Friday, February 08, 2013

Tadeusz Borowski

“The world is ruled by neither justice nor morality; crime is not punished nor virtue rewarded, one is forgotten as quickly as the other. The world is ruled by power and power is obtained with money. To work is senseless, because money cannot be obtained through work, but through exploitation of others. And if we cannot exploit as much as we wish, at least let us work as little as we can. Moral duty? We believe neither in the morality of man nor in the morality of systems.” ― Tadeusz Borowski, This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen (12 November 1922 – 1 July 1951)

Tadeusz Borowski was a Polish writer, a resistance fighter and an Auschwitz and Dachau survivor. Borowski painted a picture of the concentration camps where humankind was without benevolence, without compassion; lacking empathy, lacking mercy; inexorable, ruthless, and malevolent; a savage, brutal animal devoid of morals but obedient to laws. Borowski believed there was no crime a man would not commit to save himself.

“Despite the madness of war, we lived for a world that would be different. For a better world to come when all this is over. And perhaps even our being here is a step towards that world. Do you really think that, without the hope that such a world is possible, that the rights of man will be restored again, we could stand the concentration camp even for one day? It is that very hope that makes people go without a murmur to the gas chambers, keeps them from risking a revolt, paralyses them into numb inactivity. It is hope that breaks down family ties, makes mothers renounce their children, or wives sell their bodies for bread, or husbands kill. It is hope that compels man to hold on to one more day of life, because that day may be the day of liberation. Ah, and not even the hope for a different, better world, but simply for life, a life of peace and rest. 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 the war, in this concentration camp. We were never taught how to give up hope, and this is why today we perish in gas chambers.”

Ruth Franklin in the Sept. 24 issue of The New Republic:

“This Auschwitz, in contrast to the myths that sprang up immediately in the war's aftermath, is not a place of martyrdom or heroism. It is a place where inmates higher up in the camp hierarchy, the Polish political prisoners and others with special privileges, jeer at the Jews and Gypsies lower on the totem pole; where even a minor offense will be brutally avenged; where a prisoner, wondering if his girlfriend might have been sent to the gas chamber, muses, `So what, what's gone is gone.’ All this is recounted in a chillingly unsentimental and brazenly nihilistic voice that emphasizes its own detachment from the horrors that it records. Yet this detachment, it soon becomes clear, is a literary device for containing the speaker's fury, which bubbles up between the lines of each story even as he tries to choke it back.”
Jan Kott in his introduction to the Penguin edition writes: “Borowski describes Auschwitz like an entomologist. The image of ants recurs many times, with their incessant march, day and night, night and day, from the ramp to the crematorium and from the barracks to the baths. The most terrifying thing in Borowski’s stories is the icy detachment of the author.”
After the war believed that the Polish Communist Party was the only political force truly capable of preventing any future Auschwitz from happening. He eventually became completely disillusioned with the regime. He committed suicide by gassing himself at the age of 28 three days after his wife gave birth to their daughter.

The capitalist class are men who have traded their soul for the accumulation of profit. The world is not ruled by justice or morality, it is ruled by power. Capitalists control presidents and parliaments. They disdain the opinions of the common peoples of the world. They ridicule the organizations that have been established to protect the Earth and promote peace. Their end determines their actions; their laws supersede all others.

“You know how much I used to like Plato. Today i realize he lied. For the things of this world are not a reflection of the ideal, but a product of human sweat, blood and hard labour. It is we who built the pyramids, hewed the marble for the temples and the rocks for the imperial roads, we who pulled the oars in the galleys and dragged wooden ploughs, while they wrote dialogues and dramas, rationalized their intrigues by appeals in the name of the Fatherland, made wars over boundaries and democracies. We were filthy and died real deaths. They were 'aesthetic' and carried on subtle debates.
There can be no beauty if it is paid for by human injustice, nor truth that passes over injustice in silence, nor moral virtue that condones it.”

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