Wednesdays, 7:30 – 9:00 pm, January 3, January 10 and January 24
With Dan Deykin
Come to one, two or all three of these fascinating classes!

Primo Levi, an Auschwitz survivor, felt obliged “to live to tell”. He wrote: “Human memory is a marvelous but fallacious instrument…The experiences that we survivors of the Nazi Lagers (camps) carry within us are becoming more extraneous as the years pass… We must be listened to…It happened, therefore it can happen again. This is the core of what we have to say.”

This course will take up his challenge to listen and learn from what he has to say. The course will be conducted as a series of seminars in which participants will discuss selections from three of his iconic books: Survival in Auschwitz, The Drowned and the Saved, and The Periodic Table. Participants are strongly urged to purchase the readily available texts to fully appreciate the context of selections, and to enhance class discussion.*

SESSION 1, January 3: This first class offers an introduction to Primo Levi and the world of Piedmont Italy in which he lived, leading up to the crisis of 1943, when the Nazis invaded northern Italy.

The Periodic Table. Argon, the first chapter.
Survival In Auschwitz. Preface, The Shema, and selections from Chapters 1-5.

SESSION 2, January 10: The Moral Ambiguity of Survival

Survival in Auschwitz selections from chapters 9-10.
Drowned and the Saved, chapters 1,2,3,8 and the conclusion.

SESSION 3, January 24: Fiction with a Mission

Primo Levi wrote over a hundred short stories, many of them science fiction fantasies, with a hidden meaning likely. The Periodic Table is a memoir in which he uses the elements themselves as a metaphoric biography. We will read selected short stories and chapters from the Periodic Table, asking whether it is possible to read them without the lens of Auschwitz.

The Periodic Table. Potassium, Chromium, and Vanadium.
The Short Stories. Angelic Butterfly, The Molecule’s Defiance and Gladiators.
(The Short Stories will be handed out after sessions 1 and 2.)

About Dan Deykin:

Daniel Deykin is an Emeritus Professor of Medicine and Public Health at Boston University. He has been a member of Temple Ohabei Shalom for 50 years. He served as President of the Congregation from  1980 to 1982, and he has been an honorary member of the Board of Trustees since then. He and a group of fellow Me’ah graduates have met weekly studying Jewish texts with teachers drawn from the academic and religious community of greater Boston.

Primo Levi was a relative by marriage, who was in frequent contact with the family, generating Dan’s long-standing interest in Levi’s life and works. In 1985 Dan met with Primo Levi when he came to Boston. In 2016, he conducted a twelve-week seminar on Primo Levi at the Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement. We are delighted that Dan has offered to make this fascinating course available at Temple Ohabei Shalom.



Brookline Booksmith has some quantities of all three, and they can order more, and Amazon also carries all three of these books:

Survival in Auschwitz   (Amazon prices: $5.03-$12.00)
The Drowned and the Saved  (Amazon prices: $4.49-$16.95)
The Periodic Table  (Amazon prices: $5.95-$12.96)
Short stories will be handed out after sessions 1 and 2.