A study of the Holocaust and the concentration camps is rarely considered complete without mentioning Anne Frank. Surprisingly, the majority of modern generation learners have the perception that Anne was entirely happy in one of the most deplorable conditions recorded in history. Americanization of her story through novels, plays, and movies embedded Anne into the current adolescent generation’s view as an icon of optimism and personal triumph. In the process, Anne’s story has been completely misrepresented, as illustrated in wild perceptions held by some students of Holocaust history. Educators have not been very helpful in correcting the record, as the majority of them rely on an inaccurate record of her diary in teaching or motivating learners to explore the history of Nazi-occupied Europe. Distortions of Anne Frank’s story, particularly among the American students, explain the ill-informed Nazi-occupied Europe history. However, nobody can place the blame on the young learners’ non-factual perception of Anne’s life since reading some of her so-called diaries depicts only the hopeful, young frolicking girl, who is in love with Peter. Even so, many writers have written and continue to tell Anne’s story, some from the point of authoritative information and others from a misinformed background. This essay contains a summary of some of the widely read articles touching on Anne Frank’s life and her contribution to Holocaust history.
As hinted above, different versions of Anne Frank’s diary have led to a multidimensional representation of her experience of the Holocaust. For instance, the play, which is considered among the most successful in capturing the life of Anne, emphasized Anne’s comic side, presenting her as an icon of optimism (Spector et al. 37). As a result of its broad viewership, a significant number of learners consider the other versions of her story from this comical point of view (Spector et al. 38). These culturally acquired versions of Anne have caused some students to actively repel other factual but contradictory versions of her story. Consequently, most of the classroom lessons on the Holocaust based on Anne’s diary lack critical literacy practice leading to a constrained view of the Holocaust experience and other historical actors (Spector et al. 41). Presumably, an introduction of crucial literacy approach to the study of the Holocaust history instead of the common presumptive beginning has the potential to make visible some of the most significant avenues to meaning making based on the diary[endnoteRef:1]. It is unfortunate that students are encouraged to engage in the predetermined cognitive process instead of experiencing a reconstruction of themselves and others in the course of studying Anne Frank’s diary (Spector et al. 42). Therefore, it is reasonable to argue that a critical literacy approach to Anne Frank’s diary is the key to opening up students to reconstructions that they may not acquire on their own (Spector et al. 43). Besides, it is not wise for teachers and scholars to impose their views on the students, as it deprives them the literacy skills necessary for reading multiple perspective stories.
History students need to preserve and pass on historical factual information that does not present the Holocaust in a trivial way. Anne’s official story should represent her desire to become what she could be and at the same time highlight that this desire was suppressed because she was not alone in the world (Spector et al. 44). Her real story vacillates between hope and despair and ends with her tragic death just a few months before the concentration camp’s liberation (Spector et al. 44). Evidentially, some versions of her story left her intact, still writing diaries and spreading her infectious optimism spirit. As a result, learners repel stories that depict her dead skeletal body dumped into a mass grave and instead tend to imagine her in hopeful ways (Spector et al. 45). These perceptions that the majority of students come with to the Holocaust lesson can help educators nurture a more nuanced and robust understanding of both the actors and the event. Such contextualization of Jewish suffering in her story will slide the learners towards the pole of particularity and insularity, bringing balance to the Holocaust representation.
Nevertheless, there are various ways through which students attempt to maintain the hopeful and optimistic version of Anne Frank. To some, the diary is simply a love story or a story of optimism that ought not to end with crushed hopes. Although it is true that she was optimistic and really in love with Peter, historians need to pass on Gestapo and SD raid that placed Anne in the destruction trajectory that culminated in her perishing at Bergen-Belsen (Spector et al. 46). Otherwise, plays, novels, and movies on her story will continue to distort Anne’s complicated life as portrayed in her diary when considered in its entirety (Spector et al. 46). To counter the distortion, students’ assignment should require them to present contradictory perceptions of Anne’s life (Spector et al. 47). In the process of gathering such information, a student constructs more nuanced and robust versions of Anne Frank and other historical events and actors. This way, the current generation will have a more informed perspective of the Holocaust, hence perceive the optimistic girl and the despair presented by the Holocaust events, leading to her death when only fifteen years old (Spector et al. 48). Constructing Anne Frank: Critical Literacy and the Holocaust in Eighth-Grade English explains why there is a need to build a critical literacy unit around Anne’s diary to put into perspective the cultural narratives that frame human thinking about the world.
