Artificial Intelligence and the Anne Frank Case

The bookcase that camouflaged the door to the “Secret Annex” where Anne Frank and seven others hid from the Nazis during World War II.

If you didn’t know there was a door camouflaged behind the bookcase pictured above, would you ever suspect it?  I certainly wouldn’t have.  And that was the whole idea behind the building of this bookcase in the first place: it was created to hide the door behind which Anne Frank and seven other Jews hid from the Nazis during World War II in Amsterdam.  Along with Anne, there were her parents, Otto and Edith, and sister Margot; Otto’s co-worker Hermann van Pels, his wife Auguste and son Peter; and Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist.

I first came across the story of Anne Frank when I was eleven years old.  What puzzled me then, as now, was first and foremost the layout of the office building where Anne and the others were hidden.  It sounded like the strangest building imaginable.  The place where the eight people hid was called “Het Achterhuis” in Dutch – “the back house” – and it was such an odd concept to Americans that the closest English equivalent anyone could come up with when Anne’s diary was translated into our language was “The Secret Annex.”

The house was on a canal.  Apparently canal houses in Holland often were structured sort of like two-family homes, yet vertically rather than horizontally.  A “back house” was attached to a “front house.”  Or something along those lines.  It’s very strange, make no mistake about it.

The canal house in question had empty back rooms in the “back house” part of it, but the business run by Anne’s father was operational in the “front house.”  There was a storeroom, offices, workrooms – and employees going in and out during regular business hours.  All happening in the same structure, which featured four floors plus and attic, with those in hiding on the third and fourth floors.  Oh, and the eight Jews just happened to be stuck trying to stay silent during working hours as they hid in the “back house” while regular daily business action went on in the front, not to mention on two of the floors in the back, right below where the people were hiding.

Four of the office employees helped those in hiding, Miep Gies, Bep Voskuijl, Victor Kugler and Johannes Kleinman.  Miep Gies’s husband also knew about the situation, as did Bep Voskuijl’s father, who also worked in the same company.  In fact, it was Bep’s father who constructed the bookcase that hid the doorway to the back house.

To make matters even riskier, the windows of the “back house” faced a courtyard with forty, yes, FORTY other structures.  A boy who lived in one of the other houses once saw a dark-haired girl looking out of one of the windows.  Then she stepped back when she saw him looking at her.  After the diary was published, he recognized her as Anne.  If he could see her, and presumably any of the other seven who may have been unable to resist the temptation to go too close to a window, how many of the people in the other forty houses around the courtyard could?  And how many did?

The Nazis paid rewards to those who tipped them off about Jews in hiding, since on Hitler’s orders, they wanted to make Europe “Judenrein” – free of Jews.  Ultimately the group in the back house was betrayed.  The Nazis  raided the building on August 4, 1944, and to this day it’s not clear who betrayed them with a phone call.

There are a lot of theories.  A man who worked in the warehouse and was leaving little traps because he knew there were people hiding in the building.  A cleaning lady who also worked in the building and was related to another man, who also worked in the warehouse.  Right there, that’s three in the building who weren’t part of the “inner circle” of helpers.  Another suspect: a Nazi who had some sort of business dealings with Anne’s father prior to the war, later bragged he was the betrayer, and even went so far as to claim he had “let” the family go into hiding.  His story contains more holes than a slice of Swiss cheese.  Even if he had let them hide, would he have known precisely where they had secreted themselves?  It’s a ridiculous story!

There have been inquiries about the betrayer before, in the 1940’s after the war, in the 1960s, and yet again.  A former FBI agent, Vince Pankoke, is now on the case.  He will be utilizing artificial intelligence to pour through all the accounts, suspicions, documents, etc. and try to come up with the solution that way.  It’s intriguing and wonderful and I can’t wait to find out the name of the creep who turned the eight hiders in.

Here’s my theory.  The other day I was watching a documentary about Anne Frank and it was said that when the Nazis raided the hiding place, they made straight for the bookcase that hid the doorway to the back house.  Take a look at the photo above again.  Were all of the canal houses in Amsterdam constructed with sections in the front and back?  Did they all feature an entrance from one part of the houses to the other in the same exact place on the same floor?  Every one of them?  Because if not, who would know about that bookcase being a ruse to cover the doorway, save for those involved with helping those hiding behind it?

