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The unforgettable story of two unsung heroes of World War II: sisters Janny and Lien Brilleslijper who joined the Dutch Resistance, helped save dozen of lives, were captured by the Nazis, and ultimately survived the Holocaust. Eight months after Germany’s invasion of Poland, the Nazis roll into The Netherlands, expanding their reign of brutality to the Dutch. But by the Win The unforgettable story of two unsung heroes of World War II: sisters Janny and Lien Brilleslijper who joined the Dutch Resistance, helped save dozen of lives, were captured by the Nazis, and ultimately survived the Holocaust. Eight months after Germany’s invasion of Poland, the Nazis roll into The Netherlands, expanding their reign of brutality to the Dutch. But by the Winter of 1943, resistance is growing. Among those fighting their brutal Nazi occupiers are two Jewish sisters, Janny and Lien Brilleslijper from Amsterdam. Risking arrest and death, the sisters help save others, sheltering them in a clandestine safehouse in the woods, they called “The High Nest.” This secret refuge would become one of the most important Jewish safehouses in the country, serving as a hiding place and underground center for resistance partisans as well as artists condemned by Hitler. From The High Nest, an underground web of artists arises, giving hope and light to those  living in terror in Holland as they begin to restore the dazzling pre-war life of Amsterdam and The Hague.  When the house and its occupants are eventually betrayed, the most terrifying time of the sisters' lives begins. As Allied troops close in, the Brilleslijper family are rushed onto the last train to Auschwitz, along with Anne Frank and her family. The journey will bring Janny and Lien close to Anne and her older sister Margot. The days ahead will test the sisters beyond human imagination as they are stripped of everything but their courage, their resilience, and their love for each other. Based on meticulous research and unprecedented access to the Brilleslijpers’ personal archives of memoirs and photos, Sisters of Auschwitz is a long-overdue homage to two young women’s heroism and moral bravery—and a reminder of the power each of us has to change the world.


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The unforgettable story of two unsung heroes of World War II: sisters Janny and Lien Brilleslijper who joined the Dutch Resistance, helped save dozen of lives, were captured by the Nazis, and ultimately survived the Holocaust. Eight months after Germany’s invasion of Poland, the Nazis roll into The Netherlands, expanding their reign of brutality to the Dutch. But by the Win The unforgettable story of two unsung heroes of World War II: sisters Janny and Lien Brilleslijper who joined the Dutch Resistance, helped save dozen of lives, were captured by the Nazis, and ultimately survived the Holocaust. Eight months after Germany’s invasion of Poland, the Nazis roll into The Netherlands, expanding their reign of brutality to the Dutch. But by the Winter of 1943, resistance is growing. Among those fighting their brutal Nazi occupiers are two Jewish sisters, Janny and Lien Brilleslijper from Amsterdam. Risking arrest and death, the sisters help save others, sheltering them in a clandestine safehouse in the woods, they called “The High Nest.” This secret refuge would become one of the most important Jewish safehouses in the country, serving as a hiding place and underground center for resistance partisans as well as artists condemned by Hitler. From The High Nest, an underground web of artists arises, giving hope and light to those  living in terror in Holland as they begin to restore the dazzling pre-war life of Amsterdam and The Hague.  When the house and its occupants are eventually betrayed, the most terrifying time of the sisters' lives begins. As Allied troops close in, the Brilleslijper family are rushed onto the last train to Auschwitz, along with Anne Frank and her family. The journey will bring Janny and Lien close to Anne and her older sister Margot. The days ahead will test the sisters beyond human imagination as they are stripped of everything but their courage, their resilience, and their love for each other. Based on meticulous research and unprecedented access to the Brilleslijpers’ personal archives of memoirs and photos, Sisters of Auschwitz is a long-overdue homage to two young women’s heroism and moral bravery—and a reminder of the power each of us has to change the world.