Michaelsen, through the article Remembering Anne Frank, explains the reasoning adopted by different writers that led to the multiple representations of Anne Frank’s story[endnoteRef:2]. Meyer Levis, one of the earlier writers who brought the original version of Anne’s diary to the United States, recorded her story with an emphasis on the obstacles that characterized the most accurate representation of Anne Frank (Michealsen 2). It is evident that different authors, editors, and publishers of her story had different intentions and messages that they wanted to propagate. Anne Frank’s father, for instance, sought to universalize the story as one of general intolerance consequences rather than actual virulent anti-Semitism (Michealsen 2). It is this failure to tell the story in its entirety that caused Levin to be obsessed with Anne raising conflicts with her father, Otto Frank (Michealsen 3). The experiences of working as a World War Two correspondent in the European Theater and particularly in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where Anne died elicited the deepest fear, anguish, and horror, which propelled Levin to seek to tell the complete story to the world that was not ready to hear it (Michealsen 3). Levin’s conviction was that one of the Holocaust survivors was better placed to tell the story rather than strangers to the experience (Michealsen 4). Unfortunately, his wish was not realized, with Anne’s diary being edited and recorded by non-survivors, which ignited the desire to tell the story as he knew it.
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Evidentially, misrepresentation of Anne’s story started right from its initial publication. The majority of the authors and audience were hesitant to learning the actual story, hence were inclined to the universalized diary, which added non-Jews to the Holocaust story and made it look less inhumane (Michealsen 5). The portrayal of Jewish victimization and self-hatred was met with antagonism, which made Levin even more committed and in literal sense obsessed with Anne Frank’s diary (Michealsen 6). A similar tendency to the one illustrated above where the student prefers to focus on the positive aspects of Anne’s life caused the less brunt authors to be preferred by the publisher. As a result, recording of a more accurate perspective of Anne Frank’s life caused suffering to Levin and his family, as he felt betrayed by Otto Frank and the rest of humanity by their failure to present and accept the devastating condition of human species evidenced in the Holocaust (Michealsen 7). Democratic optimism, money, and media hype governing the society contributed to the misrepresentation of the Holocaust in the American culture by creating audiences susceptible to easy consolation (Michealsen 8). This horror of Anne’s life translates to something purgatorial, consolatory, and inspiring (Michealsen 9). Such intentional failure to address the capability of the human species to perpetrate atrocity and horror by minimizing Jewish suffering contributed to the common misconception of Anne Frank’s experience of the Holocaust.
Consoling universality and evasiveness in the publication of Anne’s diary delayed the public recognition of the horror for decades. By omitting passages that emphasized the Jew genocide, Otto Frank sought to make the diary serve as a clarion call to universal tolerance (Michealsen 6). However, alteration of the diary designed to make Holocaust perpetrators less guilty would have an utter failure in influencing the world to empathize with the Jewish people and committing to protecting their identity. Moreover, Anne’s criticisms of her mother and her discovery of her genitals and sexuality development make learners view her as a real person, not just an optimist who was blind to the realities surrounding her, giving the story vitality and power (Michealsen 9). However, it is possible to understand Otto Frank’s need to suppress the hard truth in his attempt to rebuild a shattered life by adopting a healing and reconciliatory note (Michealsen 5). On the other hand, it is only through other provocative representations of her story like in the movie Anne Frank Remembered that historians can perceive the sobbing and nakedness in the cold that characterized the last starvation days of this American optimism icon. Such representation brings the audiences close to the accurate visualization of the Holocaust.
Although it is debatable whether the Holocaust was a uniquely Jewish experience or whether Anne’s story should be about Jews’ genocide or optimism, knowing Anne Frank in both her life and her death challenge the different views held on the cause and implication of the Holocaust (Michealsen 10). Racism and Judaism have dominated the majority of perspectives held by the story centered on the elements that form human identity. In the process, Anne’s story has contributed to propagation and objectification as two principal ways by which individuals can establish and maintain their identity (Michealsen 9). It is through her story perspectives that the Holocaust Museum in Washington plays its role of educating the public on the importance of confronting the monotonous optimism wrongly associated with Anne Frank (Michealsen 10). Regardless of whether Holocaust was about the race or the religion of the Jewish people, one can only hope and wish Meyer Levin lived long enough to witness the story of Anne Frank told in its entirety. It is only through such a complete representation of the content of the diary that Levin would gain freedom from his obsession with Anne Frank and eventually finish his work.
Authors of Anne Frank’s Headache tame the learners from being absorbed into the controversies surrounding Anne Frank’s diary publication and their implications on the understanding of the Holocaust today by shifting the focus to her physical health.[endnoteRef:3] The article introduces Anne as a German-born Jew, who wrote a diary detailing her life during the German occupation of the Netherlands (Almeida and Kowacs 1215). Anne’s admiration for her father, her fear of discovery, feeling of isolation, and her perspective on the role of women in the society are highlighted in it (Almeida and Kowacs 1215). Even with her limited influence ion literacy writing, she is credited for keeping alive the most vivid memories and hopes surrounding the Holocaust and the Second World War. It is this achievement that makes her one of the most read about Holocaust victims and her diary one of the most produced historical documents to date (Almeida and Kowacs 1215). As a result, Anne’s life and name are not only common in the history field but have also been documented in the medical literature. Quotations from the diary indicate that Anne recorded both her experience of horror and her health conditions such as headache and her anticipation of the first menses (Almeida and Kowacs 1216). Learners have to care for and learn what she considered important, which ranges from her sexuality development to headaches and mood swings expressed in the desire to scream at her mother and her sister Margot (Almeida and Kowacs 1216).
