Baptism and Eucharist at Auschwitz

by Kim on January 28, 2018

Häftling*: I have learnt that I am Häftling. My number is 174517; we have been baptized, we will carry the tattoo on our left arm until we die.

The operation was slightly painful and extraordinarily rapid: they placed us all in a row, and one by one, according to the alphabetical order of our names, we filed past a skilful official, armed with a sort of pointed tool with a very short needle. It seems that this is the real, true initiation: only by ’showing one’s number’ can one get bread and soup. Several days passed, and not a few cuffs and punches, before we became used to showing our number promptly enough not to disorder the daily operation of food distribution …

*Prisoner

Primo Levi, If This is a Man (Abacus edition, 1987), pp. 33-34.
[Se questo è un uomo first published in Italy, 1963.]

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