The narrator joins in the task of unloading thousands of Jews from the cattle cars and sending them to their death in the gas chamber, all to acquire food and maybe a pair of shoes. As readers grow to understand that the narrator is forced to this extreme in order to continue to perform the work that guarantees his own existence, they become implicated themselves— they become part of the community of the concentration camp. Borowski was born in to a poor Polish family in what was then part of the Soviet Ukraine. The young Borowski was educated at a Franciscan boarding school.
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The narrator joins in the task of unloading thousands of Jews from the cattle cars and sending them to their death in the gas chamber, all to acquire food and maybe a pair of shoes. As readers grow to understand that the narrator is forced to this extreme in order to continue to perform the work that guarantees his own existence, they become implicated themselves— they become part of the community of the concentration camp.
Borowski was born in to a poor Polish family in what was then part of the Soviet Ukraine. The young Borowski was educated at a Franciscan boarding school. Schools were closed down, so Borowski studied in underground classes and managed to graduate from secondary school. He then attended the underground Warsaw University, majoring in Polish language and literature.
Already a budding writer, Borowski also worked as a stockboy and a night watchman. In , Borowski printed and distributed his first book of poetry, Gdziekolwiek ziemia translated as Wherever the Earth. Borowski anonymously published this collection of metaphoric verse that centered on the death of civilized man in the German labor camps and then distributed it secretly. He was sent to several prison camps before arriving at Auschwitz. To ensure his survival, Borowski got a job as an orderly in the camp hospital.
As the Allied liberation forces drew close to Auschwitz, Borowski and other prisoners were moved to Dachau. The U. Army liberated the camp in May Borowski was then transferred to a camp for displaced persons.
He learned that she was living in Sweden, but he was unable to cross international borders to reach her. His fiancee joined him in November, and they were married the following year. Some of these stories as well as his poetry had been published in Poland before his return.
Along with two other Polish Gentile writers, Borowski compiled We Were in Auschwitz, stories of life in the concentration camp. The Polish readership, though shocked at the amoral world Borowski depicted, recognized his talent. Pozegnanie z Maria Farewell to Maria and Kamienny swiat World of Stone were both published toward the end of the s.
Borowski was wooed by and joined the Communist party in He turned to writing political propaganda—pro-communist journalistic pieces for Warsaw newspapers. These writings had little literary merit; however, he received a government prize for them.
In the summer of , he was sent to Berlin for a year to work in the press section at the Polish Military Mission. He was also given a secret intelligence assignment by the secret police. Less than fifteen months after his return to Poland, in July , Borowski committed suicide.
His five-volume Utwory zebrane Collected Works was published in Warsaw in Translations of his works have been published in other countries as well. In the barracks of Auschwitz, the unnamed narrator eats his breakfast with Henri, his friend and fellow prisoner. Henri is a member of the so-called Canada squad, members of the Kommando labor gang whose job is to unload the Jewish prisoners from the cattle cars and send them either to the work camp or to the gas chambers.
In the midst of their meal, a messenger comes with the news that a transport is arriving. It is the first transport that the camp has seen in several days, and Henri invites the narrator to come work on the ramp.
This is how prisoners get food and items of clothing. In the past, the narrator had to depend on Henri for these items, and he accepts the offer. The narrator and the other workers go to the railroad station. They are joined by SS officers and guards, all of whom wait for the first train to arrive.
As the train rounds the bend, the workers all jump to their feet. The train stops on the tracks, alongside the ramp. Anguished cries for water and air can be heard coming from inside. Heads push out through the windows, and bodies pound against the inside of the train. To silence the prisoners, a soldier shoots a volley of rounds into the side of the cattle car. The SS officer warns the workers not to take anything from the Jews beside food.
Then the train doors open. People rush forth from inside. They are ordered to make a pile of their possessions—luggage, blankets, coats, food, money. The Jews are made to go either to the left or the right. Those on the left side board the waiting trucks that will take them to the gas chamber.
Those on the right will go to Auschwitz to work. The men carry out the selection quickly, shoving prisoners into the trucks. One SS officer keeps track of how many people have gone to the gas chambers with hash marks. After the train has been emptied, the prisoner-workers must clean it up. Inside, the narrator finds babies among the filth and squalor. The narrator gives them to an old woman to take to the gas chamber, and she shows her sympathy for him.
