Primo Levi was an Italian Jew born on July 31, 1919 at Corso Re Umberto 75 in Turin, Italy, to Jewish parents Cesare and Esther “Rina” Levi. His father worked for the manufacturing firm Ganz and spent much of his time working abroad in Hungary, where Ganz was based. Levi’s mother was well educated, having attended the Istituto Maria Letizia. Rina and Cesare’s marriage was arranged by Rina’s father, Cesare Luzzati, who gave the young couple the apartment at Corso Re Umberto as a wedding gift. Primo Levi lived there for almost his entire life.
Primo Levi was an intelligent young man who excelled in school. In September 1930 he entered the Massimo d’Azeglio Royal Gymnasium a year ahead of normal entrance requirements. In class he was the youngest, the shortest and the most clever…he was also the only Jew. All this brought as its reward constant bullying. In August 1932, following two years at the Talmud Torah school in Turin, he sang in the local synagogue for his Bar Mitzvah. In 1933, he joined the Avanguardisti movement for young Fascists, as was expected of all young Italian schoolboys. He never wanted to be a soldier, so he avoided rifle drill by joining the ski division, and spent every Saturday during the season on the slopes above Turin. As a young boy Levi was plagued by illness, particularly chest infections, but he was keen to participate in physical activity. In his teens, Levi and a few friends would sneak into a disused sports stadium and conduct athletic competitions.
Levi later became a scientist, and it was this decision that would save his life during the Holocaust years…so to speak. When the deportations began, Levi found himself on a train to Auschwitz…the notorious death camp. The prisoners were put through a rigorous selection process. Those who didn’t make the cut, went directly to the gas chambers. The rest were placed into forced labor…a harsh back-breaking labor with starvation level rations.
Surviving the initial selection process at Auschwitz merely qualified a prisoner to be assigned to extremely harsh conditions involving back-breaking labor and intentionally miniscule amounts of nourishment. Levi was different. He was considered “useful” to the Nazis. His expertise as a scientist got him assigned in the camp laboratory. It also got him better food rations. Many would consider him lucky, but there was a price to pay for such luck. Levi was spared the horrific treatment his fellow prisoners were subjected to, but his protection from actually being subjected to such treatment did not save him from the horrors of witnessing such treatment. Levi tells the story of how prisoners at Auschwitz were treated in the books he has written on the subject. He tells of periodic selections, in which prisoners were forced to strip naked. These inspections were to “weed out” prisoners who were too exhausted or sick to provide meaningful labor. These prisoners were designated for transport to Auschwitz-Birkenau and the gas chamber. The prisoners who had been at Auschwitz…unlike newer prisoners, knew exactly what awaited them.
Levi’s description of this process from his work “The Drowned and the Saved” explains how most were already too mentally defeated and humiliated to resist: “The day in the [camp] was studded with innumerable harsh strippings – checking for lice, searching one’s clothes, examining for scabies and then the morning wash-up – as well as for the periodic selections, during which a ‘commission’ decided who was still fit for work and who, on the contrary, was marked for elimination. Now a naked and barefoot man feels that all his nerves and tendons are severed: He is helpless prey. Clothes, even the foul clothes distributed, even the crude clogs with their wooden soles, are a tenuous but indispensable defense. Anyone who does not have them no longer perceives himself as a human being but rather as a worm: naked, slow, ignoble, prone on the ground. He knows that he can be crushed at any moment.”
Levi survived his ordeal in Auschwitz, one of the few that did, but that did not ensure a quiet peaceful life for him. On April 11, 1987, Primo Levi died after a fall from a three-story building. His death was ruled a suicide, which would not be surprising with “survivor’s guilt” syndrome, but there are many who don’t believe that Levi would have committed suicide, and they think his death was an accident. I don’t suppose we will ever know, but I believe that whatever happened, Primo Levi is finally at peace.
My nephew, Tucker Schulenberg has been through a number of big changes over the past year, not the least of which is a name change. This past summer found Tucker’s dream coming true, when his dad, Ron Schulenberg officially adopted him. It is something Tucker had wanted almost since the day his mom, Rachel Schulenberg married his new dad. They are best buddies. Tucker has looked up to Ron for years now, and carrying his name is the ultimate honor for both of them. We are all very happy for them all, because we have all wanted this as well. Now, Ron and Tucker work together and play together. Ron is a great role model for Tucker, and he is very, very proud of his son.
