British Publishers Compete over Anne Frank Biographies
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British Publishers Compete over Anne Frank Biographies

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Three of Britain’s most prestigious publishing houses are engaged in a big-money tussle over what each claims to be the “definitive” biography of Anne Frank.

The rival biographies will be published later this month to mark the 70th anniversary of the birth of Frank, one of the most enduring and powerful symbols of the Holocaust.

Each claims to have received the personal endorsement of the Frank family and to have had privileged access to previously unpublished documents.

Friends, family and Holocaust scholars are divided over the relative merits of the three biographies — Viking’s “Roses from the Earth,” by Carol Ann Lee; Bloomsbury’s “Anne Frank: The Biography,” by Melissa Muller; and Macmillan’s “The Story of Anne Frank,” by Mirjam Pressler.

Lee and Muller each claim to reveal fresh information about the identity of the person who betrayed the Frank family, but some who have read the books say neither author has, in fact, produced any new evidence.

Others believe that by turning Frank’s story into a murder mystery is to miss the point.

Frank was 13 when she went into hiding in her native Amsterdam. She was not yet 16 when she and her family, along with another family who shared their hiding place, were arrested by the Nazis.

Frank was put on the last train from Amsterdam to Auschwitz. She died of typhus, among the last victims of the Holocaust, after being moved to Bergen- Belsen.

Her diary, written while in hiding in Amsterdam between 1942 and 1944, was not found by the Nazis who arrested her and is now considered to be the most widely read document about the Holocaust. Nazis who arrested her and is now considered to be the most widely read document about the Holocaust.

The three publishers are sparing no expense in marketing their biographies.

But it is Viking that is making the most extravagant claims. Writer Carol Ann Lee was born in Britain in 1969. A fan and avid collector of Anne Frank memorabilia, she is touted as a “world authority on Anne Frank.” Her book will be launched during Jewish Book Week, March 7 to 14, as “the only biography fully supported by the Frank family.”

Publicity material for the book claims that Lee has “discovered a letter which points towards the identity of the Frank family’s betrayer.”

Bloomsbury’s book is billed as “the biography for all those who seek a richer understanding of Anne Frank and the brutal times in which she lived and died.” It is, according to the pre-publication hype, “full of revelations” and “examines the enduring mystery: who betrayed the families.”

Mirjam Pressler, the author of the Macmillan biography, has, according to the publisher, “impeccable credentials.”

“There could hardly be anyone better placed to write a biography of Anne Frank than Mirjam Pressler: as a Jewish woman living in contemporary Germany; as the translator of `The Diary of Anne Frank’ from Dutch into German; as the editor who, with Otto Frank, compiled the new expanded `Definitive Edition of the Diary.'”

Unlike the other two works, Pressler does not address the question of the Frank family’s betrayer, an omission of which Macmillan is proud. “That is not something we would countenance,” said a spokesperson. “It seems to be almost a diversion.”

Whatever the merits of the books, the publishing fest marks a recognition by the literary industry of the lasting appeal of Anne Frank’s tragic life story – – and of its commercial potential.

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