JERUSALEM, Israel - Like many, American Nancy Beasley avoided the memory of the Nazi Holocaust. But that changed when she was forced to meet survivors and hear their stories.
"I had an editor who asked me to do a story on the Virginia Holocaust Museum and I refused it for months and months," Beasley told CBN News during a visit to Jerusalem.
"I ended up going to a Kristalnacht ceremony where I think I heard my heart break because the survivors were talking about their family members who did not live and it just changed my life completely," she said.
After that night, Beasley spent the next seven years researching and writing the book "Izzy's Fire," the story of Lithuanian farmers who risked their lives to save their Jewish neighbors during the Holocaust.
"There was a woman named Raja Shlom and she witnessed the murder of her husband, her father and her father-in-law. And just moments before they were executed, she was talking to her husband. She'd taken some food [to him] and he said, 'Just save the boy, just save the boy,'" Beasley said.
With the help of a German guard who had been her student, Shlom escaped with her mother, sister and the little boy, whose name was Emanuel.
"And she would say to the farmers as she went through the countryside, 'Don't be afraid. My son's name is Emanuel. That means God is with us,'" she told CBN News.
Years later, Beasley met the adult Emanuel and later his son, Gadi, who lives in Israel. For Gadi, it's important to recognize those who helped save his father.
"But it's not just about the Holocaust. It's about humanity," Gadi said. "I think maybe it's more important than the Holocaust because when you have human beings who try to make an effort to get along with each other and not trying to destroy each other, you can really apply this lesson to our time, and our times are very complicated.," he said.
The book also affected the author's family. Beasley's father didn't like Jews, but that changed as he began meeting her Jewish friends.
"So many -- I bet you a hundred -- of my Jewish friends came -- and my father saw Jews as human beings for the first time," she said.
Beasley said that's why it's important to educate children.
"I think so much of it is because he was taught that way. And that is why I think the book is very important because there are school children reading this book and the debate that it brings out is important," she said.
And the lesson for today?
"I think it's true Christianity," Beasley said. "You have no greater love than to lay down your life. And I think that we as Christians are compelled to do this -- should be compelled to do this," she said.