"Hidden Letters is an extraordinary piece of scholarship with a deeply moving personal story. The book is artfully shaped around two bundles of letters found in 1997 in the bathroom ceiling of a house in Amsterdam that was about to be demolished.
The letters were written by Philip “Flip” Slier who was seventeen years old in 1940 when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands.
Eighty-seven letters in Dutch are translated to English and printed with careful attention paid to recreating as close as possible the writings, notations, spelling errors, crossouts and emphases of a young man living through extraordinary and painful times.
The reader comes to know Flip through his first letter to his parents after he arrives at a work camp in Hardenberg on April 25, 1942, and through subsequent letters as he writes about his life, his worries about his family, the tightening restrictions on Jewish life, until his final letter in September. When he writes to his father:
Also I would like to know where and
with whom you have left our stuff. You
do understand me well, Pa! So that in
case it might become necessary I can
take possession of it. Yes, how much I
would like to see you again, but there is
small chance we will get to leave.
The letters are surrounded throughout the book with supporting information, reproductions of documents, annotations, and photographs—many of them taken by Flip himself.
Before and after the letters are pieces giving the historical context of the time in which Flip lives and died. At the end of the book is a sober and moving list of Flip’s family, their dates of birth, death, and the names of the concentration camp where they were held.
The book starts with a very well written introduction that tells how the book came into being and a provocative explanation of the relationship between the authors and Flip. The book ends with an essay on the history of genocide and its sad continuation into the present day.
Hidden Letters is a beautiful book that tells the story of a sweet and stalwart young man living in hideous times."
- Arend A. Vander Pols
d.i.s. magazine (a quarterly publication of the Dutch International Society)
Volume 40, No.2