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Shattered Stars

A Journey Through Courage, Compassion, and Kindness


Irene Stern Frielich

Irene Stern Frielich

Irene Stern Frielich is the daughter of a German Holocaust survivor. But that wasn’t talked about too much in her family home. She set aside the unspoken emotions that permeated her childhood and focused on her education, career, and family. She founded and manages a successful training consulting business, plays flute in a concert band, and volunteers with her synagogue. She loves to cook, entertain, hear good music, enjoy coffee with friends, and snowshoe. But it took her until 2017 to return to the unspoken journey of her family.

Irene’s quest began in 2017, when she re-discovered the testimony video her father had made 24 years earlier, just before his death in 1994. She painstakingly transcribed her father’s 80-minute testimony, word for word, in his exact words. She immersed into her father’s world of survival, loss, and hope. Through her subsequent research and visits to Germany and the Netherlands, Irene was able to trace her family’s escape on Kristallnacht from Nazi Germany to temporary safety in the Netherlands until the Nazi invasion. She also located and visited home towns of ancestors she had never heard of until she began her research.

Join Irene on a journey back in time and forward again to current day, through small towns and farms, homes and barn attics.

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My Father’s Roots: A Journey Through Courage, Compassion, and Kindness

Experience one family’s ordeal as they escape their comfortable home in Germany on Kristallnacht and cross the border to the Netherlands. They live there in relative safety until the Nazis invade and turn their world upside down. Join Irene as she retraces her family’s footsteps from Kristallnacht in 1938 through liberation in 1945, visiting each place her father journeyed. Hear about the moving transformation Irene experienced as she learned of all those who helped her family along the way. From coffee roasters and bakers to farmers and clergy, the people who helped her family along the way demonstrated courage, compassion, and kindness.


Return Home: Journey to my father’s home towns

Join Irene as she and her family return to Bocholt, her father’s home town. See the street her family lived on, where they worked, where they attended synagogue, and where they were buried. Learn about the emotional complexities of returning “home” and about the current-day work being done in Germany to remember the Jews of the town and the welcome Irene received. Continue on to the Netherlands, where Irene’s family live after they flee Bocholt. Visit the most beautiful synagogue in the Netherlands, where Irene honors and remembers her father in the location of his 1939 bar mitzvah. Learn about the other ways Irene is able to memorialize her family’s story and help ensure we shall never forget.

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Synagogues, Cemeteries, and Silence: A visit to my ancestral home towns

Visit five small towns where Irene’s ancestors lived as far back as the 1500s. See the synagogue sites, homes, and cemeteries. Hear about Irene’s interactions with the local townspeople and learn about the lives of some of her family members in the 1800s and early 1900s. Experience a part of the powerful triennial Kristallnacht ceremony Irene attended in her small ancestral town of Meudt, where she heard the mournful El Maleh Rachamim prayer recited by a distant cousin in memory of those killed in the Holocaust. And learn about the “silence” that pervades each of the towns.


Signs and Wonders: How I felt guided through my journey

Irene felt both driven and guided to research her family’s history and retrace their footsteps. And, that guidance was palpable. You may experience your own sense of wonder as Irene shares highlights where she and her family most felt this guidance. See the cherries that led the way, the trees of life that were meant to be, the distant cousins who met in a distant town, the man who reconnected Irene to a family of deep importance, and the incredible story of Monika, a Bocholt teacher with an unexpected US connection.

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Seeking and Stumbling: How I connected with ancestral information

In this presentation, learn about the practical side of Irene’s research. From family photos and documents to genealogy research and other online research, sometimes seeking and other times stumbling, Irene was able to piece together her family’s stories. As an optional add-on workshop, participants may bring some of their own source documents or genealogy research and continue their work with guidance from Irene and one another.


Connect with Irene

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