Press on Tutti’s Promise

Look what arrived in my mailbox today! 
Tutti’s Promise Holocaust History for Youth in The Norwich Times Summer 2017 issue.

Local Author Heidi Fishman Brings to Life Her Family’s Stories of Surviving the Holocaust

May 18, 2017 04:26PM, Published by Linda Ditch in Here in Hanover

Have you ever heard stories from your parents and grandparents and thought, “That would make a great book”? Local author Heidi Fishman felt that way listening to the tales her mother told about her family surviving the Holocaust. She turned their stories into a new book titled Tutti’s Promise.

Here are some answers she shared to questions about the book and how she put it together:Q: What inspired you to write this book?

A: I grew up with the knowledge that my mother was a Holocaust survivor. My grandparents were Holocaust survivors. My grandparents’ friends were Holocaust survivors. So I didn’t realize how big a deal it was as a child. It was just who my mother was.

Starting about 10 years ago, my mother began talking about her experiences during the war at schools in Connecticut. The students were transfixed. They were amazed that they were meeting someone who was there—who lived the history they were learning about in school. It was after she spoke to my daughter’s seventh-grade class that I realized I had to write the story down or it would be lost. She won’t be around forever to be a witness to history, and future generations need to know that these things really happened.

Q: What part of the story touched you the most?

A: I started by focusing on my mother’s memories. But there were holes. Some things just didn’t add up. So I started to do some research to see if I could find some explanations. One of my first discoveries was a document used during Adolf Eichmann’s trial that had my grandfather’s name on it. That grabbed my attention! Eichmann wrote in a memo (it was signed by his secretary) that seven Jews were not going to be given special treatment even though the Minister of Armaments and Munitions was requesting that their lives be spared. Two top Nazis were arguing over the fate of my grandfather. That discovery was very exciting for me.

As far as a more emotionally poignant moment—and this one actually didn’t end up in the book—was how my grandfather helped a friend of his. The friend and his wife had to go to a concentration camp, and they left their infant daughter in hiding. My grandfather acted as a messenger for this family, as he was given passes to leave the camp. When he left the camp, he would check on the baby for the family and report back to the parents about how she was doing. I am sure it helped them keep their spirits up during their ordeal.

Q: Anything else you’d like readers to know?

A: One of my goals with Tutti’s Promise is to teach middle school and high school students about the Holocaust. I have a website ( that can be used in tandem with the book. It has discussion questions, links to museums and research websites, family photos, primary documents, and video snippets of my mother’s Shoah testimony from the Shoah Foundation at USC.

Learn more about Heidi and her work by visiting her website

A Promise Kept: Author K. Heidi Fishman Discusses Her New Children’s Holocaust Novel — The Jewish Link — Bronx, Westchester & Connecticut — by Bracha K. Sharp — May 11, 2017 (once you click the link you have to flip to page 22)

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The Valley News – Book Notes – May 5, 2017 (Note: scroll down into article and look for “Author Appearances”)

K. Heidi Fishman launched her historical novel, Tutti’s Promise, at Crossroads Academy on April 27. The book is based on the life of Fishman’s mother, who was a child in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam and survived the Westerbork and Theresienstadt concentration camps, along with her family.

“It just hit me like a ton of bricks one day that this has got to be written down. This history can’t be lost,” Fishman said in a phone interview this week.

Her initial proposal for Tutti’s Promise received the 2015 Joseph Zola Memorial Holocaust Educator Award from the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford.

Fishman, who lives in Norwich, is a retired psychologist who worked at Dartmouth before opening a private practice in Lebanon. More information about Tutti’s Promise can be found at

Vermont Edition (VPR) — Survivors And Witnesses: Vermonters Commemorate The Jewish Holocaust by  Apr 25, 2017

Radio Interview – The River 106.7 with Stevens Blanchard – April 25, 2017

An Author’s Search for Her Mother’s Long-Lost “Star” Leads to Her Holocaust Novel’s Publication – Press Release

Booklist writes, “[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.”
An Author’s Search for Her Mother’s Long-Lost

Bethesda, MD, April 13, 2017 –(– Arriving in time for Holocaust Remembrance Day comes K. Heidi Fishman’s debut novel, Tutti’s Promise (MB Publishing, $9.99, ages 10 and up, ISBN-13: 978-0-99088430-1-6), based on the experiences of her mother, Ruth Lichtenstern Fishman (nicknamed Tutti), and her mother’s family. Their story of survival, courage, and hope includes surprises, raids, sabotage, helpful friends, and kind strangers. And through it all, Tutti’s bravery shines through.

“Tutti’s Promise” recounts Tutti’s journey beginning as a one-year-old child, when her family fled Cologne, Germany, for neighboring Amsterdam in 1936. But four years later, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. Unable to escape due to the Nazis’ occupation of neighboring countries and the bordering sea, the Jews were eventually deported to concentration camps, mainly Auschwitz and Sobibor, where more than 102,000 of the approximately 140,000 Jews who had been living there were murdered. Twenty-five to thirty thousand Jews survived by going into hiding. Given these grim statistics, the fact that Tutti’s immediate family survived is astonishing.

