Two depositions that Primo Levi made for trials
The two instances of testimony that Primo Levi delivered for submission to Italian and German judicial authorities, one in 1960 and the other in 1971, have long remained unpublished. They have been rediscovered and made note of. In them Levi goes over the circumstances of his deportation from September 1943 to October 1945. These include his experiences as a partisan in the Aosta Valley, his capture there by the Fascist militia, his being transferred to the transit camp at Fossoli, the train convoy towards Auschwitz, and his return home. The two texts have been collected under the title “Due deposizioni giurate di Primo Levi,” edited by Marco Belpoliti, in Marco Belpoliti & Andrea Cortellessa, Da una tregua all’altra, with contributions by Davide Ferrario, Massimo Raffaeli and Lucia Sgueglia (Milano: Chiarelettere, 2010) [“Two sworn depositions by Primo Levi,” in From one truce to the other].
Dated June 14 1960, the first deposition was sent that year to the officials at the prosecutors’ office in Jerusalem together with other testimony from Italian Jews, all of which was acquired for the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Primo Levi was not called to testify during the trial. The typescript text was found in the archives of Yad Vashem, the national agency for the memory of the Shoah, in Jerusalem by the Israeli scholar Margalit Shlain. The whole text was published for the first time under the title Odissea Auschwitz [the Auschwitz Odyssey] in the weekly magazine L’Espresso on September 27, 2007 (pp. 49-50). The text was accompanied by the comments of Marco Belpoliti, “Memoria offesa e ritrovata” [Memory offended and rediscovered] and of Meron Rapoport, “Ma Israele lo ignorò” [But Israel ignored him].
Dated May 3, 1971, the second deposition was given by Primo Levi before a German state prosecutor in the trail of Friedrich Bosshammer, the ex Sturmbannführer of the SS who headed the Gestapo Anti-Jewish Office in Italy. Bosshammer charged with deportation and mass murder. Levi’s testimony was transcribed by Eloisa Ravenna, the general secretary of the Centro di Documentazione Ebraica Contemporanea [Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation] (CDEC) in Milan. She was then working as historical expert for German judicial authorities. Levi’s deposition is preserved in the archives of the CDEC in addition to a questionnaire written by the German prosecutors along with Levi’s answers to them dated September 2, 1970. The deposition was first published under the title “Primo Levi. Questo era un uomo” [Primo Levi: This was a man] in the newspaper La Stampa on April 25, 2001 (p. 23) with a comment by Marco Belpoliti, “La contabilità del male” [The accounting records of evil”].