The narrator suddenly feels very tired. He asks Henri if they are good people; he is concerned because he feels no pity for the Jews. Just as the workers have completed this task, another train rolls in. Unloading this train, the workers react more brutally and more impatiently. A woman attempts to leave behind her small child, hoping that she will be selected as a laborer. A guard curses her, throwing her on the trucks, and tossing the child in after her.
The narrator sees an attractive young woman. She walks off to the truck, though she is young and strong, and her life would have been spared. After unloading the two transports, the narrator declares to Henri that he is done with this work.
Henri tells him to sit quietly and not let an SS soldier see him. By the light of the stars and the overhead bulbs, the narrator watches the work begin again.
He sees a little girl crawl out the window of a train that has just pulled onto the tracks. She walks in circles, stunned and terrified. An SS man kicks her down and then shoots her with his revolver. The narrator goes back to the ramp to work, but when he touches yet another corpse, he vomits.
Leaning against the stack of rails, the narrator dreams of being back at his bunk. He longs to return to the camp, which is a place of peace compared to the hell he is now in. Then, finally, the last transport has been unloaded. The dead are cleared off the ramp. The prisoners line up to go back to camp, weighted down with the food belonging to the Jews. Andrei is a Russian sailor who is a member of the labor gang that unloads the Jews from the cattle cars. He attacks a woman who is trying to deny her child to keep from being sent to the gas chambers.
Through his act of attacking the woman, he wins the approval of the SS officers. The narrator notices an attractive, confident Jewish girl. She calmly asks him what will happen to them. Though he will not answer her, she tells him that she already knows the truth.
Instead of allowing herself to be among the women chosen to go to the labor camp, she puts herself on the trucks headed for the gas chambers. A member of the Canada labor gang, Henri regularly smuggles back food and clothing for his friends. He has a cynical attitude toward the camp, his fellow prisoners, and the Jewish victims, as well as a clear understanding that the welfare of the prisoner-workers depends on the continuing destruction of the Jews.
The little girl pushes herself out of the train window. Her mind has been unhinged by the experience, and she walks in circles until an SS man knocks her down with a kick and then shoots her dead. The unnamed narrator is a Polish gentile imprisoned in Auschwitz. He is better off than most prisoners, receiving food packages from his family. His trip to the ramp is the first time he has worked such duty. On his way to the train station, he considers himself lucky to get this work detail because he knows he will be rewarded with food.
However, he does not anticipate the horror of the work: forcing the Jews from the cattle cars, fending off their questions of what will happen to them, cleaning out the cars of the human detriment and dead babies.
After unloading his first transport, the narrator feels tired and nauseous, yet completely disassociated from himself. Instead of feeling pity for the Jews, he is furious with them because, as he rationalizes it, if the Nazis were not determined to murder them, he would not be forced to carry out this disturbing and dehumanizing work.
As a response to his malaise, he loses control, unloading the second train with barely restrained brutality; he wants the Jews to be gone so he is not reminded of what he is doing. After working on two transports, he is unable to continue. Instead, he longs only to return to the peace that the concentration camp provides where at least he remains among the living and not in continual contact with those who are like the waking dead. Around six million Jews died in the Holocaust, along with at least three million prisoners of other backgrounds.
The Nazis organized this mass extermination with extreme efficiency; for example, by the end of the day that the story takes place, 15, people have been sent almost effortlessly to their deaths. Writers such as Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel have produced some of the most famous accounts of survivor testimony. Holocaust literature focuses on how people survived amidst the horror of the concentration camps.
This Way For The Gas, Ladies And Gentlemen
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This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
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. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. Considered a great of postwar Polish literature, he attended a boarding schoool run by Franciscan monks and then studied literature… More about Tadeusz Borowski. Category: Historical Fiction Fiction Classics. Add to Cart. Also available from:.
This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, also known as Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Gas Chamber, is a collection of short stories by Tadeusz Borowski , which were inspired by the author's concentration camp experience. Borowski was arrested by the Gestapo in She was captured after falling into a trap set by the Nazis, and sent to a concentration camp. When she did not return home for the night, Borowski became worried, and started looking for her, only to end up falling in the same trap. He was caught and subsequently incarcerated at Auschwitz death camp for two years. He was sent on a death march to the Dachau concentration camp ahead of the Soviet advance, and in the spring of had been liberated by the US Seventh Army.