Irene Stern Frielich grew up on Long Island, NY, the daughter of Margie Stern, and Walter Stern, a German Holocaust survivor. As is often the case in survivor families, the Holocaust was rarely discussed in her home, where buried emotions and unspoken truths left a gap in her life and her consciousness.
In 1993, Irene’s father recorded an eighty-minute-long video testimony of his Holocaust survival story. He died in 1994. Irene viewed the video once at the time, then stored it away. She planned to watch it again “someday” and went on to immerse herself in her career and raising a family.
In 2016, as disturbing fascist echoes resounded more prominently in American politics and around the world, Irene felt an increasing urgency to learn the truth about her father’s Holocaust experience. Her “someday” finally arrived. Irene dug out her father’s testimony video from a pile of VHS cassettes in a storage box and had it converted to a digital format. She painstakingly transcribed the video word for word—an emotional and enlightening journey into her father’s buried history of survival, loss, and hope, but which left a myriad of facts still unknown, unspoken.
In 2018 and 2019, Irene took three trips to Europe with her husband, Seth, and their older son, Josh. Together, they physically retraced the Stern-Herzfeld family’s escape route on Kristallnacht from Nazi Germany to temporary safety in the Netherlands and even visited the attic on the Dutch farm where her father, grandmother, and great-grandmother were hidden for two and a half years. Irene continued to conduct extensive research at home and during each trip abroad. She compiled volumes of archival documents, collected letters and mementos, met individuals whose relatives had known her family in the 1930s and ’40s, and connected with strangers in current-day Germany who are committed to keeping the stories alive—and who soon became friends. Shattered Stars, Healing Hearts is the culmination of Irene’s years-long quest to unravel her father’s—and her own—story.
Irene is the owner of EnVision Performance Solutions, an award-winning instructional design consulting firm. She and her husband, Seth, live in Sharon, Massachusetts. They treasure moments with their grown sons, Jonah and Josh, and Josh’s partner Addie. Irene enjoys playing flute in her local concert band; kayaking, biking, and snowshoeing; and is an avid cook and home entertainer.
Irene speaks internationally about her family’s story. Articles about the family have been published in German and Dutch media. She is deeply grateful to the eighteen courageous individuals who helped her family survive the Holocaust. She carries their legacy forward through this book and through her acclaimed multimedia presentations.
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