BBC The Repair Shop viewers applaud ‘brilliant’ guest as he cries over family’s experiences during Holocaust


The Repair Shop viewers have applauded a “brilliant” guest who had them tearing up within minutes after sharing his family’s experiences during the Holocaust. Gary Fisher brought in a Jewish prayer book to the shop experts, telling them, “it’s falling apart.”

He hoped book-binder Christopher Shaw could help secure it and repair what could be repaired. The prayer book belonged to his Jewish grandparents, who lived in Vienna at the outbreak of the Second World War.

Gary told Chris and Jay his father, Harry, was sent to the UK on a Kindertransport in 1938 – these were evacuation routes designed to save children from persecution by the Nazis, but the children had to leave their whole family behind.

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The fully refurbished book looked resplendent when Chris was done
The fully refurbished book looked resplendent when Chris was done

In 1942, Gary’s grandparents and other members of his family were taken to a concentration camp in Czechoslovakia – Theresienstadt. Gary explained Theresienstadt was a “show” camp, often shown to outsiders as proof of fair treatment towards Jewish people. Because of this, Gary’s grandparents were allowed to keep the prayer book with them rather than having it confiscated, as would have happened at other concentration camps.

But just a mile up the road was a gas chamber the same as at any other Nazi death camp. Gary was clearly very emotional and teared up when describing how his great-grandparents, his grandfather’s sister and a 10-year-old nephew were all murdered in the gas chamber. “My grandparents were very lucky,” Gary added.

Gary said he hoped the prayer book offered his grandparents some comfort in the camp, and showed viewers a page of signatures which his grandfather got from fellow camp inmates on the day of liberation. Around 50 names are handwritten on the page, including a German phrase from one prisoner: “So it’s finally over.”

During his time in the camp Gary’s grandfather wrote a poem and drew a picture of the Jewish star hidden behind a drawing of the camp. Gary read the poem to The Repair Shop experts, stopping halfway through as the emotion got to him.

He told Chris: “It’s so fragile – I think it needs to go somewhere where it can be seen by others.” Chris was clearly moved, and told the viewers: “This book serves as a reminder of one of the darkest sections of humanity. I am more worried about this than I have been about most books, it’s just so epic.”

Chris set to work on repairing the book, and when the final reveal was made there was not a dry eye in the house. Gary said, before the unveiling: “I feel like my grandparents are here with me.” Once the renewed, beautiful cover was revealed, Gary broke down in tears. “Welcome back,” he said, adding: “That’s unbelievable – it’s just a complete work of art.”

Viewers were similarly emotional throughout tonight’s show. Twitter users were reporting being in tears within minutes of the show opening with Gary’s story, and at the final reveal they were left as emotional as the rest of us. Even celebrities took to social media to share their thoughts on tonight’s episode, which aired on the BBC at 8pm.

One viewer described it as “the best show ever”, and another said: “The repair shop tonight is playing havoc with my hay fever.” Other viewers said the story had “done me in” and “got me”.

Meanwhile one viewer with German heritage tweeted: “Watching the Repair Shop with a massive lump in my throat at the fella with the Jewish Prayer Book. My German side of the family aren’t Jewish but it still weighs heavy on my heart.”

And for anyone who didn’t catch the show, don’t worry – the book looked like perfection. Well done Chris.

What was the poem written in the prayer book?

Here is the extract of the poem read by Gary in full that his grandfather wrote in his treasured prayer book, translated into English:

Do you know we were also there,

we stood together through summer and winter,

bind our arms and legs together and ease the pain of sleepless hours,

and soon a new day will come when we will part from one another,

but you will be prepared for when we see each other again,

and on that day we will all be free from tyranny.”

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