Recommended Reading - Hidden Letters

From: Star Bright Books, Long Island City, NY

Hidden Letters
$35.00 Hardcover with jacket and ribbon marker
ISBN: 978-1-88773-488-2
Annotated by Deborah Slier and Ian Shine
Translated by Marion van Binsbergen-Pritchard
200 pages – 10” x 11”
Color throughout
Adult and young adult
Available February 2008


NEW YORK CITY, August 2007 ― Hidden Letters is the real-life story of teenager Philip "Flip" Slier who was imprisoned in a forced labor camp in Holland during World War II. Flip’s experiences are told through his letters, which were discovered in 1997 in the ceiling of a building being demolished in Amsterdam. Against the backdrop of Flip’s letters the annotators have added detailed annotations and over 300 photographs, documents, and maps. The book has extensive notes and a bibliography

Hidden Letters, to go on sale in February, 2008, is built around Flip’s letters to his parents and supported with almost 300 photographs, maps and other primary source documents. The work is edited and annotated by New Yorkers Deborah Slier and Ian Shine and the letters were translated from Dutch by Marion van Binsbergen-Pritchard, who lived in Holland throughout the war, and was profiled by U.S. News & World Report as one of the fifty heroes of the 20th century. She received a Yad Vashem Medal for rescuing about 150 Jews, mostly children.

From April 25, 1942 until September 14, 1942, Flip Slier regularly wrote to his parents in Amsterdam from Molengoot forced labor camp 80 miles away. Flip tells about camp procedures and his hard work. He shares how he managed to procure additional food and stay healthy in a very harsh environment. In spite of these conditions, Flip acknowledges his blessings in his letters, including the support of many people, Jews and Gentiles, who helped him meet his physical and emotional needs during his imprisonment.

Flip's letters tell of his life in the labor camp. The following are excerpts from Flip's letters from Camp Molengoot:

Tuesday Evening 13 [14] July ‘42 -- Pa and Ma, I have a sense that something is going to happen soon. Will it last another winter? It seems impossible to me. Thousands and thousands are dying. But we have to keep our courage up.

3 Aug. 1942 [Monday] Pa and Ma, it broke my heart to see these oldsters plodding along. Some of them have heart trouble and varicose veins. There is no light work on the moor, and they get no time to catch their breath. We have already decided that tomorrow we will dig a ditch for them.

The annotators support Flip’s saga with extensive notes, annotations, and over 300 photographs, maps, and documents that situate his experiences within the larger context of World War II. For example:

About 10,000 Dutch volunteers fought on the eastern front in the German army. Dutch soldiers were a large part of a 12,000-strong infantry division that fought against the Allies at Arnhem in 1944. In all of German-occupied western Europe, the Netherlands had the highest membership of the Nazi Party (early in the occupation), and the highest percentage of Jews killed. However, it also had the highest percentage of people who received the Yad Vashem medal for helping Jews. The medal was awarded to 1 person in 2,000 in the Netherlands, 1 in 4,000 in Poland, and 1 in 160,000 in Germany. (Page 44)

Flip's first cousin and Hidden Letters annotator Deborah Slier, whose parents were Dutch, came into possession of the letters in 1999. Deborah grew up in South Africa. When she received copies of the letters, she immediately began to search for photographs and documents to supplement Flip’s letters in order to understand the conditions in Holland during the German occupation almost sixty years earlier.

Ian Shine joined the project and together they pursued the work of illuminating wartime Holland and detailing the lives of Flip, his friends, and family. Along the way, Deborah and Ian met many caring and courageous people who had reached out to help others at a time in Dutch history when to do so was to risk one’s own life.

Flip’s letters are fascinating reading for anyone interested in history. This book is filled with many little known facts, and like Anne Frank’s diary, gives a view of Holland under German occupation. Middle school, high school, and college-level history and English teachers will welcome this title into their classroom curricula. Flip’s Hidden Letters provide a first-hand account of this tragic period.

August 2007