K. Heidi Fishman, Author, Holocaust Educator
Gentle, Informative, and Inspiring Holocaust Education Through My Mother's Experiences as a Child Leads to Discussions about Acceptance of Others
K. Heidi Fishman grew up in West Hartford, Connecticut. At Loomis-Chaffee, while academics always came first for Heidi, she was also involved with theater, on the high school swim team, and on the boys’ water polo team (back in the dark ages before there was a girls’ team). She continued her athletic pursuits at Williams College as a member of their varsity swim team and spent several summers as a camp counselor. Heidi earned her EdD in Counseling Psychology from Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. As a psychologist, working both at Dartmouth College and in private practice, she specialized in treating people with eating disorders and histories of trauma.
In 2015, Heidi won the Joseph Zola Memorial Holocaust Educator Award from the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies — University of Hartford for the book proposal that led to Tutti's Promise. Since the novel’s publication, Heidi has been speaking extensively at schools, synagogues, workshops, and libraries. She is in the process of compiling successful lesson plans for her website to assist educators who teach the Holocaust using Tutti's Promise.
When not traveling around the country to tell her mother’s story, Heidi resides in Norwich, Vermont, with her husband Dave, a feisty border terrier, and a stow-away cat. She occasionally sees her four children who have suddenly become busy twenty-somethings. Heidi’s next book will reveal the little-known story of the Metal Jews of Westerbork. You can find Heidi on Facebook, at popjeandme.com, and occasionally in the kitchen trying to improve her challah recipe.
The most important thing the author wants readers to gain from her book:
Never Forget. It is the reason that my mother continues to tell her story and teachers continue to invite both of us to come to their classrooms. Never forget. People say it when they talk about the Holocaust, but the phrase can mean many different things. Some say we have to remember the victims. Some say we need to honor the survivors. And others say we need to fight anti-Semitism. All of that is true, but it doesn’t capture the deeper meaning of those two words. “Never forget” means we need to learn from history. We need to understand that prejudice hurts: it injures the people who are discriminated against, and it damages the people who hold the biased views. Looking at differences between people and using those disparities to demean or intimidate others is insensitive and cruel. Instead, we need to notice our similarities as human beings and find ways to bridge the gaps between each other to move forward toward positive human relations. “Never forget” reminds us that seven billion people need to find a way to live peacefully on this one small planet no matter what religion, color, nationality, gender, or sexual orientation they are.
Why the author is an authority on the subject of her book:
This book is about my mother and her family. It portrays the events they went through during the Holocaust. It took me five years to write the book as I researched the events, people, and places in depth. My mother and I had many, many conversations as I asked her for more details of her memories. I visited all the places my mother went over the course of 1940-1945 and I interviewed several other Holocaust survivors who were in the same camps. I found archival materials in various museums throughout the world that helped put the missing pieces of the story together. Finally, as a psychologist, as a daughter, and as a granddaughter, I was able to portray my mother, uncle, and grandparents in a way that is true to their personalities.
Speaking Engagements and School Presentations:
How do we teach students the importance of the past so that they can shape the world into a better place in the future? I will come to your school and tell the story of what my mother went through, as a child, in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam and two Nazi camps. The story is a gentle introduction to the Holocaust without a lot of shock and horror, but students are able to relate to the young girl I am speaking about as I explain how she watched round- ups, was made responsible for holding on to her family's only cash which was hidden in her doll, and heard people fighting over scraps of bread. These are just a few of my mother's memories which are captured in Tutti's Promise.
I explain to the students that Nazis didn't only murder Jews, but that they targeted many other groups as well. This leads into a discussion about fighting prejudice and accepting others. Students come away from the talk inspired to be better people and help those in need.
If your class has read Tutti's Promise before my visit, I can focus on other topics as well. I can explain how I found primary source documents by visiting numerous archives and places. Or I can show them some of the original documents that my grandmother saved and I still have. Often the students' questions lead us into a conversation of how to stay strong in difficult situations or how current politics parallel some of the things that happened in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.
Willing to travel