Title: A Spoonful of Soup and other stories
Author: Gary Gray
Publisher: Makor Jewish Community Library
Place of publication: Melbourne
Year of Publication: 2003
Location of Book: Rare Books Collection, Sir Louis Matheson Library, Monash University Clayton Campus
Cities/town/camps: Lower Silesia: Faulbruck, Ludwigsdorf, Peterswaldau, Sportshule, Poland: Birkenhein, Brande, Czeladz, Sosnowiec
Note: those cities/towns/camps underlined are those which are most central to the narrative
Gary Gray presents a testimony of his experiences throughout the Holocaust years. Written as a collection of short stories, together they make up an account of a young man’s experiences while incarcerated for three years during the German occupation. The first 14 pages describe his family’s situation in Sosnowiec, Poland in the years prior to the occupation. The next 182 pages consist of short stories detailing his experiences in a number of slave labour and concentration camps; his life under German occupation. The last 25 pages include his liberation by the Russians; a brief explanation of his life after his release and how he came to emigrate to Australia. Gary Gray wrote his account late in life as a legacy for his three daughters. Some of his short stories have previously been published in magazines and newspapers, but it was not until 2003 that the collection was published in its entirety by the Makor Jewish Community Library.
Aged just thirteen years Gray was incarcerated by the Nazis. Born in 1930 into an affluent family in Poland, he talks briefly of the fear and anticipation of the years leading to German occupation. In 1941 the Judenrat selected him to be put to work. In 1942 Gray was conscripted into the Birkenhein camp where he was put to work on the German railways. After being liberated from the Sportshule Reichenbach Concentration Camp on May 5th 1945, he made the trip home to discover first hand what had happened to his family. He later worked in the Ministry of Commerce in Warsaw for a number of years before discovering that he had two aunts in Australia. He writes about the difficulty of obtaining a passport in Poland in the post war years, and his move to Australia.
The German forces took Gray before his hometown was moved into the Srodula Ghetto. He hears of this occurrence from a fellow inmate at the Ludwigsdorf camp in a district near the German-Czech border. In 1943 he learns of the ghetto’s liquidation and the deportation of its inhabitants to Auschwitz where his parents and little sister were gassed. He writes of his experiences at a number of slave labour camps. He works on the railway lines at Birkenhein, at the ammunition factory at Ludwigsdorf. Whilst in the Faulbruck camp he is put to work at the Dhiel factory, and when he is transported to the concentration camp in Sportshule he is lucky enough to be put to work in the kitchen.
This account is not written in chronological order but rather as a pastiche of memories and recollections. When read together, they take the reader on a journey through his experiences. Each story reflects a different aspect of his life through the war period, and there are many accounts of different individuals. His writing is reflective in nature as he is writing as an adult looking back on his experiences. He writes of the people who helped him survive, such as Rosie who gave him her soup card and organised for him to be placed in lighter work groups. He also writes about the hardships faced by others such as his cousin Maurice who was selected for death due to an abscess on his face. Gray’s stories are an insightful exposition into one man’s unforgettable journey.