Willie Sterner is the son of Hirsch Leib and Hinda Raizel Sterner. He was born September 15, 1919 in Wolbrom, Poland, where his father was a painting contractor. Willie had six younger siblings: Yosel Meyer, Abraham, Ida, Genya, Rochel and Sara. In 1929 the family moved to Krakow, where Willie attended vocational school and later entered his father's painting business. Following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, Willie was sent to the Pustkow labor camp near Krakow, where he was put to work felling trees and cutting lumber. Some time later he escaped and returned to Krakow, where he found painting work to support himself. In late 1940 or early 1941 Willie's father moved the family back to Wolbrom, where Willie and his brothers were given work as painters for the commanding officer of the local ghetto. When the first round-ups began in 1942, Willie's mother and sisters were deported to Treblinka, where they perished. The rest of the family was then resettled to the Krakow ghetto. Since they were sent without any belongings, Willie was given permission to return to Wolbrom to retrieve the family's clothing. Once back in Wolbrom, he was denied permission to return to Krakow. At this point Willie went into hiding with a Pole named Kazia Strzalka, who lived nearby. While in hiding, Willie learned that his father and brothers had been deported during the October action in Krakow. After hearing the news, Willie lost the will to live and gave himself up to the Germans, who sent him back to Krakow. For the next several months, Willie was a forced laborer at the airport. When the Krakow ghetto was liquidated in March 1943, Willie was among the 8,000 Jews who were sent to the Plaszow concentration camp. Later that year, as a result of a request by Oskar Schindler for a professional painter, Willie was transferred to the branch of the Plaszow camp that had been set up at his enamel works compound. When Schindler's factory was closed, Willie was deported to Mauthausen. For three weeks he labored in the quarry before being transferred to the Messerschmitt factory at the Gusen II subcamp, where he worked as a painter. In April 1945 Willie was sent back to Mauthausen, only to be evacuated a short time later on a forced march to the Gunskirchen subcamp. On May 5, 1945 Willie was finally liberated in Gunskirchen. After recuperating from the typhus he contracted at the end of the war, Willie moved to the Wells displaced persons camp. There he became reacquainted with a survivor from Sosnowiec named Eva Mrowska, whom he had met on the forced march to Gunskirchen. They were married the following July. From 1946 until their immigration to Canada in 1948, the Sterners lived in the Bindermichl displaced persons camp, where Willie served as the chief of police.