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Anne Frank

Anne Frank

Anne Frank was born into a Jewish family in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, on 12th June, 1929. When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Otto Frank, his wife and two children, Anne and Margot moved to Amsterdam.

When the German Army occupied the Netherlands, the family went into hiding. For the next twenty-five months they lived in a sealed-off office back-room. Anne Frank's decided to keep a diary. Her first entry on 8th July, 1942, recorded her feelings about going into hiding: "Into hiding - where would we go, in a town or to the country, in a house or a cottage? These were questions I was not allowed to ask, but I couldn't get them out of my mind. Margot and I began to pack some of our most vital belongings into a school satchel. The first thing I put in was this diary, then hair curlers, handkerchiefs, school books, a comb, old letters; I put in the craziest things with the idea that we were going into hiding. But I'm not sorry, memories mean more to me than dresses."

Three days later Anne Frank wrote: "I can't tell you how oppressive it is never to be able to go outdoors, also I'm scared to death that we shall be discovered and shot. That is not exactly a pleasant prospect. We have to whisper and tread lightly during the day, otherwise the people in the warehouse might hear us."

Soon after going into hiding the Gestapo began looking for Jews. "Dussel has told us a lot about the outside world, which we have missed for so long now. He had very sad news. Countless friends and acquaintances have gone to a terrible fate. Evening after evening the green and grey lorries trundle past. The Germans ring at every door to enquire if there are any Jews living in the house. If there are, then the whole family has to go at once. If they don't find any, they go on to the next house. No one has a chance of evading them unless one goes into hiding. Often they go round with lists, and only ring when they can get a good haul.... In the evenings, when it's dark, I often see rows of good, innocent people accompanied by crying children, walking on and on, bullied and knocked about until they almost drop. No one is spared - old people, babies, expectant mothers, the sick - each and all join in the march of death."

On the 11th April 1944 Anne Frank wrote: "Who has inflicted this upon us? Who has made us Jews different to all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now? It is God that has made us as we are, but it will be God too, who will raise us up again. If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will then be held up as an example. Who knows, it might even be our religion from which the world and all peoples learn good, and for that reason and that reason only do we have to suffer now."

Anne Frank became very excited when she heard about D-Day on the BBC news on 6th June, 1944: "The invasion has begun! According to the German news, British parachute troops have landed on the French coast. British landing craft are in battle with the German Navy, says the BBC. Great commotion in the Secret Annexe! Would the long-awaited liberation that has been talked of so much but which still seems too wonderful, too much like a fairy-tale, ever come true? Could we be granted victory this year, 1944? We don't know yet, but hope is revived within us; it gives us fresh courage, and makes us strong again."

On 21st July, 1944, Anne Frank heard the news about the July Plot and the death of Claus von Stauffenberg. "I'm finally getting optimistic. Now, at last, things are going well! They really are! Great News! An assassination attempt has been made on Hitler's life, and for once not by Jewish Communists or British capitalists, but by a German general who's not only a count, but young as well. The Fuhrer owes his life to 'Divine Providence': he escaped, unfortunately, with only a few minor burns and scratches. A number of officers and Generals who were nearby were killed or wounded. The head of the conspiracy has been shot. This is the best proof we've had so far that many officers and generals are fed up with the war and would like to see Hitler sink into a bottomless pit, so they can establish a military dictatorship, make peace with the Allies, rearm themselves and, after a few decades, start a new war. Perhaps Providence is deliberately biding its time getting rid of Hitler, since it's much easier, and cheaper, for the Allies to let the impeccable Germans kill each other off. It's less work for the Russians and British, and it allows them to start rebuilding their own cities that much sooner. But we haven't reached that point yet, and I'd hate to anticipate the glorious event."

In August, 1944, the family were betrayed to the Gestapo and they were arrested and deported to German occupied Poland. After spending a month in the extermination camp in Auschwitz, Anne and Margot were sent to Belsen, a concentration camp in Germany. Anne Frank and her sister both died of typhus in March, 1945.

