03.11.2020 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

Preserving Stories of Survivors of the Holocaust, with Joanie Holzer Schirm

 

Before becoming an award-winning author, Joanie Holzer Schirm worked thirty-five years in the business of engineering, including seventeen at the helm of her own Orlando, Florida firm. Joanie won international attention for her volunteer leadership role in bringing FIFAs World Cup Soccer 1994 to Orlando. The five matches played in Orlando had an estimated global TV cumulative audience of over 2.5 billion and an economic impact of over $200 million. Under her leadership as Chairman of the Host Committee, the Atlanta Constitution proclaimed Orlando the best venue in the best World Cup ever.

Exemplifying her passionate approach to all aspects of her life, Joanie's engineering business, Geotechnical and Environmental Consultants, earned the designation Orlando's Best Small Engineering Firm three times in ten years. As a community activist, Joanie served for four years as the City of Orlando Advisory Board for the Governor's Council for Sustainable Florida, Chairman of the Orange County Industrial Development Authority, founding President of the Orlando Area Sports Commission, and Chaired for Mayor Buddy Dyer the Interstate 4 Design Review Committee.

Now a writer, archivist, and sought-after speaker, Joanie applies her passion to storytelling in her companion books, Adventurers Against Their Will and My Dear Boy: A World War II Story of Escape, Exile, and Revelation. Her first book won the Global eBook Award for Best Biography and gained a testimonial from former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Her nonfiction books are based on the discovery of 400 WWII letters by seventy-eight writers corresponding with her Czech Jewish father, Oswald Valdik Holzer, as he traveled through five continents after escaping in 1939 from his Nazi-occupied homeland. Joanie's discovery of the Holzer collection allowed her to detail her father's journey, an inspiring story of love, despair, and triumph with echoes from today's world.

What you will learn in this episode:

  • Why Joanie decided to share her remarkable family history and her Holocaust survivor father's stories from the time of World War II
  • Joanie shares the profound story of her father sharing his experiences and the seven hours of audio interviews she has of him discussing the Holocaust
  • How Joanie's father relocated to the United States, attained his citizenship, and worked as a practicing doctor
  • How Joanie collected a large number of family documents and letters that detailed her mother and father's courtship, marriage, and life together
  • What overarching message Joanie wants readers of her books Adventures Against Their Will and My Dear Boy to take away
  • How Joanie believes her father managed to keep going in spite of the deep sorrow and pain he experienced
  • How Joanie connects her spirituality to her mother’s faith and father's Jewish cultural and religious heritage
  • How Joanie's efforts to preserve her father's story have now been turned into a remarkable stage play
  • What emotional impact Joanie's decision to donate her father's letters for preservation and exhibition has had on her

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Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. March 11, 2020