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Jean Samuel, Primo Levi’s friend, died. They met in Auschwitz

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    Samuel was Pikolo, protagonist of the chapter The Canto of Ulysses in If This is a Man.


    Jean Samuel died on Septerber 8, 2010. Born in Wasselonne, Belgium, in 1922, he met Primo Levi, 3 years older than him, in Auschwitz-Monowitz, where Samuel was deported after being arrested in the region Lot-et-Garonne, France, on March 4, 1944, with his parents, his brother Pierre and other four family members.
    Graduated in generic chemistry, he was assigned to the Chemical Kommando, the same team Primo Levi was sent to work while in the Lager.
    Then, he experienced the tragic “death marches”: he left Auschwitz on January 18, 1945, and arrived in Buchewald on January 26. He was freed on April 11, 1945.
    After the liberation, he contacted Primo Levi in 1946: the met a year later, engaging regular encounters between Italy and France.
    In If This is a Man, Samuel is the protagonist of the chapter The Canto of Ulysses, Pikolo, «which meant the messenger-clerk, responsible for the cleaning of the hut, for the distribution of tools, for the washing of bowls and for keeping record or the working hours of the Kommando».
    He was the author, with Jean-Marc Dreyfus, of the interview book Il m'appelait Pikolo. Un compagnon de Primo Levi raconte (Laffont, Paris 2007).

    Available online, in Italian, the interview Samuel released for the 2003/2004 Yearbook (Annuario 2003/2004) of the Primo Levi High School in Montebelluna (Tv).

    Primo Levi's biographer Carole Angier (The Double Bond. Primo Levi: A Biography, Viking, London 2002) wrote an obituary of Jean Samuel for «The Times»: Jean Samuel. Survivor of Auschwitz who formed a close bond with Primo Levi and was immortalised in If This Is a Man, «The Times», September 23 2010, p. 63.

    Available online, Jean Samuel: Auschwitz survivor who featured in Primo Levi's Holocaust masterpiece If This Is a Man, Samuel's obituary written for «The Independent» by Robert Gordon, professor of Italian Culture at the Cambridge University and author of the first Primo Levi Lecture (published as «Sfacciata fortuna». Luck and the Holocaust, Einaudi, Torino 2010).


    Go to In memory of Jean Samuel, by Alberto Cavaglion, in the "Auschwitz" section.

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