Translated into nearly 60 languages, Anne Frank’s diary has sold millions of copies. In addition, thousands, perhaps millions, of pages have been written about her. These numbers hint at the impact Anne’s life has had the world over and reveal the course Anne has taken to near-icon status. This biography, on the other hand, while playing off the untiring popularity of Anne Frank, returns to the reality of her life, and in so doing, re-animates the often-told tale of this young girl in hiding.
Melissa Müller adheres to the time-honored methods of biographers, researching her subject thoroughly and gaining the trust of many family members and friends to gain exclusive interviews. Her efforts result in a book that reconstructs Anne’s life from birth to death, fleshing out the world of this child and her extended family. With more than half the book devoted to the years before the Franks went into hiding, Müller gives the reader ample opportunity to get to know the Anne before the diary, cheerful, mischievous, funny, demanding, and even sickly, affected by the tensions around her but still very much a child living in the moment.
Müller aptly recreates the Amsterdam of the early 1930s, the political dangers mixed with attempts toward normalcy. She describes how life went on in the midst of rising antisemitism and anti-Jewish measures, as Otto and Edith Frank struggled to protect their children and to maintain hope. But when Anne’s sister, Margot, received a summons to report for “labor detail,” the family slipped away, surrendering normalcy for life in the Secret Annex.
Here, where Müller’s story overlaps and draws from the diary, her descriptions of life in hiding powerfully evoke the complicated fears, daily sacrifices, and petty annoyances of seven people living in close quarters, thereby adding depth and breadth to Anne’s own words. Müller also explains the history of the diary itself, the different versions Anne wrote and re-wrote, and reveals the contents of five pages Otto Frank pulled from the published form of the diary. And she plausibly suggests who betrayed those in hiding to the Gestapo.
The last chapters continue where Anne’s diary left off, chronicling the family’s deportation to Westerbork and their transfer to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Though little is known about these last few months, Müller grimly reconstructs the ordeal as best she can, ending Anne’s portion of the story with her death in Bergen-Belsen. But Müller does not forget all the other family and friends she introduced throughout the book, describing in the Epilogue the fates of all those mentioned. She then closes the book with a special note from Miep Gies, a note that reminds us that Anne Frank is not an idol, an icon, or a mythical figure, but a real and complex person with her own horrible and immutable fate, just a hint of the loss the world faces daily due to the Holocaust.
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|TABLE OF CONTENTS|
|1. The Arrest||3|
|2. Ann in Frankfurt||13|
|4. A New Home||51|
|5. Growing Danger||77|
|7. Into Hiding||139|
|8. The Secret Annex||163|
|9. The Last Train||231|
|A NOTE BY MIEP GIES||303|