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ThisWay for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
Transcript of ThisWay for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
is set in the 'Canada camp' of Aushcwitz during World War II, where the non-Jewish political prisoners unload the arriving Jewish people and sort through their belongings. The story follows an unnamed Polish prisoner who is accompanying his friend Henri to the train station for the first time. The whole story takes place on one day, where he assists in loading the Jewish prisoners on trucks to the gas chambers and crematoria and sorting through their luggage.
Unnamed Narrator: Polish political prisoner who works in Canada
Henri: French communist prisoner, the narrator's friend who also works in Canada
Unnamed Jewish woman: the only prisoner that the narrator communicates with, willingly sends herself to the gas chamber
The story does not categorize the prisoners and the guards into villains and victims. The guards are described as "majestic men in green uniforms" while the narrator adopts an attitude apathy towards the Jewish prisoners. The narrator doesn't portray the prisoners as noble or the guards as evil, but as two groups that are equally complicit in the atrocities of the camp.
The descriptions of the narrator's actions are distant and detached, but are blunt and harshly realistic at the same time. The detachment of the narrator creates a sense of surrealism about what he is seeing, and portrays the characters as having no guilt for their actions.
Tadeusz Borowski was a Polish writer and journalism born in 1922, who was imprisoned in Auschwitz from 1943 to 1944 when he was transferred to Dachau where he remained until it was liberated in 1945.
Borowski was not a part of the ressistance, his girlfriend at the time was and when she was taken away, Borowski intentionally went to a reistance meeting place, make a scence, and get arrested in the attempt to be sent to the same camp as his girlfriend so they could be reunited.
While he was in Auschwitz, he worked in hard labor, including the unloading of prisoners at the train station, until he caught pneumonia and was taken to a medical experiment "hospital."
He committed suicide by inhaling gas from a gas stove in 1951 at the age of 28.
This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen was based on his experiences in Auschwitz, and the portrayal makes much more sense considering his view on the relationship between the guards and prisoners. Borowoski believed that "it is the first duty of Auschwitzers...to write that you, you were the ones who did this, that a portion of the sad fame of Auschwitz belongs to you as well." Borowoski believed that the prisoners of concentration camps were at least partially responsible for participating in the camps, which explains the detachment of the narrator of the story and the lack of assignment of blame to either the prisoners or the guards.
by Tadeusz Borowski
Members of the Auschwitz-Birkenau Canada work group sort through belongings confiscated from Jews.
This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, is set in Birkenau, the extermination camp for Auschwitz. The camp held over 90,000 prisoners by 1944 and approximately 1.3 millions people were murdered there. About 90% of the victims of Auschwitz were killed at Birkenau.
So what's the point?
The aim of this story was to reveal how prisioners were compliant with their orders and set to their tasks with no objection. It also shows the different ranking of prisoners, and how they had to do terrible things to each other in order to survive. It demonstrates what extreme pressure and stress of an unforgiving situation can do to some one's sense of morals and how one treats other people.
. 1944. Yad Vashem Museum, Jerusalem.
. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.
1. How many people were killed in Auschwitz?
2. What is the Author's name?
3. What percentage of the deaths were Jewish people?
4. What "country" is the specific camp the story takes place named after?
5. What were the guards described as?
Description is a major element in this story. With the use of discription, the narrator is able to place the reader in the time that their writing is attempting to convey. "The heaps grow. Sutcases, blankets, coats, handbags that open as they fall, spilling coins, gold, watches; mountains of bread pile up at the exits, heaps of marmalade, jams, masses of meat, sausages; sugar spills on the gravel." (Pg 7)
Another tool used in the story is dialogue. By using as much dialogue as is used, the reader is able to connect themselves to the characters and can see the back and forth communication between prisoners, and with the guards.
" 'Henri, what are we waiting for?'
'There'll be another transport.'
'I'm not going to unload it! I can't take it any more!'
'So, it's got you down? Canada is nice, eh?' Henri grins indulgently and disappears into the darkness." (Pg 13)