30 review for The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters' Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ang

    Every book I’ve read about Auschwitz has been deeply upsetting. Apart from this book. This book is so emotionless that it reads more like a reference book or a history text book. It is upsetting but it portrays the atrocities so badly that I felt very detached from what I was reading. It was interesting to read the extent of the Jewish Resistance but again I felt like I was in a history lesson. Having read so many books about the subject that were full of emotion and portrayed the atrocities so Every book I’ve read about Auschwitz has been deeply upsetting. Apart from this book. This book is so emotionless that it reads more like a reference book or a history text book. It is upsetting but it portrays the atrocities so badly that I felt very detached from what I was reading. It was interesting to read the extent of the Jewish Resistance but again I felt like I was in a history lesson. Having read so many books about the subject that were full of emotion and portrayed the atrocities so well I feel quite let down by this book. Thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for the ARC in return for an honest and unbiased opinion.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Buckby

    There have been so many books written about the holocaust and I've read a few however this one didn't leave me with anything to much to take away. This story is about two sisters who risk their lives during world war 2, to help save others who have been targeted by the Nazi's in hopes of saving lives all the while they are putting their own lives at risk in the process. I did find this book was very different to the other World War 2 books I've read before because this one takes mostly outside t There have been so many books written about the holocaust and I've read a few however this one didn't leave me with anything to much to take away. This story is about two sisters who risk their lives during world war 2, to help save others who have been targeted by the Nazi's in hopes of saving lives all the while they are putting their own lives at risk in the process. I did find this book was very different to the other World War 2 books I've read before because this one takes mostly outside the camp and not the entire time in it. However these two women and everyone who lived with them were really brave and helped save so many people from certain death at the camps at the hands of the Nazi's. I got a lot of back story on the two sisters as well as the others that they either lived or come into contact with so that was some huge information over load which could have been taken out. I really can't imagine working in the resistance against the Nazi's while trying to save your own life and others around you with the added pressure of having to move and not get caught. I think anyone who worked in the resistance during this time was an absolute god sent because it really wasn't an easy task to carry out. I will always love to read these books and continue to learn about what happened during world war 2 because there is so much to learn about how much people will do to fight and earn their freedom again its just amazing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Morgan

    Since this book is a translation I tried to allow some leeway. I understand that this was written in Dutch by a Dutch writer about what happened in her country so again I tried to allow some leeway. However, the writing style (present tense) put me off, and the unfamiliar and unpronounceable names of people and places made it a difficult read. After 60+ pages I simply could not keep the people straight. Sorry to say I gave up.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dawn Emsen-Hough

    I've read many books on the holocaust and the death camps and they all affect me, this one particularly. The real life story of two sisters living in Amsterdam, their connection to the Frank family and their shared experiences at that time not only opens your eyes to the mind numbing incomprehensible evil that can reside in humanity but also the very best in human nature. I couldn't not give this book a 5, simply for the story it told. Important reading. I've read many books on the holocaust and the death camps and they all affect me, this one particularly. The real life story of two sisters living in Amsterdam, their connection to the Frank family and their shared experiences at that time not only opens your eyes to the mind numbing incomprehensible evil that can reside in humanity but also the very best in human nature. I couldn't not give this book a 5, simply for the story it told. Important reading.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jessica M

    eek. This was a DNF for me. I found the writing style impenetrable. It was very much "this happened and then this happened and then this happened" and so I didn't feel like we were being told a story, just a recount. And the content was very dry and so I was desperate for a bit more storytelling. eek. This was a DNF for me. I found the writing style impenetrable. It was very much "this happened and then this happened and then this happened" and so I didn't feel like we were being told a story, just a recount. And the content was very dry and so I was desperate for a bit more storytelling.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews

