From the Temple Israel Library

February 2024

by Ann Cohen

  January 27th was International Holocaust Memorial Day. This year it brought to mind the Anne Frank story and diary. We have biographies of Anne and her father in our library that reveal one aspect of their lives. Now, we have the rest of the story in, The Last Secret of the Secret Annex” by Joop Van Wijk-Voskuijl and Jerden De Bruyn (Simon and Schuster, May 2023). Their book is based on historical research, and most importantly, interviews with two of the family’s six protectors, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl (Joop’s mother). Another protector, Johan Voskuijl, Bep’s father, was the carpenter hired by Otto Frank to build the bookcase that hid the entrance to the secret annex. Miep, Bep and Johan were the primary protectors who regularly ran errands, brought groceries, clothing and other everyday necessities to those in hiding for 761 days.

  We learn from first-hand accounts what life was like in Nazi occupied Amsterdam. The many restrictions placed upon Dutch Jews, the various lengths that people of all faiths went to survive, how the Nazis enlisted the Dutch to do their dirty work and the bounties paid for finding Jews were just a glimpse of the wartime life. Full descriptions of how the secret annex was created, furnished and readied for its occupants was revealed. Bep and Miep gave accounts of daily life in the secret annex — a somewhat different view from Anne’s writings. Perhaps most disturbing was the description of the anonymous telephone call, actual betrayal and capture of the occupants. Long after the war, although the former protectors had figured it out and in their hearts knew the betrayer’s identity, the betrayer took her secret to her grave. Consequently, to this day the case remains unsolved.

  This is an important book about the unsung heroes of the Anne Frank story and their unending loyalty to Otto Frank. Look for it in our library along with several other new books. Please remember to sign them out and leave the cards in the box on the desk. As always, any book that you haven’t read, no matter how old, is new to you.