This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen by Tadeusz Borowski Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen

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 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 blanke

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    Paul Bryant

    Feb 28, 2015

    rated it
    it was amazing


    I found this book very difficult to read. Not like Joyce or Proust or Faulkner, but because – when exactly do you read this? In the evening after a good dinner? No! Well, at bedtime then? Not unless you want nightmares.

    I have read a few of these concentration camp memoirs, which, strangely insultingly, are classified as FICTION when they are, of course, the truth. But here, in the concentration camp world, reality reads like fiction, it is true.

    Tadeusz Borowski writes with a heavy black humour

    I have read a few of these concentration camp memoirs, which, strangely insultingly, are classified as FICTION when they are, of course, the truth. But here, in the concentration camp world, reality reads like fiction, it is true.

    Tadeusz Borowski writes with a heavy black humour about Auschwitz, which some may find almost unbearable. I don’t have so much of a problem reading the cold histories of the theory and practice of hell, as it has been called. I now have a certain level of knowledge. I can distinguish between the wildcat camps of 1937-39, the political prisoner camps like Dachau, the work camps like Mauthausen, and the terminal points of the three extermination camps Treblinka, Belzec and Sobibor, which really should be much more famous than they are. (But their fate was to exist very temporarily, for a year or 18 months, then to be bulldozed, and for the ground to be ploughed, and tilled, and for a farmhouse to be built and a family installed there who were to say they had farmed the land of Belzec for generations. Unlike the camps which were liberated, and therefore photographed. No photos of Belzec!) And I can compare all those to the empire that was Auschwitz.

    So the nuts and bolts of the holocaust have become well known to me over the years. Reading the stories of one who was there and was able to write after liberation, that’s another thing. It is jolting and upsetting. It’s someone real. The first jolt comes on the third page of the title story (and what a title, surely one of the greatest titles in literature). Here we have the bantering conversation of some of the men working on the “Canada” team. These were prisoners whose job was to get the Jews out of the cattle trucks, up the ramps and off to the crematoria. (“All these thousands flow along like water from an open tap” he says.) Once that was done they picked up all the luggage which the Jews could not, of course, take with them. In this luggage was a whole lot of food – good stuff too, wine, cured meat, sausage, cheese, you name it. The Canada team were able to “organise” some of this stuff back to their barracks, and there they dined well. They also had their pick of the clothes in the luggage, so they dressed pretty well too. Imagine, prisoners living well at Auschwitz!

    It is almost over. The dead are being cleared off the ramp and piled into the last truck. The Canada men, weighed down under a load of bread, marmalade and sugar, and smelling of perfume and fresh linen, line up to go. For several days the entire camp will live off this transport. For several days the entire camp will talk about “Sosnowiec-Bedzin”. “Sosnowiec-Bedzin” was a good, rich transport.

    So now we overhear a conversation between two of these prisoners. One worried. He appreciates the good things these transports of Jews are constantly bringing. But – how long can this go on? Surely, sooner or later, they’ll run out of people! And then what? No more sausages, for sure. Well, it was a worry.

    The stories here inhabit what Primo Levi calls the grey zone, the compromised, corrupted world where there is no innocence, only degrees of guilt. Borowski had a “good Auschwitz” in the way many people had a “good war”. They didn’t die, and it wasn’t all ghastly all the time. He describes the recreational facilities in Auschwitz. You’ve imagined the gas chambers and Sonderkommando and the ovens, now imagine this:

    Right after the boxing match I took in another show – I went to hear a concert. Over in Birkenau you could probably never imagine what feats of culture we are exposed to up here, just a few kilometres away from the smouldering chimneys. Just think – an orchestra playing the overture to Tancred, then something by Berlioz

    This book is overshadowed by the author’s suicide at the age of 29. This is a distraction, like other author suicides. The work always stands by itself, it is not placed by the grotesque act of suicide into a sphere beyond judgement. Readers encounter the reality inside these words, not outside. And inside these stories the atmosphere is oppressive, the fumes acrid, the stench is unbearable, the company not the best. When I finished this book I looked around. The room was quiet and warm, the fire was on (spring is here, but it’s still cold). One of the cats jumped onto the windowledge for another few hours of birdwatching. I remembered we’re out of marmalade and thanked Tadeusz Borowski for reminding me of that.

    Do I recommend this book? I can’t say that I do. 5 stars.


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    Violet wells

    Oct 14, 2017

    rated it
    it was amazing

    This is an account of Auschwitz, in the form of a series of first person short stories, from someone who is still begrimed and drenched in its depravity. Because he wrote it so soon after his experience Borowski has managed to put little if any distance between himself and what he’s describing. The tone of the book, perfectly captured in its title, is thus deeply disturbing. In fact it reads like a suicide note.

