Cover image for A guest at the shooters' banquet : my grandfather's SS past, my Jewish family, a search for the truth
A guest at the shooters' banquet : my grandfather's SS past, my Jewish family, a search for the truth
Gabis, Rita, 1957- , author.
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Bloomsbury, 2015.
Physical Description:
xix, 435 pages : illustrations, maps ; 25 cm
"Gabis follows the trail of her grandfather's collaboration with the Nazis-- a trail riddled with secrets, slaughter, mystery, and discovery"--
A small thing -- Faye Dunaway as an invaded country -- Word gets around -- Bad student --It's Oprah's fault -- Introductions -- Fathers and sons -- An education -- Aunt Karina's pancakes -- War -- This kind of world -- A good get -- Our Anne Frank -- The human heart -- Water -- Yitzhak Arad -- Animals -- Mirele Rein/High Holidays -- Chaya Palevsky née Porus -- Messenger -- Lili Holzman -- Poligon -- Day of Mourning and Hope -- Artūras Karalis -- Lost -- Planners, diggers, guards, shooters -- Devil in a glass jar -- The translator -- Railroad town -- Elena Stankevičienė née Gagis --Bucket -- Devil's auction -- Lucky bird -- Bad man/good man -- Shooter -- Inside/Outside -- A game of life and death -- Mistakes -- Anton Lavrinovich -- Josef Beck -- Illeana Irafeva -- Work -- Jump -- January 2014 -- Šakotis -- Gone -- Given Back -- Robin Fish -- Witnesses for the Prosecution -- The company we keep -- Only God Knows -- Memory.
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS135.L53 G33 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
DS135.L53 G33 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
DS135.L53 G33 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
DS135.L53 G33 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Biography

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In prose as beautiful as it is powerful, Rita Gabis follows the trail of her grandfather's collaboration with the Nazis--a trail riddled with secrets, slaughter, mystery, and discovery.

Rita Gabis comes from a family of Eastern European Jews and Lithuanian Catholics. She was close to her Catholic grandfather as a child and knew one version of his past: prior to immigration he had fought the Russians, whose brutal occupation of Lithuania destroyed thousands of lives before Hitler's army swept in.

Five years ago, Gabis discovered an unthinkable dimension to her family story: from 1941 to 1943, her grandfather had been the chief of security police under the Gestapo in the Lithuanian town of Svencionys, near the killing field of Poligon, where eight thousand Jews were murdered over three days in the fall of 1941. In 1942, the local Polish population was also hunted down. Gabis felt compelled to find out the complicated truth of who her grandfather was and what he had done.

Built around dramatic interviews in four countries, filled with original scholarship, and mesmerizing in its lyricism, A Guest at the Shooters' Banquet is a history and family memoir like no other, documenting "the holocaust by bullets" with a remarkable quest as Gabis returns again and again to the country of her grandfather's birth to learn all she can about the man she thought she knew.

