Author shares experience writing about Holocaust survivor

Howard Reich, cherub alum and Chicago Tribune columnist, with Penelope Zhang after signing her copy of his new book. Photo by Kevin Du

As 10 p.m. check in neared, students lined up on the McCormick Foundation Center’s auditorium stage. They held the 192-page hardcover “The Art of Inventing Hope: Intimate Conversations with Elie Wiesel,” waiting to have them signed by the author, cherub alum and Chicago Tribune columnist Howard Reich.

Reich spoke to cherubs about developing a relationship with Wiesel near the end of the Holocaust survivor’s life. Reich gave tips on how to interview, advising the young reporters to keep questions short and listen to their sources. A reporter for the Chicago Tribune since 1983, Reich also discussed uncovering the story of his mother’s experience during World War II, as she is a Holocaust survivor as well.

At the end of the lecture, Reich surprised cherubs with copies of his book and offered to autograph them. Reich wrote personal notes for each student after finishing a 90-minute lecture.

Aden Morvice of Geneva, Illinois, waited 45 minutes to meet Reich. He said he dreams of writing a non-fiction book like Reich and wanted to share his aspirations with the author.

“I told him that I wanted to do what he did for a career, and he said, ‘That’s cool. I hope you do well. I can’t wait to see what you do,’” Morvice said. “He wrote something like that in my book.”

Emma Rosenbaum of Bedford, New Hampshire, said she was moved by Reich’s lecture. Her grandfather is a Holocaust survivor.

Rosenbaum’s grandfather never mentions his early life to her or the rest of her family. After hearing of Reich’s similar relationship with his mother, she waited an hour and a half to speak with Reich.

“His whole story and what he had done with his mother made me emotional,” Rosenbaum said. “I wanted to talk to him about his thoughts. I felt a personal connection to it.”

Emma Suttell of Anthem, Arizona, also waited more than an hour to meet Reich. She is part of a group that works yearlong with veterans to compile a book their stories and personal anecdotes. Suttell said the history of the Holocaust resonates with her because of the close relationships she has with those who experienced war firsthand. She is traveling to Europe to learn more about World War II later this year.

Suttell made a connection with the author that may bring him to her home state.

“At home I write a book called ‘Since You Asked,’ which is a book of veteran history and veteran interviews, every year,” Suttell said. “He told me he has family in Tucson. He wants to come speak to my group, so I’m looking forward to him coming to Arizona soon.”

Reich travels the country throughout the year to speak about his work with Holocaust survivors and his other projects. In addition to Arizona, Reich said he hopes to visit a synagogue in La Jolla, California, where two cherubs live, in March.