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The Hidden Life of Otto Frank Paperback – 3 Jul 2003

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (3 July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141010185
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141010182
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 2.4 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 355,898 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Born in Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1969, Carol Ann Lee graduated from university in Manchester with a BA (Hons) degree in the History of Art and Design. Her first book was published three years later: 'Roses From The Earth: The Biography of Anne Frank' was the fulfilment of a childhood dream to write about Anne Frank. The Mail on Sunday described the book as "vivid and shattering. A work of real sympathy and imagination" and the Sunday Telegraph: "Excellent... serious, sensitive and scrupulous." 'Roses From The Earth' has been published in 15 countries to date.

This was followed by a biography of Anne's father, 'The Hidden Life of Otto Frank', a Guardian Book of the Week which was described by Reader's Digest as "a tour-de-force of history and humanity." The book has been the subject of several documentaries, and following her ground-breaking research into the family's betrayal, the Dutch government re-opened the case. Anne Frank's cousin, Buddy Elias, states: "Of the many authors, writers and historians who have written about Anne Frank and her father Otto, Carol Ann Lee is the most knowledgeable and sets new scholarly standards... There is nobody who has done more acute and focused research on the subject..." Carol also co-wrote 'A Friend Called Anne' with Anne's best friend Jacqueline van Maarsen and has written extensively on the Holocaust for children.

After living in Amsterdam for several years, in 2005 Carol returned to the UK, settling in York with her son. She turned to fiction writing: 'Come Back to Me', which was published in Holland, and 'The Winter of the World', a novel of the Great War which opens with the funeral of the Unknown Warrior and then takes us back to the trenches. 'The Winter of the World' was published in three languages and was a critical and commercial success in France especially, where it was nominated for two major awards.

In 2010, Carol returned to writing non-fiction with 'One of Your Own: The Life and Death of Myra Hindley', the definitive study not only of Hindley, but also of the Moors Murders case. Carol interviewed a wide cross-section of those involved, from the victims' families to the policemen who worked on the case originally, as well as many of Hindley's supporters. 'One of Your Own' was both a Times and an Independent Book of the Week and was featured on Radio 4. The Mail on Sunday awarded it a five star review, calling it "scrupulously researched and clear-sighted, the most accurate account so far"; The Sunday Times described it as "scrupulously unsensational and as good a biography of Hindley as we're likely to get."

During her research for 'One of Your Own', Carol met David Smith, which led to collaboration on the book 'Witness', in which David told his full story for the first time. In April 2012 'Witness' was republished as 'Evil Relations', just weeks before David died of cancer. The book was nominated for the CWA Dagger Award for Non-Fiction.

In September 2012, Mainstream published 'A Fine Day for a Hanging.' Screenwriter Laurence Marks said of the opening chapter: "Worthy of Truman Capote... the finest account of awaiting execution that I have ever read." The book was again nominated for the CWA Dagger Award for Non-Fiction.

Carol doesn't have a personal website, blog or Twitter page, but she runs the 'Searching for Keith' website alongside Alan Bennett, brother of the last missing victim of Brady and Hindley. Please visit for further details. You can also contact Carol via the forum.

A message from Carol Ann Lee: "Very many sincere and heartfelt thanks to every reader who has taken the time and trouble to leave such positive reviews of my books on Amazon. I do read them all, and am grateful to every single person who has contributed. I hope you will continue to read my books and leave (hopefully positive!) feedback. If ever an author tells you they don't read their reviews... don't trust them! When reviews are good, they light up your day, and even the less appreciative reviews often contain advice worth listening to, so thank you again to everyone who has left comments here."

You will be able to read Carol's new book in 2015.

Product Description

About the Author

Carol Ann Lee was born in Yorkshire in 1969. She lives in Amsterdam. She is the world authority on the Frank family and is the author of ROSES FROM THE EARTH: THE BIOGRAPHY OF ANNE FRANK.

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First Sentence
BEFORE THE SECOND WORLD WAR AND the Holocaust, Otto Frank had little interest in his Jewish heritage. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A. BUTTERWORTH on 30 Oct. 2006
Format: Paperback
The book begins with Otto's early life in a wealthy liberal Jewish family in Franfurt and continues through a period working for Macy's department store in New York before the First World War, his service in the German army, the post WW1 decline in the family's fortune, his marriage and the eventual move to Holland to escape the rise of Nazism, culminating in the period in hiding and eventual arrest.

