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New book tells story of incredible courage shown by two Dutch Jewish sisters during World War II

Author Roxanne Van Iperen
cover of “The Sisters of Auschwitz”

Reviewed by BERNIE BELLAN In early August we received an email from a publicist for HarperCollins by the name of Rebecca Silver, who’s sent us interesting books to consider reviewing in the past.
Here’s how Rebecca’s email read:

Hi Bernie,
Roxane van Iperen did not know what she would eventually uncover in her home after she moved in, but later discovered it was once known as the High Nest and became enthralled with the inspiring story of its former occupants. As she unearthed the history behind her own walls, she learned it was a safehouse for Jews in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands. From then on, van Iperen was determined to explore its hidden corners and found she had unprecedented access to two sisters’ personal archives to create this remarkable work of narrative non-fiction.
The High Nest was one of Holland’s most daring rescue operations conducted by Jews for Jews. Through her excavation, she learned the story of two sisters, Janny and Lien Brilleslijper, who joined the Dutch Resistance, helped save dozens of lives, were captured by the Nazis, and ultimately survived the Holocaust. Through renovating her home, the sisters’ ingenuity and drive to survive was exposed by double walls, secret doors, and walled-off annexes that were so well concealed they were left undetected for decades.
Originally published in The Netherlands as The High Nest, the book was awarded the 2019 Opzij Literature Prize, an annual Dutch award given to female authors whose work has contributed to the emancipation, evolution, and awareness of women. Janny and Lien’s story is a remarkable story of resistance, strength, and determination — one you must read to believe.
All the best,
Rebecca

Included with Rebecca’s email was the following synopsis of the book: 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, The 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.
Author bio: Roxane van Iperen is a Dutch writer and lawyer who resides in the countryside east of Amsterdam, in a home known as “The High Nest” which was once the center for one of Holland’s most daring rescue operations conducted by Jews for Jews. She was shortlisted for the biggest public prize in Holland, NS Publieksprijs’ Book of the Year.

Now for my review of “The Sisters of Auschwitz”: The information I’ve quoted verbatim from Rebecca Silver’s email gives as complete an idea what the book is about as one might like. The question with which I want to deal is whether I would recommend this book.
It was a year ago precisely that I wrote about a book that was also based on documents that had been found hidden for years and which opened up an entirely different perspective on certain facets of the Second World War. That book was titled “The S.S. Officer’s Armchair – Uncovering the Hidden Life of a Nazi”. (You can read my review by entering the word “armchair” on our website when you click on “search archives”.)

Of course, there’s a world of difference in reading about a hitherto undisclosed account of what life was like for an S.S officer in contrast with the lives of two Jewish sisters (and their families), but the comparison is fair to make because, in both cases, through a combination of luck and great diligence, the authors of the two respective books were able to piece together their subjects’ lives.
As I made my way through “The Sisters of Auschwitz”, knowing that the two sisters who are at the heart of this book actually survived Auschwitz did not detract from the suspense that the author builds in telling the story. Every Holocaust survivor has their own unique story to tell, but it’s in the telling of the story that the great books separate themselves from the more mediocre ones. And, as is evidenced by author Roxanne van Iperen having been shortlisted for Holland’s most prestigious literary award, this book is not just a fine piece of reporting what the author discovered, it’s very wonderfully written.
Rebecca Silver’s email tells you about as much as you need to know about the story that was unearthed by van Iperen’s having had the good fortune to have lived in the house – the “High Nest”, which became the hiding place for Janny and Lien Brilleslijper, along with a great many other Jews, for a good part of World War II. What the author also does so well is describe the terrible fate that befell so many of Holland’s Jews during the Holocaust, when almost 75% of the Jewish population was exterminated, either by being murdered in Holland, sent to labour camps where they perished from exhaustion and hunger, or finally were gassed in death camps, particularly Auschwitz.
I’ve read before how so many Dutch citizens cooperated fully with the Nazis. It still comes as a shock to contemplate that fact because we’ve come to regard Holland as such a liberal state, which for the longest time was thought of as a mecca for those in pursuit of sex and drugs. But when you realize that 76,000 Dutch Jews were sent to their deaths, in no small part because so few Dutch gentiles were willing to come to their aid, it certainly leaves a different impression of the Dutch for Jews who might have thought of the Dutch as being active resisters to the Nazis. Sure, there were many brave souls in the Dutch resistance, but the Nazis were as comfortable in Holland as any Western European country, where they found many Dutch who were all too willing not only to work for the Nazi regime, but who were as cruel as many Nazis in carrying out their duties.
That’s not the major theme of “The Sisters of Auschwitz”, but as you read of Janny and Lien’s constant worry about being betrayed during the fairly long period in which they were able to avoid being detected by Nazi hunters, who were primarily Dutch citizens – zealous in their pursuit of Jews, it’s hard not to wonder whether there was a much deeper anti-Semitism engrained within the Dutch than perhaps we’ve thought.

