Levi’s Realization of the Ka-Be

10 Nov

Primo Levi is given a spoon and knife by Schmulek, the man in the bunk next to him, as he leaves with a group of men who were not shaved or showered. This is because the SS guard, the night before, puts a cross next to his name while in the Ka-Be. Levi discovers that the weak ones are selected to die. Schmulek suffers from organic decay which itself is not something you turn to the Ka-Be for since it is incurable and reason to be killed because of the economic advantages of not feeding someone who cannot work. Levi realizes he is expendable and that the weak are eliminated to make more room for the strong. To the SS, Levi was nothing more than a slave to do their bidding. Once in the Ka-Be they became worthless so to return from it is a miracle.

Primo discovers that they all are to die. He expresses this belief by saying, “Will we perhaps be able to survive the illnesses and escape the selections, perhaps even resist the work and hunger which wear us out – but then, afterwards? Here, momentarily far away from the curses and the blows, we can re-enter into ourselves and meditate, and then it becomes clear that we will not return.” (61). He acknowledges that they are all living for nothing else, and will be killed anyways; there is no returning to freedom and the real world from them. Once they were sent to that camp their lives, as they know them, have ended.

“The life of Ka-Be is the life of limbo.”(56)

“Ka-Be is the Lager without its physical discomforts” (61)


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