The Last Secret of the Secret Annex – Joop van Wijk-Voskuijl and Jeroen De Bruyn

The Last Secret of the Secret Annex: The Untold Story of Anne Frank, Her Silent Protector, and a Family Betrayal by Joop van Wijk-Voskuijl, Jeroen de Bruyn
Published by Simon & Schuster on May 16, 2023
Genres: Non-Fiction
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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 confident 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 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.

World War II history fascinates me. I see too many similarities in today’s sentiments as what ran rampant during World War II. And with each news story, my heart breaks. I don’t want today’s society to get to the point where people feel they must hide or risk their lives. When I saw The Last Secret of the Secret Annex by Joop van Wijk-Voskuijl and Jeroen De Bruyn, I had to read it. I wanted to learn more about the past…and learn, I definitely did.

I did not want to read The Diary of Anne Frank as a child. My father gave me an ultimatum: To read your Star Wars novel, you must first read The Diary of Anne Frank. I took it with me on vacation and read by firelight. I will never forget reading it. My location, my age, or its impact on me. But I only returned to Anne Frank within the last couple years. The Last Secret of the Secret Annex is stellar. The book lets the reader converse with van Wijk-Voskuijl. Instead of being academic and emotionless, you hear him speak of his mother’s experiences and her relationship with the Franks.

I loved The Last Secret of the Secret Annex. While it is easy to read, it shouldn’t be skimmed. Its stories should be considered long after reaching the final page. The book kept my attention because it wasn’t written like a “regular” non-fiction book. It’s a memoir, a recollection of difficult decisions and heartbreaking circumstances.

The book’s authors mention a controversial book released in 2022: The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation by Rosemary Sullivan. By pure circumstance, I listened to the audio version of this book simultaneously with The Last Secret of the Secret Annex by Joop van Wijk-Voskuijl and Jeroen De Bruyn. A Dutch publisher pulled The Betrayal of Anne Frank from stores. A Dutch team of historians publicly decried Sullivan’s book as being founded on shaky assumptions, which led to a circumstantial conclusion.

I am relieved I only rented The Betrayal of Anne Frank from my library, as I agree with Wijk-Voskuijl and De Bruyn’s opinions. For me, The Betrayal of Anne Frank takes the personal nature out of the tragedy of Anne Frank. The Last Secret of the Secret Annex makes Anne, her family, and the helpers into more than names written in a book. They were real…and their capture had very real and personal consequences.