While the first half of “The Sisters of Auschwitz” deals with Janny and Lien’s being able to hide from the Nazis, also their active involvement in the Dutch resistance, once the storyline moves from Holland to the sisters’ (along with their younger brother and both parents) being transported to Auschwitz, the book becomes nothing less than an outright horror story.
Before Janny was captured, by the way, she was in hiding in Amsterdam, along with her non-Jewish husband, Eberhard, where they were both quite active in the resistance. Once she is captured –and tortured, however, how she manages to endure the horrors that are subsequently thrust upon her is a testament to this woman’s utter resilience. While Lein is brave, nothing compares to Janny’s determination to carry on, no matter how many times you might think to yourself: “Why didn’t she just give up and let herself die?”
Whether it was being starved, beaten, or forced to spend hours naked outside in freezing temperatures, Janny not only managed to endure, her incredible willpower also enabled her to keep Lein alive at the same time – many times when Lein was ready to give up.
What might come as the greatest surprise to readers moreover, is the introduction of the Frank family into the story: father Otto, mother Edith, and sisters Margot and Anne. I was always under the impression that Anne Frank died in Auschwitz, but I was wrong; she died in Bergen Belsen, along with her sister Margot. If the details given in “The Sisters of Auschwitz” are accurate, the fact that Margot and Anne even made it as far as Bergen Belsen after having been in Auschwitz is largely due to the care that was given to both of them by Janny and Lein when both Frank sisters were suffering from typhus in Auschwitz.
As much as this book is a compelling read, I admit that I had a hard time with the many foreign names in the book. There are so many different characters introduced – and that is largely a reflection of just how many different Jews the two sisters were able to hide in the “High Nest” at one time or another, that it became quite confusing for me, as did the names of the sisters’ children. Still, I’m sure that if you concentrate on trying to remember who is who (and I’m terrible at that), it will all come together for you.
Just as reading “The S.S. Officer’s Armchair”, which was published in 2020, enabled an entirely new understanding of what life must have been like for an ordinary Nazi official – 75 years after that particular individual likely died, reading “The Sisters of Auschwitz” also opens up an insight into how some Jews were able to endure the tortures inflicted upon by them by the Nazis that, were it not for a quirk of fate, would also have remained undisclosed.
“The Sisters of Auschwitz”
By Roxane van Iperen
320 pages
Published by HarperCollins
Released for sale August 31, 2021
Available on Amazon

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Features

How Live Casino Dealers Enhance Your Gaming Experience

In the booming online gaming world, live casino dealers stand out as the bridge between the virtual and the real. They bring the physical casino’s authenticity and excitement to your screen, creating a more immersive and engaging experience. But how exactly do live casino dealers enhance your gaming experience?

From fostering a social atmosphere to increasing trust in online games, these professionals make gaming sessions more enjoyable and genuine.

Real-time Interaction

Real-time interaction revolutionizes the online gaming industry, particularly in live casinos. By leveraging advanced streaming technology, live casino dealers can engage with players just as they would in a traditional casino environment.

This dynamic interaction enhances the gaming experience by fostering a sense of presence and camaraderie. Through chat features and live video feeds, players can communicate with the dealer and even with other participants, creating an immersive and social atmosphere.

