[Munich]: Oficyna Warszawska na Obczyznie, 1946. In publisher’s cloth, designed by Anatol Girs, cut from concentration camp uniform, a badge of the political prisoners mounted by sewing on the front panel. Brown stains on the badge. Pages yellowed due to acidic paper. Otherwise in fine condition.
First edition. Presentation copy, inscribed by Krystyn Olszewski, one of the authors. Numbered.
Extremely scarce inscribed copy of the book believed to be the first-ever published about the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, one of the few examples bound into cloth, cut from the actual material of concentration camp striped uniforms. The initiator and publisher of the book was Anatol Girs, the preeminent Polish graphic artist, and publisher, one of the survivors of Auschwitz and the Dachau-Allach concentration camp. After the liberation, Girs founded a publisher in Munich Oficyna Warszawska na Obczyźnie, and the first book he issued was Tadeusz Borowski’s first officially published book Imiona nurtu, in 1945. The present book is the third publication of Oficyna Warszawska, dedicated to the American Seventh Army, written by three young Polish former inmates of Auschwitz: Janusz Nel Siedlecki, Krystyn Olszewski, and Tadeusz Borowski.
Byliśmy w Oświęcimiu (We Were in Auschwitz) is one of the earliest accurate descriptions of Auschwitz. Girs was a father figure and mentor of the authors and according to Borowski’s wife’s he “had an enormous moral and intellectual influence on Borowski". It was also Girs who designed the evocative cover of the book. Besides the regular edition which was bound into prison striped hard paper, with a printed, numbered prison badge of Janusz Nel Siedlecki (no. 6643), a few numbers of copies were bound into material cut from concentration camp uniforms, with a fabric prison badge sewn onto. Two variants of such binding were displayed in 2002, at Yale University exhibition Anatol Girs: Book Designer, together with Girs’ own copy, bound in leather cut from an SS officer’s coat. Our copy is inscribed by Krystyn Olszewski to a certain Alexander “after the first attempt of friendship” (Olkowi po pierwszej próbie przyjaźni) in Warsaw on September 20, 1948. Olszewski (1921–2004) was a political prisoner in Auschwitz, Pawiak, Gross Rosen, Buchenwald, and Dachau. After the liberation, he returned to Poland, studied architecture at the Warsaw University of Technology, and worked as a general designer of urban planning in Warsaw, Baghdad, and Singapore.
Byliśmy w Oświęcimiu is generally considered as a book of memoirs of the three prisoners’, which contains early versions of Borowski’s stories published in Pożegnanie z Marią (1948; Farewell to Maria), however Borowski’s biographer, Tadeusz Drewnowski, claims in his 1962 study that the book is mainly a work of Borowski as for a large extent he co-authored and significantly edited the narratives of the texts of his two fellow-prisoners (Drewnowski, 1962).
Tadeusz Borowski (1922–1951) was a Polish writer and journalist. He was involved in underground organizations during WWII in occupied Poland until 1943 when he was arrested and deported to Auschwitz. After the liberation, he stayed in Germany for some months and his first officially published books appeared in Munich. In June 1946, he returned to Poland, began to work for the Communist party as a journalist, he wrote and published the books of his stories about the concentration camps. In 1951, at the age of 28 as a disillusioned man, he committed suicide.
[Ref.: Drewnowski, T.: Ucieczka z kamiennego świata; o Tadeuszu Borowskim. Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1962.; Drewnowski, T. (ed.): Postal Indiscretion. The Correspondence of Tadeusz Borowski. Northwestern University Press, 2007.] [Ref.: Drewnowski, T.: Ucieczka z kamiennego świata; o Tadeuszu Borowskim. Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 1962.; Drewnowski, T. (ed.): Postal Indiscretion. The Correspondence of Tadeusz Borowksi. Northwestern University Press, 2007.].