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Tadeusz Borowski (1922–1951)

Teoksen This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen tekijä

9+ Works 1,644 Jäsentä 34 arvostelua 8 Favorited

About the Author

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Tekijän teokset

Kotimme Auschwitz (1983) 80 kappaletta
Bitwa pod Grunwaldem (2020) 6 kappaletta
The Supper 1 kappale
Poezje 1 kappale
Selected poems 1 kappale

Associated Works

The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction (1983) — Avustaja — 1,115 kappaletta
The World of the Short Story: A 20th Century Collection (1986) — Avustaja — 454 kappaletta
Against Forgetting: Twentieth-Century Poetry of Witness (1993) — Avustaja — 325 kappaletta
Writers From the Other Europe (4 Volume Set) (1979) — Tekijä — 21 kappaletta

Merkitty avainsanalla


Kanoninen nimi
Borowski, Taudeusz
Powązki Cemetery, Warsaw, Poland
Maa (karttaa varten)
Zhytomyr, Ukraine
Varsova, Puola
Oekraïne (geboorte)
München, Beieren, Duitsland
Warschau, Polen
Warsaw University, Poland
political journalist
short story writer
Lyhyt elämäkerta
Tadeusz Borowski was born in Soviet Ukraine of Polish parents in 1922. His parents spent most of his youth in Soviet prison camps. He survived Auschwitz and Dachau, but committed suicide in Warsaw in 1951. He started writing poetry during World War II, and published an underground collection called Gdziekolwiek ziemia (Wherever the Earth) in 1942. After the war, he published the memoir Byliśmy w Oświęcimiu (We Were in Auschwitz, 1946) with Krystyn Olszewski and Janusz Nel Siedlecki. He also wrote two collections of short stories, Pożegnanie z Marią (Farewell to Maria, 1948) and Kamienny świat (The World of Stone, 1948). Both collections appear in the English translation, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Other Stories (1967).



4 ⭐ This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
I had read this before in an anthology. It's very striking; the"Canadians," those that are stronger and healthier than others, get favored. They will not be gassed and burned; at least not at first. They clear out the railroad cars that bring the Jews to the camps. They get to keep whatever food the prisoners still have.
3 ⭐ A Day at Harmenz
Harmenz is the village by the camp. This story visits a day with the railroad crew. Moving the roundabout/turnabout; clearing out the ditch; building a dike... Lunchtime, and a few get seconds, of nettle soup. Lining up to be searched, and one of the crew is discovered to have a stolen goose in his sack. Two workers are killed, one by putting a board across his throat, and the guard placing his feet on either end and rocking. A selection from the barracks is taken in the evening, for the"cremo."
3 ⭐ The People Who Walked On
The narrator is one of the "Canadians": those deemed strong enough to work, so spared from the ovens, at least in the interim. He describes one of the women's camps: they call it the Persian market. The reason being, the women are dressed in sleeveless summer dresses, it being summertime, and they stand around in between the barracks, across the barbed wire fence from where they are working. Sometimes they are working on roofing their barracks, and the women beg from them: "you've been here for a while, you surely have everything you need. I'm starving, can't you give me something?"
While working, they observe the lines of women, children and old men walking on the two rodeways: one directly to the gas, the other to the camps.
"Often, in the middle of the night, I walked outside; the lamps glowed in the darkness above the barbed-wire fences. The roads were completely black, but I could distinctly hear the far-away hum of a thousand voices -- the procession moved on and on. And then the entire sky would light up; there would be a burst of flame above the wood... And terrible human screams."
3 ⭐ Auschwitz, Our Home (A Letter)
A letter, or Surely, a series of letters from the narrator to his " girl". If this is a letter, it would use up 200 pieces of paper. The narrator commonly has trouble finding someone to deliver the letter to his girl in the female barracks.
He talks about the unbelievable chaos that controls Auschwitz, to where he has been sent to be trained as a medic.
"We shall be entrusted with a lofty mission: to nurse back to health our fellow inmates who may have the 'misfortune' to become ill, suffer from severe apathy, or feel depressed about life in general. It will be up to us -- The chosen 10 out of Birkenau's 20,000 -- to lower the camp's mortality rate and to raise the prisoners' morale. Or, in short, that is what we were told by the S.S. doctor upon our departure from birkenau."
And this, reminding me of my youth and my naivety, when I believed that the world of the future would be a world of better treatment for the Great Unwashed.
"Much of what I once said was naive, immature. And it seems to me now that perhaps we were not really wasting time. Despite the madness of war, we lived for a world that would be different. For a better world to come when all this is over. And perhaps even our being here is a step towards that world. Do you really think that, without the hope that such a world is possible, that the rights of man will be restored again, we could stand the concentration camp even for one day? It is that very hope that makes people go without a murmur to the gas chambers, keeps them from risking a revolt, paralyzes them into numb inactivity. It is hope that breaks down family ties, makes mother's renounce their children, or wives sell their bodies for bread, or husbands kill. It is hope that compels man to hold on to one more day of life, because that day may be the day of liberation."
3 ⭐ The Death of Schillinger
Schillinger is chief commanding officer of section d of Birkenau. He gets a fine comeuppance, when he tries to grab onto a naked jewess.
2 ⭐ The Man with the Package
2 ⭐ The Supper
2 ⭐ A True Story
4 ⭐ Silence
2 ⭐ The January Offensive
"... The whole world is really like the concentration camp; the weak work for the strong, and if they have no strength or will to work -- then let them steal, or let them die.
The world is ruled by neither Justice nor morality; crime is not punished nor virtue rewarded, one is forgotten as quickly as the other. The world is ruled by power and power is obtained with money. To work is senseless, because money cannot be obtained through work but through exploitation of others. And if we cannot exploit as much as we wish, at least let us work as little as we can. Moral duty? We believe neither in the morality of man, nor in the morality of systems. In German cities the store windows are filled with books and religious objects, but the smoke from the crematoria still hovers above the forests.."
3 ⭐ A Visit
4 ⭐ The World of Stone

