The Last Secret of the Secret Annex: The Untold Story of Anne Frank, Her Silent Protector, and a Family Betrayal (Hardcover)
A riveting historical investigation and family memoir that intertwines the iconic narrative of Anne Frank with the untold story of Bep Voskuijl, her protector and closest confidante in the Annex, bringing us closer to understanding one of the great secrets of World War II.
Anne Frank’s life has been studied by many scholars, but the story of Bep Voskuijl has remained untold, until now. As the youngest of the five Dutch people who hid the Frank family, Bep was Anne’s closest confidante during the 761 excruciating days she spent hidden in the Secret Annex. Bep, who was just twenty-three when the Franks went into hiding, risked her life to protect them, plunging into Amsterdam’s black market to source food and medicine for people who officially didn’t exist under the noses of German soldiers and Dutch spies. In those cramped quarters, Bep and Anne’s friendship bloomed through deep conversations, shared meals, and a youthful understanding.
Told by her own son, The Last Secret of the Secret Annex intertwines the story of Bep and her sister Nelly with Anne’s iconic narrative. Nelly’s name may have been scrubbed from Anne’s published diary, but Joop van Wijk-Voskuijl and Jeroen De Bruyn expose details about her collaboration with the Nazis, a deeply held family secret. After the war, Bep tried to bury her memories just as the Secret Annex was becoming world famous as a symbol of resistance to the Nazi horrors. She never got over losing Anne nor could Bep put to rest the horrifying suspicion that those in the Annex had been betrayed by her own flesh and blood.
This is a story about those caught in between the Jewish victims and Nazi persecutors, and the moral ambiguities and hard choices faced by ordinary families like the Voskuijls, in which collaborators and resisters often lived under the same roof.
Beautifully written and unsettlingly suspenseful, The Last Secret of the Secret Annex will show us the Secret Annex as we’ve never seen it before. And it provides a powerful understanding of how historical trauma is inherited from one generation to the next and how sometimes keeping a secret hurts far more than revealing a shameful truth.
About the Author
Joop van Wijk-Voskuijl is the third of Bep Voskuijl’s four children. He was born in 1949 in Amsterdam. After a successful career as a video producer (creating corporate movies for major Dutch companies) and marketing manager (for newspapers such as NRC Handelsblad and Algemeen Dagblad), Joop retired in 2010 to pursue research and writing with the goal of telling his mother’s story. He also volunteers as a guest lecturer, teaching Dutch schoolchildren and other groups about Anne Frank, the Holocaust, and the resistance during World War II.
Jeroen De Bruyn was born in 1993 in Antwerp. At age fifteen—the same age as Anne when she died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp—Jeroen began doing original research on the Secret Annex. He got to know the Anne Frank House firsthand during an internship there in 2011. He went on to study journalism, subsequently contributing to prominent Flemish news magazines like Knack and Joods Actueel, and working as a senior editor for the major Belgian newspaper Gazet van Antwerpen.
"Part biography and part whodunit, The Last Secret of the Secret Annex is, above all, a bereaved son’s cri de coeur, simultaneously mourning and celebrating the mother he lost even before she died."—Wall Street Journal
''An important contribution to the literature on Anne Frank."—Kirkus Reviews
[A] superbly well-written, intimate, engrossing, and heartrending reckoning with the endless damage done by genocide.—Booklist (Starred)
"The unspeakable tragedy of Anne Frank will never lose its haunting power over successive generations. This gripping account adds a missing human dimension to the story of the young girl hidden in an attic during the Nazi occupation of Holland-and those who helped and those who betrayed her. I read it in one gulp--as will you."—KATI MARTON, author of The Chancellor
"This book, as much a work of painful family therapy as painstaking historical analysis, throws unexpected light on the people who protected Anne Frank and perhaps on the one who betrayed her. A riveting read."—PETER HAYES, author of Why? Explaining the Holocaust
"It took a network of courageous helpers to allow Anne Frank and her family to hide for as long as they did from the Nazis. It only took one person to betray them. This is a book that not only offers tantalizing new clues about their betrayer; it also sheds new light on the least known helper in a saga that encapsulates the tragedy of the Holocaust."—ANDREW NAGORSKI, author of Saving Freud: The Rescuers Who Brought Him to Freedom
"This powerful story brings to life Bep's heroism and illuminates generations of a Dutch family, its secrets, and the trauma the Nazi occupation bequeathed to the future."—PAMELA S. NADELL, author of America's Jewish Women: A History from Colonial Times to Today
"For long, the story of Bep Voskuijl, one of Anne Frank's courageous helpers, has been mostly kept in the dark. This captivating book tells her moving and tragic story, her wartime assistance in the Secret Annex, and the long shadows of the war on her life and her family's. The book distinguishes clearly between facts and possible interpretations."—DR. BART WALLET, professor of early modern and modern Jewish history at the University of Amsterdam