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January 11, 2019

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PAGE 12A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 11, 2019 Roxane van Iperen By Cnaan Liphshiz AMSTERDAM (JTA)--De- spite its rustic charms, the dream home that Roxane van Iperen and her partner bought nearly ruined their marriage. Van Iperen, a 42-year-old novelist, underestimated the amount of renovating needed on the countryside estate east of Amsterdam. She bought the place in 2012 with Joris Len- glet as a home for the couple and their three children. "We almost separated by the time itwas done," she recalled in a November interview on the NPO1 television channel. But amid "the arguing, misery and work," as she described it, the couple made discoveries whose signifi- cance they realized only months later: During the Holocaust, their new home had been the center for one of Holland's most daring rescue operations conducted by Jews for Jews. Recounted in a best-selling book that van Iperen pub- lished last year, the story gen- erated strong media interest amid a wave of introspection about the Dutch society's checkered Holocaust-era record. In bookstores, "The High Nest" stayed for weeks on the top 10 list of locally produced nonfiction. "Many Jews resisted, but of most of them we know very little," said the Jewish film- maker Willy Lindwer, who has produced several documenta- ries on the Holocaust in his native Netherlands. He said the "High Nest" story "shows not all Dutch Jews went like lambs to the slaughter, and that's very important." But to general readers, part of the book's appeal lies in the strong characters of the people who did the rescuing at van Iperen's home: sisters Janny and Lien Brilleslijper and their families. Daring anti-fascist ac- tivists--Janny fought as a volunteer combatant in the Spanish Civil War--they used connections to hide from the Germans in the house in Naarden, situated 10 miles east of Amsterdam. But at great personal risk, they then opened their safe house to Jews and others in need. Van Iperen found evidence of the sisters' ingenuity as soon as the renovations be- gan, discovering double walls, secret doors andwalled-offan- nexes that had been concealed so well that they were left undetected for decades. In one secret space, van Iperen even found wartime resistance newspapers. Dozens of Jews passed through the safe house, which is "perfectly located near Am- sterdam but in the middle of nowhere,"vanIperensaid.The nine-room estate is mostly hidden from view by large trees that afforded privacy to the tenants. The operation's secrecy kept it out of the history books even though itwas a rare case in which Dutch Jews not only escaped the genocide but helped others avoid capture. Even as they were making these discoveries, van Iperen and her partner did not register their significance--at first. "The discovery story sounds romantic but the truth is, wejustweren'taware of the findings," she said in the interview. "It was an old house--that's also what drew us to it--and so you naturally discover things. We talked about it. But then we just closed the hidden space and installed a new floor on it." The renovations coincided with major developments in attitudes to the Holocaust in the Netherlands, which received its first national Ho- locaust museum only in 2016. In 2012, the Netherlands saw the creation of a grass- roots network of home- owners whose properties once belonged to Holocaust victims. They now open dozens of houses in some 20 municipalities for visits by the public each year on the Dutch memorial day. Amsterdam, meanwhile, is preparing a huge Holocaust monument at its center. This year, the city and The Hague paid millions of dol- lars in restitution to victims from whom it had unjustly collected taxes. In November, the national railway company announced it would look into compen- sating victims that its work- ers helped transport. That triggered similar action last month by Amsterdam's GVB transportation company. Amid these developments, which were accompanied by a steady stream of news reports and books on the Holocaust, the secrets of van Iperen's house kept beckoning. They eventually put her on a six- year journey of discovery through interviews, studying archive material and cross- referencing information with survivors' testimonies. The sisters, intellectu- als from a Liberal Jewish family, arrived at the estate near Naarden in 1943, amid deportations to death camps and growing awareness of the annihilation of Europe's Jews by Hitler. By that time the Nazis had killed 75 percent of the Neth- erlands' prewar Jewish popu- lation of about 140,000--the highest death rate in Nazi- occupied Western Europe. "Everyone who could was in a panic to find a hiding place," van Iperen said. And yet at the Brilleslijpers' house, "there was actually a lot of music and lust for life during that time, which makes it different to the typi- cal survival-in-hiding story we know in this country," van Iperen said. She found sheet music that the sisters--Lien was a well-known singer--and their guests composed and per- formed on musical evenings. There were worldly debates and garden dinners--several of the people in hiding were artists--amid the laughter of children. One of the rug rats was Robert Brandes, the 5-year- old son of Janny and her husband, Bob Brandes. Robert Brandes, now 79 and an artist, gave van Iperen, who tracked him down, a yellowing pho- tograph taken at her home in 1943. He is seen splashing in a metal tub on a sunny day in the backyard flanked by his cousin, Kathinka Rebling, Lien's daughter, and another child. Lien Brilleslijper with her daughter Jalda in Berlin in the 1970s. Around the corner from the Jews in hiding lived the lover of Anton Mussert, the head of.the pro-Nazi NSB party and the top collabora- tor with the Nazis. He would often stay over, van Iperen also discovered. But in June 1944, Eddy Musbergen, one of the hun- dreds of Dutch gentiles who betrayed or hunted Jews in hiding, reported his suspi- cions about the estate to the authorities. It was an eventuality for which the sisters had planned, according to Rebling, Lien's daughter. During the Gestapo raid, her mother removed a vase from a windowsill over- looking the access path--a secret sign for other tenants that the house had been com- promised. The raid occurred