Tadeusz Borowski was born in 1922 in Zhytomyr, Ukraine. Beginning in 1933 Borowski lived in Poland, working as a builder and studying Polish philology at the underground University of Warsaw. He became later active as a prose writer, journalist, and poet. He was arrested in February 1943 and deported to Auschwitz soon after. Borowski was brought to Natzweiler- Daumergen concentration camp in August 1944, and later was taken to Allach, an external camp of Dachau. After his liberation in April 1945 he was brought to the displaced persons camp at Freimann, near Munich. There he met his fellow sufferer and writer, Stanisław Wygodzki (see pp. 178–79), to whom he dedicated the poem “Do ***” (To ***; pp. 220–21).
Borowski's poetry collection Namen der Strömung was published in Munich in 1945, and Bei uns in Auschwitz, an account written in cooperation with two fellow prisoners, followed in 1946. He returned to Poland in June 1946, working as an editor in Warsaw.
In 1949–50 he was a correspondent in Berlin. In 1951, not yet twenty-nine years old, he committed suicide in Warsaw. Borowski left behind an extensive body of poetry and prose, Utwory Zebrane (Collected Works, 1954), which is the source for most of the poems excerpted here. In a letter to his former fellow student, Zofia Świdwińska, dated October 6, 1945, he describes the conditions in which he was transported to Dachau concentration camp, how he escaped execution twice, and what he did to survive after liberation:
But I didn't get to Munich by the most direct route. I arrived via a number of camps, sometimes on foot, sometimes in open cattle trucks, without sleeping much and without eating at all. You probably can't even imagine how long a person can last without food. As for Dachau, I came there from near Stuttgart, in a sick convoy destined, by common consensus—ours as well as that of those left behind—for the gas chambers. We were not gassed. On the day of liberation, they wanted to shoot us down to the last one, but the Americans arrived a few hours too soon. We were not shot. I then nursed myself back to health thanks to my own initiative: I copied poems for a secret graphomaniac—it was one of the worst jobs I have done in my life—and this allowed me to get enough to eat….