Skip to Gross Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies site navigationSkip to main content

Suicides of Two Holocaust Survivors

(PDF) (DOC) (JPG)February 16, 2023

“The Suicides of Two Holocaust Survivors: Primo Levi and Jean Améry”

Dr. Yochai Ataria

Tuesday, March 21 / 1:45 – 3:25
Room H-129 (Ramapo College) or Online-Virtual

Register to Attend Online

Co-sponsored by the Psychology Program at Ramapo College

Part of our “Open Classroom Series.” Dr. Ataria will visit Dr. James Morley “Abnormal Psychology” course. Gross Center guests are invited to join the lecture in person or via livestream and, with deference to Ramapo students, ask questions of Dr. Ataria.

Picture of a young Primo Levi

Primo Levi (1919 – 1987)

Italian literary figure Primo Levi committed suicide on 11 April 1987 at 10:05 in Torino, in the house where he was born and lived his entire life—except for ‘that time’.  Most Levi scholars have contemplated the link between Levi’s suicide and his time as a prisoner at Auschwitz. The first part of this talk will explore the debates between scholars who have sought to establish such a link (or a lack thereof) between his suicide and his experiences in Auschwitz.

Black and white headshot of Jean Améry

Jean Améry (1912 – 1978)

In the second part of this talk I will compare Levi’s suicide with that of fellow essayist Jean Amery – who also a holocaust survivor. While Levi’s suicide was recieved as a scandal, Améry’s suicide was seen as reasonable, almost necessary (that is, if we accept the theory that writing, generated by acting-out, can lead to loss of self). Indeed, Améry would have been the first to sign a declaration that no one wants survivors of his kind. The difference between Levi and Améry is clear. For example, it is hard to imagine Levi writing a sentence such as ‘I speak as a victim and examine my resentments’ (Améry 1980, 63). Moreover, it seems that Améry (1999) believed that, sometimes, suicide—perhaps only suicide—can make us human. It is hard to see Levi agreeing with such a statement (although, as we shall see, he may have fully embraced the idea in the end). In any event, the open dialogue between Levi and Améry demands a closer examination of the link between their suicides.

Picture of Dr. Ataria wearing a blue shirt, sitting by booksYochai Ataria (1982) is an associate professor at Tel-Hai College, Israel. He conducted his PhD in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and his post-doctoral research in the Neurobiology Department at the Weizmann Institute of Science. He has published over 40 papers. He is the author of the following books: The Structural Trauma of Western Culture (2017); Body Disownership in Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (2018); The Mathematics of Trauma [Hebrew] (2014); Not in our Brain [Hebrew] (2019); Levi versus Ka-Tsetnik (2022); Consciousness in Flesh (2022). In addition, he co-edited the following volumes: Interdisciplinary Handbook of Culture and Trauma (2016); Jean Améry: Beyond the Minds Limits (2019); Kafka: New Perspectives [Hebrew] (2013); The End of the Human Era [Hebrew] (2016); 2001: A Space Odyssey – 50th Anniversary [Hebrew] (2019); Body Schema and Body Image: New Directions (2021)


E-News Archives

| 2023 | 2022 | 2021 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 |