This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemenby Tadeusz Borowski, Barbara Vedder (Editor), Jan Kott (Introduction), Michael Kandel (Translator)
Tadeusz Borowski’s concentration camp stories were based on his own experiences surviving Auschwitz and Dachau. In spare, brutal prose he describes a world where where the will to survive overrides compassion and prisoners eat, work and sleep a few yards from where others are murdered; where the difference between human beings is reduced to a second bowl of soup, an extra blanket or the luxury of a pair of shoes with thick soles; and where the line between normality and abnormality vanishes. Published in Poland after the Second World War, these stories constitute a masterwork of world literature.
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There is a spare simple honesty about Tadeusz Borowski's fictionalized account of his experiences in Auschwitz and Dachau - so much so that it almost seems false to use the same language while recommending it to others. There is nothing I can say that will adequately recreate the intensity Borowski achieves without resorting to hyperbolic extremes, which would actually diminish, rather than augment, his effectiveness. His stories need neither critique, sanction, nor acclaim. What I can say about this collection is that I had an immediate visceral reaction to the events and descriptions of the first story - This Way for the Gas - and though some of that wore off as I continued, it was replaced with an increasingly uncomfortable feeling that what I think I know about myself and the world is, instead, only what I'm willing to believe. Borowski's account of 'normal' behavior in the camps - a direct result of the insane horror of the conditions - is a frightening addition to the crematoriums and the gas chambers. Not only were there the perpetrators of evil and their victims, but there was a third group, victims yet forced to be complicit too. That they could develop a routine, in the midst of the horrors they witnessed and the actions required for their survival, is elementally disturbing, and does not release any human being from its conclusions. Once or twice, I had some small trouble following the thread of a story, but this in no way altered the impact of his overall objective. Borowski's style is plain, simple and direct - and admirable. 'This Way for the Gas' is a literature of truth and courage, and unafraid to voice its implications, however hard they may be to hear. Highest recommendation.
Borowski, a Polish Christian survivor of Auschwitz, gives a devastating account of life in the Nazi concentration camp. From his stories of survival and man's inhuman treatment of his fellow man, we get a much more complete perspective of the many victims of the Nazi holocaust than is usually presented.