… (lisätietoja)
Merkitty asiattomaksi
burritapal | 33 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Oct 23, 2022 |
This is a grim little book. It is best described as a few fictional stories and some short pieces, not quite stories sometimes, primarily about life in Auschwitz/Birkenau from the first person perspective of one of the camp's non-Jewish inmates (this is important). As a non-Jew the narrator's lot is considerably better than most, while still being abominable.

The stories are plainly told, matter of fact almost, without much commentary on the situation, etc. The author's approach is very effective at communicating the eerie everyday-ness of concentration camp life: "just another day unloading 3 or 4 trains of people for the gas chambers." Borowski lets the context, the very seeming ordinariness of these dreadful experiences, emphasize the appalling nature of the tasks and situations. And in the end everybody is just getting by as best they can.

A recurring theme is the docility of the people being herded to their doom. After all, people had nothing to lose by attempting to attack their executioners. Why didn't they? Borowski details people taking their last feeble possessions with them as they wait in line to be gassed. Why? What feeble hope was there? Each one seems to feel that however unlikely they are going to be saved somehow. And we are horrified because we know they will not be.

In one poignant scene, made all the more striking by being the lone example in the book, a young woman surprises her lecherous oppressor on the Auschwitz train unloading ramp by striking him and taking his gun. She shoots him and of course is shot, but none of the people surrounding her that already know they are being herded to their death, rise up with her. They ignore it, avert their gaze; not wanting to get involved.

Why do we read books like this? I don't buy the: "it's my duty to read this so it doesn't happen again." BS. There is some dirty little voyeur aspect to fiction or non-fiction like this. Death camp stories. True stories. People like this stuff. They want to read it; wish there was more of it. We tell ourselves it's okay because it really happened that way, it's history, and we need to see it, but if we were JUST making this up for fun we would be called more than sick little pornographers. We are peeking into other people's torment and death like a peep show nightmare. Which is what real horror is all about, I guess.

So, on that happy note, if you are interested in reading about what it was like in the death camps and how people manage to live their lives under the most appallingly unimaginable conditions, this should be right up your alley....
… (lisätietoja)
Merkitty asiattomaksi
Gumbywan | 33 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jun 24, 2022 |
Famous testimony by a Polish poet on his experiences in Auschwitz concentration camp, revealing a quite cynical view on survivors (survivors are seen as near criminals – if you would not pursue and exploit some advantage, you could not have survived the camp). And don’t we love it?

