Category Archives: Print Media

Extraordinary Events and Books about Them

A strange news item from a few months ago: the Anne Frank House looked into the question of when Anne died from a more scientific/medical angle than before. They placed the date of death as likely mid-February. This was published. Subsequently, many people pointed out that eye-witness testimony placed her (and Margot’s) date of death as over a month later.

So, what to make of this? I think perhaps a way to understand this is the context. They know how long it takes to die of Typhus and near-starvation for patients in controlled environments of medical facilities, or even in poor places with little or no access to medical care. Bergen Belsen was chaotic and filthy. You’d think they would last even less long. But many stories that simply amaze come out of horrific events in any era. The concentration camp inmates did have each other, did form a sense of community, along with individual special bonds. The ongoing war could always come to an end, which they held out hope for, even amid suicidal despair. We don’t know how individuals and groups find the strength to go on, much less prevail, but there are true stories of the extraordinary.

For an example of this sort of extraordinary story, In My Hands: Memories of a Holocaust Rescuer, by Irene Gut Opdyke, should be a very good example. I want to read it sometime (and I see Daedelus Books has a steep discount on it right now). Or you can pick it up at the library like I plan to someday. What she went through herself at the hands of the Nazis, you’d think she’d just be happy to save her own skin, yet she subsequently took major risks to help many Jews, despite the serious dangers this invited.

Another example is in the more popular book, Frozen in Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II, by Mitchell Zuckoff. One group of three stranded airmen were surviving on a glacier under their crashed plane’s wing. They got so depressed they formed a suicide pact. The other three men from their doomed flight had to dig into the ice far from there, due to the failure of a plan to get back to their base. The camp under the plane stank of fuel, their cooking spills, and their offal. They didn’t get much done. Meanwhile, the men out in the ice were remarkable. They had no protection, so they dug levels into the ice. The very bottom one was for their latrine and they made ongoing improvements to their ice home. They had other projects, too, like digging out their dead snowmobile to try to fix it.

When winter ended and the weather eased up enough for their commanders to rescue them, the first step was to move the men from the plane to the ice camp, then fly them all home. The men from under the plane wing were amazed by what their crew mates had created. They dubbed it the Imperial Hotel (IIRC). What was the difference between the two trios in how they handled their very similar situations? Inventiveness? Positivity? A mastery of the art of living? We don’t really know. Their education levels and health levels and ages were similar.

Evolution(?) of Nazi War Criminal Trials

The New Yorker Magazine has a thoughtful informative article about the pattern of WWII Nazi war criminals being handled in an increasingly punishing way, just as their numbers are appreciably dwindling. The author, Elizabeth Kolbert, shares not only her well-worthwhile thoughts about the matter of recent Nazi trials, but her family’s Holocaust history, some facts about people in the Auschwitz organization, and her own Stolperstein experience.

A Stolperstein is a small plaque installed in the sidewalk outside of the last home of Holocaust survivors, a project of artist, Gunter Demnig. Kolbert signed on to have one installed in the memory of her Great-Grandmother, Franziska Maass, of Berlin, whose life ended in Auschwitz.

(It’s possible Anne may have met her. We just don’t know. It seems unlikely. The only information known is Franziska was 62 years old in December 1942 when she was sent to Auschwitz. Though noted on arrival as able to work, it is unlikely she survived two more years to meet Anne in 1944.)

In print, the article is, “The Last Trial: A great-grandmother, Auschwitz, and the arc of justice,” by Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, Feb 16, 2015.

media/news items

Quick notes about a book, a guestbook comment on an Anne Frank House guest book, and a one-woman play (now over, but may happen annually).

Book and guest book comment: Eva Schloss, the daughter of Anne’s father’s second wife, has written a book about her own life, After Auschwitz. This article talks about the book and the guest book comment by a teen star, Justin Bieber, which has caused a stir among some. (Eva agrees with the young man, and explains why.)

Play: And apparently a US (Colorado) woman, Judy Winnick, does portrayals, kind of one-woman plays, and one is about Miep Gies, A Beacon of Hope. I got the impression (from the Canyon Courier article, unfortunately, not online) this may be an annual event or something she does in various places.

Special thanks to two special readers!!

New Edition of Muller’s Biography of Anne

I have been busy, but have finished reading Melissa Müller’s new edition of her biography of Anne Frank. It has been expanded by about 1/3 with a lot of newly uncovered information. (It has some 480 pages now.) There is more information about her friend, Hello Silberberg and other friends, more photos which I had not seen before, and more about the villains. Even the old parts were amazing to read. I had not remembered her book being so insightful, but I checked those parts against the original and they were pretty much the same. So it was well worth the time to read, even if the new information did not interest me. I have not updated this site with the new information (and won’t any time soon). If you want to get your hands on the new edition, double-check it is the correct one (is about 480 pages long and has a more subdued photo of Anne on the cover, shown here).

The book not only brings greater understanding of Anne Frank, but also of her family and circle of friends, and the reach of the Holocaust. The sheer numbers killed and affected by those deaths are hard to comprehend. A book like this helps bridge the comprehension gap of huge numbers versus one brilliant young woman. So many people were killed, like Anne was, so many barely survived and lived on, like her father did, some escaped by hiding and luck, like Anne’s friend, Hello, some were able to live with a false identity card, like Barbara Ledermann, some helped, like Miep, some were nasty, like Jansen, and the list goes on.. it’s staggering yet mentally and ethically rewarding to try to comprehend what happened in the larger picture while reading about this one person’s life and circle.

Perrij’s or Blankevoort?

In The Footsteps of Anne Frank, 1958 (p. 32-3), Ernst Schnabel stated that Anne’s first diary book was bought by her father at their neighborhood bookshop, but Schnabel did not reveal who told him that. The English version of Müller’s Biography of Anne stated the same thing. Again, no source for this information was given. Now, the recently updated edition of that biography (available only in Dutch for now) removed that information. Further casting doubt on the information, in Anne’s original diary entry for 20 October 1942, she implied that the diary came from a department store chain, Perry’s, which had a store downtown. (In Dutch, J is pronounced like a Y.)

“Perhaps I’ll ask Bep if she can go and see sometime if Perrij’s still sell diaries, or else I’ll have to use an exercise book, because my diary is getting full, what a pity!”

Anne did end up moving on to writing in the remaining blank pages of school exercise books. Maybe she never asked Bep, or maybe, it being wartime, the shops did not have diaries or the helpers could not afford it. Also, for whatever reason, the entry above was edited out of published versions of Anne’s diary (except, of course, the Critical Edition, which is where I got that quote from).

I added a brief page about Perry’s. The Frank family’s neighborhood bookshop was called Blankevoort, two Amsterdam residents told me. These days it is called Jimmink.

I’m told the new edition of Müller’s Biography of Anne contains a lot of newly uncovered information. Hopefully it will come out in English! [It came out in English in the US on 11 June — I’m reading it. SM]

Thanks to my NL contact for the 1930s information and photos about Perrij’s, plus the Blankevoort confirmation. Also thanks to the Amsterdam resident who brought up the question.