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February 28, 2003 - Image 62

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-02-28

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Arts & Entertainment

The Unseen Villain

New book about Anne Frank's fitther makes strong case for real identity of Frank family's betrayer.

SUZANNE CHESSLER

The author traveled, on many occa-
sions, from her home in England to
Amsterdam, where she now lives with
new book about Anne
her husband and family, to probe
Frank's family has spurred a records in the city where the Frank
government investigation in family hid before being turned in to
the Netherlands.
the Nazis.
Carol Ann Lee, author
She also talked to
of The Hidden Life of
many of the people
Otto Frank (William
mentioned in the
Morrow; $26.95), pres-
book and those
ents considerable new
related to the man
information about the
she is convinced was
father of the famed
the Franks' betrayer.
diarist, but she has drawn
Lee explains that
most attention for identi-
Ahlers, with a crimi-
fying Tonny Ahlers as the
nal reputation before
most likely person to have
the war, was a mem-
revealed the Franks' hid-
ber of the Dutch
ing place to the Nazis.
Nazi network, and
Lee's conclusion has the
she describes how
Netherlands Institute for
her original conclu-
War Documentation
sion. was affirmed in
doing independent track-
interviews with the
ing with a findings report
man's son after he
due on the Web (wvvw.niod.n1) this
read the first edition of her book.
month, and an English translation of
The scope of the historical work,
the findings to come.
revised since being published first in
Lee, 33 and a Christian, has been
the Netherlands and second in Great
fascinated with the Frank story since
Britain, goes well beyond the evidence
childhood with her first reading about
of the betrayal. It suggests reasons that
Anne. That interest, combined with
Ahlers might have received secret pay-
an interest in writing, sparked a quest
ments from Otto Frank after the war
for more information that ultimately
and throughout the time the diary was
led to her previous books, Anne Frank's gaining international attention as black-
Story and Roses from the Earth: The
mail for not revealing Frank's business
Biography of Anne Frank, as well as the dealings with the. German army before
recent release.
the family went into hiding.

Special to the Jewish News

A

While portraying Frank as a devoted
father, Lee also delves into his two
marriages, ties with those close to him
and negotiations to turn Anne's diary
into a book, play and film.
Bringing more controversy are accu-
sations that he interfered with a search
by Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal for
Karl Josef Silberbauer, the German
Gestapo officer who led the arrest of
the Frank family in 1944.
The book probes whether Frank, a
native of Germany, could have
thought that Silberbauer was only fol-
lowing orders.
Lee, touring the country with her
book, answered questions about this
project for the Detroit Jewish News

JN: How did you come to write this
book?
CAL: I had written a biography of
Anne Frank a few years ago and went
to Switzerland to give a talk about it.
Someone in the audience suggested
that my next book should be about
Otto Frank, and once I started
researching, it completely took me over.

JN: What did you want to communi-
cate about Otto Frank?
CAL: I wanted to show his strengths
and weaknesses and the interesting life
he had that nobody knew about. He
was actually quite a complex man. He
had to deal with so many difficult sit-
uations, and I think he dealt with
them all in a very interesting way.

JN: What new information are you
most sure of as a result of your
research on Otto Frank?
CAL: I'm extremely proud to have
found a diary that Otto kept himself
from the time of his liberation from
Auschwitz until he came back to
Amsterdam in the summer of 1945. I
found it in the archives of the Anne
Frank Foundation.
Although there are many moving
Holocaust memoirs that are written
after the event, this is the only account
I know that traces a survivor's journey
as it's happening.
I'm also proud to have uncovered an
incident that occurred in Otto's life in
1941.
We all know that the Franks were
betrayed in 1944 when they were in
hiding, but in 1941, Joseph Jansen, a
former employee of Frank, unsuccess-
fully tried to betray Otto to the SS.
That has never come out before, and
it's a very dramatic story. (The book
alleges that Ahlers, a Gestapo insider,
intercepted Ja-nsen's letter to the SS,
beginning Ahler's extortion of Otto
Frank.)

JN: Do you think that readers could
still have reasonable doubt that
Ahlers was the betrayer?
CAL: There is room for doubt in all
theories. At the same time, I would
not have put this theory across if I had
not believed in it myself.
There are so many paths that lead

Left to right: Otto Frank as a German soldier during World War I.

Otto Frank, right, sole survivor of the eight in hiding, reunited with his brothers
and sister in Switzerland after the war.

2/28
2003

64

Wedding of Otto and his second wife, Fritzi, Nov. 10, 1953, in Amsterdam.

A previously unpublished photo of Anne Frank, taken shortly before the family went
into hiding. Anne pasted it onto the last page of her first diary.

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