    *https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.com In November of 2019, Hachette Books brought The Sisters of Auschwitz, also published as The High Nest elsewhere, to an Australian audience. This historical biography is presented in an accessible narrative format, which takes on one of the bleakest times in human history, but it reminds us of the sheer courage, valor and resistance acts that were performed. Roxane van Iperen’s book outlines the incredible lives of two sisters, who were a formidable force in *https://mrsbbookreviews.wordpress.com In November of 2019, Hachette Books brought The Sisters of Auschwitz, also published as The High Nest elsewhere, to an Australian audience. This historical biography is presented in an accessible narrative format, which takes on one of the bleakest times in human history, but it reminds us of the sheer courage, valor and resistance acts that were performed. Roxane van Iperen’s book outlines the incredible lives of two sisters, who were a formidable force in the Dutch Jewish resistance during World War II. The Sisters of Auschwitz is a story of survival, ultimate sacrifice, goodwill and the fight to live. In 1940, as the Final Solution is about to be enacted, many citizens of the Netherlands are prepared to fight against the growing Nazi movement. For two sisters in particular, Janny and Lien Brilleslijper, they are willing to put their lives on the line to save those being targeted by the Nazis. Together, these sisters formed ‘the high nest’, a place of safety and sanctuary for those who were being hunted down by the Nazis. The work of the two sisters becomes integral to the resistance, however, when their safe house is exposed, it all comes falling down, with horrific results. The sisters, who so bravely saved the lives of many were sent away to Auschwitz, just shy of the German defeat. The sisters are then faced with the biggest test to their spirit. They are at their lowest point, but they have their willpower, unique bond and inner strength. The Sisters of Auschwitz is penned by ex-lawyer, Roxane van Iperen, who lives at the site of her book’s central happenings, known as the ‘high nest’. When Roxane purchased the property and went about renovating her home, she recovered key details that helped to unlock the tragic true history of this abode in the resistance efforts during World War II. Since this discovery, the author has spent many years compiling all the correct evidence together to compile this book. She also gained the full blessing of the family involved to publish the story that we read today. The Sisters of Auschwitz was first published in 2018 as ‘t Hooge Nest in Dutch. In 2019, ‘t Hooge Nest was translated into English by Joni Zwart. My edition of this moving testimony is a 2019 Hachette Australia publication. The Sisters of Auschwitz contains two keynote maps of the area, which is accompanied by a preface. The author then launches into Part One: War. This section outlines key facts about the conditions and environment that gave rise to the war, along with specific information on the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Part Two: The High Nest offers a comprehensive account of the safe house held by the sisters. Part Three: Surviving reveals the heartbreaking time the sisters endured at Auschwitz and their final journey. This is followed by an Epilogue, After the High Nest (which covers birth and death details of key figures in the book), Acknowledgements and a References page. The References section gives us a very good insight into the vast array of sources used to compile this moving book. From personal documentation, oral histories, interviews, archives, websites, books, magazines and newspaper articles, there is a breadth of factual information that went into the formation of The Sisters of Auschwitz. When I came to The Sisters of Auschwitz, I had just come out of reading another book set during the Holocaust and I wasn’t entirely sure if this was a good or bad move. However, The Sisters of Auschwitz was a compelling read and very informed, which was contrasted to the previous book that I read which was fictional. Once I adjusted my mindset to the factual writing style, I was rewarded with a previously unknown history and one that reminded me yet again that there are just so many hidden stories of World War II. The Sisters of Auschwitz regales a time of immense hardship and injustice, but also power and strength. It is about fighting for what you believe in, rebelling against the system and preserving the life of others – at the cost of your own. The sisters of this tale were brave, ingenious and full of self-sacrificing qualities. The extent of their efforts should never be discounted, but it is a shame that we are only just learning about their contribution to the Dutch resistance, many decades after the close of the war. If you are after a story that is life affirming and full of courage, let the Brilleslijper sisters inspire you in their amazing story of defiance, in the face of such overwhelming adversity. I highly recommend The Sisters of Auschwitz by Roxane van Iperen. *Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Summer

    Sisters of Auschwitz is the true story of two sisters Janny and Lien Brilleslijeper who live in the Netherlands in 1940 during the Nazi invasion. The sisters risk their own lives by creating a safehouse called ‘The High Nest’ for those who were being hunted by the Nazi’s. Ultimately the sisters are betrayed and were sent to Auschwitz on the very last train along with Anne Frank and her family. The Nazi’s took every single thing away from them they could but they could never strip away their brav Sisters of Auschwitz is the true story of two sisters Janny and Lien Brilleslijeper who live in the Netherlands in 1940 during the Nazi invasion. The sisters risk their own lives by creating a safehouse called ‘The High Nest’ for those who were being hunted by the Nazi’s. Ultimately the sisters are betrayed and were sent to Auschwitz on the very last train along with Anne Frank and her family. The Nazi’s took every single thing away from them they could but they could never strip away their bravery, hope, and love. It was so fascinating to learn how these sisters created this safe haven for Jewish people and members of the Dutch resistance. I also enjoyed learning about the Jewish community in Amsterdam during this time and the about family of Anne Frank. My heart ravaged over and over again after reading about the horrifying environment the sisters had to endure after they were sent to Auschwitz. Roxane’s writing, even through translation comes off as very incisive. The research she conducted on the sisters was very meticulous, the last section of the book lists the resources she used while writing this amazing story. I also feel like this book covers an important subject that many books about WWII doesn't often discuss, the fight the Jewish people put up when the nazi’s took over. I think it's often infered that the communities and people didn't put up a fight when the Nazi’s took over but in actuality they often created underground communities of resistance. The Sisters of Auschwitz was originally published in 2019 in the Netherlands. In Holland this book was short listed for their biggest literary prize, NS Publieksprijs’s Book of the Year and it is the winner of the Opziji Prize for Literature in 2019. Fun fact, Roxane Van Iperen actually resides in the High Nest, the Briilleslijper sisters safe house. I highly recommend this book for World War II history fans as well as readers looking for an incredible nonfiction story. Many thanks to Harper Perrenial for the gifted copy!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Karl Jorgenson