Bep Voskuijl, the office worker who helped hide the family and whose father made the bookcase to conceal the door to the back house, had a sister, Nelly, who was a Nazi collaborator.  There’s a book in Dutch about Bep and the possibility of Nelly having been the one.   I’m told that in it, Nelly reportedly made snide remarks about her father and sister helping “their Jews.”  Bep’s other sister and  fiance claimed that they witnessed Nelly making the call.

Nelly Voskuijl is therefore my favorite suspect for the crime of betraying Anne Frank, especially if the Gestapo went directly to the bookcase.  If that’s true, the betrayal could only have been made by someone with inside knowledge.  Nelly Voskuijl had it.  Beside, the courtyard people didn’t know about the bookcase.

Let’s see what the artificial intelligence comes up with!  Their progress can be found at: www.coldcasediary.com.  If you have information, you can submit it there, so in this age of disclosure, please don’t hold back!  If you know something, say something.

The eight people in hiding. Only Otto Frank, top right, survived the concentration camps.

 

 

 

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Wow, Wow, Wow, Fellas! Look at My Old House NOW, Fellas!

The beautiful house where I grew up, 606 East Third Avenue, Roselle, NJ. It’s back on the market and looking better than EVER!

You never forget your first house.  I know I haven’t.

My first house was the one pictured above, 606 East Third Avenue, Roselle, NJ.  It was a pretty Dutch Colonial on a little hill, and even though we moved away in 1972, I’ve never, ever stopped loving it or missing it.

Right there in the photo you can see the azalea bushes my grandfather, “Pop Pop,” Theodore Yoerger, planted when I was a toddler, with me watching from the front window.  They aren’t in bloom in the shot, but they’re there.

All four of my grandparents were still alive and well when we lived in that house, Pop Pop, his wife, Mom Mom, Margaret Ford Yoerger, and Claire and Patrick Quinn.  They were the finest people I have ever known.  When I think of the house, I think of them.  Mom Mom took care of me during the day when my mother went back to work.  She’d walk me to and from my first school, good old Harrison School, three blocks away.

The backyards were the sizes of postage stamps, but what the residents of East Third Avenue could grow in them!  I can recall petunias, portulacas, sweet alyssum, firecrackers, geraniums, and lilacs, all in a yard that was smaller than a Queen-sized bed.  And the roses!  There were pink and raspberry-colored roses that grew on a trellis situated, of all places, over our garbage cans. There was even a tropical-looking Mimosa tree in the center of the yard between our place and our neighbors.  It was the early 1960s, when the world still had class.  If you had a tiny yard, you made the most of it.

The neighbors made the place even more special.  I didn’t realize it then, but the heads of most of the families near ours were men who had been in the service during World War II, brave guys who had been a part of the liberation of Europe.  They mentioned it in passing sometimes while sitting outside on folding chairs on warm summer nights.  I wonder now if they ever knew they were heroes.

As for our house, which had been built in 1920, I loved it.  I loved my powder blue room at the top of the stairs.  I loved the gigantic mirror that took up almost one full wall in the living room.  Our bathroom tile was a gorgeous shade of buttercup yellow.  Mom and Dad’s room was pink.  The kitchen was painted Candy Apple Red.

I always wanted to see it again.  Always.

Several years ago, approximately in 2010, I found, for the first time, a listing online for 606 East Third Avenue, Roselle.  I looked through the photos with the kind of excitement that I imagine one would feel if they’d just won the lottery.  The poor house, though!  Every single room had been painted a sickly mozzarella cheese white.  Some walls had been  knocked down, others added.  The beautiful place I remembered looked rundown and sad, but hey, it was still standing, and I’d take the photos of it any way I could get them, since home is home.  In one photo, there was the spot in the dining room where our old hi-fi used to be, the one on which I’d heard my first Jerry Herman musical song, “Hello, Dolly,” and our Mitch Miller records, important since my cousin was on his television program, and more.  There was the living room where, Dad tells me, since I don’t quite remember it, I’d watched Lee Harvey Oswald get shot when I was two and a half.  Another photo was of my old room!  I could identify it by the location of the radiators.  Same deal with all the rooms.  It was so wonderful to see, to the point I started sobbing, and I hoped with all my heart that one day someone who would love it would buy it.

