Anne Frank, before and after the diary, with many new details and a fresh, welcome perspective.
In this updated edition of her superb 1998 biography, Müller (Alice's Piano: The Life of Alice Herz-Sommer, 2012) adds immeasurably to a well-known story, expanding on what the precocious young Anne Frank either didn’t say or didn’t know. Starting well before Anne’s birth, the author shows how her father, Otto Frank, established successful businesses selling fruit extracts and wholesale goods and, with his wife Edith, managed for a while to raise a family despite the growing Nazi threat. Otto could deal with the Wehrmacht by supplying goods to the Nazis (he hardly had any choice) and by trying to “Aryanize” his businesses. Of course, it couldn’t last, as the family would be forced to flee first to Amsterdam and then into the secret annex over one of Otto's businesses. They weren’t alone; some 20,000 to 30,000 Jews in Holland “saw going into hiding as their only alternative to deportation." Müller illuminates the shadows of Anne’s diary, particularly in casting the Franks’ loveless arranged marriage, which Anne accurately saw through, in a sympathetic and understanding light. She adds dimension to Anne’s picture of Edith, as well; the woman her daughter depicted as stern and cold was also trying desperately not to give in to despair. Müller likewise tells the full story behind Anne’s roommate, Fritz Pfeffer. The stiff-necked, middle-aged doctor whom Anne referred to as “Dussel” (Dutch for “dope”) also had no family support and feared for the safety of his fiancee and a son by a former marriage. Müller assesses Anne’s shifting moods, growing sexual awareness and her dual nature: the impish extrovert and the deeply private young writer. She also assiduously researches the details of Anne’s final days, as well as the fates of everyone else.
An invaluable complement to an immortal testimony.