The project began when Dr. Fishman realized that, though Tutti had been making presentations to students since 2007, in order to preserve her mother’s story for history, she’d have to document it in a book. Dr. Fishman began researching, including making several trips to Europe. She knew that Tutti’s father, Heinz Lichtenstern, was a trader in metals. But what she didn’t know then was that his expertise was a major factor in the survival of the family. After they had all been transported to Westerbork, a transit camp, Heinz was able to save his family’s life and those of many other Jews by helping to establish the camp’s scrap metal sorting facility, which partially supported the Nazi war machine. Naturally, that’s where the sabotage portion of the story comes in.

Knowing this history made the first document that Dr. Fishman found all the more poignant: “It was from Adolph Eichmann’s trial and stated that the request for seven Jewish metal experts to be exempt from transport out of the Netherlands was denied by Eichmann’s office. The men were identified by name—and my grandfather’s name topped the list.”

Dr. Fishman was introduced to her publisher when she tried to find the yellow cloth star that her mother had been forced to wear. Tutti thought she might have given it to a young man, Jim Catler, who had interviewed her in 1975 for an oral history project for the Greater Hartford Jewish Historical Society. Dr. Fishman located Mr. Catler, who assured her that her mother had not given him the yellow star. He then asked if she had interested a publisher in her book. When she answered “not yet,” Mr. Catler invited his fiancée, Margie Blumberg, the President of MB Publishing, into the conversation. Within a month, the manuscript had found a home, and ten months later, the book was published.

Dr. Fishman has been blogging about her journey and, as a result, many people have reached out to her, such as the woman whose own grandfather had arranged for Tutti’s family’s life-saving passport, and a Dutch author who told her that Tutti’s father helped save the family he was writing about. The blog has a following of about 700 readers and has had over 18,000 hits.

“Tutti’s Promise” is filled with personal family photos and historical documents, such as the family’s Paraguayan passport, which saved Heinz’s life when he found himself on a transport to Auschwitz from Theresienstadt.

Accolades for “Tutti’s Promise” include the following:

​”‘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, PhD, Andrew J. and Erna Finci Viterbi Endowed Executive Director of the USC Shoah Foundation

Dr. Fishman, a retired psychologist, lives in Vermont with her family.

CT Jewish Ledger March 29, 2017

Published on March 29th, 2017 | by LedgerOnline

Tutti’s Promise tells the story of the Holocaust through a child’s eyes

By Stacey Dresner

WEST HARTFORD – When K. Heidi Fishman was growing up in West Hartford her mother Ruth did not hide the fact that she was a Holocaust survivor from her kids.

“I feel like I always knew her story. I don’t remember the first time I heard it…I knew she had been through the war. She told me, however she told me. Little things would come up and if I asked a question, she would answer it. And then it was: ‘Next topic, what are we going to have for dinner?’ She didn’t dwell on it,” Fishman recalls. “I did not hear horrible Holocaust stories as a child. It just wasn’t done.”

If her family told any stories, she says, it was the “funny stories” like the one about her grandfather hiding stolen vegetables in his pants, nearly getting caught and having diarrhea. After which her grandmother took the soiled vegetables, washed them and served them to the starving family, because wasting any food in that situation would be unconscionable.

“So it was funny, but not funny. When you are told this as a 10- or a 12-year-old, it is pretty funny,” Fishman said. “When you hear it as an adult, it is tragic.”

In the early 1990s when Fishman’s mother began speaking at schools about her experiences as a child inmate at the Theresienstadt concenteration camp, Fishman heard her mother’s full story.

Five years ago when Ruth visited Fishman’s daughter’s 7th grade class to speak, her story resonated with Fishman differently than before.

“It hit me as a mother watching my child listen to it. I was hearing it as a parent. [I thought] How would the parent take care of the child in that situation? I was seeing it through my grandmother’s eyes. So I was watching my daughter and her friends and how they listened to my mom and they were just spellbound… I said, ‘Ok, this has got to be written down.’”

Fishman has written it down and her book, Tutti’s Promise, about her family’s experiences during the Holocaust, will be launched on Monday, April 3 at the Mandell JCC as part of its JCC Book Festival.

Co-sponsoring the event is CT Voices of Hope, the Holocaust education organization of which Fishman’s brother, Peter Fishman is president.

“We both just sort of got interested in [the Holocaust] at the same time and did it in different ways. His interest was to start with fundraising and to help teach other people and to teach children about the Holocaust,” she says. “My way was writing a book about it.”

Fishman’s mother was born Ruth Lichtenstern in 1935 in Germany. Her nickname was Tutti. In 1936, Tutti and her parents, Heinz and Margret, left Germany for Amsterdam.