Well, someone did!  The house is for sale again, and it looks absolutely incredible!  It seems especially so this time around, after having seen those other pathetic photos a few years ago.  My house has made a comeback, and a great one at that!  The kitchen is green now, the dining room a dark mango, and both look fantastic.  My old room is once again blue.  Kudos to the decorator!  If I knew your name, I’d recommend you.

Someday I would love to buy it back.  In the meantime, the house is being sold by Coldwell Banker, and I couldn’t resist writing a blog post on it.  If you want a gorgeous house in Roselle, New Jersey that you’ll love your whole life long, I am pleased beyond measure to present it right here, and Coldwell isn’t even bribing me to do so.  This house is great!  Take a look:

View the Listing Here

Wild Wild Country on Netflix: Beware the Bhagwan’s Flunky!

Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his #1 sycophant, Ma Anand Sheela. Look out world, here they come!

When I first heard about Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, who ran a cult of wacky followers so enamored with him that they turned over their life savings to him, and even gave him a fleet Rolls Royces, I laughed out loud.  This was back in the 1980s.  There may be a sucker born every minute, I remember thinking, but this dude’s bunch of dupes were clearly off the charts.

The Bhagwan preached a line guaranteed to attract people with strange issues about sex.  He basically (according to the documentary I saw circa 1988) told them to run around and have it as much as possible.  “Peace and love, love and peace, and go to it and do it,” or whatever, in the backyard of his ashram, of course, seemed to be the Bhagwan’s primary message, directed at those fully grown cases of arrested development still in need of playing a real-life game of Follow-the-Leader.    You can imagine what kind of flakes would buy into lines like this, especially during the height of the AIDS crisis in the 80s, but plenty of them not only bought it, they threw money at this Bhagwan over it.

This was better than the fictional movie THE STING.  The con artists in THE STING had to go to elaborate lengths to trick a crook out of his money; this Bhagwan character was able to just sit back, spew silliness, and collect all the money that was offered to him, and we’re talking millions.

Well, that’s what happened in a nutshell, but the full story is a lot more complicated.  Netflix has produced a phenomenal mini-series, WILD WILD COUNTRY, about the Bhagwan, his lethal “secretary,” Sheela, and the havoc they created when they moved to Antelope, Oregon, and created their own “utopia” there.  I can grant them this much: they really did create a beautiful  compound out of a barren landscape.  But…

It’s crazy enough that the Bhagwan’s followers show up wearing necklaces with his picture on them around their necks, kind of like the way North Koreans aren’t legally allowed out of the house without pins of Kim Jung Il and Kim Jung Un on their lapels.  It’s worse that they “have to” wear sickly shades of maroon red or rust orange clothing from head to toe.  It’s never explained why, but was probably inspired by the red of the “root chakra” (that, for the uninitiated, means the area of your butt) and the orange of the “sex chakra” (right above the butt).  When walking down the street they all look like they were tipped out of an overturned fruit cart.  (I may never buy a red or orange garment ever again.)  It’s even stranger, and much sicker, when you get to watch what passes for their “sexual therapy sessions.”  These are people who belong in a locked ward.

But what’s the ultimate limit is the way these zonked-looking cult members go from preaching peace, love, and boom-boom in the backyard to  gun-toting, harassing, poisoning killers in a legal “battle” of their own creation against the people of Oregon…organized by the Bhagwan’s tiny little photogenic secretary, Sheela.  Suffice it to say, the non-cult-member locals compare her to Adolf Hitler. She was like a crime boss, even asking people to kill in the name of the Bhagwan…

Whoa, boy!  “Peace and love,” my root chakra!

You’ll laugh out loud at this series, which has to be seen to be believed, at least until Sheela pushes the envelope, it takes a lethal turn, and is no longer so funny.

Pay particular attention to the bizarre affect of the former cult members who are interviewed.  They’re still over-the-moon about the Bhagwan, now dead, or perhaps, given the sexual slant of his message, it’s more likely they’re over the moon about the thought of the Bhagwan’s moon.

