Reviews and Comments

NEW YORK

Anyone who has thrilled to the story of Anne Frank will want to read this book about the Frank family that survived. The tensions roused by the gripping narrative reflect the complexities of war, history, and fate.

– Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Pulitzer prize-winning historian author of “A Thousand Days”

Like Anne Frank’s family, whose name they shared, Gordon F. Sander’s were German Jews who fled to Holland in 1933 to escpae the Nazis, and like Anne Frank’s family, they went into hiding in July, 1942. Sander’s family survived, and read in amazement Anne Frank’s diary, which so closely mirrored their experience…Sander’s story is both moving and important.

The question underpinning this book is why one family survived while another did not. Sander’s mother Dorrit, her sister Sybil and their parents Flory and Myrtl Frank skirted terrifyingly close to danger. The very day they went into hiding, the Nazis carried out a lightning rad that all but cleared Amsterdam of its Jews. Their hiding place was no ‘secret annexes’ but a normal, three-room flat in The Hague owned by Dorrit’s Dutch teacher, Annie van der Sluijs, who, with her sister Tne (Myrtil’s mistress) helped the Franks stay hidden…

Anne Frank’s family was betrayed in August, 1944. Sander’s family only narrowly survived that year’s hongerwinter and three months after the Soviets had liberated Auschwitz and rescued Otto Frank they marked their thousandth day in hiding. They finally came out in May, 1945, walking the streets like zombies…only to find that Flory’s mother had been murdered at Sobibor, while Dorrit’s fiance had died at Auschwitz…The story he tells is both gripping and powerful in its own right and a haunting adjunct to that of the other Franks.

– The Times Literary Supplement, March 11, 2005

The remarkable journey of a Jewish family from privilege in pre-war Germany to survival in hiding in Nazi-occupied Holland, and finally to safe harbor in America. A gripping chronicle, this book is a loving homage to the author’s family and to those who risked their lives to save them. Meticulously researched, beautifully written, and profoundly moving, this book deserves the widest possible audience.

– David A. Harris, Executive Director, American Jewish Committee

U.K.

This is an extraordinary tale of survival, part-family memoir and part-history, in which the author’s passion and judgement are finely balanced. Gordon Sander’s grandfather, Myrtil Frank, took his wife Flory and two daughters, Dorrit and Sybil, into hiding in the Netherlands in July, 1942, just as Otto Frank did the same at around the same time. Both families were German Jews who had fled Germany in 1933 soon after Hitler came to power, assuming they would be safe from persecution in neutral Holland…

While the diary of Anne Frank–became a revered international bestseller, this book explains, in a way that Anne Frank could never have done, the context of what happened to her and others like her. It is an indispensable contribution to a dark subject.

After two years of the Nazi occupation of Holland, during which the civil rights of Jews were gradually eroded, Myrtil Frank’s family became onderduikers, or people who dived under…Dorrit’s Dutch teacher, Annie, and her sister Tine, who had been Myrtil’s secretary and girlfriend, lent the family a tiny flat (without a proper bath), in a quiet street in The Hague, only a mile from the German HQ. Having let it be known among the locals that he was a Swiss-German doctor with an invalid wife. Myrtil and his family hid in plain sight, with Myrtil occasionally venturing out on foraging expeditions.

Boredom and fear, says Sander. Those were the Frank family’s new friends. They did their chores. They read the same books over and over again–Peeping out of a window through opaque muslin curtains, they studied their neighbours. Early on, Flory saw a Jewish man wearing a yellow star walk down the street. It made her feel unsafe, but she never saw him again or any other Jew after the summer of 1942. They also saw the girl across the street bring home German soldiers, which worried them. When 17-year-old Sybil required an operation for a life-threatening uterine condition in spring 1943, she had to be checked into hospital under a false identity.

Some 25,000 Dutch citizens, not only Jews, dived under. Of these, roughly 15,000 to 18,000 survived. Many were caught and deported as a result of tip-offs by money-grubbing informants. The others had to withstand the Hunger Winter of 1944-45, in which 20,000 Dutch died of disease or starvation. Myrtil’s family had to make do with a single bag of pea meal, which he had managed to buy, and a few potatoes and sugar beets provided by their Dutch sponsors.

The Nazi authorities in Holland sent 107,000 Dutch and stateless Jews to the extermination camps, of which only 5,000 were to return. This record, Sander reminds us, was unmatched anywhere outside western Europe. It is easy from our perspective to suppose that their grisly fate was obvious, yet most of them peered into the abyss unawares, thinking that labor deployment in the East meant just that. Nor was it easy to dive under. One needed an empty property or secret annexe, and non-Jewish supporters, as well as money for food and possibly rent. Those who dived under as a family tended to fare better than individuals, though even Myrtil Frank little suspected that his family would have to spend 34 months, over a thousand days, in close and semi-secret confinement. Sander has produced a sensitive, insightful, and gripping tribute to their horrible ordeal.

