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The Shadows Behind Me

For six desperate years, Willie Sterner’s skill as a painter saves him from death at the hands of the Nazis. Faced with inhumane conditions in slave labour camps, and grieving the brutal loss of his close-knit family of nine, Willie relies on his courage and ingenuity to hold onto his dignity. Showing how random luck could change the course toward almost certain death for Jews in the Holocaust, Willie finds himself transferred to Oskar Schindler’s Emalia factory, where he comes under the protection of the famed German businessman and becomes his personal art restorer. An unvarnished account of what he experienced and what he lost, The Shadows Behind Me also follows the story of Willie and Eva – the woman he meets on a death march – as they rebuild their lives and regain hope in Canada. Gripping and moving, this is a tribute to one man’s remarkable determination to survive.

Introduction by Hilary Earl

At a Glance
Krakow ghetto
Forced labour camps
Oskar Schindler’s factory
Mauthausen concentration camp
Postwar Austria, displaced persons camps
Arrived in Canada in 1948
Adjusting to life in Canada

256 pages, including index

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Photo of Willie Sterner

About the author

Willie Sterner was born in Wolbrom, Poland, on September 15, 1919. The eldest of seven children, he was the only one to survive the Holocaust. After the war, he lived in displaced persons camps in Austria, where he became chief of the Jewish police. He and his wife, Eva, immigrated to Canada in 1948 and settled in Montreal. Willie Sterner passed away in 2011.

I was surprised that Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist, would talk to me not as a Jew but as a normal person.... I thought that I must be having a nice dream.