“As we look for ways to plant seeds for a more just and tolerant society, the secret is we must create empathy. Genocide goes beyond loss of life; it forevermore alters millions of families. Imagine yourself and those you love in that imminent danger. Then you pay attention.”
A Penn Schoen Berland nationwide 2012 poll commissioned by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum revealed that Americans overwhelmingly, ninety-four percent, believe that genocide is a concern and could occur today. Three-quarters believe that education about the history of genocides can help prevent future atrocities.
So what is Schirm’s idea for how to create empathy and engage people in the process to stop the future destruction of human beings? “Bring forward the actual words of those who were murdered or forcibly displaced for racial, ethnic, religious, or political reasons.”
This is where Schirm’s story goes beyond what most families have hidden in their closet. Discovered at death among her father, Dr. Oswald “Valdik” Holzer’s possessions were 400 WWII letters written by 78 Czech friends and relatives; a collection described by a former USHMM Archives Director Henry Mayer as one of the most extensive personal collections seen in years. After Schirm had them translated, she realized the descriptive words of the letters provide an excellent opportunity to educate people. They illustrate what it is like to have a comfortable life and suddenly, because of someone’s hatred, loose it.
In 2008, Schirm became an author of nonfiction books based on the letter revelations with the ultimate goal to educate. She hopes they can change the world one person at a time. “Regardless of heritage, we are all part of the human family. I want people to become champions for protecting human dignity.”
Others agree with her approach. Two hundred judges worldwide who participated in the 2013 Global Ebook Awards chose Schirm’s debut book Adventurers Against Their Will as the Best Biography. http://www.joanieschirm.com The book focuses on seven of the letter writers. As young adult friends of her father, they became caught up in the Nazi hate-filled atmosphere, mostly as displaced people. All survived and rebuilt lives but not before they lost homeland, friends, family, and possessions...
firstname.lastname@example.org or 407[-466-8841 www.joanieschirm.com
Scanned letters and photographs, and video available upon request.
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