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Primo Levi – Se questo è un uomo

For the Giorno della Memoria, the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we would like to read and listen with you to the beautiful poem Se questo è un uomo by Primo Levi.

Primo Levi – Se questo è un uomo

Primo Levi se questo è un uomo

Primo Levi was a writer, an anti-fascist partisan and a chemist. On 13 December 1943 he was arrested by the fascists in the Aosta Valley and deported to the Auschwitz concentration camp because he was a Jew. On 27 January 1945 he was freed from Auschwitz and returned to Italy. His book Se questo è un uomo (en. If This is a Man), published in 1947, is a literary masterpiece in which the hell of concentration camps is described. The book starts with a poem of the same name, which you can find below.

Voi che vivete sicuri
nelle vostre tiepide case,
voi che trovate tornando a sera
il cibo caldo e visi amici:
Considerate se questo è un uomo
che lavora nel fango
che non conosce pace
che lotta per mezzo pane
che muore per un sì o per un no.
You who live safe
in your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
who works in the mud,
who does not know peace,
who fights for a scrap of bread,
who dies because of a yes or a no.
Considerate se questa è una donna,
senza capelli e senza nome
senza più forza di ricordare
vuoti gli occhi e freddo il grembo
come una rana d’inverno.
Consider if this is a woman
without hair and without name,
with no more strength to remember,
her eyes empty and her womb cold
like a frog in winter.
Meditate che questo è stato:
vi comando queste parole.
Scolpitele nel vostro cuore
stando in casa andando per via,
coricandovi, alzandovi.
Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
at home, in the street,
going to bed, rising;
Ripetetele ai vostri figli.
O vi si sfaccia la casa,
la malattia vi impedisca,
i vostri nati torcano il viso da voi.
Repeat them to your children.
Or may your house fall apart,
may illness impede you,
may your children turn their faces from you.
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