Monday, February 17, 2014

If This Is a Man

January 27th was the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this occasion a marble plaque has been unveiled on the side wall of our Town Hall: it bears a quote from “Se questo è un uomo” (If This Is a Man), a book by the Italian writer and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi.
Plaque with the Invocation from If This Is a Man by Primo Levi, piazza del Municipio, Livorno
This poem is also known as Shema, a Hebrew word that means “hear” and the name of a very important Jewish prayer.

Se questo è un uomo
Voi che vivete sicuri
Nelle vostre tiepide case
voi che trovate tornando a sera
Il cibo caldo e visi amici:

Considerate se questo è un uomo
Che lavora nel fango
Che non conosce pace
Che lotta per mezzo pane
Che muore per un sì o per un no.
Considerate se questa è una donna
Senza capelli e senza nome
Senza più forza di ricordare
Vuoti gli occhi e freddo il grembo
Come una rana d'inverno.

Meditate che questo è stato
Vi comando queste parole.
Scolpitele nel vostro cuore
Stando in casa andando per via
Coricandovi alzandovi
Ripetetele ai vostri figli.

O vi si sfaccia la casa
La malattia vi impedisca
I vostri nati torcano il viso da voi.
If This Is a Man
You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:

Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud,
Who does not know peace,
Who fights for a scrap of bread,
Who dies because of a yes or a no.
Consider if this is a woman
Without hair and without name,
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter.

Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children.

Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.

External links: International Holocaust Remembrance Day - Primo Levi - If This Is a Man - Shema Yisrael (Wikipedia)
See also: Town Hall


Revrunner said...

History casts long shadows.

Michelle said...

A strong reminder today.....

Jack said...

That is a very hard poem to read.

Randy said...

You can't read this without it touching your heart.

Traveling Hawk said...


cieldequimper said...

I have read Primo Levi but not this book. Now I need to go and get it.

Gunn said...

What a strong message!

Halcyon said...

This is really beautiful. Glad the city has posted this poem. It's worth the read!

Luis Gomez said...

Strong message. Thanks for posting this.

Dina said...

Oi, the curse at the end is especially strong and wrenching, coming on the heals of the familiar phrases from the Shema there in the penultimate verse.

So good that Livorno has put this plaque on the Town Hall.

Karl Demetz said...

A strong message today, VP.