Kudos to the people of Antelope, Oregon, for taking a stand against the madness these psychos brought to their town.

WILD WILD COUNTRY is definitely disturbing, yet very entertaining.  Enjoy!

Mug shots of Sheela and her Bhagwan, following their arrests on multiple counts.

 

 

 

 

CHAPPAQUIDDICK the Movie

CHAPPAQUIDDICK the Movie. Oh. My. GOD!!!!!!!

I never believed the official tale behind the Chappaquiddick incident, but folks, the truth is even worse than I thought.

The Chappaquiddick scandal, for anyone who may be too young to remember, happened when Senator Ted Kennedy drove his car off a bridge and into the water on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts.  A young volunteer who helped with his brother Bobby’s presidential campaign, Mary Jo Kopechne, was sitting in the front seat.

Ted got his own butt out of the car, left the scene of the accident, and did not call for help for Mary Jo.  She might have had a chance to live if he had.  But no, Ted just fled.  Later he claimed amnesia, claimed a concussion, and claimed a lot of things, all designed to render himself blameless.

Instead, as the movie shows, he ran to get two trusted friends, who went back to the scene with him but also didn’t report the accident, and then called his thug of a father, Joseph Kennedy, Sr.  Joe’s had a stroke by this time but manages to struggle out one word of advice for Ted. Wait until you hear it.  It’s a doozie!  Following that, Joe proceeds to bring in a team to organize the cover-up.  After all, to his mind, a girl may have needlessly died, but family honor and family ambition were “more important,” at least to Joe!

Allow me to inject a few words here about Joseph Kennedy, Sr.  It’s well-known that one reason he was “driven” to succeed in life, and to later push his kids to political office, took place after his snobby WASP classmates at Harvard refused to include him socially because he was an Irish Catholic.

Well, so am I.  Did I go to school with snobs, too?  Yes.  Did I ever!  I could write a book on that, and one day I just might.  But did I try to get “in” with those ridiculous people whose noses were so far in the air that if it rained they’d have drowned?  Ha, are you kidding?  I wanted them to simply leave me be and looked around for decent people to befriend instead.  The whole idea of anyone being so “driven” to be “included” by a pack of self-proclaimed elitists that he would go to the creepy lengths Joe Kennedy went to, not only in terms of this scandal but during his whole life, strikes me as 100% crazy.  As my Dad always says, if anybody doesn’t include you, just say to yourself, “Hooray for me – to heck with you!”

Well, okay.  Dad used a minor variation on “to heck with.”  But you get the point.  Those snooty types are more of a joke than anything, and they just aren’t worth it.

Anyway, I wonder how American history, not to mention the life of the young girl killed when  pampered Teddy’s car flew over the bridge, might have turned out differently had Joe Kennedy been included by the jerks he met at Harvard.  He rose to be an Ambassador and two of his four sons ran for President…and both wound up assassinated.  Was it worth it, Joe?

Joe Kennedy may not have been driving the car on Chappaquiddick Island, but he was all over the cover-up.  If you’re anything like me, you’ll leave the theater wanting to let out an outraged scream over the events that happened in Chappaquiddick, and how they were falsely presented to the world after the fact.

The movie stars Jason Clarke as Ted, Kate Mara as Mary Jo Kopechne, and Bruce Dern as Joseph Kennedy.  Ed Helms plays Ted Kennedy’s cousin, Joe Gargan, who becomes the stand-out character in the movie because he’s the one who still has a conscience.  All are superb.  The photography, especially of the island, is gorgeous and makes me want to visit.  This is one of the best movies I’ve ever seen and I’m hoping it wins a lot of awards.  BRAVO to the entire cast and crew for telling this well-presented story of a horrific and ultimately chilling event.

Jason Clarke, L, Bruce Dern, R, and the real Ted and Joe Kennedy, Center.

DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON: The Disgracefulness of Japan

DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON by William Andrews. A story of an outrageous chapter of Japanese history.

I want to urge people of goodwill everywhere to read William Andrews’ historical novel, DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON.  It’s about what was, perhaps, the most shameful and disgraceful chapter of the Japanese Imperial Army’s list of atrocities during World War II.  And I say that already knowing about their unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor, the Bataan Death March, the vile POW camps they ran in the countries they invaded and occupied, and all the rest of it.

