THE SISTERS OF AUSCHWITZ, by Roxanne Van Iperen tells the unbelievable but true story about how during the second World War two Dutch sisters, Janny and Lien Brilleslijer, passed themselves off as Gentiles, thus enabling them to conduct extraordinarily daring and unusual rescue operations – Jews posing as Christians, saving Jews.
Their heroic efforts were clandestinely conducted in a mansion which they set up as a safe house called High Nest, located in a wooded area not far from Amsterdam. Despite the sisters’ innovative and heroic efforts to save their co-religionists from the genocidal Nazis who had recently devoured Holland, they could not avoid the treachery of a neighbor who betrayed their ruse. The two sisters paid the consequence of their life-saving scheme by being shoved into one of the endless lines of box cars destined to Auschwitz Bergen-Belsen. Shortly after ending their tortuous journey, from which few returned, and passing under the cynically worded Arbeit Macht Frei sign they met a fellow Amsterdam denizen – the legendary Anne Frank.
Until recently, little was known about the two sisters’ unique resistance carried out in plain sight of the Nazis, who were blinded by their hatred of Jews. But unlike Anne Frank, her family, and six-million other innocent victims, Janny and Lien were able to survive their internment and provide a firsthand account of the shocking and ghastly actions of the Nazis.
Because of Van Iperen’s vivid and intense descriptions of the life-to-death existence of innocent Jewish men, women, and children, who were rounded up, herded into pens, confined in stalls, and stripped of all but their humanity, the narrative is often wrenching and disturbing.
The author’s difficult and painstaking efforts researching and chronicling the history of the exploits of the sisters of High Nest gave her insight into the human capacity to harness courage and grit which enabled them at great personal risk to sometimes successfully thwart the murderous schemes of one of history’s most inhumane regimes. And for that reason it is important that the story of the intrepid two sisters, and the exploits of many others like them, no longer remain concealed in the dark shadows of the Holocaust.