    The chilling and touching story of a Jewish Dutch family that hides from the Nazis while assisting other fugitives and the Dutch resistance. This book is, perhaps, most interesting for the view of occupied Dutch society: the Dutch were/are very German-like in that they value organization, strict rules, and have a strong fascist element. A high percentage of Dutch Jews were transported to be murdered in Poland because Dutch collaborators were enthusiastic and efficient in the task. The book is als The chilling and touching story of a Jewish Dutch family that hides from the Nazis while assisting other fugitives and the Dutch resistance. This book is, perhaps, most interesting for the view of occupied Dutch society: the Dutch were/are very German-like in that they value organization, strict rules, and have a strong fascist element. A high percentage of Dutch Jews were transported to be murdered in Poland because Dutch collaborators were enthusiastic and efficient in the task. The book is also interesting because the sisters meet the Frank family, of 'Diary of Anne Frank' fame, on the way to Auschwitz. This book has more breadth because the sisters hid in plain sight and so observed or worked against increasing Nazi oppression. This translation from the Dutch is clumsy, with grammar and meaning faults, so it may be that 'Diary of Anne Frank' is more readable in English, but this book gives a more comprehensive view of the Nazis in Holland.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Bart Overgaag

    I am deeply impressed by the courage of the Brilleslijper sisters and their relatives. Being in such a dismal position themselves as being Jewish, they were persistently active for others despite all cruelties executed in occupied Netherlands and the concentration camps. All credits for Roxane van Iperen who hasn’t written just another WW2 book, but a moving story of the horror and bravery in that era.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Susy

    2.5 stars Though I “like” to read stories about WWII this story just didn’t do it for me. Perhaps it’s because it reads (listens) as a documentary, not as a novel. Perhaps it’s because I listened to it instead of reading it myself. Perhaps it’s due to the narration. In any case I often found my mind wandering off and the narration seemed to go on forever. I did round it up to 3 stars, giving it the benefit of the doubt.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Marie-Christien Van Wensen

    This book made a huge impression, especially since I grew up very close to "t Hooge Nest". It felt as if I was part of the story of family Brilleslijper. This book made a huge impression, especially since I grew up very close to "t Hooge Nest". It felt as if I was part of the story of family Brilleslijper.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Christina DeVane

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. 4.5 🌟 overall This book took a little bit to get into. Because it is a true story there are SO many characters, and it’s easy to get confused at first. Also the flow of words and paragraphs seemed a bit off, but then I realized this was translated into English from Dutch as originally written. Reading became easier so I must have just gotten used to it.😁 But wow, what a story! The fact that the author moved into the house in 2012, found hiding spaces and started digging into its history is truly 4.5 🌟 overall This book took a little bit to get into. Because it is a true story there are SO many characters, and it’s easy to get confused at first. Also the flow of words and paragraphs seemed a bit off, but then I realized this was translated into English from Dutch as originally written. Reading became easier so I must have just gotten used to it.😁 But wow, what a story! The fact that the author moved into the house in 2012, found hiding spaces and started digging into its history is truly amazing! These Jewish sisters, Janny and Lien, changed their identity, rented a house in the woods and ran a resistance operation from there while hiding many Jews. They lasted until the summer of 1944. The other astounding fact is that they ended up at Auschwitz with Anne and Margot Frank (arrested the same month) and formed a group with them. They worked together to stay alive, but unfortunately the Frank sisters died 1 or 2 months before liberation at Bergen-Belsen camp. The sisters barely survived the camps and went on to live with their families until their deaths in 1988 (Lien) and 2003 (Janny). Also amazing is that this author has become friends with their children who are still living in Berlin and the Netherlands. *There are a couple of words throughout. Quotes I want to remember: 📖 “Remember: life is for living!” 📖 Another resistance fighter, Albert Camus said, “In the midst of winter I, at last, discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.” Other books set in the Netherlands during Nazi occupation: 📕 Dutch Girl 📕 The Hiding Place 📕 Chasing Shadows (fiction)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Huether

