A Look Back Over My Shoulder by Garry Fabian

four stars

shoulderA Look Back Over My Shoulder is more than simply a survivor’s account of the his experiences during the Holocaust. It is a memoir that tells the story of author Garry Fabian’s entire life. While most people are aware that life became very difficult for Jews in much of Europe after Adolf Hitler came into power in 1933, Fabian is able to provide a detailed, first-hand account of what it was really like. His early years were spent constantly being uprooted and seeking shelter with his family while his father and mother desperately tried to make a meager income. While somewhat settled in Prague, Garry and his parents, along with many other Jewish people, were forced to board a train and then march a few miles to the ghetto of Theresienstadt. They spent the next three years of their lives there, and thousands of the other Jewish people forced there didn’t survive. The book goes on from this horrid period of his life, telling about Garry’s years growing up in Australia, his marriage, his various jobs, his children, and his grandchildren.

Interestingly, since this is not the first edition of his book, the author is able to tell about the process of writing it. He is able to describe getting it translated to German, finding a publisher, and also discuses of some of the acclaim he received. The subject matter in the first part of the book is extremely dark and at times hard to read because of descriptions of things like disease and pestilence, and telling of children being forced to sew Nazi uniforms. Food was served that was little more than dirty water in a bowl. As Fabian goes on to tell about his life after the Holocaust, he writes of his training as an electrician, his life in the navy, his involvement in the Jewish community, and many other twists and turns along the way. While parts of this section of the book are a little bit slow, it is relieving and uplifting that Fabian goes on to have a family and a fairly normal life after experiencing such horror.