Fun Facts Friday: Primo Levi

Primo Levi (31 July, 1919 – 11 April, 1987) was an Italian chemist and writer books about his experiences as a Jewish man during World War II.

Books by Primo LeviBooks by Primo Levi*

  1. Born in Turin, Italy to a Jewish liberal family. He did very well academically both at school and at home tutoring.
  2. He started attending Massimo d’Azeglio Royal Gymnasium one year before he was supposed to. He was the youngest person in his class, and the only Jew.
  3. Even though he was a sick young man he always liked to do physical activity. The young Levi and his friends would sneak into out of use sports stadiums for their own competitions.
  4. As a boy he joined a Fascist movement, but at age 14 Mr. Levi was admitted into a high school noted for anti-Fascist teachers including famous author Cesare Pavese. Finally he wasn’t the only Jew in his class.
  5. The book Concerning the Nature of Things  by Sir William Bragg inspired Mr. Levi to be a chemist.
  6. Mr. Levi enrolled at the University of Turin, one of 80 students, to study chemistry. After several months he and another 19 students were selected to study chemistry full time.
  7. After the Nazis took over Fossil, Mr. Levi was transported to Auschwitz where he spent eleven months before being liberated by the Russians. He was able to survive Auschwitz by working at the IG Farben’s Buna Werke laboratory due to his qualifications as a chemist, stealing materials and trading them for extra food. A short time before the liberation he fell ill with scarlet fever and was put in the camp’s hospital, thus missing the death march.
  8. It took Mr. Levi several moths to get back home, first spending time at a Soviet camp for former concentration camp prisoner, than a railway journey through Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Austria, and Germany. For the rest of his life he suffered psychological trauma.
  9. Mr. Levi started working at DUCO, a paint factory which was part of Du Pont. At the same time he was writing his first draft of If This is a Man, his testimony for the horrors the Nazis inflicted on Jews and others.
  10. Mr. Levi’s books were translated into many languages as he became a major literary figure in Italy. His book, The Truce, is a standard text in Italian school

Books by Primo Levi*

Zohar – Man of la Book
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account

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