As a child, Anne Frank experienced terrible headaches, vomiting, stomachache, and anything else that the reader can imagine (Almeida and Kowacs 1216). Although little has been revealed about her health in her biography, it is clear even from the nickname, the Little Delicate One, that she had a fragile health. The authors indicate that Anne’s parents spent a significant number of nights awake due to her regular belly pain from the tender age (Almeida and Kowacs 1216). In addition to the possibility that she suffered prevalent childhood diseases, it is clear that she had a shoulder problem and probably suffered from rheumatic fever. Interestingly, Anne used her shoulder deformity to scarce people away by dislocating it at will (Almeida and Kowacs 1216). Even though the focus is on her headache reported for the first time during her summer vacation in 1941, the authors found it necessary to mention some of her other health issues to help the readers have a better understanding and closer relationship with their true icon (Almeida and Kowacs 1217). Myopia, an eye condition that she suffered, is believed to have been the cause of her regular headaches. Holocaust atrocities made Otto Frank accept the situation of her daughter and opt not to seek for help from eye doctors due to the fear of being arrested (Almeida and Kowacs 1217). As a result, frequent headaches added to Anne Frank’s sorrows and sadness, with valerian root being her only hope and source of consolation.
From the medical perspective, Anne’s awful and disabling pain could have been a result of migraines, myopia, or tension-type headaches (Almeida and Kowacs 1218). Even if she only recorded three incidences of this pounding severe attacks accompanied by vomiting, the headaches may have been more regular. Besides, after hearing a radio broadcast indicating that diaries and other first-hand experience records of the Holocaust would be sorted after post-liberation, Anne may have decided to focus on only what she considered important for the generations that would come after her (Almeida and Kowacs 1218). Probably, if she survived the absurd and tragic Nazi ideology, she would have become a prolific writer and an advocate for human rights after medically dealing with the persistent headaches. Nevertheless, her spirit lived on beyond her tragic death, with her father dedicating the rest of his life to sharing her diary (Almeida and Kowacs 1218). Anne Frank may not have lived long enough to witness her desire not to be forgotten to come true, but through her devotion to her diary, she became useful, and her life brings enjoyment to people, including those she never met and could not have ever met.
Memories on the remembrances of the Second World War vary from one community to another, especially concerning the nature of the Holocaust. Authors of Anne Frank, Bergen-Belsen, and the Polysemic Nature of Holocaust Memories[endnoteRef:4] document one of the most detailed accounts of the reasons that could have contributed to the variant in the understanding of such a significant event in the history (Hasian 349). Evidentially, contentious and fragmented memories have had a great influence on the 21st century understanding of the Holocaust and its victims such as Anne Frank (Hasian 349). Anne and her experience in Bergen-Belsen have come to be considered as a story of optimism and self-actualization rather than an accurate reflection of the capability of humans to abandon dignity in pursuit of atrocity and creation of great suffering (Hasian 350). In fact, it is unfortunate that some of the modern scholars of history only mention the name Anne Frank in their consideration of the Holocaust history (Hasian 356). Wrong Americanization of this major Holocaust actor has been attributed to the distorted, transmuted, and homogenized view of the Holocaust memories (Hasian 360). Although Anne Frank, the person and the legend, has appeared in numerous history records and other pieces of art, her experience has been mutilated (Hasian 351). [4: Hasian, Marouf Arif. “Anne Frank, Bergen-Belsen, and the Polysemic Nature of Holocaust Memories”. Rhetoric &Amp; Public Affairs, vol 4, no. 3, 2001, pp. 349-374. Johns Hopkins University Press, doi:10.1353/rap.2001.0043]
Surprisingly, the first seven years that followed the liberation of Bergen-Belsen were characterized by few public commentaries on the victims held in that camp. The majority of people wanted to concentrate on healing the war-torn Europe, with the survivors’ primary concern being how to provide enough food for the family members who were still alive (Hasian 367). Even after the discovery and publication of Anne’s diary, some booksellers were hesitant to display the play in their windows (Hasian 368). However, even the Germans, who would have been expected to dislike the play, enjoyed it, as it represented realism and compassion with little representation of what exactly happened in the concentration camps (Hasian 371). Inclusion of commentaries on the massive grave in Bergen-Belsen seems to have been avoided at all cost in the 1950s in order to create time for healing (Hasian 372). Nevertheless, this representation of Anne’s diary caused some viewers to experience remorse, as they came to grips with history (Hasian 373). Probably, the suppression of memories as a way of negotiating complex audiences’ expectations led to the distortion of some clusters of images associated with the concentration camps that would have been well documented when the memories were still fresh. This explains why the story of a girl whose life was horribly ended in her mid-teens took years and considerable antagonism before its publication in its original version.
