"Invisible Years, A Family's Collected Account of Separation and Survival during the Holocaust in the Netherlands" #holocaust

Patricia Klindienst <epk13@...>

I write to introduce the Jewish Genealogy community to an extraordinarily beautiful and important book:  Invisible Years, the story of a Dutch family in hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands was published in May 2020. The pandemic has meant that the author and distinguished book designer, Daphne Geismar, has had to cancel all public appearances. The only way to get word out about her astonishing achievement in reconstructing her family's story from materials her mother had kept hidden in a drawer for more than sixty years (“the Holocaust drawer”) is through the Internet.  


My hope is that you will be moved by the story and images in this email to visit the books’ web site, then find and share a copy of the book as soon as you can.  


The Book Described:

"The book 
Invisible Years is an intimate portrait of an extended Jewish family living in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands who, when faced with imminent deportation, refused to comply. As the Nazis tightened their grip on the Jewish population, Daphne Geismar’s family was slowly restricted from public life. Sensing the murderous consequences of deportation, they decided to separate and go into hiding. Through interwoven letters, diaries, and interviews, Geismar presents the story of nine family members—her parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles—in their own words, alongside a trove of photographs and artifacts. A foreword and historical contributions by Robert Jan van Pelt, Holocaust scholar and leading authority on Auschwitz, provide historical context. This family’s detailed account of one of history’s most horrific chapters challenges us to follow their example of resistance to inhumanity."  


 (See photograph, “Invisible Years cover.jpg”)


The Origin of the Book:

Daphne’s describes the moment of discovery that led, over seven years, to the painstaking recreation of her family’s story:  


“In 2006, I visited the church in Rotterdam where my grandparents, Chaim and Fifi de Zoete, had been hidden in the attic during the Holocaust. When I returned to Connecticut, I asked my mother if she had anything that would tell me more about the particulars of her and my father’s experiences under German occupation, and also the experiences of other family members. She surprised me by leading me to an antique desk and sliding open a bottom drawer packed with journals and papers. Inside this drawer, she had put everything Holocaust related (subsequently referred to as the Holocaust drawer). The quantity of material that survived is remarkable.”


(See attached photographs, “The Holocaust Drawer.jpg,” “3 sisters.jpg,” “Judith’s hidden star.jpg”)


Among the treasures in the drawer was her grandfather Erwin Geismar’s diary. Invisible Years opens with an image of the first page, with a translation of Erwin’s words.  


 (See photograph, “Invisible Years p.1”)


From A Review by Peter Antony, Chief Production Manager, The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 

"Calibrating your family memoir to the historical context in which individual lives unfolded (and ended) is a brilliant approach to telling this story, and the beauty of your design provides equally brilliant architecture. I also think the publication of the book is well-timed, given the persistence of deniers and the world’s current and tragic drift to the right. I think your book will stand as a poignant, erudite, and handsome addition to the literature and will become and remain as indispensable as Anne’s diary." 


From a Review by Roberta Silman, who calls Invisible Years “a book for the ages”: 


Invisible Years is simultaneously an indispensable source and a distinguished work of art.”


The Last Words of Erwin Geismar’s Diary:


In the end, I hope that my lines will be read by people who will see how we struggled under terrible circumstances, and that the reader will want to take up this struggle that we have fought and experienced from the front lines for the construction of a worthwhile human society.

Daphne Geismar's bio:

Daphne Geismar designs books on art and history for museums and publishers including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and Yale University Press.  Her designs have won numerous awards. Her involvement in publications that use art and literature to educate began with her thesis at Yale on DIRECTION magazine (1937–1945), in which artists and writers spoke out against fascism. As an educator, Geismar developed a photography and writing program for teenage mothers at Middlesex Hospital; she teaches book design at the University of Connecticut; and she has lectured and been a visiting critic in graphic design at a number of colleges and universities.


For more information on the book, please visit the website:



Patricia Klindienst


Guilford, CT



SPIWAK /SPIVAK of Orgeyev & Kishinev, Bessarabia; Mendoza, Argentina; and Queens.



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