We Were in Auschwitz

Janusz Siedlecki, Author, Krystyn Olszewski, Joint Author, Tadeusz Borowski, Joint Author Welcome Rain Publishers $25 (0p) ISBN 978-1-56649-123-5
Originally compiled in 1945 by three Polish gentiles who spent time in Nazi camps for their ""political crimes,"" this account describes life in Auschwitz with a chilling immediacy. Translated now for the first time into English by Nitecki (Recovered Land), the book is a collection of writings (some of which appeared in This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, a collection Borowski edited shortly before his suicide in 1951) on various aspects of camp life. All the memoirs detail, in spare, unsentimental prose, the unthinkable activities the prisoners embraced in order to survive: inmates sorted through the valuables of the dead; Kapos did not hesitate to murder other inmates so that they could go on living; doctors in the so-called camp hospitals were more likely to kill than treat the seriously ill. There's a devastating description of one Christmas Eve: after watching starving Gypsy children get chased away from piles of bread, the narrator indulges in a meal of stolen food. Here is stark depiction of a chaotic and cruel reality, made even worse by the absence of morality, charity or fellowship. There were, according to these survivors, no heroes at Auschwitz; those who did not die became ""totally familiar with the inexplicable and the abnormal"" and ""learned to live on intimate terms with the crematoria."" This is an important addition to Holocaust studies, but not for those who choose to see survival in Auschwitz as a triumph of the human spirit. (July)
Reviewed on: 10/02/2000
Release date: 10/01/2000
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