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Edith’s Story

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Born in 1925, Edith van Hessen was the only daughter of a well-to-do Dutch businessman; her mother was originally from Germany. With her two older brothers and maternal grandmother, the gregarious Edith lived a somewhat privileged life, avidly enjoying parties, friends, and sports. This gradually changed after the Nazis invaded Holland in 1940 when she was about fifteen. Although at first there was little difference from her pre-war life, the occupiers slowly tightened restrictions on the Jews and within two years had begun rounding them up and transporting them to “work” in the East.

In 1942 Edith and her remaining brother went into hiding; her oldest brother had sailed for America just before the invasion. She survived the remainder of the war posing as a Christian with the relatives of a family friend. Her father had died before he could be deported; her mother and grandmother were not so fortunate, they were sent to the gas chambers. She later discovered that her brother had been betrayed and had suffered a similar fate. Only she and her older brother, who had joined the U.S. Army, were left.

A few years after the war's end Edith met the woman who had abetted the family of doomed Anne Frank. Like that other Dutch girl, Velmans also had kept a diary, from which she liberally quotes in this book. Although it lacks much of the psychological self-insight that has made Anne Frank's story such a phenomenon, Edith’s Story is eminently readable and a poignant reminder of how humanity somehow manages to endure against all odds.