    A story of heroism, told with conviction and grace with insights into Amsterdam's' Jewish Quarter. In the Winter of 1943 two Jewish sisters Janny and Lein helped to shelter themselves and many others in the woods outside of Amsterdam called the "High Nest" This home became very important in hiding the resistance fighters. Once they were betrayed some of their days were numbered, especially for their parents and older occupants when they were sent to Auschwitz. Besides there being little to eat ther A story of heroism, told with conviction and grace with insights into Amsterdam's' Jewish Quarter. In the Winter of 1943 two Jewish sisters Janny and Lein helped to shelter themselves and many others in the woods outside of Amsterdam called the "High Nest" This home became very important in hiding the resistance fighters. Once they were betrayed some of their days were numbered, especially for their parents and older occupants when they were sent to Auschwitz. Besides there being little to eat there were fleas and lice. The sisters were very sick; they kept each other alive. At the end of the book the names of the people at "High Nest" were mentioned as well as their fate. Many lived to have very important and productive lives.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tracey

    This is a well-written, entertaining, informative, true WWII Holocaust story. The bond between the sisters is heart-warming and their bravery is amazing. The sisters experience suffering, deprivation, heart-break, and hope. I listened to the audio version of this novel, and Ms. Susan Hoffman has a lovely voice, and does an excellent job depicting the characters and their personalities.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Claire

    Interesting novel about a place of resistance in the Netherlands during WW 2. What happened with the people who lived there, who was saved, who did survive? Rather anecdotical history, but a nice read. Between 3 and 4 stars. I decided on 3 as it took some time to ger the book going and sometimes the variation is style was lacking a bit.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marco

    Wow, what an extraordinaire story. I can highly recommend it. Beautiful.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jeroen Smits

    Couldnt stop reading it. Excellent

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sue

    I read a lot of WWII fiction and am always saddened at the persecution that the Nazis carried out. Reading this history book about two sisters, was even more difficult because the story was not based on real people - it was about real people. I was astounded at the actions of these two sisters - how many people they saved and what their life was like in Auschwitz. They were real heroes! In 1940 the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. As they begin to carry out their 'final solution', many people beco I read a lot of WWII fiction and am always saddened at the persecution that the Nazis carried out. Reading this history book about two sisters, was even more difficult because the story was not based on real people - it was about real people. I was astounded at the actions of these two sisters - how many people they saved and what their life was like in Auschwitz. They were real heroes! In 1940 the Nazis occupied the Netherlands. As they begin to carry out their 'final solution', many people become part of the resistance groups. By the winter of 1943, resistance had grown. Two sisters, Janny and Lien Brilleslijper, work diligently to keep people safe despite the danger that it brought to them. They sheltered many people in a clandestine safe house in the woods, they called “The High Nest.” They were one of the main places for the resistance as well as hiding people who were escaping being taken to the camps. Eventually someone reported them to the Nazi hierarchy and the two sisters were caught and sent to several camps before they were put on the last train to Auschwitz. On the transport, they meet the Frank family who were just discovered in the attic hiding place. They became friends with Anne and Margot and tried to protect them after they arrived at Auschwitz. Their time in the camp was very difficult but through their courage and resilience, the Brilleslijper sisters survived. The author did extensive research and used the sisters archives and photos. She also took many oral histories that added to her knowledge of this time in history and the lives of the two sisters. Be sure to read her notes at the end which explain where she got all of her information. These brave sisters have been forgotten over the years and this book reminds the world of how brave and resilient they were and how they worked to make a difference in their lives and the lives of people that they saved. Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book to read and review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Julia

