In this fictional account, Joop, a middleaged man, recounts to his estranged brother the ordeal of the family’s struggle to survive during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam. Joop resorted to stealing and cheating in order to feed his family. Joop’s actions are motivated by a desperate yearning to win his father’s love. In sharing his story, Joop discloses his long kept secret that it was he who betrayed Anne Frank’s family by revealing their hiding place to the Nazis. The simplicity of the novel’s frank dialogue and direct descriptions stand in ironic contrast to the complicated and troubling themes of betrayal, sibling rivalry, and responsibility for war crimes that Lourie deftly raises. Lourie leaves the reader with unanswered questions, thereby mirroring the motif of secrecy that underlies this unusual and provocative novel.
Penina Grossberg is an educator and teacher mentor.