Title: The Sisters of Auschwitz
Author: Roxane van Iperen
Published: November 12th 2019
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Genres: Biograhy, History, Political, Military
Rating: 4 stars
The life-affirming story of female bravery, Jewish Nazi resistance and surviving the horrors of Auschwitz
WINNER of the Opzij Literature Prize 2019!
During the Second World War two Jewish sisters – Janny and Lien Brilleslijper – run one of the largest hideaways in The Netherlands: The High Nest, a villa in The Gooi area. While the last remaining Jews are being hunted in The Netherlands, the lives of dozens of hideaways kept going for better or for worse, right under the noses of their National Socialist neighbours. Eventually, the nest is exposed and the Brilleslijper family put on one of the last transports to Auschwitz, along with the (Anne) Frank family.
Roxane’s novelistic eye combined with her rigorous research result in a hugely compelling portrayal of courage, treason and human resilience. THE HIGH NEST is a truly unforgettable book.
After Roxane and her family moved into The High Nest in 2012 she spent six years writing and piecing together its story. Fundamental elements of Roxane’s research into The High Nest are the personal, unpublished memoirs Janny Brilleslijper wrote for their close friends and family members. Roxane gained access to historic interviews with Janny, Lien, Eberhard and others, as well as many personal conversations with Janny and Lien’s children. The book will contain many photographs from the Brilleslijper family archive.
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.
The Sisters of Auschwitz by Roxane van Iperen is published by Hachette Australia. Out now. $32.99
To learn more about the author of The Sisters of Auschwitz, Roxane van Iperen, visit here.
*Thanks is extended to Hachette Australia for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.