Borowski writes about the ‘Canada’ labour gang that helps unloading newly arrived trains as a kind of elite unit that is eagerly awaiting new booty. There are also some notable lessons or observations mentioned in Borowski’s tales. In one, Borowski observes that hope can be equally powerful for life (survival) as for destruction. ‘Hope (…) makes people go without a murmur to the gas chambers, keeps them from risking a revolt, (…), makes mothers renounce their children, or wives sell their bodies for bread…’. In another instance, Borowski comments on the role of slaves in building the edifices of civilization (pyramids and concentration camps) pointing at the complicit role of victims, but: ‘There can be no beauty if it is paid by human injustice, nor truth that passes over injustice in silence, nor moral virtue that condones it.’ Borowski is also painfully open and blunt about the reasons why some survived the camps: ‘But how did it happen that you survived? … Tell, then, how you bought places in the hospital, easy posts, how you shoved the Moslems into the oven…’.… (lisätietoja)
Merkitty asiattomaksi
alexbolding | 33 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Oct 2, 2021 |
A week ago I was talking to a friend about the 10-hour documentary Shoah when she gave me a link. I clicked on it. The headline read "Holocaust Study: Two-thirds of millennials don't know what Auschwitz is" (here). Although this study focused on American millennials I still found it alarming. This same headline took me back years ago, in school, where our curriculum did not include much discussion about WWII and the Holocaust was barely even mentioned. If I didn’t initiate seeking books, films, and documentaries I wouldn't know the bigger picture. It was a gruesome thought. This headline, more so. Has the school curriculum of kids today worsened? How can anyone not know about one of the most horrific atrocities committed on mankind? We should avoid forgetting. What with all the political tension around the world and the worrying rise of neo-fascism; the small scale genocidal horrors the media don’t bat their eyelashes on; forgetting may make history repeat itself.

"We are as insensitive as trees, as stones. And we remain as numb as trees when they are being cut down, or stones when they are being crushed."

Borowski, the author of the haunting This Way For The Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen (originally published in 1946), took his own life in 1951 by inhaling gas from a stove. This book is comprised of twelve short stories inspired by his own experiences in Auschwitz. But this collection does not stop there. It tells and also lingers in its aftermath (The January Offensive, A Visit, and The World of Stone); the struggle to pick-up fragments of a life and learning, trying to live in the after. There is an observable distance in Borowski's prose yet the ache is palpable; it surrounds then grips you. For that, it is a very difficult book to read. There are times when I had to take a break because the images and the ambiance it forms in your head are more vivid than the films about the Holocaust: pile of corpses, the Jews entering the gas chambers to their deaths, people shoveling these corpses, burning them then the smoke rising from the crematorium, et cetera, et cetera; they stay with you. To some extent, I can wrap my head around the "reasons" leading to Borowski's death.

"A dream, you see, is not necessarily visual. It may be an emotional experience in which there is depth and where one feels the weight of an object and the warmth of a body..."

But this book is more than that. It is also a piece of history as it is a memory. With the memories of before clinging in the spaces between its sentences, its hope is cautious and wary of its dangers (** "Despite the madness of war, we lived for a world that would be different. For a better world to come when all this is over. And perhaps even our being here is a step towards that world. Do you really think, that the rights of man will be restored again, we could stand the concentration camp even for one day? It is that very hope that makes people go without a murmur to the gas chambers, keeps them from risking a revolt, paralyses them into numb inactivity. It is hope that breaks down family ties, makes mothers renounce their children, or wives sell their bodies for bread, or husbands kill. It is hope that compels man to hold on to one more day of life, because that day may be the day of liberation. Ah, and not even the hope for a different, better world, but simply for life, a life of peace and rest. Never before in the history of mankind has hope been stronger than man, but never also has it done so much harm as it has in this war, in this concentration camp. We were never taught how to give up hope, and this is why today we perish in gas chambers." p122) yet giving with its tenderness through rare glimpses (** "I think about these things and smile condescendingly when people speak to me of morality, of law, of tradition, of obligation...Or when they discard all tenderness and sentiment and, shaking their fists, proclaim this the age of toughness. I smile and I think that one human being must always be discovering another — through love. And that this is the most important thing on earth, and the most lasting." p143).

These are carefully-crafted, painful stories about the reality of the concentration camps, of oppression and utmost cruelty mankind itself is capable of. Some of them brought tears to my eyes; its indubitable significance and moving remembrance hammered my heart and soul into thin strips of despair whilst my mind reels at the circumstances of the present. Highly recommended to everyone. A place to start with never forgetting.
… (lisätietoja)
Merkitty asiattomaksi
lethalmauve | 33 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Jan 25, 2021 |



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