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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 25 May 2009
The experience of Auschwitz told in terms of everyday normality sitting side by side with systemactic slaughter.

This is only 180 pages long, but is so remarkable and shocking that it took me nearly a week to read it. Borowski was an Aryan prisoner at both Birkenau and it's neighbour, Auschwitz. A few weeks before his arrival Nazi policy changed so that Aryans were not normally sent to the gas chamber. In this book he recounts his experiences in the camps - and after his liberation - in the form of a series of short stories effectively told in the first person. This is a world where, in Borowski's words, "..the ideals of freedom, justice and human dignity had slid off man like a rotten rag....There is no crime that man will not commit in order to save himself. And having saved himself he will commit crimes for increasingly trivial reasons; he will commit them firstly out of duty, then from habit, and finally - for pleasure."

Borowski and the other Aryan prisoners receive red cross parcels, letters and presents from home, have a soccer pitch, concert hall, hospital and even a brothel. At the same time they are assigned work that includes dispatching the trainloads of Jews to the gas chamber and the beating or killing to order of fellow prisoners. He describes a system established by the Nazis where the prisoners are complicit in the running of the extermination programme but spend their time working the system to get better jobs and more food, or trading and bartering items plundered from the gas chamber victims.

It is is fantastically well written account, using simple images and language to describe the camp set up, the relationships between the inmates and how they cope with and react to the awfulness of the system they are in. A kind of normal human life exists side by side with the holocaust. In one story he describes a train arriving with 3,000 Jews aboard during a football match. Everyone on board is sent directly to the gas chamber in the interval between two throw-ins.

He is a tremendously sympathetic writer and is able to show the point of view of even the vilest inmates and set their actions in context. He doesn't ask for forgiveness of anyone, including himself, but simply sets out the circumstances he found himself in.

It's a completely different take on the camps than a straight historical narrative and all the more terrifying as a result and it has given me actual nightmares.

In my view this is a masterpiece.
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VINE VOICEon 29 November 2003
Taduez Borowski's short stories of life in Auschwitz Birkenau are startling in their casualness, until one realises this is a front hiding the deep pain and anguish underneath. It was not possible to survive without accepting some moral compromises, and these tales, give occasional glimpses of the torment of the victim who is debased by the system.
On a more superficial level, there is a feel of what life must have been like, with the incidental horrors of the concentration camp marching alongside the everyday life of eating, working, and resting.
I have only given this book three stars because I found the stories difficult to follow and was never sure of the identity of the narrator (unlike, for instance, Primo Levi's work). However, don't let this put you off reading the book - there are frequent unforgettable passages.
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on 19 December 2000
I agree with the comments of the other (current) reviewer. I would also add that Czeslaw Milosz's the Captive Mind (also a good read, but on the evils of the far left rather than those of the far right) contains a brief character sketch of Borowski which is fascinating to read in conjunction with the Auschwitz Stories.
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on 5 July 2013
A disturbing read it gives you some insight into the concentration camps and how they were run,a book that needs to read and read again. It has to be on par with Elie Wiesel, "Night" a classic in this category.
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on 21 June 2008
I found this book by chance. I think it is the most moving book I have read on this subject. Tadeusz comes across as a very strong person in the face of such horror. For someone so young he seemed to cope with it all in a heroic way. Sadly he fell apart in the end and could make no sense of it all even though he was free. He should be remembered more than he seems to be. I had not heard of him prior to reading this and I should have. He was in need of help just as much on his release as he had been in the camps. Maybe he needed more help outside as he was alone to ponder on the shock of all he had seen and realised that nothing had really changed in the outside world as a consequence of it.
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on 29 September 2009
Incredible that someone can survive such horrors and then go on to write such compelling short stories about them. A master-writer of the genre, who himself survived two death camps only to tragically commit suicide later, by gassing himself.
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on 26 March 2008
A truly fantastic book through the eyes of an unfortunate man who witnessed the horrors of the holocaust. This book opens your eyes to what really happened and its autobiographic touch presents the authenticity of what is being said. A fantastic read, anyone even slightly interested in what happened behind the doors of Auschwitz and other camps should buy this book. An unforgettable historical account. Highly recommended
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on 2 February 2011
There is very little that I can add to the already fantastic comments about this excellent book. This is not a holiday book and takes a harsh, sometimes cynical but very pragmatic view upon the very grey areas of war and what people need to and have to do to survive. If you like this book, I would recommend watching the movie 'The Counterfeiters', which goes over similar themes in a slightly more accessible format.

A book worth reading though.
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on 3 March 2016
Powerful and truthfully heartbreaking. A must have for all the people who are interested in Holocaust literature. Stories that every human being should read really.
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on 31 October 2013
A story of degradation as they descend into terrifying brutality. Survival is the dominating ethos, sheer animal intensity to eat, keep warm and endure!
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