when Janny and her son were out. Janny saw the vase as they returned and attempted to catch up to Robert, who was skipping along ahead of her. But the Germans saw them and they were arrested. The sisters and their families were sent to the Westerbork concentration camp, Auschwitz and Bergen- Belsen. At Bergen-Belsen, Janny met the family of Anne Frank. "She was concealed in a blanket," Janny, who died in 2003, recalled in a 1988 docu- mentary by Lindwer. "She had no more tears to cry. They had run out a long time before." Janny went to check on Anne a few days later and saw Anne's sister, Margot, lying dead on the floor. Anne died shortly thereafter, Janny said. Both Brilleslijper sisters survived the Holocaust-- partly because they were persons of interest to the Nazis due to their anti-fascist credentials, van Iperen dis- covered. This prevented them from being sent directly to the gas chambers at Auschwitz, allowing them to survive. Robert Brandes was spared deportation because after his detention, he was deemed by the Nazis to be only half Jewish. Rebling, who was 3 and whose parents were both Jewish, was spirited away from a detention facility by a resis- tance fighter and survived the war in hiding. "That we are still alive," Rebling said during the No- vember interview with NPO1, "can only be explained by an unbroken chain of miracles." w men easier in By Curt Schleier (JTA)--Officially and for the record, despite her Jewish- sounding name, Cher Horow- itz is not a member of the tribe. In fact, the Valley Girl heroine of the iconic 1995 film "Clueless" was never intended to be Jewish, says her creator, Amy Heckerling. "I wasn't thinking in terms of this being a Jewish story," she said in a telephone inter- view. "I was taking the plot of Jane Austen's 'Emma' and translating it into thatworld." Wallace Shawn, the witty Jewish actor who played a teacher in the film, impro- vised the name Cher Horowitz while they were shooting a scene in which he was taking attendance. "In my mind, you're always writingversions of people you know, and to me it felt like I was writing about the daugh- ters of people in show business in L.A " Heckerling said. Heckerling, 64, is the direc- tor of other major box office hits such as "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and "Na- tional Lampoon's European Vacation." She also wrote and directed the "Look Who's Talking" movies, all before "Clueless," which was also a huge success, and helped launch the careers of Alicia Silverstone and Paul Rudd. It spawned a sitcom on ABC as well and brought Valley Girl expressions--like "as if," "whatever" and"harsh'--into the mainstream. Now the oblivious but socially intuitive Southern California teenager and her friends are back, in a Broadway musical that debuted earlier this month and is scheduled to run through Jan. 12 at The Alice Griffin Jewel Box The- atre at The Pershing Square Signature Center. It was a long time in the making. "I've always felt that the movie wanted to be a musi- cal," Heckerling said. There were attempts by producers who optioned the show that "never worked out." In those versions, set in contemporary times, Cher seemed out of place. Heckerling ended up writing more of-the-time lyr- ics to '90s pop song melodies. The confection she came up with seems to have caught the zeitgeist of the times, when audiences have shown an af- finity for Hollywood movies turned into theatrical mu- sicals. "Pretty Woman" and "Mean Girls," adapted to the stage, are playing to capacity audiences. While audience reaction to "Clueless" has been kind, the critical reac- tion hasn't. "I just want to work on things I want to work on and not think about everybody else decidingwhether you are good or bad," she said. That's not going to hap- pen, as she has learned in her lengthy but at times unlikely career in a business that has been historically unreceptive to women directors. Heckerling grew up mostly in the Bronx. Her brotherwent to Hebrew school and had a bar mitzvah, but she, like most Jewish girls in the 1950s and '60s, did not have a bat mitzvah. She said the family lived in a building filled with Holocaust survivors. "My two best friends, their parents were in the camps," Heckerling said. "My mother, who was born in America, spent a lot of time writing let- ters for these people for whom English was not their first language. Everywhere you went--the butcher, the bak- er-everyone had numbers on their arms and everyone kept saying 'Never forget.'" Both her parents worked, so Heckerling spent a lot of time with her grandfather, who nurtured her love of film. But it wasn't until high school that she made a career choice. "I attended Art & Design High School and at one point you had to write about what you wanted to be when you grew up," she recalled."Iwrote that I wanted to be a writer for Mad magazine. Mort Drucker [a Mad artist and writer] was one of my heroes. The boywho sat down next to me said he wanted to make movies, and that got me angry. He always copied off me, and if he could do movies, I could, too." Heckerling said her parents were "not very happy" about her career choice. "My father thought if I didn't learn how to type I wasn't going to be able to get a job," she said. "My mother wanted to be encouraging, but it seemed very unlikely I'd be successful. It's just that I wanted it so bad." Her instructors at New York University's film school Mike Coppola/Gett Amy Heckerling at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, April 18, 2016. weren't always encourag- ing, either. But she made it through and enrolled in the master's program at the pres- tigious American Film Insti- tute in Los Angeles, where her student film earned her a shot at a Universal Pictures project. Heckerling was handed the script for Cameron Crowe's "Fast Times at Ridgemont High'--in part because the studio didn't know what to do with it. Universal didn't advertise the film when it opened and only showed the movie in a handful of West Coast theaters. But following its immediate word-of-mouth success "Fast Times," which made a star out of Sean Penn, was released nationally. In a bit of a Hollywood fairy tale, Heckerling quickly had her choice of projects. She had a string of success- es, but there were some dis- appointments, too. "I Could Never Be Your Woman," for instance--a cute, favorably reviewed romantic comedy Clueless on page 15A