Otto Frank, the only member of the family to survive, was rescued from Auschwitz by Red Army troops in January, 1945. After he arrived back in Amsterdam friends gave him the papers that the Gestapo had left behind after searching the hiding place. This included Anne Frank's diary that was published in the Netherlands in 1947. It has since been published into 67 languages and is one of the most widely read books in the world.

Into hiding - where would we go, in a town or to the country, in a house or a cottage? These were questions I was not allowed to ask, but I couldn't get them out of my mind. But I'm not sorry, memories mean more to me than dresses.

I can't tell you how oppressive it is never to be able to go outdoors, also I'm scared to death that we shall be discovered and shot. We have to whisper and tread lightly during the day, otherwise the people in the warehouse might hear us.

Dussel has told us a lot about the outside world, which we have missed for so long now. Often they go round with lists, and only ring when they can get a good haul.

In the evenings, when it's dark, I often see rows of good, innocent people accompanied by crying children, walking on and on, bullied and knocked about until they almost drop. No one is spared - old people, babies, expectant mothers, the sick - each and all join in the march of death.

Our many Jewish friends are being taken away by the dozen. These people are being treated by the Gestapo without a shred of decency, being loaded into cattle trucks and sent to Westerbork.

Who has inflicted this upon us? Who has made us Jews different to all other people? Who has allowed us to suffer so terribly up till now? It is God that has made us as we are, but it will be God too, who will raise us up again. Who knows, it might even be our religion from which the world and all peoples learn good, and for that reason and that reason only do we have to suffer now.

"This is D-day", came the announcement over the British radio. The invasion has begun! According to the German news, British parachute troops have landed on the French coast. British landing craft are in battle with the German Navy, says the BBC.

Great commotion in the 'Secret Annexe'! Would the long-awaited liberation that has been talked of so much but which still seems too wonderful, too much like a fairy-tale, ever come true? Could we be granted victory this year, 1944? We don't know yet, but hope is revived within us; it gives us fresh courage, and makes us strong again.

I'm finally getting optimistic. The head of the conspiracy has been shot.

This is the best proof we've had so far that many officers and generals are fed up with the war and would like to see Hitler sink into a bottomless pit, so they can establish a military dictatorship, make peace with the Allies, rearm themselves and, after a few decades, start a new war. But we haven't reached that point yet, and I'd hate to anticipate the glorious event.


Anne Frank

Anne Frank Summary Information: Anne Frank is best known for her diary, which she wrote for just over two years while in hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam during World War II. She received the diary as a 13th birthday present a few weeks before she and her family, along with four other people, went into hiding to avoid deportation by the Nazi forces occupying the Netherlands. The group was eventually discovered and deported to concentration camps only her father would survive. Anne’s diary was saved after she was deported and was published in 1947. It has become one most widely read books in the world.


The foundation of the Anne Frank Zentrum in Berlin goes back to an initiative in 1994. At the time the showing of the international travelling exhibition "The world of Anne Frank. 1929-1945" was being prepared in Berlin. The exhibition was shown in six boroughs of the city to mark the 50th anniversary of the liberation from National Socialism. Specifically to support the coordination of the exhibition and the extensive accompanying programme a Society of Friends was founded.

With this organisation as a basis, efforts were made towards the founding of the Anne Frank Zentrum in Berlin so that the work on the topics of the exhibition could be continued. To this end the existing Anne Frank Centres in Great Britain and the USA offered guidance.

On completion of a cooperation agreement with the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam the Anne Frank Zentrum was finally opened on 12 June 1998. Since then numerous visitors, youth groups and school classes have been coming to the Anne Frank Zentrum from Berlin and the whole country. Since September 2002 the Anne Frank Zentrum has been based next to the Hackesche Höfe at 39 Rosenthaler Strasse in Berlin.

