March 6, 2009

The full story of “the Ann Frank who lived”


She has been called “The Ann Frank who lived” — Johanna Reiss was a young, Jewish Dutch girl who made it through World War II by hiding out in an attic with Nazis billeted below. At the urging of her American husband, Jim, she wrote a book about the experience, The Upstairs Room, in 1972, and a million copies later the book is still selling around the world.

Now, however, as this article by Sandee Brawarsky from The Jewish Week details, Reiss has written a new memoir that tells a part of the story she couldn’t tell back then. To write the book, Jim had urged her to return to Holland to talk to the people who had hidden her as a child. “Jim, then 37, accompanied her and their two young girls for part of the trip. He met the Oostervelds and saw the secret space behind the closet she and her sister would stuff themselves into when people entered the house. As planned, he went back to America ahead of them. Upon his return home, he killed himself, leaving no note.

Reiss’ new book, A Hidden Life, will be the focus of a public interview with the author to be held at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan on Sunday, March 8 at 2:30 pm. For more info, go here.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.