    The Sisters Of Auschwitz by Roxane Van Iperen is the true story of Jewish Dutch sisters Janny and Lien Brilleslijper who resisted the Nazis in occupied Netherlands. Whilst everyone has heard of the Frank sisters, few have heard of the Brilleslijper sisters. Yet they met each other in Westerbork, Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. The Brilleslijper sisters were older than the Franks, both married with young children during World War II. They were incredibly brave with a huge heart for others. “If someon The Sisters Of Auschwitz by Roxane Van Iperen is the true story of Jewish Dutch sisters Janny and Lien Brilleslijper who resisted the Nazis in occupied Netherlands. Whilst everyone has heard of the Frank sisters, few have heard of the Brilleslijper sisters. Yet they met each other in Westerbork, Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. The Brilleslijper sisters were older than the Franks, both married with young children during World War II. They were incredibly brave with a huge heart for others. “If someone is in need, we have no other option but to help him.” This book is their story. Roxane Van Iperen has produced a heart breaking account of the sisters’ lives before the war and through their resistance to Auschwitz. Their story is inspiring. Their bravery immense. Their lives should be honoured. The author has thoroughly researched their lives as the story is comprehensive and the sources listed at the end is long. I was interested to read a short synopsis of all the characters at the end – including their birth and death dates. In a dark period in history there was light in the form of the lives of the sisters. Thank you Roxane Van Iperen for telling their story to the world. May we never forget the suffering of the innocents.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    I found this difficult to get through. The writing did not stir any emotion in me and I found the characters hard to empathise with. It made me feel guilty as the subject is one I have read much about and of course is a tale of devastation and horror. I feel guilty saying I didn’t really want to finish it and 3 stars is being generous

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lynette Fraser

    The most compelling, tragic and sorrowful book on the treatment of the Jewish people (and others) in WW2 I have read. Beautifully written about their family stories and the descriptions of these 2 amazing sisters - of their wonderful achievements as resistance fighters and their tragic story of their lives in those awful death camps. Well worth reading.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy

    “We were so sad, we were tired, we were cold, we had gone without food for days, we were faint with – we were not even sure if we were hungry or not, because it goes away, I do not know if you ever... Thankfully, you will never know, oh God, please may you never know.” Janny Brandes-Brilleslijpet

  23. 5 out of 5

    Diane van Steekelenburg

    I’ve read quite a lot of books set in WO2 but this one really got to me. The scenes in the camps were moving and horrible at the same time. I was impressed by the courage of the two sisters.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tamara

    A truly breathtaking story about two sisters fighting their battle against the nazi’s.

