Henia Stein, a 2G (Second Generation) Holocaust survivor, born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, is a free-lance writer. With her husband's amazing support, she has written inspirational articles for Chabad Women. Why My Father Ran began as an article published for Aish.com in the hopes that one day it would turn into a book. She holds a BA in Sociology.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Coney Island, Brooklyn New York, not far from the amusement park area. My childhood was an illogical mixture of wonderfully happy times spent almost every weekend at the park and the boardwalk and of far too many days spent disgorging gut wrenching tears.
Warm and fond memories abound of my mom and dad holding my hand, my big brother at my side, as we strolled the parks, brightly painted kiddie rides on one side and the colossal roller coaster on the other. The irresistible scent of hot dogs, french fries, and potato knishes filled the air.
All this joy aside, I endured deep-down soul wrenching pain from learning early on of life's harsh realities.
My father was a holocaust survivor. Some survivors buried their stories so deep because the pain was too difficult to bear bringing up anguished memories. My father shared his story, to a point, freely.
Holocaust survivors suffered greatly beyond what someone who was so removed from this could understand. But their future children and grandchildren would also experience many of the mental and emotional aftereffects.
My father spent his entire life trying to get his story out to the world and when he died, that became my main focus in life and I knew I would never find peace unless I finished what he spent the remaining years of his life trying to do.
I remember sitting in front of my computer, this task looming large before me, in agony. Not able to start, I turned in for the night. About 1 or 2 am, half-awake, I began to write my book... not with computer or pen, but in my thoughts. I jumped out of bed, ran to my computer, and the first few words of Why My Father Ran began to appear on my computer screen.
When did you first start writing?
I was around ten years old and had a school assignment for English class. I wrote this short story which received an A+ for its inventive and gripping storyline. Unfortunately, I lost the story but remember it pretty well. It was a happy tale which turned bad. It was about a close-knit family waiting for their father/husband to retire and it was that very day that my story unfolded. This man was coming home to celebrate his retirement with his family... he never made it home. Now, I see the parallel - but at ten years old, I did not understand that I was writing this about my dad.
However, encouraged by my teacher's enthusiasm, I continued writing short stories, many are happy childhood tales with a moral and a few are now in my book Side By Side.
A powerful and emotional biography of holocaust survivor, Sam Shatz, as told by his daughter.
Leaving his memoirs intact, she has painstakingly transcribed them from numerous sources so you can 'hear his story in his voice.'
Henia shares what it was like to grow up as the daughter of a holocaust survivor.