all alone against the most tremendous military power that has been seen. We were all alone for a whole year.

There we stood, alone. Did anyone want to give in? [The crowd shouted “No.”] Were we down-hearted? [“No!”] The lights went out and the bombs came down. But every man, woman and child in the country had no thought of quitting the struggle. London can take it. So we came back after long months from the jaws of death, out of the mouth of hell, while all the world wondered. When shall the reputation and faith of this generation of English men and women fail? I say that in the long years to come not only will the people of this island but of the world, wherever the bird of freedom chirps in human hearts, look back to what we’ve done and they will say “do not despair, do not yield to violence and tyranny, march straightforward and die if need be-unconquered.” Now we have emerged from one deadly struggle-a terrible foe has been cast on the ground and awaits our judgment and our mercy….”

via The Churchill Centre

Blessing or Curse? | Adventures In Historyland

The British army in the light of Waterloo.

“As a battle of science, it was demonstrative of no manoeuvre” wrote Sir Harry Smith sometime between 1820 and 1848. Writing in July of 1815 Baron Marbot was incredulous at the defeat and confirmed that “We were manoeuvred like so many pumpkins”. Smith went on to say “It was no Salamanca or Vitoria, were science was so beautifully exemplified: it was as a stand up fight between two pugilists “Mill away” until one is beaten. The Battle of Waterloo, with all it’s political glory has destroyed the field movement of the British Army. So scientifically laid down by Dundas, so improved by that hero of war and drill, Sir John Moore. All that light troop duty that had taught, by which the world, through the medium of the Spanish war was saved, has been replaced by the most heavy of manoeuvres, by squares, centre formations, and moving in masses, which require time to collect and equal time to extend; and all because the Prussians and the Russians did not know how to move quicker, we, forsooth must adapt to their ways…”

The operational tactics of the British army post 1815 can be summarised by well over 30 Squares at Waterloo and a single line at Balaclava. The traditions of the British army were born in 1815, throughout the 19th century it took its character from the exploits of the national contingent at Mont St Jean. Determination, courage, stolidity, resilience, the rock hard determination to stand unflinching against all odds. The strange thing is that he opposite was true previously. All through the 18th century, when the bedrock for the traditions of Waterloo was set down, from 1701 to 1814, the focus was on amphibious landings, offensive movement and increasingly open formations, as the experiences of war in America altered strategic thinking. By 1854, the lessons of the 18th century had…

Read more: Blessing or Curse? | Adventures In Historyland.