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Immortality through words

06/23/2021 11:02:06 AM

Jun23

Aileen Grossberg, Librarian

On June 12, Anne Frank would have celebrated her birthday. Judging from the spirit of her famous diary, she would have been a feisty, involved 92 year old, perhaps marching for some cause or other with her children and grandchildren in tow.

Though Anne was a mere teenager, at her death just a few months short of her 17th birthday, the influence of her diary has inspired hundreds-perhaps thousands- of books, films, plays, poems, and other works of art in more than seventy languages. 

Millions of teenage girls began keeping diaries because of Anne and more millions of readers, both young and old, were introduced to the Holocaust through the personal jottings of this teenager.  Anne put one human face on the incomprehensible number of victims of the Holocaust.

Anne remains a person of  interest and even controversy seventy-six years after her death.

For recent Anne-in-the-news take a look and listen to the following article and song by local Jewish Bluegrass duo Nefesh Mountain.

You may have diverse opinions as to whether a bluegrass song is a fitting tribute to a victim of the Holocaust. However, the backstory is a tender one.

The following recent Anne news raises other issues, especially the issue of artistic license, the influence of a few on the many, and censorship.

The Diary in its first edition was edited by Anne’s father Otto, the only survivor of his nuclear family. He left out sections which he felt would reflect poorly on Anne including her ambivalent feelings toward her mother and her musings about her sexuality. More recent editions have included all the omitted material.

Ironically, Anne herself reworked her diaries as she hoped that they would be published after the war.

For one school, the old version was more appropriate for its students.

Anne has been the subject of many, many books from picture books for the youngest readers  and graphic novels for middle graders through scholarly works and analyses of her diary. However, many educators and psychologists feel that Anne’s story may not be appropriate for the youngest readers and that the picture book format belies the tragedy behind Anne’s story.  Emotionally, most children are not ready to deal with the horrors of the Holocaust. Age appropriate books should show some kind of hope or rescue with families reuniting even if they were separated during the war. There is no way to sugar coat Anne’s fate.

Authors have dealt with her story by emphasizing those who helped the Franks, focusing on the tree outside the Secret Annex, showing Anne’s emotional growth,  linking her with moral leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., or, in novels for adults, playing with the concept of “what if?”  Even the esteemed Philip Roth used Anne Frank as a character in The Ghost Writer, the first of his Zuckerman books.

As we remember Anne, check out the library catalog for books on every reading level and you, too, can imagine what this ordinary girl who became extraordinary through her words might be today. 

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