Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Gas Chamber

The thing that struck me most about the short story Ladies and Gentlemen, to the Gas Chamber was the manner in which the narrator, a Pole who works in a Nazi concentration camp, becomes desensitized to the mass executions that go on in the short story. I found this work to be an interesting contrast to other pieces of Holocaust literature that I have read, such as Number the Stars, Night, and even The Diary of Anne Frank. While this story, similar all those mentioned, was interesting and filled with emotion, I thought that the perspective from which this story was told made it more unique. Rather than hearing the struggle of a Holocaust victim who gets displaced from her home and is forced to move from camp to camp, watching her family members die from either gas or starvation, we instead witness the life of a labor camp worker who, although still harshly treated, is worried more about the day to day grind of survival than he seems to be about death. While clearly not ideal, his situation seems to be better than most holocaust victims. Furthermore, his attitude toward the mass executions is very callous. He makes statements such as "It is here that goods are unloaded for Birkenau: material for the expansion of the camp and people for the gas chambers." Here he speaks of people as goods, and later on in the story, he states that he is actually angry with the people who he must unload from the trains. However, as it shows later on in the story, his callous nature is really just a means for him to cope with the atrocities of his life. I found the narrator's reaction to his situation to be an interesting look into the way that humans deal with their own tragic situations.

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