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The Extraordinary Story of Anne Frank's Family

by Mirjam Pressler with Gerti Elias translated by Damion Searls

Pub Date: April 19th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-385-53339-3
Publisher: Doubleday

Heart-rending documents of Anne Frank’s family, both before and after the devastating events of the war.

As the German translator of the unexpurgated edition of Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl, Pressler brings to this family memoir tremendous care, knowledge and dignity. The task of tracing the life of Anne’s father, Otto Frank, and his mother, Alice Frank, shattered by the Nazi war machine and virulent anti-Semitism, was given to Pressler by Gerti Elias, the wife of Otto Frank’s nephew; Gerti became the caretaker of her in-laws old home in Basel, Switzerland, where some of the family had moved in 1933 from Frankfurt, when life under the new Nazi regime became too onerous. While Otto moved from Frankfurt with his young family to try to restart his business in Amsterdam, his mother resettled in Basel, and in the attic of her house, a treasure of letters and photographs had been stored for years. Among them, incredibly, are the first missives from Otto to his mother in 1945 on stationery from the Auschwitz concentration camp, where he had miraculously survived after being separated from his wife and two daughters, Margot and Anne, in September 1944, and still knew nothing of their fate. Subsequent letters reveal the crushing news that Edith had died from illness in January, and the girls in March at Bergen-Belsen. Pressler focuses on the pre-war life of Alice Frank, whose family had prospered amid the ghettos of Frankfurt. The author also pursues the career of Alice’s grandson, Buddy (once playmate of Anne Frank), who enjoyed—in a terrible parallel irony—a successful stage and ice-skating career all while the war was destroying the lives of his family.

For readers of Anne Frank’s diary—namely, nearly everyone—this is a moving amplification on her too-brief life.