This is worse.

Less well-known than the rest of Japan’s list of atrocities is the fact of the “Comfort Women.”  These were usually not “women” in the legal sense of the word at all but teenage girls, some as young as 13, the Japanese Army forced to work as prostitutes and “service” their men.  The girls were usually taken from countries like Japanese-occupied Korea.  They were not volunteers but were appropriated like objects and made to do this against their will.  Against common decency, too.

The book, DAUGHTERS OF THE DRAGON, follows the story of two decently raised Korean farm girls who are ordered to “report” to a “boot factory” to help the Japanese war effort.  It’s a lie.  The two teens are taken to a “comfort station,” that is, brothel.  There they are forced to let Japanese soldiers rape them up to 35 times a day.  If they don’t like it?  They’d be shot.  Period.  And, get this: the alleged “wisdom” of the Japanese Imperial Army for sponsoring, yes, sponsoring this utter madness, is that they want their soldiers to, ahem, cleanse themselves before going into battle.

CLEANSE themselves?  Via rape?

The book is a very good read, and beyond that I don’t want to add any spoilers about the riveting tale of the two sisters, Jae-hee and Soo-hee.  What I’d like to draw everyone’s attention to is  something from the Author’s Note.

The Japanese took forever to offer paltry half-apologies to the girls they placed in those Comfort Stations.  In 2015 the Japanese offered reparations to those women still alive – provided Korea agreed to stop criticizing them over the “issue.”  They just don’t want to admit that what they did was outrageous, immoral, stupid, self-serving and wrong.

Several remaining former Comfort Women nevertheless still protest in Seoul in front of the Japanese embassy every week to try to prompt Japan to do the right thing and take these simple actions: 1) admit the Imperial Army was directly involved, and 2) make sure they teach it in Japanese textbooks.

I’ve always heard that Japan was a nation where “maintaining face” – their honor and dignity, that is – was supposedly a major priority.   Well, where is the honor, and where is the dignity, in not meeting the justifiable demands of these women?

A war crime is a war crime is a war crime.  This is a war crime.  And the Japanese government is still perpetuating it.  If they are trying to “save face” by not acknowledging this hideous historical chapter, ha!  Silence doesn’t work.

The 2018 Job Search Follies

Seek, and hope you find…

How many people out there in cyberspace are looking for a new job?  If you are, welcome to the club!  Are you in NYC?  We should all get together somewhere to compare notes, because, let’s face it, a lot of what’s out there is “out there!”

Job searches have certainly changed since I first started working.  Gone are the days when everyone could just waltz into an employment agency and apply for the best job they’d seen in that week’s Sunday New York Times.  Gone, too, are the days of faxing your resumes and cover letters.

Now it’s all pretty much done online.

In a lot of ways that’s wonderfully faster and easier, so I’m not complaining.  However, here are some of the wackiest incidents that have happened during this particular job search.  Enjoy!

One online ad said, “The boss is not just looking for office help.  She wants someone to be an extension of her brain.”  Italics mine.

An extension of her brain?  Seriously?  That’s, um, physically impossible.  

An interview I landed was at a union.  I have no desire to mess up their mission by divulging  which one.  I will only say it seemed like a wonderful place.  I could tell because all of the workers seemed happy, were smiling, and some even came up to start conversations with me while I waited for the interview to begin.  I felt right at home there.

But during the interview, they asked me if I was available to be away from home for four to six weeks at a time.  This was not in the online job description.

“Why would I need to be away for four to six weeks?” I asked.  I was applying for an office job, wasn’t I?

“Well, we do a lot of our work in secret!  It takes time!  We go places to organize and sign up workers, but it all has to be done behind their bosses’ backs!”

Can you picture that?  “Carolyn Quinn, Union Spy?”

But what could I say?  “Oh, how gloriously clandestine,” I decided on as a reply and smiled, trying to go along with this, “like something out of a novel.”   Yeah, right, folks, one where the union organizer’s in one form of danger after another.  They liked that rejoinder and laughed, but it was an enormous relief when I left that interview.

