A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction

By Ruth Franklin | Go to book overview

1
Angry Young Man: Tadeusz Borowski

It is impossible to write about Auschwitz impersonally. The first duty
of Auschwitzers is to make clear just what a camp is…. But let them
not forget that the reader will unfailingly ask: how did it happen that
you survived?… Explain, then, how you bought places in the hospital,
easy posts; how you shoved the “Muselmädnner” into the oven; how
you bought women, men; what you did in the barracks, unloading the
transports, at the gypsy camp; tell about the daily life of the camp, about
the hierarchy of fear, about the loneliness of every man. But write that
you, you were the ones who did this. That a portion of the sad fame of
Auschwitz belongs to you as well.

—from Borowskis review of a Holocaust testimony

The book is small, about the size of an ordinary paperback, and heavier than it looks. Its cover bears neither a title nor the name of an author, just an upsidedown red triangle with the letter “P” inside and the number 6643. Its cardboard binding is covered in fabric: a soft, flannel-like material, warm and fuzzy to the touch, striped blue-gray.

This book is one of the most remarkable documents to emerge from World War II. It is called Byliśmy w Oświęcimiu, or We Were in Auschwitz, and it was published in Munich in 1946. The three authors, all non-Jewish Polish survivors of the death camp, were listed on the tide page by their camp numbers.

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