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The Shadows Behind Me

The Azrieli Foundation | The Azrieli Series of Holocaust Survivor Memoirs

For six desperate years, Willie Sterner’s skill as a painter saved him from death at the hands of the Nazis. Faced with inhumane conditions in slave labour camps and grieving the loss of his close-knit family, Sterner relied on courage and ingenuity to hold onto his dignity. Through almost random luck, he came under the protection of the famed Oskar Schindler and became 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 met on a death march – as they rebuilt their lives and regained hope in Canada. Gripping and moving, this is a tribute to one man’s remarkable determination to survive.


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.

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