Bocholt, Germany, 1938

Walter Stern and his family are forced to flee over the border to Holland on Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. It is Walter’s twelfth birthday. After the Nazis invade Holland, Walter’s father and uncle are sent to Auschwitz. Walter is hidden in a cramped corner of a Dutch farmer’s attic. Despite close calls with Nazis who search the premises, he survives in hiding for 909 days.

Massachusetts, 2018

Armed with archival documents and her father’s testimony video, Irene Stern Frielich sets out to retrace her family’s escape route. Over three trips to Germany and Holland, and through “beschert” coincidences, she encounters descendants of her family’s protectors and forges unexpected bonds with German citizens who join in her quest to unravel the truth of their shared histories.

In this searing memoir, Irene Stern Frielich beautifully weaves together past and present through powerfully juxtaposed narratives as she grapples with loss, intergenerational trauma, and hope for a more just future.

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