Tag Archives: Anne Frank

The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation Book Review

The Diary of Anne Frank has been read by millions of readers since it was published in 1947. The ending is both hopeful and devastating. The one question that still leaves us hanging after 70+ years, is who was responsible for the betrayal of the residents of the Annex?

The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation, by Rosemary Sullivan, was published this month. The book follows the multi-year search led by FBI investigator Vincent Pankoke to answer the question once and for all. Using modern cold case investigative methodologies and working with a team of historians and other experts, no detail is left to the wind. Every clue is followed to the bitter end, leading to a suspect that if proven to be the one, has gone undetected for nearly a century.

I know it is only January, but I can already see this book topping the list of best books of 2022. It is a heart-pounding thriller that kept me hooked until the final page. As we got closer to the end, I wanted to know who was responsible. If nothing else, it is a reminder that getting justice is still possible, even when those directly affected are no longer with us. When it closed for the last time, I knew that there was a light in the darkness. Perhaps history will not repeat itself and we will finally learn the lessons of diversity and respect.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters’ Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory Book Review

When one nation or people invades another, the decision to join the resistance is not one to be taken lightly. Knowing that you are constantly at death’s door, it requires a certain kind of bravery that could also be deemed as foolishness.

The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Jewish Sisters’ Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory, by Rox­ane van Iperen, was published in August. The book tells the story of two Dutch Jewish sisters, Janny Brilleslijper and Lien Brilleslijper. Less than a year after the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, the lives of the sisters, their family, and every other Jew in the country begins to change for the worst. They have two options. They can either stay where they are and wait for the other shoe to drop. The other choice is to go into hiding and hope that they will all be alive at the end of the war.

The solution is to go into hiding in the woods. Known as “The High Nest“, the property is a safe house for the family, artists, and other resistance fighters. Just as it seems that the Allies are on the verge of taking back Europe, they are betrayed and sent to Auschwitz. Forced onto the train with them is Anne Frank and her family. As the two sets of siblings try to survive, Janny and Lien connect with Anne and her older sister, Margot. Waiting for liberation will test the sisters in every way possible, forcing them to rely on each other and an inner strength that may be the only thing keeping them alive.

When we talk about resistance, the conversation frequently revolves around men. Women are not given their due or an opportunity to tell the story. Having never heard of Janny and Lien Brilleslijper, it was another reminder of how badass Jewish women are. My problem with the book is that I was not feeling the danger and the tension of the narrative. I should have felt the stress and anxiety of what the characters were going through. Ultimately, I didn’t, which is highly dissapointing.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present Book Review

Anyone with an inkling of knowledge of Jewish history knows that it comes down to one phrase: they tried to kill us, we survived, now lets eat”. Though its a joke, the truth behind it is far from funny. Over the millennia, we have been accused of lies, forced to convert and assimilate to survive, persecuted, and murdered.

Dara Horn‘s new book, People Love Dead Jews: Reports from a Haunted Present, was published last month. A respected novelist and writer whose work has often focused on anything and everything related to Judaism, Horn examines how we look at deceased Jews are looked with starry eyed nostalgia. But yet, when it comes to living members of the faith, antisemitism is still an all too dangerous part of our lives. Using examples such as Anne Frank, Shylock, and the Auschwitz. Not Long Ago, Not Far Away, Horn looks at how modern Jews are experiencing the same bullshit that our ancestors went through.

I loved this book. Pulling no punches, the author knocks the rose colored glasses off the reader’s face. She forces us to take a long and difficult look at the past and how its time to get real. As I see it, we have an opportunity to put to rest the deception that has caused too many generations to suffer for no reason. The question is, are we willing to do so? Or is it easier to just repeat the actions of our predecessors?

Do I recommend it? Yes.

P.S. There is an adjoining podcast, Adventures With Dead Jews that is the perfect complement to the book.

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Best Movies of 2020

  1. Soul: Though it is marketed as a kids movie, the subtext of appreciating life feels appropriate and potent this year.
  2. Mulan: The live-action reboot of the 1998 animated film Mulan rises above its predecessor, making it fresh and relevant.
  3. Emma.: Anya Taylor-Joy stars as Jane Austen‘s eponymous heroine, Emma Woodhouse, introduced as clever, rich, and handsome. Directed by Autumn de Wilde, this adaption is entertaining, funny, and a lovely addition to the list of Austen adaptations.
  4. The Trial of the Chicago 7: The film tells. the story of the 7 men accused of being responsible for the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests. Though it is set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it feels very 2020.
  5. Portrait of a Lady on Fire: This LBGTQ historical romance between a young woman and the female artist hired to paint her portrait is sweet, romantic, and powerful. It proves once more that love is love is love.
  6. Ordinary Love: Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) are your average middle-aged couple. When she is diagnosed with Breast Cancer, they both must deal with the rough road ahead.
  7. The Assistant: Jane (Julia Garner) is an assistant to a Harvey Weinstein-esque powerful movie producer. She starts to notice things that don’t sit right with her.
  8. I am Greta: This documentary follows teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg as she advocates for the world to pay serious attention to climate change.
  9. Mank: Gary Oldman plays Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz in a performance that is nothing but Oscar bait.
  10. #AnneFrank-Parallel Lives: Narrated by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells not just Anne’s story. It follows other young women who survived the Holocaust. Parallel to the stories of the past, the viewer is traveling with another young woman as she visits different countries in present-day Europe.

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#AnneFrank-Parallel Stories Review

To some, the Holocaust is ancient history. In 2020, we have more pressing problems to occupy our time with. But the Holocaust was only 80 years ago, and the issues from that era are as prevalent now as they were then.