  25. 4 out of 5

    J M-B

    In the context of rising nationalism and growing intolerance it requires considerable courage to take a public stance in defence of those rights and values that have accorded some minimum level of protection to minorities and those suffering oppression. That is what Roxane van Iperen consistently does in her journalism and it is why I first turn to her comment column when I read Vrij Nederland. It is courage that is even more necessary for a woman, given the frequently misogynistic tone of publi In the context of rising nationalism and growing intolerance it requires considerable courage to take a public stance in defence of those rights and values that have accorded some minimum level of protection to minorities and those suffering oppression. That is what Roxane van Iperen consistently does in her journalism and it is why I first turn to her comment column when I read Vrij Nederland. It is courage that is even more necessary for a woman, given the frequently misogynistic tone of public debate within social media, and it is for that reason that I find it even more impressive that this author has written such a searing indictment of antisemitism that focuses on the history of her own residence. This is not only to take a public stand, but to say also - “here I am”. This is a brave book. Some of the sections of the book that are most harrowing to read deal with information that is not entirely new. The account of the deaths of Margot and Anne Frank at Bergen-Belsen, for example, are treated in 'De Laatste zeven maanden van Anne Frank' by Willy Lindwer, a text credited by the author in her very useful bibliography. The story of the house where sisters Janny Brandes-Brilleslijper and Lien Rebling-Brilleslijper accommodated onderduikers and planned their acts of resistance was, however, completely unknown to me. This is despite references to them (in relation to their time in Auschwitz and Belsen) in Carol Ann Lee’s 'Roses from the Earth: The Biography of Anne Frank'. Roxane van Iperen tells a compelling and valuable story, written with novelistic detail, but also with due respect to its status as a work of history and with a detailed account of her sources. I am very pleased to see that it is to be published in English translation later this year (under the title Sisters of Auschwitz). It is much needed in the UK at this time and it is because this book is so admirable and so valuable that I offer some observations that challenge certain aspects of its narrative. The sisters at the centre of this book were in and around the milieu of the then illegal Communistische Partij Nederland (CPN). It is natural, therefore, that the book should reflect the conflicts over strategy that divided the CPN from a body such as the Joodse Raad. In the immediate aftermath of the februari-staking, Janny is quoted as saying to her sister: “De Joodse Raad probeert nu de joden te kalmeren ... En dat past precies in het straatje van de moffen” (p. 57). Roxane van Iperen then describes the way that the role of the CPN was erased from the official history of the strike: “De leidende rol van de CPN wordt ontkend of doodgezwegen; in de eerste jaren na de oorlog wordt de mythe gevoed dat de mensen spontaan de straten op gingen [...] Tot op de dag van vandaag is het verband tussen de CPN en de beroemde acties niet in brede kring bekend. Een symbool van rechtvaardigheid is zo vreemd genoeg in zichzelf een symbool van onrechtvaardigheid geworden” (p. 57). This uncritical account of the role of the CPN is in contrast to the author’s broadly negative tone towards the undoubtedly compromised role of the Joodse Raad. The Nazi occupiers gave the Joodse Raad responsibility for distributing 17,500 temporary exemptions from deportation to the camps, causing inevitable division within the desperately oppressed Jewish community. “Werknemers en hun familieleden krijgen als eersten een Sperre, naast een groep vooraanstaande joden die als belangwekkend wordt beschouwd voor de gemeenschap - in de ogen van de Joodse Raad, welterverstaan” (p. 115). This tone exhibits distaste at the compromised role of the Joodse Raad that does not extend to other actors in this tragedy. At key points, the Brilleslijper sisters were dependent on the help of those participating in the machinery of occupation: a worker at the government office issuing identity papers, a police officer and even a conscripted German soldier. Whatever acts of resistance these functionaries may have achieved, it cannot have been without significant compromises in fulfilling their respective official roles. Compromise - or dependence on the compromise of others - was the universal experience of occupation. In defence of the compromises of the Joodse Raad there can, in particular, be cited the highly equivocal defence of the Jewish community offered by the CPN. Whatever the heroism of individual CPN militants during the occupation, the political defence of Jews by the CPN was not without its own compromises with antisemitism, up to and including the februari-staking. The General Secretary of the CPN, Paul de Groot, set out the party’s position on antisemitism in a political briefing to the membership that proposed the assimilation of Jews within the Dutch state to the point of the obliteration of all separate identity. The briefing concludes with these words: “De communisten zijn voorstanders van volledige assimilatie der joden, van hun totale opgaan in de Nederlandse natie en het uitwissen van alle overblijfselen van verschillen, in het belang van de ontwikkeling van de Nederlandse natie en van de joden zelf” . # With such defenders, what compromises might not the Joodse Raad have felt obliged to seek? # Quoted from ‘Kroniek van de Februari-Staking 1941” by Gerard Maas; published by Pegasus, Amsterdam, 1961.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Syrett

    This book belongs to a genre which has recently grown in popularity and that, because of the way it is written, I personally believe it neglects. I have read many books detailing lives of those who experienced the Holocaust and whilst this is perhaps an uncomfortable topic to offer literary criticism towards I feel it necessary in this case. This story and all the external factors concerning the lives of the two sisters has clearly been well researched, BUT, it reads as a matter of fact historic This book belongs to a genre which has recently grown in popularity and that, because of the way it is written, I personally believe it neglects. I have read many books detailing lives of those who experienced the Holocaust and whilst this is perhaps an uncomfortable topic to offer literary criticism towards I feel it necessary in this case. This story and all the external factors concerning the lives of the two sisters has clearly been well researched, BUT, it reads as a matter of fact historical account, rather than the modern genre of Holocaust retelling that it attempts to belong to. I feel this story would have benefited from being wrote in the first person, with chapters alternating between the two sisters, in order to give the most responsible account of the emotion and heartache experienced. Because of the nature of the third person detail of this story, there is a lot of information compressed into not many pages, that had it been a first person account would have enabled the author to delve deeper into what these two women really experienced in order to create a more memorable and educational experience for the reader. Often there were so many foreign names and places thrown into very brief descriptions that it was difficult to fully keep up with the story, especially when parts flicked between different years or visions. Ultimately, this story lacks depth of “characters”, I do not feel like I formed any kind of reader connection with any of the people mentioned, which in a story of this nature is vital to the reader experience. Overall I enjoyed learning about the lives of two sisters and their families, but there was so much more that could have been explained and explored further (more detail on resistance activities and what this really entailed, camp life and interactions, etc) aspects seemed rushed, such as the final chapter where real emotion could have lasted upon the reader. Out of all the books I have read belonging to this genre, this is indeed one of the weaker ones, but still worth a read if you enjoy this field of history.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Scarcella

