In this striking memoir, Irene Butter gives us the sweep of catastrophic history through her child eyes. Taking the reader from “black zigzags” to cattle cars, from Berlin to Amsterdam to Westerbork to Bergen-Belsen to Algeria, and finally to the United States, young Reni shares the ordinary and the unimaginable with stunning detail, with generosity, with hope. Irene Butter’s beliefs that one should never be an enemy and never be a bystander are important lessons for us to understand the past and to act in the world of today.
Ellen Meeropol, Author of Kinship of Clover, named “One of the best books from Indie Publishers in 2017” by PBS
Irene Butter paints a gripping picture of a girl’s sense of self in the Holocaust. German-Jewish through birth and heritage, stateless through persecution, and Dutch and American through refuge, Butter invites us to walk with her on the vulnerable journey of forging her young identity. In a time of resurging racism and xenophobia, the book forces the reader to consider what happens when adult dehumanization shapes the real life of a real child. The book bears witness to the pre-war Germany, occupied Amsterdam and Bergen-Belsen of Anne Frank, and shares the warning of the Anne Frank Diary: we lose our humanity when children are forced to normalize hatred.
Annemarie Toebosch, Director of Dutch and Flemish Studies, Lecturer of Anne Frank in Context, University of Michigan
As Holocaust memory moves into an uncertain future, Irene Butter’s memoir will play an important role in keeping memory of the event alive. It also serves as a testament to one person’s ability to build a life of meaning and hope in the wake of this horrible event.
Jamie L. Wraight, PhD, Director, The Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive, University of Michigan-Dearborn
For many years Irene Hasenberg Butter did not speak of her own experience of the Holocaust but like her brother, Werner, got on with the head long rush of making a new life in the United States. After the treachery and horror of the Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp, learning to live as Holocaust survivors was work enough. With this book, Irene has given the world a deeply personal account of her own family’s experience that bravely reveals how much all the terrible losses of the Holocaust meant not just in World War II but, sadly, today as well.
Jan Jarboe Russell, Author, The Train To Crystal City
Dr. Irene Butter is a remarkable woman who made a conscious decision to be a survivor, not a victim of the Holocaust. Her story has an inestimable impact on students. They witness her dedication to live a meaningful life of activism based on her belief that we can make the world a better place.
Suzanne Hopkins, Saline Middle School, retired educator, Saline, Michigan
Across these eloquent pages, Irene Hasenberg keeps readers by her side as we follow her childhood journey from Berlin to the shadow of German occupation in Amsterdam and into the darkness of the Holocaust. All will be riveted by the voice of Reni whose love for her parents and brother Werner becomes the steady light for her courage. Unlike her friend Anne Frank, whom she sees for the last time in Bergen-Belsen, Reni survives evil and at age fifteen sails into Baltimore’s harbor aboard a Liberty ship on Christmas Eve,1945 with a resilience that still guides her important work with students in the 21st century.
Louise Borden, Author, His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg
Refusing to be an enemy is a choice we must make. Few people understand that stance with as much conviction as Irene Butter who shares her incredible life story in this powerful and lyrically written memoir. Butter has faced a lifetime of choices, from her childhood during the depths of Holocaust to today. Reading Shores Beyond Shores: From Holocaust to Hope–My True Story reminds me yet again of Irene’s indomitable spirit and her gift of seeking light amidst life’s darkest hours.
Robin Axelrod, LMSW, JD, Director of Education, Holocaust Memorial Center, Zekelman Family Campus
Amazing stories of the heart often call the listener/reader to action. Irene’s engaging stories of the unthinkable atrocities she and her family endured during WW II, and how they overcame them, held every seventh grade student in complete silence. She challenged them to find the courage from within to identify and speak out against injustice at each and every corner. Be invited, as we were, to engage in her amazing journey, and accept the call to action by speaking out against injustice in your own journey.
James F. Johnson, Assistant Principal, Discovery Middle School, Canton, Michigan
Distances of time, circumstance, age, and background disappeared every time Irene spoke with groups of three hundred students over eighteen years at our middle school. Irene’s thoughtful answers to intimate questions revealed new aspects and insights each year. Eyes of innocence and bravery describing her past then become heartfelt gazes of young people looking deep into themselves and finding compassion, tolerance, and perseverance. Inspiration to always fill the world with love and hope.
Jonathan Berger, English Language Arts Teacher, Discovery Middle School, Canton, Michigan