Some positions come complete with “online assessments.”  If it’s for workplace competency, I’ve taken the same silly test so many times already, at least twenty-five times and counting, that I have all the answers memorized, even the math.  Another, from a New York City medical center, gives people a psychological test with one hundred and twenty questions.  Pick this or pick that.  Are you shy or loud?  Are you friendly or anti-social?  Are you usually early or late?  It goes on forever, but it isn’t too bad.

What was bad, in fact, outrageous, was another psychological test I was given by some horrible highfalutin’ real estate company.  They asked job applicants to rate how they felt about certain statements.  Okay, I thought, again trying to cooperate, sounds hilariously touchy-feely, like something out of the worst part of the 1970s, but here goes!

Then I read the creepiest of the statements they wanted me to rate.  The test asked how would I feel about somebody “poisoning the water supply.”

POISONING THE WATER SUPPLY?  What kind of a job application question was that?  And what kind of a wacky company would even conceive of insulting their applicants by asking them such a thing in the first place?

That one went way too far.  It rated quite a letter from Yours Truly to not only the division that was doing the hiring but also the company’s CEO.  Let’s just say it wasn’t exactly a love letter and leave it at that.  The division head claimed he didn’t know what I was talking about since he’d never taken the test himself!  Perhaps he hadn’t, but he has now, since I had no problem with “gifting” him with the crazy link.

I’m a published Author looking for a nice, decent, administrative job.  I have several decades’ worth of experience.  I’d like to be among co-workers who know how to come together as a team.  As the old song from GYPSY says, “No fits, no fights, no feuds and no egos/Amigos/Together…”

If you’re in New York City, and you’re looking for an employee like me, here I am!

The hunt continues.

Why Isn’t Julie Andrews’ Book MANDY Already a Movie?

One of the many covers of MANDY by Julie Edwards (Julie Andrews). The book’s never been out of print.

It never ceases to amaze me that some of the very best books out there never seem to get made into movies.

I’ve written before about the non-fiction story, THE UPSTAIRS ROOM, by Johanna Reiss.  That book about a child saved from the Nazis by decent farmers in Holland has been crying out to be a movie since the early 1970s and some studio somewhere is going to realize it one day and make a mint.

Another is MANDY, written by actress Julie Andrews.  My grandfather bought it for me in 1974, and reading it, at age 13, was one of the finest highlights of my whole year.

It took a long while for Grandpop to find it.  My cousin Theresa wanted a copy, so he decided to get one for each of us, but he could not find the book anywhere.  Initially we all thought it strange that a book by someone as well-known as Julie Andrews wasn’t more easily located.  The problem turned out to be that Julie Andrews wrote it under her legal married name, Julie Edwards.  Naturally, once Grandpop figured that out, he bought the books.

MANDY is a beautiful story.  It’s about a little orphan girl in England who is sort of an Annie without a Miss Hannigan, a gutsy kid who doesn’t have a home, and at least this one isn’t in the hands of  a shrew who’s running her orphanage.  The matron running the establishment where Mandy lives is a decent woman.

One day Mandy finds a fantastic abandoned cottage in the woods.  The walls inside are covered with seashells.  It’s spectacular.  The child decides to plant some flowers outside of it to try to make it her own…

I’ll stop there and won’t throw in any spoilers, except to say the book is full of realistic, pleasant surprises.  Just when you think it’s going in one direction, it surprises you with another.  Then it changes course again, and yet again.  As for the ending, well, all I will clue you in on is that I have never sobbed with joy so much, before or since, while reading any book by anybody, as I did when I came to the ultimate surprise in the second-to-last chapter of MANDY.  In fact, I still tear up whenever I see it in a bookstore and re-read that phenomenal chapter.  Julie Andrews Edwards, BRAVA!

The story is timeless, not to mention wholesome, and in this age of non-stop Hollywood violence and stories of creeps like Harvey Weinstein, some wholesome fare would be great.  The characters are believable.  It’s still in print after all these decades, which says plenty.  So why isn’t Hollywood paying the story some positive and long overdue attention?

What the world needs now is a nice movie called MANDY!  And another one called THE UPSTAIRS ROOM, too.

A 1974 shot of the original paperback cover of MANDY.  Still a fabulous story after all these years!