WDMCS Teacher Helps Tell Local Holocaust Survivor’s Story
Fred Lorber is a Holocaust survivor and Des Moines resident. His inspiring story was recently adapted into “Fritzi,” a book that will soon be available in elementary school libraries across the state of Iowa. Intended to be accessible for young readers, “Fritzi” also had young creators behind it. The book was written and illustrated by Shirah Jacobs, Elizabeth Oxer and Hanna Kaufman—all teens ages 18 or younger who are part of the Jewish community in Des Moines.
Lorber met Jacobs, Oxer and Kaufman through A Book by Me, an organization dedicated to sharing the stories of survivors from the Holocaust and other historical human rights events. Sheila Hudson, Clive Elementary instructional coach, got involved after founder and director Deb Bowen presented to the Iowa Holocaust Education Council. Hudson had joined the council after receiving an email asking if people were interested in serving on the council.
“As a sixth grade teacher here in the district at the time, I saw how [the Holocaust] sparked student interest—not only in the topic, but it was really a catalyst to get many of my non-readers to become lifelong readers,” Hudson said. “And I thought, ‘You know, I really need to step up and do something, something bigger than in my own classroom.’”
A Book by Me recognized the opportunity student interest in the Holocaust presented as well. It worked to create a way to connect interested students with Holocaust survivors, while also sharing the survivors’ stories.
“The further away we get from these events, the harder it is for students to understand the implications and how it connects to them personally and how it connects to our future,” Hudson said. “A Book by Me really seeks to connect students with those primary sources that are very rapidly decreasing in our world and make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself.”
Hudson approached Bowen about becoming a writing coach for the project after seeing her presentation. The first step was finding a survivor who was interested in sharing his or her story. Fred Lorber was one of the first people to come to mind.
“He has done so much for the our community here—the Des Moines metro area and West Des Moines,” Hudson said. “[He] didn’t necessarily let the events define who he was, but he used the events to define who he wanted to be and made such a difference, and is still making such a difference, in our community.”
Lorber was very willing to share his story when he was approached, and the council soon found a writer (Jacobs) and two illustrators (Oxer and Kaufman) who were willing to spend extra time working with Lorber on the project.