“It is that very hope that makes people go without a murmur to the gas chambers, keeps them from risking revolt, paralyses them into numb inactivity… hope that breaks family ties, makes mothers renounce their children, or wives sell their bodies for bread, or husbands to kill. ” (122) “This Way to the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen” by Tadeusz Borowski displays how survival and death have a close relationship. With an absence of morality Tedeusz becomes a key component to the executor’s effort. The overturn of values and an uncertain hope by the personal view of Tedeusz reflects on how the civilization as a whole is suffocated by Nazi control.
It is essential to endure these issues in order to survive. The narrator Tedeusz slides into survival mode with a unique role in the camp, he witnesses and describes the complexity of survival and hope in the camp. He arrives at Auschwitz as a “political” prisoner when the policy on extermination changes, three weeks earlier “Aryans” stopped being sent to the gas chambers, with that he wedges himself in the middle of the hierarchy. With that, he does not live as a prisoner and does not endure the daily tasks as bad as most. He becomes one of the experienced, well-adjusted, completely institutionalized inmates.
For him everything is a matter of sheer practicality, and people who refuse to cooperate with the necessary politics of camp life deserve not pity but contempt. The Canada men “carry [the babies] like chickens” (116), showing their surrender to the system of the Nazis. He is a victim collaborating in crime; immunized against the evil that surrounds him; able to find a fairly comfortable situation. His tone is one of moral indifference; he views the murdered people and the ones dying of starvation from a distance, without compassion, with scorn even.
In “Auschwitz, Our Home,” one of the short stories in the collection, the narrator exclaims, “Never before in the history of mankind has hope been stronger than man, but never also has it done so much harm as it has in this war, in this concentration camp. We were never taught how to give up hope, and this is why today we perish in gas chambers. “(122) He is confronted by a world where the future is unknown. It plants an insightful thought of the working world. The writing portrays in such a brutally honest tone it forces us to confront the world and our understanding of human nature.
In Auschwitz the odds are against survival what happens when we are confronted by a world where a future is not certain. We are asked to reaffirm our beliefs and the foundation for our beliefs. Does hope motivate us to action, or in essence of the text, does it paralyze our belief system and make us less likely to act for survival? Some characters that came off the trains showed yes some showed no. One character in particular bravely makes a decision right from the train. “.. And over there is the gas chamber: communal death, disgusting and ugly.
And over in the other direction is the concentration camp… more hideous, more terrible than death… I know, she says with a shade of proud contempt… She walks off resolutely in the direction of the trucks. ” This is a dignified act; she is unafraid to stand up for her values. On the contrary, a woman is numbed by the choice she must make, “She is young, healthy, good-looking, she wants to live. But the child runs after her, wailing loudly: ‘Mama, mama don’t leave me! ’” (43), she sacrifices her morals for a hope of survival with a tragic innate act.
The novel also exhibits how hope gets in the way for survival. Every aspect of civilization is devalued so that everyone is under the same system created by the Nazis. Incomers remind the prisoners of their lost values and show a glimpse of the outside world, they are then treated with resentment and disgust. The Nazis and the prisoners feel better than the incomers and quickly reject them and their system of values in forms of anger. The Canada men “brutally tear suitcases from their hands, impatiently pull of their coats” (118). As a “woman reaches down quickly to pick up her handbag.
A whip flies, the woman screams, stumbles, and falls” (115) the narrator says, “I don’t know why, but I am furious, simply furious with these people-furious because I must be here because of them. I feel no pity. I am not sorry they’re going to the gas chamber. ” (116) the prisoners feel anger toward the incomers because “the easiest way to relieve your hate is to turn against someone weaker. ” (116) Even the prisoners feel no sympathy for the incomers because the outside and inside worlds of the camp do not mix; only one world can exist.
Since a civilization is based on pure values, these values must be united as one. “If the dead are wrong and the living are always right, everything is finally justified; but the story of Borowski’s life and that which he wrote about Auschwitz show that the dead are right, and not the living. ” (26) To endure the derailed moral value in the camp, one must live in savagely, in each present moment and with faith to survive. By way of justification and structure Tedeusz and others learn that survival and death are in close association.
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