In chapter 1 we witness the process of humanization as the prisoners desperately attempt to hold on to their humanity. Conduct a close reading of this chapter, locating examples of both. A two column planner will be useful here.

As you continue to read, add examples of each as you find them in the text.

Image: Fingerprints by  kevindooley


  1. Lack of personal space
  2. prisoners referred to as pieces, loaded on to goods wagons (22)
  3. men women and children pressed together like cheap merchandise (23)
  4. lack of attention to human needs/life: ” it was the very discomfort, the blows, the cold, the thirst that kept us aloft in the void of bottomless despair” (23)
  5. “We were rarely heard” (24)
  6. Tattoos

We can consider the dehumanization of the prisoners from two perspectives:

1. a representation of the actual process of dehumanization evident during the Holocaust,

2. dehumanization as a literary technique emphasised by Levi.

In the second, case why is it so important to emphasize dehumanization? What role does this play in the text. Use an example from the text to justify your response.

A little perspective…

Consider the process of dehumanization from these perspectives:

  1. A prisoner from Levi’s generation (or later) – a ‘high number’,
  2. An SS guard,
  3. A worker involved in the day-to-day process of the Lager,
  4. A ‘low number’ prisoner.

How might the perspective change based on these roles?

Give voice to these individuals and craft a monologue that discusses the process of dehumanization during this time. Include elements of the text and try to make it clear how they have influenced your writing.

On the Bottom

Consider the passage from “Then for the first time… (32) to “‘to lie on the bottom'” (33).

What purpose does the passage serve? What language is used to support this?

“the double sense of the term extermination camp”. What is this?

Initiation and Ka-Be

Levi offers some contrast early on in the text between Initiation and  Ka Be. Consider the following:

1. In ‘Initiation’ Levi shows us much of daily life in the Lager. Outline these ideas.

2. Levi explains some processes withing Ka Be that on reflection seems ridiculous. Outline these.

3. Levi comes upon a realisation in Ka-Be. What is the realisation? How does it contrast much of the rest of the chapter?

4. Levi also contrasts life inside and outside Ka-Be. Outline this contrast.

Through each of the ideas how does this add to our understanding of dehumanization?

A Picture Tells All – Formative Task

Pictures are incredibly powerful and can tell incredible stories either alone or in sequence.

Your task is to choose either chapter 7, 8, 9, or 10 and present an idea, concept or part of the story in the chapter using only images. You should aim to employ 3-5 images (though you may go outside of this if you feel it is necessary.

Try to think symbollically – your story shouldn’t be simply a series of images OF the holocaust.

See this Wikipedia description of a Photo Essay for a definition of what you are trying to create.

Here are some examples:

Try using these resources to help you (I’d prefer if you could use Creative Commons licensed images)

Flickr CC


Once you have finished your story you will need to write a statement of intent that explains:

1. What you have created (part of the story, representation of a concept or idea)

2. Links to the text

3. Why you have chosen the images you have

Image: “Hutu man mutilated by the Hutu ‘Interahamwe’ militia” by James Nachtwey


EngA1 – If This is a Man – Photo Essay


One Response to “Dehumanization”

  1. claudiadast December 12, 2010 at 10:17 AM #

    I just found a pretty neat photo essay that TIME magazine just published:,29307,2036245_2217562,00.html

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