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We Were In Auschwitz Hardcover – February 15, 2000

3.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

The books under review represent both the earliest and most recent of Holocaust memoirs. We Were in Auschwitz was written by a trio of former inmates in 1945, the most famous of whom was Tadusz Borowski, author of This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen. The book gives an insightful depiction of camp life, in particular the use and meaning of such slang terms as "Canada" (which refers to "prosperity," or the looted wealth stored at Auschwitz). The brutality of daily life and the guilt of survival come through clearly. Published in Poland in 1946 and translated in its entirety for the first time, this book is a welcome addition to Holocaust literature. Conversely, Samson's memoir appears to have been written only recently. The author, her mother, and two siblings survived in hiding for three years with the help of a Christian family. (Samson now lives in Baltimore.) Her story gives important insight into the nature of Polish collaboration with the Nazis. Although her story is well written and deserves to be told, the subtitle, "A Child's View of the Holocaust," is inaccurate. Since the book is apparently not based on a diary or notes written at the time, it is really not a child's view but rather a recollection of her experiences. Although it might seem a trivial point, it is important to realize that little Holocaust literature actually speaks to us with a child's voice. Both books are recommended for public and academic libraries.DFrederic Krome, Jacob Rader Marcus Ctr. of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 212 pages
  • Publisher: Welcome Rain Publishers (February 15, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566491231
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566491235
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,268,270 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I say worst not because it was poorly written or translated but because the descriptions of the events and the people are *almost* too horrible to believe. At times I was too sickened to continue reading but I desired to know how they survived the sights, the smells, the screams, the smoke. When I finished the book, I found inspiration-- if anyone could survive Auschwitz, then the small trivial problems that we sometimes let control our lives can be overcome. The book, unfortunately, ends abruptly as if the authors in recounting these horrible memories could stand them no more. I would have liked to have read about their liberation and their lives after the war, but I thank them for having the courage and the strength to give us their account of this inhuman history.
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Format: Hardcover
Survivors did not triumph, they were just lucky or resourceful... Since there is no description at this time for this book, let me add one. In 1945, three Polish survivors of Auschwitz (non-Jewish political prisoners) wrote their memories. These are graphic, unsparing memories that are fresh, since they were written right after liberation. They honestly discuss the inhumane, unspeakable conditions of starvation and daily deaths, and even murders among prisoners (kapos). This is the first time this book has ever been translated into English. in 1951, Tadeusz Borowski (#119198) previously authored a collection of memories in "This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentleman". He then committed suicide. This is an essential addition to anyone interested in Holocaust studies, but be warned that it is devastating. By the way, Janusz Nel Siedlecki was Number 6643, and Krystyn Olszewski was Number 7587.
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Format: Hardcover
The reviewers of this book have done a masterful job. However, the paragraph on p.141 beginning, "We work beneath the earth and above it, under a roof and in the rain, with spade, the pickaxe and the crowbar." ... and ending with "Antiquity--the conspiracy of free men against slaves!" deserves reading and rereading, after which the next six paragraphs should be read slowly and thoughtfully.
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Format: Hardcover
I cannot give this account of the "concentration universe" a certain number of "stars," although that was required to write this review. How trite that is. Accounts such as these were never intended to be evaluated so.

I feel compelled to explain to the reader something of the philosophy of Borowski, one of authors of this account. His writings were driven by an anger that was the result of a "disappointed love of the world and of humanity." In his mind and in his writings he reduced the world and humanity to its simplest and most brutal factors. His anger from this disappointment grew in him a particular philosophy of human existence, and accordingly his accounts of human existence became naked, brutal portrayals of this theory. All that he records in this narrative is true, but not all of the truth of his experience is recorded here. His anger fed off of a fear that any hope or faith in humanity could only be a self-deception, as he perceived history had proven with Nazism.

Yet, I believe the accounts detailed here of the naked actions of man under these most extreme of circumstances should never be discounted or forgotten, albeit there will always be other accounts and other truths of humankind.

Borowski committed suicide in his home in Warsaw in 1951.
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