The role of the live dealer is crucial, as their real-time responses and professional demeanour elevate the authenticity and enjoyment of the game. This interactive experience makes the games more exciting. It instills greater trust and transparency, replicating the feel of a brick-and-mortar casino from the comfort of home.

Enhanced Trust and Transparency

Trust is essential in online casinos as it dramatically impacts players’ peace of mind. Gamblers look for confidence that their selected platform is dependable, safe, and runs transparently and fairly.

Online casinos build trust and transparency by acquiring proper licensing, offering secure transactions, ensuring fair play, and providing high-quality customer service. Moreover, other online casinos introduce live casino games with live dealers to enhance trust and transparency.

In addition to real-time interactions, live dealers can interact with the players like in brick-and-mortar casinos. Players can ask questions, make comments, and receive immediate responses, fostering a sense of community and reliability.

This interaction mimics the social aspects of land-based casinos, where players can gauge the dealer’s demeanour and professionalism, thus bolstering their confidence in the game’s integrity.

Additionally, live dealer games are often overseen by regulatory bodies and broadcast from high-quality, secured studios, adding another level of accountability. Multiple camera angles and advanced streaming technology ensure every action is visible and transparent, diminishing potential fraud concerns.

Professional and Entertaining Conduct

Professional conduct is the backbone of any successful live casino. Dealers who are well-trained in the game’s rules, adept at handling cards or other gaming equipment, and capable of managing the game flow efficiently create a seamless gaming experience.

They also uphold the principles of fairness and transparency, providing players with peace of mind that the game is being conducted properly.

Beyond professionalism, a dealer’s entertainment ability sets a live casino apart from its online counterparts. Engaging dealers who interact with players, share witty banter, and maintain a lively atmosphere can transform a simple game into a memorable event.

Their charisma and energy help to foster a social environment, encouraging interaction between players and setting the stage for a more immersive experience.

The best live casino dealers master the delicate balance between professionalism and entertainment. They effortlessly shift from explaining complex game rules to keeping the mood light and engaging. This balance ensures players feel respected and entertained, enhancing their satisfaction and encouraging repeat visits.

Varied Game Options

The success of online casinos heavily depends on the calibre and diversity of their game offerings. In the fiercely competitive online gambling industry, casinos must provide a wide range of top-notch games to draw in and keep their players engaged.

One essential reason online casinos need a diverse game selection is to keep players interested and entertained. Another advantage of offering a wide range of games is that it meets players’ diverse preferences. Gamblers have unique tastes, motivations, and gaming styles.

That said, live casino dealers are trained to handle multiple game types, ensuring players enjoy various gaming options.

Their professionalism and capability allow seamless transitions between games, keeping the gaming environment dynamic and engaging. This variety caters to seasoned gamblers seeking depth and strategy and welcomes newcomers eager to explore and learn.

Moreover, live dealers often introduce unique game variants and themed events that you might not find in a traditional online casino. These unique offerings can include everything from high-stakes poker tournaments to themed game nights featuring popular TV shows or movie franchises, enhancing the gaming experience.

Personalized Gaming Experience

Another key benefit of having live casino dealers is the personalized gaming experience they provide. Dealers are trained to cater to each player’s unique preferences and behaviours, making adjustments and offering insights that make each session feel exclusive.

Their friendly demeanour and professional approach ensure that the games run smoothly and that players feel valued and entertained.

Moreover, the live casino setup often includes multiple camera angles and high-definition streaming, ensuring players don’t miss a moment of the action. This level of engagement and transparency boosts player confidence and trust in the game’s fairness, further enriching the overall experience.

Conclusion

Live casino dealers significantly enhance the online gaming experience by bringing authenticity, interaction, trust, and entertainment. With varied game options and the ability for personalization, players can enjoy a casino experience that closely mirrors the excitement of playing in a physical casino.

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Features

Is There Enough Time Before Summer to Get a Summer Body?