Since 4 November 2006 the new permanent exhibition "Anne Frank. Here & Now" can be seen at the Anne Frank Zentrum. It is an exhibition about history and the present. It tells the personal life story of Anne Frank and connects it to the world she lived in. The exhibition focuses on the diary and the story of the life of Anne Frank. But via listening stations and portrait films young people of Berlin also have their say, dealing with current questions and so forming a connection to the present.

Projects with Anne Frank touring exhibitions are special events which directly involve many people. The projects encourage the examination of history but also of topics such as democracy and human rights. It is a special opportunity for young people to get involved. Anne Frank touring exhibitions are therefore one of the most important examples of active action against right wing extremism in Germany.

The Anne Frank Zentrum offers different touring exhibitions with which one can organise a project on their own town. For a few weeks, this will create a special cultural event for all generations in the region. The life story of Anne Frank raises central questions for the present time: issues of social diversity, democracy and human rights are only a few of the topics.


How Anne Frank’s Diary Changed the World

Anne Frank was a German-Jewish teenager who was forced to go into hiding in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, Holland during the Holocaust. Shortly after receiving a diary for her 13th birthday, the girl started recording entries on June 14, 1942, and she continued writing down her impressions while confined with her family and four other fugitives as they hid behind a bookcase in a concealed attic space in her father's office building.

The young girl's entries were made in the form of letters to several imaginary friends and she also employed pseudonyms to conceal the identities of her fellow fugitives and accomplices. Like many other normal teenagers, Anne agonized over her conflicted feelings about her family and a possible romantic interest, as well as her evolving thoughts about life. But her extraordinary depth and fine literary ability, combined with her optimism in the face of such adversity made her account a literary and historical treasure.

"It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals," she wrote shortly before her arrest,

they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart… I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more.

Anne would end up spending two years and one month closeted in the hideaway, before the group was betrayed and sent off to concentration camps. Of the eight persons in hiding in the attic, only her father would survive. Anne succumbed to typhus in Belsen-Belsen in March 1945. She was just fifteen.

A family friend later retrieved the diary from the attic and presented it to Anne's father after the war. Upon reading it, Otto Frank persevered to get it published.

The diary first appeared in Amsterdam in 1947 and was subsequently published in the U.S. and the United Kingdom as Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl in 1952. Its immense popularity inspired award-winning stage and movie versions.

To date the book has sold more than 30 million copies in 67 languages. The original manuscript was bequeathed to the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation.

This article is excerpted from Scott Christianson's "100 Documents That Changed The World," available November 10.

100 Documents That Changed the World

A tour of the history of the world through the declarations, manifestos, and agreements from the Magna Carta and the Declaration of Independence to Wikileaks.


In Hiding

During the first half of July, Anne and her family hid in an apartment that would eventually hide four Dutch Jews as well—Hermann, Auguste, and Peter van Pels, and Fritz Pfeffer. For two years, they lived in a secret attic apartment behind the office of the family-owned business at 263 Prinsengracht Street, which Anne referred to in her diary as the Secret Annex. Otto Frank's friends and colleagues, Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler, Jan Gies, and Miep Gies, had helped to prepare the hiding place and smuggled food and clothing to the Franks at great risk to their own lives.

While in hiding, Anne kept a diary in which she recorded her fears, hopes, and experiences.


Merwedeplein 37

Around a million visitors flock to the Anne Frank Huis every year. However, her previous residence at Merwedeplein 37-II is less well known. Anne lived at Merwedeplein for nine years before going into hiding on the Prinsengracht. In 2005, the apartment was restored to its 1930s appearance, inspired by descriptions in Anne Frank&rsquos letters. It is not open to the public, but provides refuge to foreign writers who are unable to work freely in their home countries. Don't miss Jett Schepp's sculpture on Merwedeplein of Anne looking back at her house one last time before going into hiding.


