In September, 2001, I had the unique privilege of broadcasting “The Frank Family That Survived,” my two part radio documentary about my mother’s family’s experiences in hiding in Nazi-occupied Holland—which paralleled those of their less fortunate German compatriots, the family of Anne Frank—over BBC Radio 4, from Broadcast House in London, in the very same studio where Edward R. Murrow broadcast the Blitz to galvanized American audiences a half century before.
That successful program later became the basis of The Frank Family That Survived, my historical memoir of my mother’s family’s half century long odyssey of survival, which culminated with their liberation in 1945 and my mother’s ultimate final journey of deliverance to the United States. First published by Random House UK in 2004, after I had moved my headquarters to my alma mater, Cornell, where the book became the principal project of my artist-in-residency at Risley College, The Frank Family has since gone on to sell thousands of copies in its respective British, American (Cornell University Press), Dutch (Prometheus), Brazilian (Zahar) and Finnish (WSOY) editions, while also serving as the basis of a remarkable documentary by my friend, the great Finnish filmmaker, Michael Franck and his partner, Nina Pulkis. (The book is also currently under consideration by publishers in Germany and Israel.)
Most importantly, I would like to think that The Frank Family has reminded readers worldwide that there was another Jewish family in hiding in the Netherlands, who, like Anne Frank’s family, resisted the near watertight German occupation, and “got through it” all, with the aid of their courageous Dutch friends.
Too, the book, which I spent a full year researching in the Netherlands and Germany, also “works” as a comprehensive history of both the Jewish experience in the Netherlands during the 1930s and 1940s, as well as the Dutch experience during World War II. I was very touched several years ago when the chairman of the Anne Frank Foundation sought me out after reading The Frank Family and told me that he felt that my humble volume was the one that, at least for him, best told the “whole story” of what happened to the Dutch Jews.
The only thing that topped that was the joy and privilege of being able to “give” my mother a book that memorialized her incredible story.
See my mother Dorrit and I chat about the book on BBC Morning News here!