4. Anne Frank: the Cultivation of the Inspirational Victim
On May 5, 1985, a few hours before his infamous visit with Chancellor Helmut Kohlto the German cemetery at Bitburg,57 U.S. President Ronald Reagan addressed acrowd at the former concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen. As he commemorated thethirty thousand victims of Bergen-Belsen, Reagan sought to ameliorate theatmosphere of death and despair by invoking the name of Anne Frank:
And too manyof them knew that this was their fate. But that was not the end. Through it allwas their faith and a spirit that moved their faith.
Nothing illustrates thisbetter than the story of a young girl who died here at Bergen-Belsen. For morethan two years, Anne Frank and her family had hidden from the Nazis in a confinedannex in Holland, where she kept a remarkably profound diary. Betrayed by aninformant, Anne and her family were sent by freight car to Auschwitz and finallyhere to Bergen-Belsen.58
Just three weeks before her capture, young Anne wrotethese words: “It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all ideals, becausethey seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because inspite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. Isimply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery,and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear theever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the suffering ofmillions, and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all comeright, that this cruelty, too, will end, and that peace and tranquillity willreign again.”
Eight months later, this sparkling young life ended atBergen-Belsen.
Somewhere here lies Anne Frank. Everywhere here arememories–pulling us, touching us, making us understand that they can never beerased. Such memories take us where God intended his children to go–towardlearning, toward healing, and, above all, toward redemption. They beckon usthrough the endless stretch of our heart to the knowing commitment that the lifeof each individual can change the world and make it better.59
Anne Frank issimultaneously the best and the least known of the female documentors of Naziterror. Her diary has been translated into numerous languages and is part of thecurriculum in schools around the world; yet despite her embrace by this generalaudience, she has been for the most part gently but unambiguously dismissed as afigure not meriting serious academic examination. Therefore, although her nameearns a level of recognition matched by few if any survivors of the Holocaust,little effort has been expended in analyzing her voice. Hers remains a lifelargely unexamined, except by her own self.
Marianne Heinemann devotes, in fact,only a sentence to the most recognizable of Holocaust memoirs, writing that”Almost everyone knows Anne Frank, but the life of hiding which her diarydescribes has very little to do with the concentration camp and deaths whichawaited Anne and her family, like millions of others.”60 Yet the themes whichHeinemann identifies as female-centered–anatomy and destiny–resonate throughoutFrank’s diary as Anne mediates on her relationship with her mother, on heremerging sexuality, and on the status of women in her culture, and wouldtherefore seem to have quite a bit to do with the concerns of women in the camps,especially since many of the women in the camps had very recently beenadolescents just like Anne. Rittner and Roth are more blunt about the reason forexcluding Frank’s writings from their book, explaining that she, as far as theirproject is concerned, is simply not a woman:
No part of the diary [of Anne Frank]appears here. We reasoned, first, that the diary is readily available, andsecond, that Different Voices ought to concentrate on writings by and about adultwomen. Full of feeling and wisdom though it is, Anne Frank’s youthful voicespeaks differently enough from those resounding in these pages that it seemedbest not to expand the category “women and the Holocaust” so broadly as toinclude it.61
Rittner and Roth do not do themselves a service by this conclusion.By refusing to acknowledge that Anne, fifteen and thus on the cusp of adulthood(for a child in normal circumstances–and one can imagine that a young person inAnne’s situation might have been forced to mature a good deal more rapidly),might be anything but “A Young Girl,” they participate in a reading of Anne Frankwhich has been instrumental in the erasure of the issue of gender from HolocaustStudies. It has been terribly important to isolate Anne from the impurity ofadulthood in order to facilitate her function as a redemptive figure, to providea point of uplift in what would be otherwise be, after all, an unremittinglydepressing historical event. The above speech by Reagan is a example of the meansby which Frank, whose force putatively comes from her identity as a historicalfigure62, has been emptied of her particularity and nudged into a metonymicalrole as both a palatable and a forgiving representative of the victims offascism. Consequently, any desire to examine the Diary of Anne Frank as thecomplex expression of an actual young woman has been far eclipsed by theimportance of maintaining Frank’s symbolic role as the ultimate innocent victim.And foremost, apparently, that maintenance has taken the form of eliminatingreference to both Anne’s femaleness and to her emerging sexuality.
Most of thosefamiliar with Anne Frank would, like Reagan, be able to parrot the oft-quotedphrase “I still believe that people are really good at heart.” But few wouldrecognize the following as a conviction argued with equal fortitude by Anne:
A question that has been raised more than once and that gives me no inner peace iswhy did so many nations in the past, and often still now, treat women as inferiorto men? Everyone can agree how unjust this is, but that is not enough for me, Iwould also like to know the cause of the great injustice!
Presumably man, thanksto his greater physical strength, achieved dominance over woman from the verystart; man, who earns the money, who begets children, who may do what he wants…Itis stupid enough of women to have borne it all in silence for such a long time,since the more centuries this arrangement lasts, the more deeply rooted itbecomes. Luckily schooling, work and progress have opened women’s eyes. In manycountries, women have been granted equal rights; many people, particularly women,but also men, now realize for how long this state of affairs has been wrong, andmodern women demand the right of complete independence!
But that’s not all,respect for woman, that’s going to have to come as well! Generally, man is heldin high esteem all over the world; why shouldn’t women have a share in this?Soldiers and war heroes are honored and celebrated, explorers acquire immortalfame, martyrs are revered, but how many will look upon woman as they would upon asoldier?