    Concentration camp stories tend to focus on the fortitude and humanity of inmates. R

    Concentration camp stories tend to focus on the fortitude and humanity of inmates. Rarely do we see the darker side of what people did to survive. Rarely do we see the hierarchies among the inmates. Rarely do we see how successfully in their evil genius the Nazis stripped individuals of all moral sense. There’s the sense here that the inmates are like heroin addicts, survival their daily fix. They have their close inner circle of useful contacts and friends but are numbed to indifference about the plight of everyone outside that circle. They will even hurt these others if there’s something to gain, even if that something is merely a moment’s pleasure, the pleasure of accruing power. Power, as he states, is earned by the exploitation of others. People will always seek power and perhaps never more so than when they are made to feel powerless.

    Perhaps the most memorable image in the book is of a game of football the narrator is playing while a transport arrives at the ramp. He registers the arrival of a train full of Hungarian Jews; the next moment his attention strays from the game the entire convoy has disappeared. “Between two throw-ins in a soccer game, right behind my back, three thousand people had been put to death.” He narrates this as though it is of little more emotional significance than an unloading process in a factory.

    This book is as disturbed as it is disturbing. Borowski, you feel, deliberately eschewed all temptation to make his material palatable, subject in any way to reason. He wanted to speak from the ground, not from the meditated hindsight of a library or study. Probably what it does better than any other Holocaust book I’ve read is show the extreme difficulty of processing what happened in the camps or even finding the appropriate moral tone with which to talk about it.
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    LeAnne

    Dec 24, 2016

    rated it
    it was amazing

    True horror is something that can only be swallowed in sips, lest we drown in its sorrow. You need to read these 150 pages. You, whomever you are. You will feel like the luckiest guy or gal ever after reading it, for you are alive and free and not being forced to do unforgiveable things.

    The 20-something author, husband, and father-for-three days was once a poet and aspiring writer. As a Polish teenager, he was arrested and taken to work as a slave laborer at Auschwitz and Birkenau. At gunpoint,

    The 20-something author, husband, and father-for-three days was once a poet and aspiring writer. As a Polish teenager, he was arrested and taken to work as a slave laborer at Auschwitz and Birkenau. At gunpoint, he unloaded the cattle cars of Jewish families and Gypsy families. He carried and sorted their belongings to be stored in “Canada” – the warehouse that held wealth. He witnessed thousands of moms and kids being escorted onto trucks that trundled along a little road that wound into a pretty little patch of birch trees while their strong husbands were made to walk in a different direction.

    “Several other men are carrying a small girl with only one leg. They hold her by the arms and the one leg. Tears are running down her face and she whispers faintly: ‘Sir, it hurts, it hurts…’ They throw her on the truck on top of the corpses. She will burn alive along with them.”

    By the time that Auschwitz and its more evil little sister Birkenau were built, a good deal was known about keeping masses of humanity free of infectious disease. Dead slaves cannot work in the mines or factories or build roads or play concertos or be used to test how best to treat gunshot wounds, right? They had value as living guinea pigs for learning how best to treat infected amputation sites, anoxia, and more. Epidemics of typhus and other illnesses could kill them all.

    The SS doctors knew that typhus was spread by lice, so fumigating blankets and bedding along with clothing was important. Decontaminating the hair and bodies of those who already have lice was important for the welfare of all, correct?

    Yes, you may be free of these awful insects, but regretfully you have been in close contact with hundreds of others on the train. We regret the way you had to be transported, but it was important for your safety to get you here quickly. Our apologies.

    So, step this way to the bathhouses, please! Leave your soiled clothes for now. Let’s get you and the children cleaned up, and then how about a thick bowl of steaming soup? Too hot? Maybe some chilled water and a salty tomato-onion salad instead.

    Tadeusz Borowski does not shirk his responsibility in what was perpetrated at these two camps. Yes, he would have been shot or gassed or beaten to death with a shovel handle had he refused or revolted.

    But still – the guilt.

    As a Polish political prisoner, he was allowed to receive packages of food from his family in Warsaw and shared it with those who had little. From working on the ramp as part of the Canada crew, he was then transferred to work as a roofer and saw with a birds eye view what went on below him. Camp doctors later trained him as an orderly, and he did what he could to ease suffering.

    But the atrocities he saw and his own culpability never left him. Dead babies, live children thrown into fire pits, cannibalism by those most starved, and the never ending zombie-like march of hundreds of thousands to the gas chambers ruined his soul.

    He had been engaged to a girl before his arrest, and through some sort of miracle they were able to find one another after liberation. He began writing again and they got married. He published this very collection of stories and received rave reviews from Polish critics.

    Three days after the birth of their baby daughter, the immensity of it all became too much. Tadeusz was 29 when he killed himself by opening a gas jet in his apartment. This way for the gas, ladies and gentlemen! His black humor lived on. The book is only 150 pages – you can handle it and should.
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