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Johanna Reiss /ˈrs/ (born Johanna "Annie" de Leeuw, 4 April 1932) is a Dutch-born American writer and longtime resident of New York City. Her most recent work, A Hidden Life, was published by Melville House Publishing in January 2009. In her books, Reiss has presented her childhood experience as a Jewish girl in the Netherlands during the Holocaust.[1]


Johanna Reiss was born, raised, and educated in Winterswijk, but she and her older sister survived the Holocaust hidden for almost three years in the rural village of Usselo in the attic of a farmer called Johan Oosterveld.[2][3]

After teaching elementary school for several years, she moved to the United States in the early 1950s, where she married Jim Reiss. Upon the urging of her husband, she wrote a young adult novel, The Upstairs Room, sharing her personal experience of the events of the Second World War. Published in 1972, this classic YA novel won Reiss several awards. It was a Newbery Honor Book, an American Library Association Notable Children's Book, and a Jane Addams Peace Association Honor Book. It also won the Jewish Book Council Juvenile Book Award and the Buxtehuder Bulle, a German children's book award. Elie Wiesel considers The Upstairs Room "as important in every respect as the one bequeathed to us by Anne Frank."[4] The book was so successful that it spawned a sequel, The Journey Back, published in 1976, which tells the story of Annie de Leeuw's and her family's return to their home country of Holland in an attempt to rebuild their lives after the war.

Her latest book, A Hidden Life, was published by Melville House Publishing in January 2009. It is a memoir written for adults, in which Reiss confronted the memories of childhood as well as the tragedy of her husband's suicide.[5] Reiss has two children. An active speaker, Reiss visits schools to talk to students about the historical times she lived through. Her booking agent is Catherine Balkin of Balkin Buddies.[6]


  1. ^ "Ontmoeting met Johanna Reiss" (in Dutch). Retrieved 2012-03-30. 
  2. ^ Garis, Leslie (22 February 2009). "Twice Stricken". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-03-30. 
  3. ^ "Spotlight on Johanna Reiss". Retrieved 2012-03-30. 
  4. ^ "A Hidden Life". Retrieved 2012-03-30. 
  5. ^ "A Hidden Life: A Memoir of August 1969 (catalog entry)". Melville House Publishing. Retrieved 2009-07-27. 
  6. ^ Speciale, Mary Ellen (2009-06-19). "Johanna Reiss". Balkin Buddies. Retrieved 2015-11-05.