Anne Frank had mom issues

Tensions were high between Anne Frank and her mother Edith. Like many teenagers, Anne clashed with her mother and used her diary to let off steam. In the earliest versions of her diary, particularly before 1944, Frank made some unflattering remarks about her mom: "Mother has said that she sees us more as friends than as daughters. That's all very nice, of course, except that a friend can't take the place of a mother. I need my mother to set a good example and be a person I can respect, but in most matters, she's an example of what not to do," she wrote on January 6, 1944. In other parts of the diary, Anne mentions imagining her mother dying one day and her growing contempt for her.

As Anne Frank copied her diary for the second version, Het Achterhuis, she omitted many harsh passages about her mother, as Anne Frank House notes. Frank reflected that, "The period of tearfully passing judgment on Mother is over, I have grown wiser." A lot of growth can happen between the ages of 13 and 15.


Why Is Anne Frank Important to History?

Anne Frank is important to history because her diary provides a first-hand account of a Jewish teen whose family went into hiding during the German occupation of the Netherlands. On a tip from an unknown informant, the Germans arrested the family and transported them to a concentration camp. Anne, her mother and sister all died before Germany was defeated, but her father survived and published her diary.

The Frank family fled Germany after Anne's birth when Hitler became chancellor. They moved to Amsterdam, where they enjoyed freedom for several years until the Germans defeated the Dutch Army in May, 1940. In July, 1942, the Germans ordered Anne's older sister Margot to a Nazi work camp and the family went into hiding in the annex, a small space above her father's business. The family and a few friends remained in the safety of the annex for two years. During the time, Anne passed her time by writing in her diary.

After their arrest, the Germans shipped the Franks to Camp Westerbork in the Netherlands, and the women lost contact with Anne's father. Less than a month later, they were transferred to Auschwitz, a death camp in Poland. After several months, the Germans shipped the girls to Bergen-Belsen, but their mother remained at Auschwitz, where she died of starvation. Both the girls died of typhus at Bergen-Belsen.


What Did Anne Frank Do to Change History?

Anne Frank changed history through her diary, which not only enlightened the world to the suffering of the Jews during the Holocaust, but also showed the strength of the human spirit. Anne Frank's diary, published as the "Diary of a Young Girl," is one of the most popular books in the world.

Anne Frank was born in 1929 in Germany, but the family moved to the Netherlands once Adolph Hitler took power in 1933. Once the Germans came to Amsterdam, the family hid in a secret apartment from 1942 to 1944. During this time, Anne wrote in a diary she received when she was 13 years old. The diary is not only a historical account of the Holocaust, but it tells of Anne Frank's impressions, feelings, and insights on war and humanity.

In 1944, the family was captured by the Gestapo and sent to concentration camps. Anne Frank and her sister Margot were sent to Bergen-Belsen, where they died of typhus in March of 1945. Anne's father, Otto Frank, was the only member of the family to survive. He found Anne's diary and had it published. The book became popular because people were able to identify with and understand Anne Frank. Eventually, it was made into a movie.


Why did we turn an isolated teenage girl into the world’s most famous Holocaust victim?

People love dead Jews. Living Jews, not so much.

This disturbing idea was suggested by an incident this past spring at the Anne Frank House, the blockbuster Amsterdam museum built out of Frank’s “Secret Annex,” or in Dutch, “Het Achterhuis [The House Behind],” a series of tiny hidden rooms where the teenage Jewish diarist lived with her family and four other persecuted Jews for over two years, before being captured by Nazis and deported to Auschwitz in 1944. Here’s how much people love dead Jews: Anne Frank’s diary, first published in Dutch in 1947 via her surviving father, Otto Frank, has been translated into 70 languages and has sold over 30 million copies worldwide, and the Anne Frank House now hosts well over a million visitors each year, with reserved tickets selling out months in advance. But when a young employee at the Anne Frank House in 2017 tried to wear his yarmulke to work, his employers told him to hide it under a baseball cap. The museum’s managing director told newspapers that a live Jew in a yarmulke might “interfere” with the museum’s “independent position.” The museum finally relented after deliberating for six months, which seems like a rather long time for the Anne Frank House to ponder whether it was a good idea to force a Jew into hiding.

