This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen by Tadeusz Borowski

In General Fiction on July 3, 2010 at 2:41 am

Title: This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
Author: Tadeusz Borowski
Genre: Fiction/Short Stories
Rating: ****/****
ISBN: 0140186247

Borowski’s collection of short stories are autobiographical, dealing with his & others’ experiences in the holocaust. What hits you is that the writing is not overtly sentimental in the least, though it deals with the haunting realities of loss, despair, & looming death in Auschwitz. What is most striking about this book is how it shows the reader how desperate a situation it was in the camps, how survival came to matter more than anything else. How empathy became a liability & luxury you could no longer afford.

The prisoners would find themselves in situations after transports, that they would be more concerned with the fact of packages, shoes, clothing, etc. than the people themselves, who were destined for the gas chambers. In their indifference, Borowski speaks of how they could never forgive themselves for the part they played in the demise of others. Surely, they could not have stopped the SS from exterminating the untermenschen, but had they not willing complied somewhere along the lines so that they could live another day?

It’s a haunting read & it proves once again the power of fiction, that it can illuminate a tragedy like the holocaust in a way that even the best of nonfiction & even some memoirs cannot.


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