Bearing Witness to the Holocaust: Lines from Primo Levi’s “Shema”

Italian Jew, Primo Levi, was a concentration camp survivor (he had been at Buna-Monowitz). His words below come from his poem, “Shema”, which he penned in January of 1946:

You who live secure

In your warm houses,

Who return at evening to find

Hot food and friendly faces:


     Consider whether this is a man,

     Who labors in the mud

     Who knows no peace

     Who fights for a crust of bread

     Who dies at a yes or a no.

     Consider whether this is a woman,

     Without hair or name

     With no more strength to remember

     Eyes empty and womb cold

     As a frog in winter

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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