One could call this a simple mistake, except that it echoed a similar incident the previous year, when visitors noticed a discrepancy in the museum’s audioguide displays. Each audioguide language was represented by a national flag—with the exception of Hebrew, which was represented only by the language’s name in its alphabet. The display was eventually corrected to include the Israeli flag.

These public relations mishaps, clumsy though they may have been, were not really mistakes, nor even the fault of the museum alone. On the contrary, the runaway success of Anne Frank’s diary depended on playing down her Jewish identity: At least two direct references to Hanukkah were edited out of the diary when it was originally published. Concealment was central to the psychological legacy of Anne Frank’s parents and grandparents, German Jews for whom the price of admission to Western society was assimilation, hiding what made them different by accommodating and ingratiating themselves to the culture that had ultimately sought to destroy them. That price lies at the heart of Anne Frank’s endless appeal. After all, Anne Frank had to hide her identity so much that she was forced to spend two years in a closet rather than breathe in public. And that closet, hiding place for a dead Jewish girl, is what millions of visitors want to see.

Surely there is nothing left to say about Anne Frank, except that there is everything left to say about her: all the books she never lived to write. For she was unquestionably a talented writer, possessed of both the ability and the commitment that real literature requires. Quite the opposite of how an influential Dutch historian described her work in the article that spurred her diary’s publication—a “diary by a child, this de profundis stammered out in a child’s voice”—Frank’s diary was not the work of a naif, but rather of a writer already planning future publication. Frank had begun the diary casually, but later sensed its potential upon hearing a radio broadcast in March of 1944 calling on Dutch civilians to preserve diaries and other personal wartime documents, she immediately began to revise two years of previous entries, with a title (Het Achterhuis, or The House Behind) already in mind, along with pseudonyms for the hiding place’s residents. Nor were her revisions simple corrections or substitutions. They were thoughtful edits designed to draw the reader in, intentional and sophisticated. Her first entry in the original diary, for instance, begins with a long description of her birthday gifts (the blank diary being one of them), an entirely unself-conscious record by a 13-year-old girl. The first entry in her revised version, on the other hand, begins with a deeply self-aware and ironic pose: “It’s an odd idea for someone like me to keep a diary not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I—nor for that matter anyone else—will be interested in the unbosomings of a 13-year-old schoolgirl.”

The innocence here is all affect, carefully achieved. Imagine writing this as your second draft, with a clear vision of a published manuscript, and you have placed yourself not in the mind of a “stammering” child, but in the mind of someone already thinking like a writer. In addition to the diary, Frank also worked hard on her stories, or as she proudly put it, “my pen-children are piling up.” Some of these were scenes from her life in hiding, but others were entirely invented: stories of a poor girl with six siblings, or a dead grandmother protecting her orphaned grandchild, or a novel-in-progress about star-crossed lovers featuring multiple marriages, depression, a suicide and prophetic dreams. (Already wary of a writer’s pitfalls, she insisted the story “isn’t sentimental nonsense for it’s modeled on the story of Daddy’s life.”) “I am the best and sharpest critic of my own work,” she wrote a few months before her arrest. “I know myself what is and what is not well written.”

