This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen Analysis

Tadeusz Borowski


Historical Context

From 1933 to 1945, an estimated 15 to 20 million people were imprisoned or murdered in Nazi ghettos and concentration camps spread throughout Nazi-occupied Europe. At least six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust and an estimated one out of every six of those killings took place at Auschwitz death camp.

Nazi Germany, or the Third Reich (1933–1945), was a dictatorship controlled by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Hitler was appointed the Chancellor of Germany in 1933 by the president of the Weimar Republic, Paul von Hindenburg. After Hindenburg’s death in 1934, Hitler solidified his dictatorship by combining the positions and powers of the Chancellery and Presidency.

The Nazis viewed the German people, or the “Aryan race,” as being racially superior to the rest of the world. Jews were considered to be racial enemies of the Third Reich because of their “blood” and its potential to contaminate the purity of the Aryan race.

Origins of Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism, or discrimination against Jews, was present in Europe long before the rise of Nazi Germany. The hatred of Jews stems back to the Middle Ages, when Christian theology blamed the Jews for killing and rejecting Jesus Christ. Additionally, Christianity forbade the practice of charging interest on loans, while Jewish religious law allowed Jews to charge interest to non-Jews. This added fuel to the stereotype that Jews were wealthy and greedy moneylenders. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, pogroms, or violent riots aimed at Jews, increased in the Russian Empire (modern-day Poland, Ukraine, and Belarus).

German defeat in World War I

Part of Germany’s terms of surrender in World...

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Historical Context

(Short Stories for Students)

Poland Under Attack
Despite being a dominant power in Eastern Europe from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century, in the...

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Literary Style

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Although the story is written from the first-person point-of-view, the unnamed narrator maintains a tone of...

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Bibliography and Further Reading

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Alvarez, A., " The Victim of a Full European Education,’’ in New York Times Book Review, February 29, 1976,...

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(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Sources for Further Study

Bigsby, Christopher. Remembering and Imagining the Holocaust: The Chain of Memory. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Crnkovi, Gordana P. Eastern European Literature in Conversation with American and English Literature. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 2000.

Hartley, James. Suffering Witness: The Quandary of Responsibility After the Irreparable. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000.

Parmet, Harriet L. “Images of the Jew Focused on in the Translated Polish Works of Tadeusz Borowski, Jerzy Andrzejewski, and Czeslaw Milosz.” Shofar 19, no. 3 (April 30, 2000): 13-26.

Schwarz, Daniel R. Imagining the Holocaust. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999.

Compare and Contrast

(Short Stories for Students)

1930s: The avant-garde is influential among leading writers. Witold Gombrowicz, who moved to Argentina in 1939, gains an international...

(The entire section is 257 words.)

Topics for Further Study

(Short Stories for Students)

Imagine that you are a journalist writing about life in Auschwitz. Write an article using Borowski's story as your reference source.


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What Do I Read Next?

(Short Stories for Students)

Bread for the Deported (translated into English in 1997) by Bogdan Wojdowski is a novel about World War II Poland, describing the...

(The entire section is 110 words.)