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.
Decades later, 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 Švencionys, 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.
"Engrossing . . . An eloquent testimony to the war's enduring, violent impact."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review, Best Books of 2015)
"Intense, moving . . . A deeply personal and important addition to Holocaust literature."—Booklist (starred review)
"[A] powerful consideration of what happens when reality contradicts our belief 'that those we love or have loved are good.'"—The New Yorker
"Heartfelt . . . Gabis paints an engrossing portrait of the snake-pit of ethnic animosities in wartime Lithuania, and of the intimate horrors of the Holocaust."—Publishers Weekly
"In this intricate and intimate journey Rita Gabis brings macrocosmic Holocaust horror into the microcosm of our dining rooms, kitchens, and bedrooms—a noble feat, one you will not soon forget."—New York Journal of Books