Do you think there’s enough time to get a summer body before the height of summer? Of course! If you start right now, you still have two months before August, which we’d class as the height of summer. Two months is enough time to make good progress and see some changes that’d make you look and feel incredible.

Read on to find out more.

Lean Diet and Lifting Weights

It’s the part that nobody likes to think about – the hard work. Yes, if you want to get a summer body before summer, you must be ultra-strict with your lean diet and lifting weights, with a sprinkle of cardio. Combining a lean diet with weight training forms the basis for your summer body.

If you’re ultra-strict with your diet and training four or five times a week, there’s a massive difference you can make, especially if you get your training plan spot on. You can also speed up the process with supplements – supplements will be your best friend! Check out Canadian Made Labs (canadianmadelabs.com) for example, to find the best supplement for you.

Stick to eating whole, unprocessed foods like lean meats, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Reducing refined sugars and unhealthy fats will help you lose fat and build muscle. Swap your sweet snack for 0% low-fat Greek yogurt, granola, honey, and mixed fruits, and you’ve already made a massive difference to your diet and outcomes. And it tastes good!

Weight training is equally essential for muscle development, metabolism, and how quickly your physique changes. Focus on compound exercises that target multiple muscles for maximum results.

Hybrid Training

Hybrid training works well. If you’ve got some fat to trim, cardio is essential. Don’t worry, you don’t need to run. A moderate-paced walk on a steeper incline can burn more calories than running, is more enjoyable for most people, and won’t leave you gasping for breath. The stair master is another good cardio machine for a quick blast that will leave you gasping for breath but feeling good.

If you really want to make quick changes, do high-intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT workouts consist of short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by brief periods of low-intensity exercise or rest.

This form of workout can help you lose body fat within a short period compared to steady-state cardio exercise, for example – a 20-minute session doing these intervals may benefit you more than one hour of slow walking. Apparently, you can burn 40% more body fat with HIIT. And what’s 20 minutes of sweating and suffering if you want quick gains?

Psychological Resilience and Self-Control

It doesn’t only involve physical fitness; mental strength and willpower also play a huge role in achieving a perfect summer body. Discipline and a positive mindset are necessary for maintaining focus on one’s goals. Set achievable targets, and understand that progress takes time. If you’re ever lacking motivation, pick the body you want and imagine it in your mind. Tell yourself, over and over, that you need that body. In times of low motivation, reminding yourself repetitively of the body you want can make a big difference.

Consistency in the eating plan and daily training will encourage habits that can become part of you. And, don’t only measure your progress through weight or inches alone but also how good you feel physically and mentally.

It’s time to think about your summer body…because you’re running out of time. Start today and see what difference you can make by August!

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Want to know about a a Muslim Arab state that’s been “occupied” by another Muslim Arab state? Read about Western Sahara

Contributed by DOMINIC MARTIN Did you know that a mere four hour flight from London lies a self-proclaimed Arab state chafing under a decades-long occupation? And that their haughty overlords, motivated in part by dubious historical claims to the land, partly by naked territorial aggrandizement, annually encourages thousands of its settlers to move in and tilt the demographic balance in its favour? And all this with the tacit support of its Western allies, and in blatant violation of numerous UN resolutions? Meanwhile the indigenous inhabitants of this land are left to eke out a threadbare existence in the arid scraps left to them, whilst many more languish in refugee camps in neighbouring states. And yet, undaunted, this oppressed people fight on, standing proudly under their red, green, white and black flag. Their occupiers, in a move equal parts desperation and exasperation, have resorted to constructing an enormous barrier across the entirety of the territory, de facto annexing the choicest areas to the ‘motherland’.

I talk of course of Western Sahara, or the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic if you prefer (Morocco, which has occupied the bulk of this former Spanish colony in north-west Africa since 1975, prefers the term ‘Southern Provinces’). Never heard of it? You’re not alone. Despite lying just 60 miles east of the Canary Islands, this Britain-sized slab of rock and desert occupies a position in the average Westerner’s imagination somewhere between East Timor and Ambazonia. There are no weekly protests in support of the oppressed Sahrawi people, no calls to boycott Moroccan goods, no ICC court case against Morocco, and no ceaseless stream of hand-wringing pity pieces for the Sahrawis in the left-leaning media.

