A curious study of fleshly weakness and the will to survive—and a representation certain to yield controversy.

THE HIDDEN LIFE OF OTTO FRANK

A troubling portrait of an iconic figure of the Holocaust and his sad, secretive life during and after the Nazi era.

Lee, a biographer of Otto’s daughter (Roses from the Earth, not reviewed, etc.) and associate of the Anne Frank Trust, brings due sympathy to bear on Otto, a German Jew who had served with distinction in the Kaiser’s army, succeeded in business, but was forced out of Nazi Germany into neighboring Holland. There he established a spice-importing firm, some of whose employees were members of the Dutch Nazi Party—many Netherlanders, Lee writes, were glad to join the crusade to purge Europe of Jews; whereas the survival rate for French Jews was something like 75 percent, only 25 percent of those in the Netherlands saw the fall of the Nazi regime. A Dutch Nazi acquaintance of one of those employees began to blackmail Otto, and for a time he kept the knowledge of Frank’s secret annex to himself until someone—Lee has a strong opinion on who that was—phoned the Gestapo to betray the Frank family. Amazingly, the blackmail resumed after the war and Otto’s relocation to Switzerland. What was the basis of thug Tonny Ahlers’s hold over Otto? Lee suggests that it had to do with Frank’s collaboration with the occupying Wehrmacht, to which he sold pectin and other materiel; adultery may have figured into the matter, too, for Ahlers’s acquaintance suspected that his wife had been having an affair with Frank. Lee does not condemn Frank, though she points to some strange choices he made while editing his daughter’s famous diaries for publication, as well as his approval of a German translation that altered lines such as “only the language of civilized people may be spoken, thus no German” to “all civilized languages . . . but softly!”—all of which brought Frank fortune, and Ahlers too.

A curious study of fleshly weakness and the will to survive—and a representation certain to yield controversy.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2003

ISBN: 0-06-052082-5

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2002

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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