What is and what is not well written: It is likely that Frank’s opinions on the subject would have evolved if she had had the opportunity to age. Reading the diary as an adult, one sees the limitations of a teenager’s perspective, and longs for more. In one entry, Frank describes how her father’s business partners—now her family’s protectors—hold a critical corporate meeting in the office below the family’s hiding place. Her father, she and her sister discover that they can hear what is said by lying down with their ears pressed to the floor. In Frank’s telling, the episode is a comic one she gets so bored that she falls asleep. But adult readers cannot help but ache for her father, a man who clawed his way out of bankruptcy to build a business now stolen from him, reduced to lying face-down on the floor just to overhear what his subordinates might do with his life’s work. When Anne Frank complains about her insufferable middle-aged roommate Fritz Pfeffer (Albert Dussel, per Frank’s pseudonym) taking his time on the toilet, adult readers might empathize with him as the only single adult in the group, permanently separated from his non-Jewish life partner whom he could not marry due to anti-Semitic laws. Readers Frank’s age connect with her budding romance with fellow hidden resident Peter van Pels (renamed Peter van Daan), but adults might wonder how either of the married couples in the hiding place managed their own relationships in confinement with their children. Readers Frank’s age relate to her constant complaints about grown-ups and their pettiness, but adult readers are equipped to appreciate the psychological devastation of Frank’s older subjects, how they endured not only their physical deprivation, but the greater blow of being reduced to a childlike dependence on the whims of others.

Frank herself sensed the limits of the adults around her, writing critically of her own mother’s and Peter’s mother’s apparently trivial preoccupations—and in fact these women’s prewar lives as housewives were a chief driver for Frank’s ambitions. “I can’t imagine that I would have to lead the same sort of life as Mummy and Mrs. v.P. [van Pels] and all the women who do their work and are then forgotten,” she wrote as she planned her future career. “I must have something besides a husband and children, something that I can devote myself to!” In the published diary, this passage is immediately followed by the famous words, “I want to go on living even after my death!”

By plastering this sentence on Frank’s book jackets, publishers have implied that her posthumous fame represented the fulfillment of the writer’s dream. But when we consider the writer’s actual ambitions, it is obvious that her dreams were in fact destroyed—and it is equally obvious that the writer who would have emerged from Frank’s experience would not be anything like the writer Frank herself originally planned to become. Consider, if you will, the following imaginary obituary of a life unlived:

Anne Frank, noted Dutch novelist and essayist, died Wednesday at her home in Amsterdam. She was 89.

A survivor of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, Frank achieved a measure of fame that was hard won. In her 20s she struggled to find a publisher for her first book, "The House Behind." The two-part memoir consisted of a short first section detailing her family’s life in hiding in Amsterdam, followed by a much longer and more gripping account of her experiences at Auschwitz, where her mother and others who had hidden with her family were murdered, and later at Bergen-Belsen, where she witnessed her sister Margot’s horrific death.

Disfigured by a brutal beating, Frank rarely granted interviews her later work, "The Return," describes how her father did not recognize her upon their reunion in 1945. "The House Behind" was searing and accusatory: The family’s initial hiding place, mundane and literal in the first section, is revealed in the second part to be a metaphor for European civilization, whose facade of high culture concealed a demonic evil. “Every flat, every house, every office building in every city,” she wrote, “they all have a House Behind.” The book drew respectful reviews, but sold few copies.

She supported herself as a journalist, and in 1961 traveled to Israel to cover the trial of Adolf Eichmann for the Dutch press. She earned special notoriety for her fierce reporting on the Nazi henchman’s capture, an extradition via kidnapping that the Argentine elite condemned.

Frank soon found the traction to publish Margot, a novel that imagined her sister living the life she once dreamed of, as a midwife in the Galilee. A surreal work that breaks the boundaries between novel and memoir, and leaves ambiguous which of its characters are dead or alive, Margot became wildly popular in Israel. Its English translation allowed Frank to find a small but appreciative audience in the United States.

Frank’s subsequent books and essays continued to win praise, if not popularity, earning her a reputation as a clear-eyed prophet carefully attuned to hypocrisy. Her readers will long remember the words she wrote in her diary at 15, included in the otherwise naive first section of "The House Behind": “I don’t believe that the big men are guilty of the war, oh no, the little man is just as guilty, otherwise the peoples of the world would have risen in revolt long ago! There’s in people simply an urge to destroy, an urge to kill, to murder and rage, and until all mankind without exception undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated and grown will be cut down and disfigured, and mankind will have to begin all over again.”

