No other Auschwitz survivor has been as literarily powerful and influential as Primo Levi. But Levi was not only a victim or a witness. In the fall of 1943, at the very start of the Italian Resistance, he took part in the first efforts at guerrilla warfare against Nazi forces. Yet those months are strikingly unmentioned in Levi’s writings—aside from one obscure passage hinting that his deportation to Auschwitz was linked directly to an “ugly secret” from that time.
What did Levi mean by those dramatic words? His small partisan band, it appears, had turned on itself, committing a brutal act against two of its own members. Using that shocking episode as a starting point, Sergio Luzzatto offers a rich examination of the early days of the Resistance, tracing vivid portraits of both rebels and Nazi collaborators. And he provides profound insight into the origins of the moral complexity that runs through the work of Primo Levi himself.