– Christopher Silvester’s four-star review, Sunday Express, October 22, 2004

This is the remarkable story of a Jewish family called Frank — who had no connection to the famous Anne Frank — who went into hiding in The Hague in 1942 to avoid transportation to the East, and were never caught by the Nazis. The parallels between the two eponymous families are remarkable. Both had fled to Holland from Germany after Hitler came to power. Both consisted of a father, mother and two teenage daughters. And both went underground at about the same time. Tragically, Anne Frank and her family were betrayed in August 1944 and sent to concentration camps in Poland. Only Anne’s father survived, but so did her diary about their years in hiding, and its unforgettable record of persecution…Myrtil was an astute businessman who emerges as the hero of the story. He arranged for the family to go to ground in a small flat rented from a sympathetic Dutch woman and there hid for 1,032 days until the liberation in 1945–It isn’t often that one reads about the Jews who survived the Occupation. It is a joy to read of a family who outsmarted their Nazi tormentors.

– Glasgow Evening News, September 24, 2004

Impeccably researched and exhaustive in detail, this is both a moving memoir and an illuminating work of history.

– Hampstead and Highgate Express, September 21, 2004

The appalling fact of the Holocaust is depressing in itself. Is this ‘another Holocaust book’? NO — it is very different! The author skillfully tells the story of his own family, from a successful life in Weimar Berlin, through flight from the Nazis and ultimately spending 1,000 days ‘underground’ in Holland, with fear of betrayal or capture a constant undertone. The family’s story, particularly the hopes and fears of the two young daughters, are skillfully set against a backcloth of some of WWII’s most dramatic events-the German invasion of Holland, the battles of Arnhem and the Ardennes and the dreadful ‘hunger winter.’

Why the ‘difference’? Unlike countless others, this family survives to enjoy a new life in the U.S. In this true story the ‘bad guys’ do NOT win…Introduced by eminent historian Sir John Keegan, “The Frank Family That Survives” tells an important story — read, and be uplifted!

–Martin Bull, London, England, amazon.co.uk

AMSTERDAM

“The Frank Family That Survived” is that rare book that works as both memoir and history. On one level, it is a moving reconstruction of a family that survived the Holocaust; on another, an impressively researched and comprehensive reconstruction of their times. As a Dutch historian. I was genuinely surprised by the results of some of Sander’s research, especially his use of British and American sources. In addition to being a moving and absorbing story unto itself, “The Frank Family” casts new light on a history we thought we knew so well.

– Dienke Hondius, Historian, Anne Frank House, Amsterdam; Faculty, Amsterdam University

Much has been written about the Netherlands and World War II, and still many crucial phenomena remain overlooked. This book deals with at least two such extremely important topics: first the fate of Jewish refugees who came to Holland and then, as a result of the German occupation, had to face persecution once more, and secondly, the extremely precarious and complicated life that Jews in hiding had to live….Put within a well-researched contextual setting of Dutch society and Dutch life in those critical years, “The Frank Family That Survived” offers a fascinating contribution to our knowledge and understanding of that era.

–Peter Romijn, Head of Research, The Netherlands State Institute for War

“The Frank Family That Survived” is a haunting, evocative portrait of Jewish life in hiding during the German occupation of the Netherlands. Although Anne Frank was not related to this particular family. Gordon Sander’s book will appeal to anyone who was moved by Anne’s diary, answering as it does the oft-asked question of what might have become of Anne Frank had she survived. It also is beautifully written. It deserves to be widely read.

–Carol Ann Lee, author, “Anne Frank: A Biography”

ITALY

Gripping story of a German-Jewish family who, like Anne Frank’s family, went into hiding in Nazi-occupied Holland in 1942, but miraculously survived. Includes [profuse] historical detail and personal testaments.

– www.azetalibri.it

GERMANY

The New Yorker Gordon F. Sander is a stroke of luck as an author who deals with the unfortunate history of the Holocaust. He is a gifted storyteller who is additionally blessed with the analytic prowess and integrity of an historian, making us understand history the same way a novelist would. Before everything, however, he is the descendant who with love and inspiring curiosity, carefully traces the destiny of his family from their origins in the tiny Rhineland town of Breitenheim, through the blistering Weimar years, and finally onto Holland and into hiding, to make up this extraordinary tale, of the Frank family who survived. A brilliant and heartwarming book.

