All of the chapters in the book relate to various events in Levi's life, as well as to his passion for chemistry. Surprisingly (when considering the suffering he went through in Auschwitz) Levi only associates a small chapter in the book with his experiences in the death camp. The story is nonetheless sad, and can be regarded as being the most impressive account in the book. All in all, "The Periodic Table" is more of an autobiography than a nonfiction account involving the Holocaust.
In "Vanadium," Levi shortly depicts a series of occurrences speaking about Auschwitz. The author apparently wants to go over the topic as fast as possible, only to return to the beautiful world of chemistry. He does not succeed in doing that however, since the subject slowly but surely grabs hold of him and forces him to go deeper and depict one of the most influential chapters in his life once more. At the time when he stumbled upon Dr. Muller, a former chemist official in the Bruno sector of Auschwitz, Levi could not deny his past, as he felt that it was absolutely necessarily to review his past again.
Relating to an experience which he had with zinc in his adolescence, Levi realizes that the metal had much to do with fascism. As a result he wrote the third chapter in the "Periodic Table," "Zinc." When part of a chemical reaction, pure zinc is unlikely to yield to chemical breakdown, since its resistance is remarkable.
As put by Levi, one could appreciate zinc for the fact that it is a very resistant metal and it gives way only after it is subjected to intense processes of change. The metal is likely to maintain its purity, even after it goes through several chemical experiments. However, if it is not capable of forming a chemical reaction when it is put together with one or more chemical elements, its use is limited and it is not very valuable for the world of chemistry. Diversity is a key element in evolution, just as it is when considering chemical reactions, as it requires more than one chemical element in order for a reaction to produce beneficial results.
In Nazi Germany, Germans believed that only by preserving their racial purity they could thrive in their lives as part of a nation. In order to do this, they attempted to remove everyone who was less than 100% German. When they succeeded in doing this, they felt that it was even more important for them to further help the whole world get rid of racially impure individuals. Hitler's "final solution" came as a response to the racial impurity that apparently threatened Germany. Hitler missed a key problem when devising his plans. He failed to notice that similar to how things are in a chemical reaction, a pure chemical element is not of much use when it stands on its own. Only in interaction with other chemical elements does it succeed in producing a chemical reaction.
As a chemist, Levi was aware that diversity was a crucial element for survival. In his opinion, zinc was the pure race which Hitler seemingly protected while he and other Jewish people were "the impurity that makes the zinc react" (Zinc, p. 34). Not only does Levi feel that diversity is good for survival, but he is straightforwardly certain that without Jews, Gypsies, and basically every individual that does not come from a "pure" race, life would not be possible. Levi is proud that he is not Aryan just as he is because of the fact that he is "impure."
Comparable to how he does in other chapters in "The Periodical Table," Levi attempts to find even more resemblances between zinc and fascism. As a first step in doing this, he thinks about various other properties possessed by the metal. He thinks about how it does not say "much to the imagination, it is gray and its salts are colorless, it is not toxic, nor does it produce striking chromatic reactions; in short, it is a boring metal" (Zinc, p. 33). An individual that is pure has little about him or her to make them special. For Levi, impurity is a quality, and without it one might find that they are extremely tedious.
Sources Used in Document:
1. Levi, Primo. The Periodic Table. Michael Joseph Ltd., 1985.