1980; Time Books publishers, New York; hardbound; very good condition with unmarked pages; dust jacket has minor edge wear.
An uninflected account of the day-to-day life of one Gentile Polish prisoner during four years in Nazi concentration camps--four years of hard work, starvation, disease, freezing, lice, beatings, selections, gassings, and shootings. What Kielar describes unabashedly is how one survived. . . through indifference to others and the ability to pay to save one's own skin. He worked as a corpse carrier: ""The greatest problem was getting the [gassed] bodies up the stairs. Their heavy heads bumped against each step with a dull thud; their limp extremities caught on protruding steps and thresholds.""
He is frank about benefiting from the death of others. With treasures stolen, worked or bartered for, a prisoner could obtain food, cigarettes, schnapps, medical treatment, tolerable work assignments, power and influence over his less crafty fellow inmates, even the removal of his number from the death list. He describes with equal detachment the physical brutality and relative comfort; at Auschwitz he often met his buddies in the mortuary and fried potato pancakes. Through his diary-like narrative we also encounter female prostitution and male homosexuality; Russia POWs who ""liquidated"" transgressors and spies in their midst; a few aborted love affairs; neighboring civilians who aided the prisoners; a heroic Jewess who murdered an SS guard before her ""shower""', and finally the flight of the Germans and the liberation of the camps. Kielar breathes not a word about the nature of his life before or after those 1500 days.
He does not reflect upon the experience, does not condemn or praise, expresses no self-righteousness or guilt, struggles with no deep questions. Such restraint is remarkable. But one cannot help wondering if Kielar ever unlearned the indifference he developed in order to survive the hellish camps.