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:
(See photograph, “Invisible Years cover.jpg”)
The Origin of the Book:
“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:
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 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:
SPIWAK /SPIVAK of Orgeyev & Kishinev, Bessarabia; Mendoza, Argentina; and Queens.