Her last book, a memoir, was titled "To Begin Again."

The problem with this hypothetical, or any other hypothetical about Frank’s nonexistent adulthood, isn’t just the impossibility of knowing how her life and career might have developed. The problem is that the entire appeal of Anne Frank to the wider world—as opposed to those who knew and loved her—lies in her lack of a future.

There is an exculpatory ease to embracing this “young girl,” whose murder is almost as convenient for her many enthusiastic readers as it was for her persecutors, who found unarmed Jewish children easier to kill off than the Allied infantry. After all, an Anne Frank who lived might have been a bit upset at the Dutch people who, according to the leading theory, turned in her household and received a reward of approximately $1.40 per Jew. An Anne Frank who lived might not have wanted to represent “the children of the world,” particularly since so much of her diary is preoccupied with a desperate plea to be taken seriously—to not be perceived as a child. Most of all, an Anne Frank who lived might have told people about what she saw at Westerbork, Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, and people might not have liked what she had to say.

And here is the most devastating fact of Frank’s posthumous success, which leaves her real experience forever hidden: We know what she would have said, because other people have said it, and we don’t want to hear it.

The line most often quoted from Frank’s diary—“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart”—is often called “inspiring,” by which we mean that it flatters us. It makes us feel forgiven for those lapses of our civilization that allow for piles of murdered girls—and if those words came from a murdered girl, well, then, we must be absolved, because they must be true. That gift of grace and absolution from a murdered Jew (exactly the gift, it is worth noting, at the heart of Christianity) is what millions of people are so eager to find in Frank’s hiding place, in her writings, in her “legacy.” It is far more gratifying to believe that an innocent dead girl has offered us grace than to recognize the obvious: Frank wrote about people being “truly good at heart” three weeks before she met people who weren’t.

Here’s how much some people dislike living Jews: They murdered six million of them. Anne Frank’s writings do not describe this process. Readers know that the author was a victim of genocide, but that does not mean they are reading a work about genocide. If that were her subject, it is unlikely that those writings would have been universally embraced.

We know this because there is no shortage of texts from victims and survivors who chronicled the fact in vivid detail, and none of those documents has achieved anything like the fame of Frank’s diary. Those that have come close have only done so by observing the same rules of hiding, the ones that insist on polite victims who don’t insult their persecutors. The work that came closest to achieving Frank’s international fame might be Elie Wiesel’s Night, a memoir that could be thought of as a continuation of Frank’s experience, recounting the tortures of a 15-year-old imprisoned in Auschwitz. As the scholar Naomi Seidman has discussed, Wiesel first published his memoir in Yiddish, under the title And the World Kept Silent. The Yiddish book told the same story, but it exploded with rage against his family’s murderers and, as the title implies, the entire world whose indifference (or active hatred) made those murders possible. With the help of the French Catholic Nobel laureate François Mauriac, Wiesel later published a French version of the book under the title Night—a work that repositioned the young survivor’s rage into theological angst. After all, what reader would want to hear about how his society had failed, how he was guilty? Better to blame God. This approach did earn Wiesel a Nobel Peace Prize, as well as a spot in Oprah’s Book Club, the American epitome of grace. It did not, however, make teenage girls read his book in Japan, the way they read Frank’s. For that he would have had to hide much, much more.

What would it mean for a writer not to hide the horror? There is no mystery here, only a lack of interest. To understand what we are missing, consider the work of another young murdered Jewish chronicler of the same moment, Zalmen Gradowski. Like Frank’s, Gradowski’s work was written under duress and discovered only after his death—except that Gradowski’s work was written in Auschwitz, and you have probably never heard of it.


Watch the video: Anne Frank naplója (January 2022).

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