Why not? Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, right? Those on the progressive left endlessly tell us that their support for the Palestinian cause is due solely for their compassion for an oppressed people – ‘you don’t have to be Muslim/Arab to support Palestine, just human’, as the phrase de jour goes. Yet Western Sahara? Crickets. This is perplexing – after all, it has all the right ingredients; if anything, it offers a far more clear-cut case than Palestine, given that the Polisario Front (Western Sahara’s answer to the PLO) has refrained from terrorist attacks on civilians and focuses its armed struggle solely against Moroccan military targets, and therefore doesn’t require the kind of awkward moral hedging demanded by supporters of the Palestinians.

And yet Western Sahara is comprehensively ignored. Its flag emoji has failed to take its place next to the EU, Ukraine and trans flags in the Twitter and Instagram bios of the right-on set. Could it be that this intra-Arab dispute between two Muslim peoples who look the same and speak the same language simply lacks the gravitas and high-stakes excitement of the Arab-Israeli imbroglio? That this dispute over a remote desert fastness, whose main exports are fish and a bit of phosphate, is simply not sexy enough? (Even Lonely Planet, usually a-gush with fawning admiration for the most dangerous and dusty ‘up and coming’ developing world destinations, calls it “featureless, arid, inhospitable and uninviting.”) Is it possible that despite the evident wrongs committed against the long-suffering Sahrawi people, that the slacktivist set simply don’t care? It certainly seems that way, which would suggest to this author at least that their support for Palestine represents for the most part less a genuine outpouring of righteous fury against injustice, than a performative display of allegiance to ‘the current thing’. Having long since grown bored of the grim trench warfare in Ukraine, this is now the sole foreign policy issue on which our progressive panjandrums absolutely insist that one must take a stand. The only other similar dispute which even comes close is the moribund ‘Free Tibet’ movement, which has long since fizzled out as its supporters realised the futility of protesting the regime in Beijing.

We are often told that the world doesn’t care about Palestine, that “Palestinian blood is very cheap” as former Scottish First Minister Humza Yousaf put it. Yet the complete opposite is in fact the case. No other foreign policy issue attracts as much international attention as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and no other ‘national liberation’ struggle attracts as much foreign support as that of the Palestinians. Would a major flare up of fighting in Western Sahara be capable of swinging a British by-election, as happened recently in Rochdale? Hardly.

So, that’s the progressives. Meanwhile the vociferous rage of their erstwhile allies in the Islamic ‘ummah’ is perhaps at first glance more understandable, their religious sensibilities understandably inflamed at seeing Muslims dying by the score, and at the hands of the infidel no less. Yet even here we see a similar double standard at play. Where has been the outrage at other violent oppression committed against Muslims, such as China’s brutal suppression of the Uighurs, Burma’s genocidal attacks against the Rohingya, or the Alawite Assad regime’s brutal bloodbath in Syria? To say nothing of the tens of thousands of deaths caused by intra-Muslim civil wars in Yemen, Sudan or Iraq? It’s hard not to notice that Muslims generally ignore those issues and reserve especial ire for Israel and Israel alone. Ad for Western Sahara – it doesn’t even get a look in. It would seem that Laayoune, Dakhla or Boujdour simply lack the heady religious allure of Jerusalem, Jenin or Jericho. It would seem that some Muslim lives are worth more than others.

At some point the brutal fighting in Gaza will come to an end. The rent-a-protestors will find a new trend to get excited about. It is quite likely that we will see yet another international push to reanimate the interminable Arab-Israeli ‘peace process’. Forget potential nuclear war in Korea or Kashmir, or the slow-motion implosion of Myanmar – the entire weight of the world’s efforts and attention will once again be bought to bear on the great, grand cause of creating a corrupt, authoritarian (if not outright Islamist) Palestinian statelet in the Middle East. And when that happens, spare a thought if you will for the Sahrawis, as they waste away in their desert shantytowns. After all, no one else will.

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