The time Otto spent in Auschwitz is particularly interesting and moving. He cheated death narrowly on more than one occasion. Being over 50, he should have been gassed on arrival at Auschwitz but his tall, slim, figure and upright bearing saved him.

The author makes a credible case that the betrayer of the Frank family was one Tonny Ahlers, a Dutch Nazi. Her thesis that Ahlers also blackmailed Otto post war, and up to Otto's death in 1980, over the supplies which Otto's company made to the Wehrmacht prior to the period in hiding, is less compelling, especially since Ahlers did denounce Otto to the post war authorities. Ahlers's testimony was disregarded as he had already been jailed for his war-time activities and was seen as an unreliable witness.

The account of the struggle to publish Anne's diary and the difficulty of editing and translating into foreign language editions which preserved the tone of the original take up a lot of the later chapters and are not without interest but are perhaps treated at too great a length.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has read Anne Frank's diary and would like to learn more about the events that the Frank family lived through.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By R. Davies on 20 Nov. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I think that this is essential reading for anyone who is interested in Anne Frank and her story, or in the occupation of the Netherlands and the fate of the country's Jews.

This biography is compelling. Fascinating, and very well-written in a fluid, natural style.

My main reason for recommending it is that it does not portray Otto as holier-than-thou, which would have been tempting given his status as "the perfect father", a hard-worker, and his dignified, calm, patrician bearing. For example, the author examines Otto's loveless marriage-of-convenience to Edith, whose dowry helped finance his company, and the probability that he favoured Anne over her elder sister Margot. She also hints at the possibility that in introducing her to his family in Basel after the war, he may have led Peter Pfeffer's widow to believe that he wanted to marry her, before disappointing her by proposing to someone else. The issue of blackmail, and specifically why Otto may have been vulnerable to it, is also discussed at length. It was refreshing to see Otto Frank portrayed as a flawed human being and not as a saint. This in no way detracted from my admiration for him though; having finished the book I still regard him as an extraordinary person.

I was also impressed with the author's forensic and careful analysis of the issue of the Franks' betrayal. She clearly worked very hard on this aspect, and refrained from merely re-hashing established theories.

Like a previous reviewer, I found the section about the problems surrounding publication of the diary a little too convoluted, although it was useful in showing how much pressure Otto was under in the aftermath of the war; it disabuses the reader of the idea that once the diary came to light, Otto's life became easier.

Watch out for the interesting twist at the end of the book.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 Aug. 2004
Format: Paperback
I loved this book. I am interested in what did the civilians did and, although I have read Anne Franks diary, it was very good having a different view. I could really feel the sorrow of what Anne, her sister and her mother went through. However, it didn't start and end with the war. There are some fascinating insights. There are also some really lovely photos.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By miss_spookiness on 11 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
I started reading this book thinking that I would know much of it already, as I have read a few things on Anne Frank, but it did have some things which I hadn't read about before, including some interesting information about who betrayed the family. It went through Otto's life before the war, he came from a well off family, and was in the German Army, and then his time during the war and in concentration camps, and then his life afterwards and how the publication of Anne's diary came about. I did think it was good as, especially when describing his life during the war and in the camps, other sources and books written by those who experienced it were quoted, which was good. It made you realise how they weren't alone and there were so many other people who suffered the same fate as them. The after-war bit wasn't quite as interesting - there was long and boring section about some disputes over the play of Anne Frank's diary - but it was interesting overall. Not for someone who is casually interested in this period of history, but if you have an interest and have already read other books, this is good.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tigersuzy on 1 Oct. 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Carol Ann Lee's biography is beautifully researched and accessibly written. The nuances in Otto Frank's character are honestly and empathetically explored. Frank's experience after the war as a survivor, coming to terms with his own immense loss, is incredibly moving to read, especially his navigation of Holland's fractured society after the war, where gentiles, jews, Dutch and Germans were all trying to make sense of their individual experiences. Other reviewers have mentioned that the passages in this book about Otto's battle with publishers after the war are over-long, but I found this part of his story the most revealing, reflecting as it does the varying manifestations of public anti-semitism in the post war years. Otto had incredible strength, never lapsing into hatred or revenge, and recognising that his daughter's message, that there is more good in people than evil, is the right way to live.
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