Author Notes

Rita Gabis is an award-winning poet and prose writer. Her grants and fellowships include a New York Foundation for the Arts Award for creative nonfiction and residencies at Yaddo and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. She is the author of the poetry collection The Wild Field (Alice James Books). Her work has appeared in Harvard Review , Poetry , and elsewhere. She lives and teaches in New York City.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Gabis' father is a Russian Jew and her mother is a Lithuanian Catholic. Although her parents were reticent in discussing their families' European past, she knew that one grandmother was sent to a forced labor camp during WWII and that a grandfather fought against the Soviet occupation of Lithuania. Intrigued and disturbed by her recollections of occasional anti-Semitic remarks made by her grandfather, Gabis launched an effort to discover more about the wartime role played by this man whom she had loved. The result of her prolonged search is an intense, moving, and often horrifying memoir that reveals so much about both her grandfather and the attitudes of the general population in Lithuania during the Holocaust. Gabis traveled to Israel and Europe to interview Holocaust survivors, her relatives, and non-Jews who witnessed some of the massacres perpetrated. In addition to the role played by her grandfather in these outrages, she recounts the indifference and sometimes enthusiasm of the local population as the mass murderers do their work. This is a deeply personal and important addition to Holocaust literature.--Freeman, Jay Copyright 2015 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Guilty secrets and a searing identity crisis prompt an exploration of the Holocaust in this heartfelt though scattered personal history. Poet Gabis (The Wild Field), whose father was Jewish, learned that her beloved maternal grandfather was an official in the Lithuanian police force during the German occupation in WWII, and that he may have participated in atrocities including a massacre of 8,000 Jews and the execution of hundreds of Polish civilians. While investigating her grandfather's life, she pieces together a kaleidoscopic assemblage of garbled family legends, archival research, interviews with witnesses and survivors, and fraught ruminations on her conflicted emotions. Her search for the truth sometimes seems self-involved (she dramatizes everything from a bout of food poisoning to a burst water-pipe in her apartment), and her self-conscious lyricism (an account of a massacre ends with an imagined pastorale of Jewish children "linking arms before the soccer goalie gets in position and the kick-off sends time spinning in the spring grass") can feel strained, as though she doesn't trust readers to register the tragedy in these events. Still, Gabis paints an engrossing portrait of the snake-pit of ethnic animosities in wartime Lithuania, and of the intimate horrors of the Holocaust. Agent: Lisa Bankoff, ICM. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Gabis (The Wild Field) has a personal connection to the Holocaust: her Lithuanian grandfather, a Nazi collaborator, may have participated in war crimes. This revelation is especially troubling for Gabis as her other grandparents were Ashkenazi Jews. The author's memoir is a journey of discovery, taking her from interviews with Lithuanian relatives-many of whom seek to forget the past-to the halls of the U.S. Justice Department's Nazi War Crimes division, the U.S. Holocaust Museum, and as far as Lithuania and Jerusalem. Along the way, Gabis confronts not only her family's demons but many of her own, including memories of abuse by a male relative and the struggle to reconcile the grandfather she knew with his Nazi collaboration. The book features an impressive amount of archival research, and the author often tries to engage the ethical issues that sit at the heart of the Shoah. Yet her narrative seems more about the travails of her experience rather than the historical events she investigates. VERDICT There are few dramatic revelations for specialists, and general readers may have trouble keeping track of the myriad characters. However, this thoughtful account is recommended for general audiences.-Frederic Krome, Univ. of Cincinnati Clermont Coll. © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

A Note about the Textp. xiii
Mapsp. xiv
Prologue: Two Dreamsp. xvii
Part I
1 A Small Thingp. 3
2 Faye Dunaway as an Invaded Countryp. 8
3 Word Gets Aroundp. 23
4 Bad Studentp. 27
5 It's Oprah's Faultp. 33
6 Introductionsp. 39
7 Fathers and Sonsp. 43
8 An Educationp. 48
9 Aunt Karina's Pancakesp. 59
10 Warp. 64
11 This Kind of Worldp. 68
12 A Good Getp. 81
13 Our Anne Frankp. 86
14 The Human Heartp. 103
15 Waterp. 106
Part II
16 Yitzhak Aradp. 111
17 Animalsp. 116
18 Mirele Rein/High Holidaysp. 131
19 Chaya Palevsky née Porusp. 141
20 Messengerp. 146
21 Lili Holzmanp. 152
22 Poligonp. 162
23 Day of Mourning and Hopep. 171
24 Arturas Karalisp. 175
Part III
25 Lostp. 183
26 Planners, Diggers, Guards, Shootersp. 194
27 Devil in a Glass Jarp. 216
28 The Translatorp. 221
29 Railroad Townp. 225
30 Elena Stankeviciene née Gagisp. 233
31 Bucketp. 236
32 Devil's Auctionp. 240
33 Lucky Birdp. 243
Part IV
34 Bad Man/Good Manp. 251
35 Shooterp. 267
36 Inside/Outsidep. 269
37 A Game of Life and Deathp. 280
38 Mistakesp. 286
39 Anton Lavrinovichp. 296
40 Josef Beckp. 302
41 Illeana Irafevap. 306
42 Workp. 310
43 Jumpp. 320
Part V
44 January 2014p. 329
45 ¿akotisp. 331
46 Gonep. 345
47 Given Backp. 353
48 Robin Fishp. 358
49 Witnesses for the Prosecutionp. 361
50 The Company We Keepp. 365
51 Only God Knowsp. 371
52 Memoryp. 378
Epiloguep. 391
Acknowledgmentsp. 393
List of Illustrationsp. 399
Notesp. 403
Bibliography and Archives Consultedp. 425