"The enormous power of Philip “Flip” Slier’s eponymous Hidden Letters (annotated by Deborah Slier and Ian Shine, translated by Marion van Binsbergen-Pritchard, Star Bright Books, Roundhouse Group, 21.95) as he lived through the Holocaust comes not from quotable aphorism or dazzling writing, but the cumulative effect of prosaic detail that is ultimately full of pathos. This is underlined by the fact that the bundle of letters was discovered I 1997 in the ceiling of a house in Amsterdam by a Dutch demolition contractor.

Flip was 17 in 1940 when his native Holland was invaded by Germany. He was dispatched to a labor camp—where he optimistically writes of a “really pleasant journey with a nice bunch of people”, and subsequently communicates everyday realities of is friends, diet and work. He promises his parents: “I will get used to this camp life. If only they leave us alone.”

It is easy to get caught up in Flip’s cheerful sign-offs—“chin up, ma!”—and hopefulness—“we have to be grateful we are still here”. But his 86th letter to his “pa and ma” is followed by five brief words from the editors that tell six million stories: “This is Flip’s last letter.”

The magnitude of the metanarrative of the Holocaust, the millions of hidden stories list forever, is vividly brought to life by the careful editing by Shine and Slier, the latter Flip’s cousin.

The translated letters have extra resonance by their framing, graphically, by Flip’s handwritten signatures and reproductions of contemporary propaganda and commercial images. Historically, too, by photographs of Flip and his family, maps, timelines, and first-hand reports from those who knew Flip as well as survivors of the Sobibor camp in Poland, where Flip was eventually sent.

The rest is part history book, part personal narrative, a valuable combination which, unlike fiction that can partially sanitise the Holocaust—the very act of writing a story about a few characters necessarily diffuses the impact of the slaughter of six million Jews—in its naively uplifting tone, like that of Anne Frank, imparts a poignant reality. Hidden Letters is a successful collaboration, between editor, designer, translator—and between generations."
- Lucy Tobin
Jewish Chronicle