Most people have heard of Anne Frank and her immortal diary — a haunting reminder of the Holocaust years. In some ways Anne became the voice of the Holocaust and the catalyst for an entire genre of literature recording the events during the Nazi bloodletting of mass genocide. This is a book frequently found in literary required reading lists and sets a standard for autobiographical writing. But many of us forget that there is a story behind the diary and the other lives, which helped shape the tragedy of the Frank family. Lee explores the events that so drastically altered the life of this family and how those events actually began and evolved.
Lee documents the life of Otto Frank — Anne’s father — and his professional world in business prior to the Nazi occupation. It is within this context that the earliest stages of this tragedy actually started. One of the greatest mysteries of what happened in those last days prior to arrest is who betrayed the family to the Nazi’s and why. Lee does a great job of researching and presenting the documents and historical record of Otto Frank’s life and his business interactions with others. She opens the door into how the business world can so dramatically impact on personal lives of not only an individual, but a family as well. Her research into this topic adds a great deal of depth to the history and gives us an insight into why the family needed to go into hiding and how they were able to make the arrangements in a time when absolute secrecy was required. It also explores how those willing to hide the Frank family were more than just neighborhood good Samaritans. Rather, it was Frank’s business associates who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and risk everything to protect their business associate, friends and families. But it was also some of these relationships that would betray everything they professed, to gain favor in the eyes of the ruling Nazi party. Essentially — this is the adult account of the Frank family tragedy and why it happened the way it did.
This book is more than just a history of this posthumously well known family. It also explores the significance of sacrifice and the role it played so often, in so many forms, during the Nazi years. It gives the reader a renewed hope that even in the moments of absolute tragedy — there are those that make life worth living. There is still good in the world, such that it can balance out much of the evil that exists. Those the most closely associated with the family are the first of what would ultimately be many, who remind us that there were and are still people in this world that hold tenaciously to moral values and ethical standards. But it does so in such a way so as not to suggest that these heroic individuals are perfect. Rather — like those that betrayed the Frank family — they are simply people willing to act on what they truly believed. It is through these actions that we are able to make judgments about the people of the time and those most closely associated with this particular Holocaust account.
The writing is well presented and done so in such a way that it isn’t a dry, boring history book. Part of that may come from the subject material. I have found that frequently when dealing with an emotionally charged issue — writing tends to take on an immediate and engaging quality. It is hard to not connect with a book, when you already demonstrate strong opinions regarding the issues. This book is a manifestation of this. But, more than that, it also demonstrates a powerful writing style that is both informative and fulfilling. I really enjoyed reading about new aspects of this history, which help to give depth and perspective to the full magnitude of this family’s struggle. The guilt that would ultimately consume Otto Frank following his survival of the concentration camps is a testament that this time and these events were not without lasting scars that continue to haunt our world today. Lee is eloquent and well versed in her subject matter and has a real gift for presenting it to all types of readers.