Anne Frank: The Biography

Melis­sa Müller; Rita & Robert Kim­ber, trans.
  • Review
By – December 2, 2013

An esti­mat­ed thir­ty mil­lion copies of Anne Franks diary have been sold around the world, in some fifty-five lan­guages. So it is all the more remark­able that it has tak­en so long for a seri­ous adult biog­ra­phy of Anne Frank to be pub­lished. Müller’s work, first pub­lished in 1998, offered read­ers of the diary a nuanced under­stand­ing of Anne’s sit­u­a­tion — how her Ger­man-Jew­ish fam­i­ly came to live in Ams­ter­dam, how they coped as the Nazis tight­ened their grip on Dutch life, why they couldn’t flee, how eight peo­ple orches­trat­ed their move­ments in a small space for so long, how the helpers’ kept them alive, and what hap­pened after they were all arrest­ed. Apart from offer­ing the larg­er pic­ture, Müller addressed the issue of the five pages that Anne’s father edit­ed out of the diary before it was pub­lished. Müller explained that in these pages, Anne was basi­cal­ly ana­lyz­ing her par­ents’ mar­riage, with the crit­i­cal eye of a teenag­er who iden­ti­fied strong­ly with her father and rebelled against her moth­er. While Otto Frank thought it more tact­ful to omit this mate­r­i­al, Müller put these pages in con­text. Forced to live in extreme­ly close quar­ters for over two years with her fam­i­ly and four strang­ers at just that time in life when a girl wants some pri­va­cy, Anne found a room of her own’ in her diary. Since she planned to be a writer after the war, she felt no need to cen­sor her­self in her pri­vate notebooks.

This sec­ond, revised edi­tion of the biog­ra­phy adds informa­tion learned since the first edi­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly with respect to the issue of how the Nazis dis­cov­ered the secret annex. There are also more pho­tographs, scat­tered through­out rather than assem­bled in an inset, albeit with some loss of qual­i­ty. All in all, Müller has made what was already a very sol­id biog­ra­phy, even more com­plete. Fam­i­ly tree, index, notes, photographs.

Bet­ti­na Berch, author of the recent biog­ra­phy, From Hes­ter Street to Hol­ly­wood: The Life and Work of Anzia Yezier­s­ka, teach­es part-time at the Bor­ough of Man­hat­tan Com­mu­ni­ty College.

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