I have read his books and I suspect he deliberately changed some details for literary purposes. Of course Holocaust deniers might question much of what he wrote but do serious historians also cast doubt on some important details of his Survival in Auschwitz and The Truce (The Reawakening). A question I have is simply why the guards left anyone alive to bear witness. I know that the guards were in a hurry; I also know that they had actually been instructed not to kill remaining Jews by Himmler to use as bargaining chips (of course murders continued sometimes anyway) and perhaps Levi's survival has something to do with Himmler's directive.

EDIT: I would say, what important aspects of Levi's books are either considered heavily fictionalized or outright falsehoods? I know that various characters, even though given pseudonyms in the books, were real people but from memory, I question things like the above-mentioned fact that he was left alive, what circumstances allowed this since nazis were still in killing mode long after the war was clearly lost. There is a scene where an Allied prisoner of war gives Levi a thumbs up: POWs really interacted (at a distance even) with Jewish inmates?

  • 4
    "Why didn't the SS guards kill the remaining concentration camp prisoners?" is a valid question (although it should researched and qualified a little more, as in many cases they prisoner were killed through death marchs). But asking for every aspect of several books that are inaccurate is too broad, in my opinion. Could you edit the question? Of course, if there are other issues coming from the books those can be asked in different questions.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 12:45
  • "why the guards left anyone alive to bear witness" -> bargaining chips, send personal to the frontlines, there's many reasons out there. Having heard non jewish prisoners of those camps (spanish republicans, french communists, POWS) describe their experience, it seems like his books are quite accurate and the situations descrbied reasonable.
    – CptEric
    Commented Aug 3, 2017 at 13:26

1 Answer 1


I read through a lot of reviews, and the only thing I could find hinting at any inaccuracy at all was his own narrative voice. It turns out he had a life-long battle with depression (before and after the camp). I'm not sure why that particular reviewer thought that fact ought to have been more obvious from the reading, but they did.*

I can't find any inkling of someone suggesting the basic facts may be off, and several reviewers claiming historical expertise saying they jibe with what they know independently.

So unless something pops up, it seems fair to treat it as historically accurate. Of course there really are no dearth of first-hand accounts floating around, so it would be trivial to insulate yourself from any inaccuracies in one by reading some of the others too.

* I have three such people in my family, an there's only one its really obvious when they are suffering

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    Not directly addressing your "Edit", but I will say here that it appears he got left behind prior to liberation due to being in the infirmary too ill to march. I think its mostly a modern affection that the Nazis were embarrassed about what they were doing and trying to hide it. Mostly the guards' job was to guard prisoners, and letting prisoners go would be kinda the opposite of that. So they marched out with the ones that could, but left the very sick to die.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Aug 1, 2017 at 21:31

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