This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen falls into the genre of Holocaust literature. In his collection of short stories, Borowski presents an alternative viewpoint on this atrocious historical event by narrating from the perspective of a privileged, non-Jewish prisoner. Like many works of Holocaust literature, Borowski’s short stories are inspired by his personal experiences as a prisoner at Auschwitz. Borowski uses an understated, documentarian style of prose that allows the horrific images of camp life—such as prisoners scraping crushed infant skulls off of the floors of train cars, eating raw human brains, and watching three thousand people be put to death between two throw-ins at a prison soccer match—to speak for themselves.
Desensitization to Violence
The prisoners at Auschwitz witness and endure endless violence at camp. Even in seemingly mundane scenes of camp life, instances and threats of violence are always present. In “The People Who Walked On,” the prisoners play soccer as thousands of Jews march past them on their way to the gas chambers. Instead of reacting or feeling upset, Tadek and the other prisoners try to normalize the experience by refusing to humanize the people walking to the gas chambers. Borowski’s idea that all of the members of the concentration camp community held some responsibility for the atrocities that took place during the Holocaust was initially met with disdain. After the book’s first publication in Poland, the Communist Party criticized the book as amoral and Americanized, and the Catholic Church criticized Borowski’s...
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