A truly worthwhile addition to the body of Holocaust studies.

THE SISTERS OF AUSCHWITZ

THE TRUE STORY OF TWO JEWISH SISTERS' RESISTANCE IN THE HEART OF NAZI TERRITORY

Moving true story of two sisters who survived—and resisted—the Holocaust.

Van Iperen’s narrative revolves around the house that she and her family restored, the High Nest, a remarkable Dutch country home that served as a nerve center of anti-Nazi resistance and housed several Jews during the frightening years of German occupation. At the center of the story of their home is the tale of Jewish sisters Janny and Lien Brilleslijper, whose courage, resilience, and strong sense of hope touched many lives during a time of atrocity. The author captures this important piece of Holocaust history with exceptional skill and nuance, allowing readers to feel a personal kinship with the individuals that populate the narrative. The author takes readers on a journey from one moving chapter to another as the Nazi grip on Holland’s Jews grew tighter and tighter. While Jewish rights were stripped away and increasing numbers of families were shipped to ghettos or deported to camps, the Brilleslijper sisters provided significant aid to the Dutch resistance, overseeing an underground press, organizing a black market of necessary goods and lifesaving documentation, and hiding those on the run. Eventually, the residents of the High Nest were discovered and shipped to the Westerbork Transit Camp, followed by Auschwitz, where “almost all” of them were “killed upon arrival.” As the Soviet army approached, the sisters were moved to Bergen-Belsen, where they came extraordinarily close to meeting the same fate as another pair of sisters they befriended, Margot and Anne Frank. The author’s attention to detail makes the horrors of the Holocaust come to life—not only the physical horrors of the camps, but also the emotional and mental torment of life spent in fear and hiding. The ending, though happy, proves bittersweet in contrast to the incomprehensible scale of torment and death of the era.

A truly worthwhile addition to the body of Holocaust studies.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-309762-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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A graceful debut.

SPILT MILK

MEMOIRS

A series of essays cohere into an evocative memoir.

In her first book, Zoffness, winner of a Sunday Times Short Story Award, gathers thoughtful pieces on themes that include motherhood, anxiety, and Jewish identity. Raised by extraordinarily fearful parents and worried about bequeathing her own anxiety to her son, the author studied medical journals and textbooks “to learn parent-child transfer.” She tries to assuage her 6-year-old’s fears, she tells her therapist, by putting up “a shield of faux calm.” The therapist referred her to a nearby doctor: “Maybe,” she suggested, “if you talk to her you can respond to him with real calm instead of faux calm.” Her 4-year-old son, too, incites her worries because he is obsessed with becoming a police officer. Zoffness is dismayed by “the heraldry of dominance and toughness that my boys can’t help but inhale,” and she finds it difficult to talk about injustice and brutality with such young children. She comes to realize, though, that the child is not drawn to violence; as the younger sibling, he just wants to exert some power. In “Ultra Sound,” Zoffness reflects on her tense relationship with her own mother, a deeply private woman who refuses to share details about her past as a performer. “Holy Body” merges the theme of motherhood with Jewish identity: Zoffness chronicles her mikveh, or ritual bath, intended, in part, “to help Jews of all stripes honor life transitions or commemorate occasions.” Zoffness acknowledges her momentous transition from childbearing in contrast to a friend, a mother of three, who has become a gestational surrogate, an act of altruism the author finds both selfless and mystifying. In other sharp pieces, the author recounts teenage angst and a friend’s betrayal; a visit to an astrologer recommended by a therapist; and confronting evidence of the Holocaust in the idyllic city of Freiburg, where Zoffness was teaching.

A graceful debut.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-952119-14-9

Page Count: 165

Publisher: McSweeney’s

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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