#AnneFrank-Parallel Stories is one of the newest releases on Netflix. With a voice-over by Helen Mirren, this documentary tells the story of Anne Frank while telling the stories of other women who are among the few to have survived. While Mirren reads from Anne’s diary, the audience follows a young woman as she travels across Europe, asking questions that frankly, need to be asked.

I’ve seen many Holocaust films over the years. What makes it different is that it hard-hitting, emotional, and squarely aimed at the younger viewers. If I have walked away from this movie with one message, it is that we have a chance to ensure that the Holocaust in any variation never happens again. That requires asking difficult questions and learning from the mistakes of our predecessors.

I recommend it.

#AnneFrank-Parallel Lives is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Anne Frank, George Floyd and Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells: Killed by Hate

I think it is pretty safe to say that in the nearly three weeks since George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, the world has changed. Across the globe, millions are making their voices heard. George Floyd was one man, but he has come to stand for those who have been killed by hate.

Yesterday would have been Anne Frank‘s 91st birthday. Her diary has been ready by millions of readers over the last 70ish years. Like George Floyd, she has become a symbol of a life cute short by hate.

Among the issues that have been brought to the forefront is that Americans of color who also identify as transgender are being killed at an alarming rate. On June 9th, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells was murdered in Philadelphia. If this was not enough to make one’s blood boil, you know who has decided to roll back health protections for transgender Americans. Considering that it both Pride month and yesterday was also the 4th anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting in Orlando, this rollback feels particularly painful.

I keep thinking that if the world had collectively protested in the 1930’s as they do now, would the Holocaust have happened? How many might have survived? Unfortunately, this question can never be answered.

I wish that we lived in a world in which our rights were immediately given to us at birth. I wish that we were not categorized and then based on that category, denied or approved for where we may end up in life. But that is the world we live in. But until that day in which that happens, we must continue to stand up and fight for those rights.

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Margot: A Novel Book Review

No one goes through life without asking the “what if” question at least once during their lifetime. This question becomes multiplied when it come to war and the loss of life that comes with war.

In the 2013 author Jillian Cantor asked this question in the book, Margot: A Novel.

It’s 1959 in Philadelphia. Margot Frank survived the war and has started a new life as Margie Franklin, living as a Gentile and working in a law firm as  a secretary.

Her sister’s diary has become the darling of the publishing world. The movie, based on the book, has just been released into theaters. Margot/Margie’s carefully constructed outer shell begins to crack. While juggling PTSD and survivor’s guilt, Margot/Margie’s past come back to her via a case and an unusually strong emotional bond with her boss.

This book is amazing. When it comes to the story of Anne Frank, her elder sister is often pushed out of the spotlight. In giving Margot the spotlight, Ms. Cantor tells the story of Holocaust survivors who for any number of reasons, choose to keep their pasts to themselves. It is also the story of America in the late 50’s when antisemitism was not as obvious, but still existed beneath the thin veneer of respectability.

I recommend it.

 

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The Hidden Life of Otto Frank Book Review

For many, Otto Frank is mainly known as the father of Anne Frank. Her diary has been read the world over by multiple generations of readers and has been adapted for the stage and screen numerous times.

In 2003, writer Carol Ann Lee published a biography of Otto Frank entitled The Hidden Life of Otto Frank. The book tells Otto’s story, from his childhood in Germany to  the horrors of the Holocaust and finally, the post war years, as his youngest daughter’s diary became a worldwide cultural sensation.

I really enjoyed this biography. I enjoyed because Otto is given the spotlight that he deserves. The book is quite a hefty read in terms of content and length, but it also engaging. Ms. Lee was extremely thorough in her research, telling the story of a man who has become a symbol of an era when hate and prejudice ruled. She also asked the question that many of us have asked over the years: who betrayed Anne, Otto and the rest of the residents of the annex to the Nazis?

I absolutely recommend it.

 

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Annelies: A Novel Book Review

Among the 1.5 million children that were killed in the Holocaust, Anne Frank is one of the most famous. Her diary, published after the war has been read by millions of readers over the years. But what if Anne survived?

This is the premise of the new book, Annelies: A Novel, by David R. Gillham. The book starts off just after the end of the war. Anne has survived and made her way back to her father, Otto Frank. Out of the eight people who hid for two years in the annex, they are the only survivors. Though she looks like the same Anne, the horrors she experienced have profoundly affected her psyche and outlook on the world. This creates conflict with her father, who is doing everything he can to return to normal life.

Will Anne be able to find the emotional freedom and security that she once took for granted and more importantly, will her relationship with her father heal?

The reviews on goodreads are mixed. As someone who is familiar with the diary and the person that Anne Frank was, I had to remind myself that this is a work of fiction. This not a non-fiction book. It’s essentially a what-if narrative, using what is known about Anne and those around her to tell a new story. In my opinion, Mr. Gillham should be given some slack and be allowed to use creative license while drawing on documented facts about his subject.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The Phenomenon of Anne Frank Book Review

Anne Frank is many things to many people, depending on whom one talks to. She was an ordinary teenage girl who went through the changes that we all went through at that age. She was a budding writer whose literary skills showed promise. She is an icon not just for the 1.5 million Jewish children who were slaughtered in The Holocaust, but for children around the world who are living and dying in war zones today. She is reminder of what hate and prejudice can do when we are blind to the humanity of our fellow mortals.

Her life and her brief time in hiding is immortalized in her published diaries The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank.

But the question is, who owns Anne’s likeness and more importantly, who owns how she is represented to the world? This question is answered in the new book, The Phenomenon of Anne Frank. Written by David Barnouw and edited by Jeanette K. Ringold, the book traces the history of Anne’s story from an ordinary teenage girl who was murdered because she was Jewish to an international icon who represents so much to so many.

The premise of this book sounded promising. However, it was a bit too scholarly and dry for my taste.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

 

 

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