“They saw the writing on the wall,” Fishman explained. “And the company my father worked for moved the main office from Cologne to Amsterdam. It was a Jewish company and my grandfather went with the move.”

The Lichtensterns’ life in Amsterdam was good for a couple of years – Tutti’s younger brother Robbie was born there in 1938. Then in 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands.

Things were okay for the Lichtensterns for a time.

“It started out normal even though the Germans were there. They way the Nazis invaded the Netherlands was that they made their changes really slow,” Fishman said. “It wasn’t like a Kristallnacht where they just came in and started knocking down all of the synagogues and arresting people. It was slow, insidious changes. Little things. ‘Register your bike, register your car. Now you can’t have your car. Now you can’t have your bike.’ It was little things like that and it slowly crept up on them.”

Fishman’s grandfather worked as a metals commodities trader.

“The Nazis wanted him to stay in his job. Until October 1943, it was useful for him to be working,” Fishman said. “At the same time, he didn’t want to be helping [the Germans].”

The family was sent twice to Westerbork, a transit camp in the Netherlands, the first time in October 1943.

That November they were released with two other families that were also involved in the metals trade. When doing research for the book, Heidi found documents between the office of Adolf Eichmann – the architect of the Final Solution and the department of Armament and Munitions, which needed metal for the war effort.

“These two top very important departments of the Nazis’ machine are arguing what to do with seven – what they called – ‘metal Jews.’ And my grandfather was one of them. So the munitions people are saying let them go we need them so they were let go in November. But then by February, Eichmann’s office gets the upper hand and says, ‘No, they are going back in, we are arresting them. We have gotten rid of all of the Jews in the Netherlands, we want them too.’”

Despite the scrap metal work they were doing – and sabotaging whenever they got the chance – Heinz, Margret, Tutti and Robbie were sent to Theresienstadt in September of 1944. But her father was still valuable due to his connections with the metals industry.

“In Theresienstadt they were no longer living as a family unit. It was my grandmother with the two children and then the men were in a separate barracks. Both sets of my mother’s grandparents were in Theresienstadt as well.”

Tutti’s Promise shares the stories of Tutti’s time in both Westerbork and Theresienstadt. She has memories of regular everyday things – playing with other children, a special doll, childhood crushes, and less pleasant memories, like the hunger.

“My mom’s memories are really child memories. She saw it through a child’s eyes. Her mother…my grandmother is my hero in this. She protected the kids so much,” Fishman said.

After the war, Tutti, now known as Ruth to many in the community, settled in West Hartford – her husband Herbert’s hometown – to raise Heidi and her brothers, Peter and Toni.

Heidi, who attended Renbrook School and Loomis Chaffee, became a psychologist in private practice before she decided to become an author.

Tutti was her main source when writing the book.

“The number of emails back and forth and phone calls back and forth…just looking for details,” said Fishman, who now lives in Vermont with her family. “There were lots of documents, lots of archival stuff and I met with people who knew more stuff, like in the Netherlands there is a digital monument to the Jews called ‘Joods,’ and it lists the 104,000 Jews that were murdered during the war, what happened to them…pictures, last residence, family connections, it’s amazing. And I met different people who knew different bits of the story. I tracked down the family members of the seven ‘metal Jews’ to try to find out what they knew about their grandfather or uncle.”

While searching the Dutch Holocaust website, Fishman even found a history professor working on his own book, who was able to fill her and her family in on how her own Uncle Bobby had tried to escape to London with a friend, but was captured and sent to Auschwitz.

In the book, Tutti makes two big promises, which will not be given away here. Fishman wants middle-schoolers to read about the promises on their own.

“I want middle school social studies teachers to pick it up and use it. Because I think it really teaches the Holocaust. You start from a family where everything was fine and then an invasion and how their life changes, and you get all these steps along the way,” Fishman said.

On the website, she has included discussion questions for each chapter “so teachers can have that right there and ready to go…I want it all to be there. If they want to teach the Holocaust, it is all there.”

But she adds that the book is also appropriate for adults.

“I intended it for middle school when I was writing it. That was my audience. And as friends started to read drafts, they said, ‘What do you mean middle school – I love this!’ Every adult I know who has read it says it is not a kid’s book. Kids can definitely understand it, but this is an absolutely great read for adults too. It’s an everybody book.”

Fishman won the 2015 Joseph Zola Memorial Holocaust Educator Award from the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies at the University of Hartford for Tutti’s Promise’s book proposal.

Avinoam Patt, professor of Modern Jewish History at the Greenberg Center and director of its Museum of Jewish Civilization, reviewed the book, calling it “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… The book fills an important gap in the available literature on the subject…”

Fishman said that message of Tutti’s Promise is one of acceptance.

“The message is that people have to stop being prejudiced against each other because of some arbitrary label, color, religion, whether you can walk, or you have trouble breathing. None of that matters. We are all human beings. We have to get along. And when we start labeling other people as ‘them’ we have a problem. I want people to stop seeing the ‘thems’ – because this is what it leads to.”