A promise kept is like the twinkling stars in the night sky . . . a constant reminder of something important that makes you who you are.
Can nine-year-old Tutti keep a promise—and a secret? Her family’s life may depend on it.
In the early 1930s, life for the Jews is on the brink of ruin: Hitler has come to power, and the golden memories of happy times are fading fast.
One young couple, Margret and Heinz Lichtenstern, decide to flee Germany with their parents and daughter, Tutti. They move to Amsterdam, where Heinz is able to continue his work . . . and where there seems to be hope for the future. Two years later, Tutti’s brother is born, and the family is prospering.
But then Germany invades the Netherlands. And in the pre-dawn hours of May 10, 1940, the Lichtensterns suddenly learn that they have not moved far enough.
This is the true story of what the Lichtensterns endured under the Nazis. Told by Tutti’s daughter, Heidi, and filled with historical documents and photos, it vividly recreates how one family conquered fear and heartbreak to survive. Theirs is a tale of both unimaginable devastation and lucky surprises—raids, sabotage, helpful friends and strangers, and a very special gift.
One family. One remarkable story. And in the end . . . a promise kept.
“[A] gripping tale. . . . The spirited, realistic dialogue brings the characters to life, and the documents . . . enhance without cluttering the flow. . . . That the family survived to have this powerful, heartening tale told cannot fail to move readers.”
“’Tutti’s Promise’ is an engrossing story of hope, family, survival, and identity. What’s more, K. Heidi Fishman’s meticulously researched novel blends drama with facts, inspiring the engaged reader to seek answers through a palpable emotional connection to the past. By drawing the reader into the extraordinary experiences of her family, the author offers us the opportunity to see in her characters our very own selves and loved ones.”
—STEPHEN D. SMITH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE USC SHOAH FOUNDATION
“’Tutti’s Promise’ is a compelling story for all readers about one family’s remarkable tale of survival during the Holocaust. K. Heidi Fishman does a masterful job of weaving together Holocaust history with the account of Tutti and her family, while writing the manuscript in a style that is completely accessible for a middle-school audience. The book fills an important gap in the available literature on the subject and should reach a wide readership. Highly recommended.”
—AVINOAM PATT, PhD, PHILIP D. FELTMAN PROFESSOR OF MODERN JEWISH HISTORY AT THE MAURICE GREENBERG CENTER FOR JUDAIC STUDIES AT THE UNIVERSITY OF HARTFORD
“Based on a true story, Tutti’s Promise invites readers to experience one family’s desperate struggle to stay together and retain their humanity during the Holocaust. Fishman’s loving account is a remarkable story of luck, generosity, hope, and courage in the face of atrocity. Suitable for readers ages 10 to adult, this sensitively written and gently told novel illustrates how much the world lost and continues to lose when targeted groups are marginalized as ‘other.’”
— TOM WHITE, COORDINATOR OF EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH, COHEN CENTER FOR HOLOCAUST AND GENOCIDE STUDIES, KEENE, NEW HAMPSHIRE
“Tutti’s daughter, K. Heidi Fishman, does a magnificent job telling the heartbreaking story of ‘Tutti’s Promise.’ It is flawlessly written and heartrendingly real, complete with authentic historic documentation and photographs, translations, and an informative glossary. As distressing as it was to read about Tutti and her family’s fear, pain, anxiety, and suffering, I was completely engrossed and could not put it down. I have read other true stories about the Holocaust, but none touched my soul as ‘Tutti’s Promise’ has.”
— GEREE McDERMOTT, READERS’ FAVORITE
“This artfully cast two-hundred-page novel is a superb portrayal of one family’s courage, resilience, and fortitude during the Holocaust.”
—MARY BETH KLEE, CORE VIRTUES
“With every page of this excellent novel of survival are stories about Tutti’s acts of bravery, friends who risked their lives for others, and poignant moments of selflessness and sweetness. The family’s secret signal, a loud five-note whistle, comes into play throughout the book, connecting the Lichtensterns to each other—at dramatic moments of separation and reunion—and to the reader.
“Young readers will learn history through this personal story, which is told chronologically through short chapters. The fact that 75% of the Jews in the Netherlands perished makes this narrative even more remarkable. Each chapter is enhanced with photographs and documents, which add authenticity to this powerful account written by Tutti’s daughter. History comes alive in Fishman’s capable hands as a writer telling the story of her mother and achieving the family’s eternal desire to always remember.”
—RECOMMENDED BY THE US REVIEW, MICHELLE JACOBS
“Fishman tells the tale of her mother’s family with elegance and a great sense of suspense.” —KIRKUS REVIEWS
The Kirkus Reviews review in its entirety:
Fishman dramatizes her mother’s World War II survival story in this debut novel.
The Netherlands, 1940. German forces have crossed the Dutch border and are seizing control of the country. The family of 5-year-old Ruth “Tutti” Lichtenstern—German Jews who had moved to Amsterdam in hopes of escaping Hitler’s anti-Semitic policies—attempts to live normally, but the clan soon gets wind from a friend that Hitler has big changes planned for the Netherlands’ Jewish businesses: “First, the firms will have to register,” and once Germans “are in control of the companies, they will ship the Jewish workers and owners to Poland.” Tutti notices changes herself: she is forced to attend a new school exclusively for Jewish students, and she must wear a yellow star whenever she is outside the house. At first, Tutti’s father’s position in the metals industry protects the family from deportation—though it doesn’t save her grandparents, who are collected during a Nazi raid. Despite her father’s efforts to keep them safe, the Lichtensterns are caught on a terrible path that leads them to the Westerbork transit camp. While there, Tutti’s father tells her he’s hidden some money in her doll and that she must keep that fact a secret (“ ‘I promise,’ she told him solemnly. ‘I’ll take care of her…and I won’t tell anyone’ ”). Eventually, the Lichtensterns are sent to Theresienstadt. After the long years of their deteriorating situation, Tutti attempts to keep a vow to her mother: “To always try to do good in the world—by speaking up when you see evil, and by behaving in a way that you know is right.” Fishman tells the tale of her mother’s family with elegance and a great sense of suspense. The choice to novelize the account, rather than present it as pure nonfiction, helps to flesh out the characters in a way that makes them more fully realized on the page. Photographs of Tutti and her family are featured throughout the work, reminding the reader that the events being recounted really happened. While some of the material will undoubtedly be disturbing for younger readers (the book jacket recommends ages 10 and up), the novel expertly captures the gradual creep of government-driven persecution in a way that should help children internalize Tutti’s story.
An adeptly constructed Holocaust work based on family history.
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