Sometimes the scattered pursuits of life come together to form a moment of connection, a moment that inspires and enlightens. This week my online acquaintance with a Holocaust survivor, my faculty position at CIEE’s Global Institute Berlin, and my desire to impart knowledge of the German Jewish heritage to my children and members of their generation came together in one such connecting moment.
The occasion was Garry Fabian’s visit to Germany to speak about his book A Look Back Over My Shoulder. It wasn’t just Garry’s story of internment, survival, and reconciliation that made the evening special, or the fact that a second German edition of his book has just been released (Blick Zurück. Wie ein Stuttgarter Junge das KZ Theresienstadt überlebt hat). Garry travelled with his daughter Carole and grandson Seamus from Australia, giving our students the chance to hear one family’s Holocaust story from an intergenerational perspective.
Garry is a true story teller whose easy-going speaking style invites us to face the past and learn about what we must never forget. He shared many vignettes from his childhood experiences as a refugee and concentration camp internee, but words were hardly necessary to demonstrate the strength of his spirit with his daughter and grandson at his side. Carole shared her second generation perspective, speaking of her grandmother’s silence and how she gained awareness of the plight of Melbourne’s Jewish refugees as she was growing up. Perched among the college students, my daughter Olivia, a high school senior, could relate to Seamus who spoke of how growing up Jewish and learning about the Holocaust were not as central to his identity as they were for his elders.
Born in Stuttgart in 1934, Garry established a renewed connection to Germany over the course of many years, ultimately deciding to reclaim his citizenship in 2007. Carole and her children have also become German citizens. I’m honored that Garry has contributed his citizenship story for my book project, which may soon include a submission from his descendants as well.