Tutti’s Promise by K. Heidi Fishman

Received from NetGalley for review.

‘I hope you learned something from my story. It’s a story of hope and perseverance. It’s a story of courage and compassion and luck. Most of all, it’s a story that reminds us that we must never forget what prejudice and hatred can lead to if we don’t confront them together.’ – Tutti Lichtenstern Fishman

Tutti’s Promise is an account of Tutti (Ruth) and her family’s experience of being Jewish in the Netherlands during WWII. Having already left Germany for Amsterdam when Tutti and her younger brother, Robbie, were young, they suddenly found themselves further targeted by Hitler and the Nazis for their faith when Germany invaded the Netherlands in May 1940. As most people know, some six million Jews (alongside many other people the Nazis deemed ‘inferior’) were murdered during the Holocaust, and this is something that can never be forgotten. Tutti’s Promise delivers a heart-breaking story of the terrible circumstances Jewish people found themselves in during the war, and feels even more important given what’s happening in the world right now.

K. Heidi Fishman recounts her mother’s story, documenting the fear and heartbreak the family lived through, alongside the immense courage and will they had during the darkest times – the small ways in which Tutti’s father, Heinz, tried to sabotage the Nazis may not have had any effect, but it was so incredibly brave for him to try and do something, anything, whilst imprisoned at Westerbork (a detention and transit camp). I found myself moving between fear, hope, and terrible sadness as I read what happened to Tutti’s family and it will always baffle me how people could believe that there was something inherently wrong with a group of people because of their religion, race, or sexuality.

The writing is simple and easy to read, and at first I thought it wouldn’t be as emotional a reading experience because of this, but I was wrong. Even though the prose is simple and to the point, the actual events make it an extremely harrowing and emotional story to read. Tutti and her family experience extreme hardships and a wild array of emotions, and I don’t think I will ever be able to read a memoir or story from WWII and not be moved; everything regarding the war and Holocaust is incredibly emotive in some way and this is no exception, especially as Tutti and Robbie were so young when they experienced it all. The accessibility of the writing makes this an excellent resource for younger readers who are beginning to learn about the Holocaust, as it is very informative without being overly wordy – the use of historical pictures and documents also add another dimension of realness, and I found them fascinating.

I’ve felt this way about pretty much every book about WWII and the Holocaust that I’ve ever read: this is such an important story to tell that I can barely articulate it. These stories need to be told, need to be understood, and need to be taken seriously so that they never happen again. Most people seem to understand this and even when the world seems a terrifying place (recent events especially) I’m always reminded of something Fred Rodgers said, ‘when I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”’. Even with all the hardship and hate, there will always be people helping, speaking out against wrongdoing, and telling their stories – just like Tutti – in the hopes that one day they won’t need and that the world will realise we are all human, and we all matter.

Read: February 24th-28th 2017

4/5 stars

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