– Matthias Matussek, London bureau chief, Der Spiegel

INDIA

When Jewish historian Simon Dubnow was fatally shot by the Nazis in 1941, his dying plea to the persecuted members of his race was: ‘Write and record.’ A similar compulsion to reach out to posterity may well have moved the 14 year old Anne Frank to maintain a diary for the two years her family spent as onderduikers-’those who dive under’ or go into hiding-during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands…

Not many are aware, however, of the existence of another well-to-do German-Jewish family bearing the same name that fled the Nazi terror in Berlin to seek refuge in the relatively ‘neutral’ Netherlands, just as Otto Frank and his family had done. Like Anne’s family, the other Franks also chose to ‘submerge’ around the same time, rather than submit to the fate decreed for their community by the Nazi regime. The significant difference is that Myrtil Frank, his wife and his two daughters managed to survive the Holocaust and seek asylum in the United States after World War II. “The Frank Family That Survived” is an absorbing account of their ordeal, written by none other than the son of the survivors, grounded in a larger socio-political reality, and filtered through the perspective of a distinguished historian-journalist.

Where Sander’s book makes the [greatest] impression is in the macrocosmic and trenchant analysis of a world gone haywire, tracing the insanity of World War II and the rise of The Third Reich to the climate of anger and resentment surrounding the military and political humiliation of Germany by the Allied powers after the First World War. Among the more haunting vignettes Sander offers us is that of the food blockade imposed on Germany by the Allied victors, forcing starving Berliners into slaughtering and devouring the wild animals in the city’s zoo. The author also familiarises us with the abjectly humiliating terms of the Treaty of Versailles imposed on the defeated nation after World War I, and explains how these contributed to the dangerous resurgence of German national pride under Adolf Hitler and the blind allegiance of the country’s citizens to a regime so openly committed to the mass murder of a community which had contributed in positive ways to their own culture and society, and, ironically, believed that ‘We Jews are Germans and nothing else.’

The book also offers us an extensively researched account of a Holland, ‘wounded and impoverished’ by Nazi occupation, with its pervasive climate of fear, its extreme privations, its daring acts of resistance, and the brutal reprisals they invited from the authorities sadly relegated to the peripheries of the world consciousness by the better-publicized atrocities endured by the Polish and the French. Serving as the core of the Dutch experience is Sander’s searing portrait of the ‘tragedy within a tragedy that was the Dutch Holocaust,’ resulting in the deaths of 11,000 Dutch Jews.

Although “one single Anne Frank,” as author Primo Levi, a concentration-camp survivor himself, puts it, “moves us more than the countless others who have suffered just as she did, what Sander’s book will ultimately be remembered for, is the legacy bequeathed to him by his mother of ‘an interest in Holland and the Dutch people.’

That he he felt impelled to share it with the world, placing the story of Anne Frank ‘as well as my own Frank family’ into ‘wider historical focus’ is our privilege. His book is also likely to linger in memory because of certain vital questions it raises: what kind of a world is it, where German Jews who sought refuge in Holland during World War II, were disdained as ‘stateless’ people, when they returned from their harrowing ordeal in German-run concentration camps, prompting many, like Myrtil Frank and his family, to seek asylum in America? What kind of world do we live in where people can stand by and silently watch their fellow citizens being massacred? Despite the positive note on which Sander’s book draws to a close, it does not afford the reader the relief of closure. Like the memory of Anne Frank’s haunting observations of the day, the spectre of man’s inhumanity to man is not so easily exorcised.

– The Statesman (Calcutta), December 27, 2004

ITHACA, NY

Through an interweaving of oral history, personal memoir, and documentary research, Gordon Sander provides an informed account of the hitherto unknown, moving story of the Frank family that survived the Holocaust. Both the historian and general reader are indebted to him.

– Dominick LaCapra, Professor of History, Director Emeritus of the Society for the Humanities, Cornell University; author, “History and Memory after Auschwitz”

LETTERS

I wanted to thank you for your most outstanding book, “The Frank Family That Survived,” a work of special importance in the vast array of Holocaust studies. As with any book that thoroughly engages the reader, I read your book with a compelling interest and felt a little sad when I concluded it, as if I had lost a good friend.

Your book does a masterful job of interweaving the biographical facts of your parents’ and grandparents’ remembered experiences with the historical record of the post World War I history of Germany, the rise of Nazism, and the course of World War II, and the ultimate defeat of the Nazi regime. One can see the abundant evidence of your painstaking archival scholarship to connect your family’s personal data with the loca historical records. I also liked the connections made, not just to important historical works, but also to popular cinema, further assisting in the making of those connections between the personal and broader historical record.

I must commend you for the readability of this work. This is not simply another tome for Holocaust scholars, but a very vivid portrayal of the diversity of survival experiences set against a very compelling historical narrative. I see this work as having an international appeal and hope that it finds the broad readership it so clearly merits.

– Letter from William Feigelman, Professor of Sociology, Nassau Community College (10/30/04)

A remarkable book…Should be required reading in all German and Dutch schools — not to mention Finnish and Swedish ones. Thank you for writing this book!

– Letter from Dan Morn, Saltvik, Åland Islands (12/24/04)

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