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A Guest at the Shooters' Banquet: My Grandfather's SS Past, My…

de Rita Gabis

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381511,745 (3.83)1
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.… (més)
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How does one face the unfaceable? Often by burying it out of sight hopefully never to be seen again. At least that's how the author's family treated their experience of the horrors of the Eastern Front in World War II, though the biggest horror for Gabis is coming to terms with the likelihood that her well-loved grandfather played an active role in the rounds of ethnic cleansing that took place in the region. Why do I not rate this memoir a bit higher? Partly because my ends are not the same as those of Gabis. She writes as someone learning to come to terms with the realities of the past and her personal burdens but at a certain point my interest started to flag a bit, as though I'm not sure that there's more real content here then would be contained in a "New Yorker" article. This book is still a useful addition to that shelf of books where the authors wrestle with old evils to see if a usable past can be reconstituted. ( )
  Shrike58 | Jan 19, 2016 |
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A red wing rose in the darkness . . .
O my love, where are they, where are they going
- Czeslaw Milosz
Svetiany was remembered by the hussars only as the drunken camp . . .
Many complaints were made against the troops, who . . .
took also horses, carriages, and carpets.
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Dream one: I'm being hunted down.
On a freezing Wednesday morning I stood in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of Homeland Security, a few minutes early for my meeting with Michael MacQueen, a war crimes investigator.
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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.

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