    This is another holocaust story. It is based on a true story. I keep hearing people were saying this book is brilliant book. This author is a holocaust survivor. Janny and Lien did a phenomenal job because the writing is very simple to understand and connects the story. She tells a powerful, moving, graphic and takes a lot of courage and endurance ever I read, and I couldn’t put down in a day. It is about two sisters who are Jewish. Janny and Lien. They are in the resistance fighters. They have This is another holocaust story. It is based on a true story. I keep hearing people were saying this book is brilliant book. This author is a holocaust survivor. Janny and Lien did a phenomenal job because the writing is very simple to understand and connects the story. She tells a powerful, moving, graphic and takes a lot of courage and endurance ever I read, and I couldn’t put down in a day. It is about two sisters who are Jewish. Janny and Lien. They are in the resistance fighters. They have 13 people in hiding in a safehouse in the country at the “The High Nest” It was a safe house until they all were betrayed. They were put on the last train along with Anne Frank and her family to Auschwitz. The sisters also mention about their childhood, hiding, involved with the resistance movements, and share experiences with the Frank girls at the time. The sisters stayed together with the Frank girls until the end. The sisters promised Otto Frank to look after them. They did. The sisters also did hide Oskar Schindler after the war because he was hiding from the Russian as a result. Later they found out Oskar did save 1,200 Jews. It was really interesting book because they were Jewish fighters who have fought against the Nazis and they have saved many Jews to escape at the time, just like I watched uprising and defiance movies. I believe this book should convey to movies because it is about Jewish resistance.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    The writing style of this book is not for everyone as it is highly historical. For those that will not be bored by the true historical writing style, and who are seeking to learn more real history about the Holocaust this is a must read. The writing, in my opinion is raw & emotional, especially since as the reader you are aware that everything happening is real life, that is actually happened to real people. I appreciated the author’s obvious dedication to maintaining the voices of the women who The writing style of this book is not for everyone as it is highly historical. For those that will not be bored by the true historical writing style, and who are seeking to learn more real history about the Holocaust this is a must read. The writing, in my opinion is raw & emotional, especially since as the reader you are aware that everything happening is real life, that is actually happened to real people. I appreciated the author’s obvious dedication to maintaining the voices of the women who the story is about, her inclusivity of all the characters who impacted them, the way in which she addressed the harsh realities they faced. I learned a lot about from this book about a side of the Holocaust that I had never before been taught about. It was a tough read, emotionally and mentally. But, learning about the story of Jewish resistance that was so organized, intentional, systematic, well thought out, caring, selfless, and in some ways effective was well worth it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dena

    This book started a bit slow, but once I got to the heart of the story it was hard to put down. No matter how many non-fiction and historical fiction books I read about WWII, I am always horrified at what took place but also inspired by the people, like these sisters, who endured. Their resilience, ability to find hope and compassion for others is so incredible.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Permanently_Booked

    DNF 50%. This was a buddy read and I have to admit that if I had tried this alone I probably wouldn't have made it as far as I did. I think I was expecting more of a story type of writing style instead of the textbook feeling this provided. While the circumstances and timeline is intriguing at times, it didn't hold the emotional voice that I look for in novels like this. Even ones that are true stories without the fiction still tend to tug at my soul. Sadly, this one did not and I felt it took aw DNF 50%. This was a buddy read and I have to admit that if I had tried this alone I probably wouldn't have made it as far as I did. I think I was expecting more of a story type of writing style instead of the textbook feeling this provided. While the circumstances and timeline is intriguing at times, it didn't hold the emotional voice that I look for in novels like this. Even ones that are true stories without the fiction still tend to tug at my soul. Sadly, this one did not and I felt it took away so much from the narrative. While the historical aspects are riveting and timeless I am disheartened that I didn't love it like I had hoped. There are tons of readers who will probably love this novel and experience the struggles and heartbreak the sisters encountered till the end. This is a true story that should be read. I just recommend not expecting the flow of a tale. Thank you to Harper Books for the gifted copy in exchange for my thoughts.

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