Thursday, August 04, 2016

Dante's catalogue of horrors in the "Inferno" "pales in comparison" to a new collection of stories by Tadeusz Borowski , an Polish Auschwitz survivor who put an end to his life six years after liberation. The stories are told in a morally-neutral manner, bereft of both empathy or an attempt to affect the reader.

Arno Lustiger, Borowski's Auschwitz comrade No. A 5592, reviews the book in a somewhat similar attempt to keep it free of sentiment or judgement:


Every day, the Kapos played football on a pitch surrounded by flowers within sight of the unloading ramp where Jews were constantly arriving by train. Borowski, who played in goal, writes: "I walked back with the ball and passed it to the corner. Between two corners, three thousand people had been gassed behind my back."

To see his fiancee more often, he had himself assigned to the roofing unit, whose members were able to move freely within the whole of the camp, including the women's section. Tadeusz Borowski and Maria Rundo saw each other every day, often even able to be alone together. As a roofer, he also worked in the section of the camp known as "Canada" where articles taken from murdered Jews were kept, including clothes, jewellery, and other valuables, including 7.7 tons of human hair. Here he had contact with the prisoners who belonged to the Sonderkommandos or Special Units, whose horrific tasks included moving the dead from the gas chambers to the ovens of the crematoria. He enjoyed privileges which normal, insignificant inmates could not even dream of.

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