Shores Beyond Shores: From Holo­caust to Hope, My True Story

Irene But­ter, John D. Bid­well, and Kris Holloway

January 1, 2013

As Irene’s Pap­pi fights to save his fam­i­ly dur­ing the Holo­caust, Irene’s child­hood is lost. Play is restrict­ed. Fam­i­ly and friends dis­ap­pear. Final­ly, with the Dutch police at their door comes the real­i­ty that Irene’s father has not moved his fam­i­ly far enough from Hitler’s Germany.

By Jan­u­ary 1945, the fam­i­ly is strug­gling to sur­vive a death camp. Irene tends her ail­ing par­ents, cares for starv­ing kids, and even helps bring clothes to her Ams­ter­dam neigh­bor Anne Frank, before her fam­i­ly is offered a sin­gu­lar chance for freedom…providing the Nazi doc­tor says they are healthy enough. After two weeks of heart-lift­ing mir­a­cles and heart-break­ing tragedies, Irene arrives in the Alger­ian desert to jour­ney into redemp­tion and wom­an­hood, with­out her par­ents or brother.

Irene’s first per­son mem­oir, Shores Beyond Shores, is an account of how the heart keeps its com­mon human­i­ty in the most inhu­mane and tur­bu­lent of times. Irene’s hard-earned lessons are a time­less inspiration.

Discussion Questions

Irene Butter’s stir­ring mem­oir, Shores Beyond Shores, recre­ates the night­mar­ish exis­tence she and her fam­i­ly endured with Hitler’s rise to pow­er. Butter’s past was buried for more than forty years — until she was asked to speak on a pan­el about Anne Frank, a neigh­bor in Ams­ter­dam. We are for­tu­nate she did so, bear­ing wit­ness as she quot­ed Elie Wiesel to pre­vent the dead from dying again.” Now, Butter’s mem­oir does the same, pro­vid­ing us with her indeli­ble Holo­caust tes­ti­mo­ny and evi­dence of the strength of the human spirit.

Through­out her sto­ry, Butter’s adored father did all he could to hold the fam­i­ly togeth­er. In 1937, the fam­i­ly fled Berlin for Ams­ter­dam; Irene was sev­en years old. By 1942, the Nazi vise in The Nether­lands tight­ened and Irene observed that with a Star of David on her coat peo­ple looked away or through her: I was eleven and I was dis­ap­pear­ing.” Fol­low­ing a roundup by the Dutch police, the fam­i­ly was sent to Camp West­er­bork where depri­va­tion and the threat of depor­ta­tion to Auschwitz were con­stants. After eight months, the fam­i­ly was sent to the hell of Bergen Belsen. That her par­ents and old­er broth­er remained alive at Bergen Belsen was the source, how­ev­er ten­u­ous, from which the ado­les­cent Irene drew her strength, even as her body weakened.

At war’s end, Irene’s jour­ney took her to a dis­placed per­sons camp on the shores of Alge­ria and then onward to a new life in the Unit­ed States. What dis­tin­guish­es this remark­able mem­oir is Irene Butter’s inno­cence, her descrip­tive pow­er and her hope.