Without any doubt, mutilated diary of Anne Frank was of concern to the civic leaders, who considered such symbolization to contribute to denial and minimization of the Holocaust experience (Hasian 364). According to this article, different communities played a different role in the suppression or publicity of the horror in the concentration camps (Hasian 365). The diverse representation of Anne Frank has made it difficult to create one honest and accurate interpretation of her life. Selective use of her stories indicates that most communities might have used her work to propagate their agenda. This is evidenced in the intentional universal focus on the Second World War and the liberation of the camps with little memories of survivors’ experiences in the Bergen-Belsen camp (Hasian 374). Moreover, the re-appropriations of Anne’s memories appear to have served varying individual and communal interests (Hasian 374). The two dominant perspectives call the audiences to either particularize or universalize the diary and other Holocaust memories. However, the polysemic nature of memorializing can help the current generation to compare and contrast how her memories have been remembered and forgotten by bringing together both universal and particular memories (Hasian 374). Objective consideration of different perspectives on Anne Frank’s story leads to a better understanding of the dynamic nature of the Holocaust history (Hasian 374). In any case, different options of the same thing explain the need for memorials, libraries, and books edited and publicized in honor of Anne Frank.
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In The Other Side of the Anne Frank Story: The Dutch Role in the Persecution of the Jews in World War Two, a message of hope in the dignity of humanity is illustrated by the risk the Dutch citizen took in helping the Jews[endnoteRef:5]. Nevertheless, a significant number of Dutch citizens collaborated with the Germans, and it is suspected that the person who betrayed Frank’s family was a Dutch (Bovenkerk, 240). Through intimidation and internal collaboration, the Nazis were able to push their ill-informed agenda more aggressively in a Dutch dominated country (Bovenkerk, 246). In fact, Dutch people seem to have participated in the registration of the Jews and placement of the letter J in their identity cards as well as in the dismissal of the Jewish people from the civil servants (Bovenkerk, 251). It is also possible that the Nazis superior strength made it difficult for the Dutch people to stand in solidarity with the Jews, opting to be bystanders (Bovenkerk, 255). Onlookers observed the atrocity but disassociated themselves from them and sometimes closed their curtains to avoid seeing the Jews arrested by the police.
Bystanders’ apathy has been used to explain why the majority of the Dutch collaborated or refrained from actively resisting the Nazis (Bovenkerk, 253). However, it is also possible that Dutch business mentality could have caused some to betray the Jews as a way of eliminating completion and settling disagreements (Bovenkerk, 258). The Netherlands is also viewed to have profited from the war, with some Dutch indicating how they waited with eagerness for the Jews to be arrested so that they could steal their belongings (Bovenkerk, 252). In the view of some scholars, Dutch civil servants cooperation with the Nazis was not out of conviction but rather to ease the pressure placed on them by the Nazis. However, some argue that this perception is ill-informed, considering the ease with which the Dutch cooperated with the Nazis from the beginning without objecting and for no other reason other than to please the Germans (Bovenkerk, 247). Therefore, the Dutch role in the history of Anne Frank is that of betrayal, as illustrated by Amsterdam public servants, who revealed the exact location of the Jews in the absence of any form of pressure or compensation (Bovenkerk, 255). When the resistance finally began, some employees were faced with two alternatives, either collaborating or leaving their work and joining the resistance (Bovenkerk, 257). The Dutch citizens who continued even after the moral opposition uprising justifies their action as a tactical move, as their positions would have been occupied by much worse Nazis loyalists.
In summary, the responsibility of the Dutch in the Holocaust has largely been viewed from the perspective of a group or society rather than individual responsibility. However, the new generation has an opportunity to see the Holocaust both from a team and personal perspective. For instance, the person who betrayed Anne Frank by revealing their hiding place made a personal decision. Although the prospects on the entirety of the Holocaust history, as presented by Anne Frank, remain open to debate, its intentional universalization may be the primary contributor to the formation of a generation that perceives her as only a hopeful optimist and not as a victim of the horrors of Holocaust. Integration of critical literacy in the history classes will be of importance in establishing a more historically correct perception of the life of Anne Frank. As the world celebrates her achievement, it would be best if her story were correctly represented in order to motivate people to seek human dignity and peace out of an understanding of their potential animosity.
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