Tucker is in his first year of middle school now, and with that change has come some other changes…some his mother is almost dreading. The biggest “dread” for Rachel is girls!! Nevertheless, try as she might to avoid it, Tucker is a bit of a chick magnet. So far this year, Tucker has had four girlfriends. I guess that his love of girls is definitely in the early stages…nothing serious for Rachel to worry about. Tucker is a complex kind of guy, and that might be what attracts him to the girls. He is well liked at school, for several reasons. Tucker likes to share the wealth, so to speak. He shares gum…by the 6 pound bags…with the kids at school. It’s not just the gum that makes the kids all like him, however. Tucker hates bullying, and will not tolerate it, against himself or others. He stops it in its tracks. While Tucker isn’t one to pick a fight, he will fight it it’s necessary to stop bullying. That is something that makes us all very proud.
Tucker likes LEGOs, YouTube, comics, the outdoors, shooting targets, and his dog. His varied interests, and his friendly nature, make him fit in everywhere. While his new interests make all the kids at school like him, Tucker still loves his daddy the best. They will always be best friends. Tucker is growing up fast, and I find myself amazed at how big he has grown. Where have all the years gone. It seems like just yesterday that Tucker was the almost 3 year old son of my brother-in-law’s new wife, but that was 9 years ago. Today is Tucker’s 12th birthday. Happy birthday Tucker!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
There is so much controversy these days concerning guns and gun control, and while I don’t usually write about political events, this one hits close to home for me and my family. For many years, my Uncle Bill was a gun dealer. He and his family had always had guns. He became interested in antique guns at some point and began to collect, deal, and show the guns at gun shows all over the north central part of the United States, and possibly even in the north west part, as well. Uncle Bill and my dad, as well as their sisters were raised around guns, and yet not one of them ever killed someone.
My family and my husband’s family have been around guns all our lives too. Our parents have hunted, as have many of us children and our spouses. If you live in Wyoming, as in many other places, owning a gun is really not so unusual. It doesn’t, however, give any indication that the gun owners here, or anywhere else are likely to commit murder. And, while people who torture animals, often move on to killing people, hunters usually do not. Legal hunters have a respect for the animals they hunt. It is to provide food for their family, that the hunter hunts.
For centuries, people have owned guns, and during all those years, mass school shootings were unheard of…until recently. Christians, like myself, mostly agree that it is largely because we have kicked God out of our schools. That makes so many people angry, because they think we are talking about God being angry at the schools because He was kicked out, but that isn’t it at all. In my opinion, when we removed God from our schools, we stopped teaching morality. Generations of kids have grown up with a changed view of right and wrong. Then those same kids are out there making television shows, video games, writing books, creating pictures, and so many other things that our impressionable kids are viewing. Wrong has become right…if it seems right to the person doing the wrong. It has become a matter of “the devil made me do it” or simply a matter of not allowing anyone to step on our feelings. It has become a good thing to be bad, and a good show is called wicked.
I think, that is we want to change things in this nation, we need to change what we are teaching our kids in school, and in life. Guns don’t kill people…people kill people, and very often, guns are not the weapon of choice, in fact, guns are used the least amount of the time. We can’t remove every possible weapon for the hands of people, unless we want to live in a Nerf world, and even then, people will use their hands, or they will just use rocks. We have to start teaching our kids and our adults the value of human life, and to respect each person’s right to life. We have to realize that few people intentionally set out to hurt the feelings of others, and as with bullying, the ones who do need to be swiftly punished. We need to stop looking at others as less important than we are, and treat each person with respect, no matter how the look, talk, and no matter what their race, gender, or age is. Our ancestors carried guns for many centuries, and did not shoot up schools or other public places in order to make a point, possibly because of the values our nation started on. Maybe we need to work to make all people feel like they are a person of value, because it isn’t the gun that kills, it is the person bent on revenge who kills people.