There is something in the book “The Fight for Life” that has affected medeeply, along the lines that women suffer more pain, more illness and more miserythan any war hero just from giving birth to children. And what reward does womanreap for coming successfully through all this pain? She is pushed to one sideshould she lose her figure through giving birth, her children soon leave her, herbeauty passes. Women are much braver, much more courageous soldiers, strugglingand enduring pain for the continuance of mankind, than all the freedom-fightingheroes with their big mouths!
In no way do I mean by this that women should turnagainst childbearing, on the contrary, nature has made them like that and that isall to the good. I merely condemn all the men, and the whole system, that refuseever to acknowledge what an important, arduous, and in the long run beautifulpart women play in society.
I fully agree with Paul de Kruif, the author of theabove-mentioned book, when he says that men must learn that birth has ceased tomean something natural and ordinary in those parts of the world we considercivilized. It’s very easy for men to talk, they don’t and will never have to bearthe miseries of women!
I believe that the idea that a woman’s duty is simply tobear children will change over the centuries to come and will make way forrespect and admiration for one who without complaint and a lot of talk shouldersall these burdens!
yours, Anne M. Frank.63
The above should be completelyunfamiliar to anyone who has ever read the American edition of Diary of a YoungGirl, and for good reason: although written by Anne on June 15, 1944, only twoweeks before her final entry, it was deleted from the original Dutch edition andtherefore from its translations, although the rest of the entry of which it waspart was retained. The reasons for this are entirely unclear, unless one acceptsthat for some reason these very adult and feminist statements were somehow seenas incompatible with the purpose of the book, or unacceptable to the readingpublic. Not until 1986, when the critical edition of the diary was published inHolland (the English translation appeared in 1989), was this passage available,and even then its remarkable nature has not been commented upon save a 1993article by the Dutch feminist Berteke Waaldijk entitled “Reading Anne Frank as aWoman.” Waaldijk has done an excellent and coherent job of detailing the patternsof omissions made by Anne Frank and by her father and other parties, and incomparing the sets of deletions, and I shall return to her cogent analyses.
Thecritical edition also for the first time revealed vital facts about the diary:that Anne herself, a few months before her capture, had begun to edit her diaryherself in preparation for publication after the war, and that the versionpublished in 1947 had been redacted from the originals and from Anne’s partiallycompleted manuscript, with sometimes extensive editing not only by Otto Frank,her father, but also by his colleagues and, in some cases, by translators. Inmany cases, deletions in the published version followed deletions Anne herselfhad indicated, but in some cases, often significantly, they did not. It isunlikely, for example, upon reviewing the nature of Anne’s own deletions, whichwere mostly items which were overly personal or petty, such as negative remarksabout her classmates written when she was thirteen, that she would not haveretained the above passage, especially since she wrote it concurrently with herediting.
Anne Frank began to edit her diary in response to an address on March28, 1944 by exiled Minister of Education, Art and Science Gerrit Bolkstein,delivered to the Dutch nation on Radio Oranje:
History cannot be written on thebasis of official decisions and documents alone. If our descendants are tounderstand fully what we as a nation have had to endure and overcome during theseyears, then what we really need are ordinary documents–a diary, letters from aworker in Germany, a collection of sermons given by a parson or a priest. Notuntil we succeed in bringing together vast quantities of this simple, everydaymaterial will the picture of our struggle for freedom be painted in its fulldepth and glory.64
The next day, Anne wrote, “Of course, they all made a rush atmy diary immediately…Just imagine how interesting it would be if I were topublish a romance of the ‘Secret Annexe.’ The title alone would be enough to makepeople think it was a detective story.”65 By May 11, her consideration of theidea had taken on a much more serious tone, and she wrote that:
You’ve known fora long time that my greatest wish is to become a journalist someday and later ona famous writer. Whether these leanings towards greatness (or insanity?) willever materialize remains to be seen, but I certainly have the subjects in mymind. In any case, I want to publish a book entitled Het Achterhuis after thewar. Whether I shall succeed or not I cannot say, but my diary will be a greathelp.66
And finally, in a remark also deleted from previous published versions ofthe diary, she wrote on May 20 that “after a good deal of reflection I havestarted my ‘Achterhuis,’ in my head it is as good as finished, although it won’tgo as quickly as that really, if it ever comes off at all.”67 We may assume thatsubsequent entries were made with the idea of publication in mind, and thattherefore that the entry of June 15, with all its passion and vitality, would beone Anne would have wanted included. Why it was not included, and, moreover, whythe evidence that Anne Frank was aware of and desirous for the possibility of herdiary’s publication has been suppressed, is unresolved.68
At this point, someinformation on the diary’s publication history and on its initial criticalreception may serve to begin to answer the questions which have been raised. Thediary had been abandoned when the Franks’ Secret Annexe was raided, on August 4,1944, and was rescued and hidden by Miep Gies. Gies actually recovered threeseparate exercise books and some loose sheets, containing Anne’s entries from herthirteenth birthday in June of 1942 up to her last entry on August 1, 1944.69Approximately a year later, after Otto Frank, Anne’s father and the onlysurviving member of the family, had returned to Amsterdam, Gies handed Anne’swritings over to him. He immediately began to edit the diaries into a singletypescript and to seek out a publisher. As mentioned, Otto Frank did not merelycopy out the diaries; he edited out items which he felt were offensive to hisdead wife or to other third parties, as well as items which he “felt would be oflittle interest,” a point which begs clarification.
Frank was unsuccessful infinding a publisher until, in 1946, the eminent Dutch historian Jan Romein readthe manuscript and wrote an article about it in the journal Het Parool, entitled”A Child’s Voice”:
By chance a diary written during the war years has come intomy possession. The Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation alreadyholds some two hundred similar diaries, but I should be very much surprised ifthere were another one as lucid, as intelligent, and at the same time as natural…
The way [Anne Frank] died is in any case not important. What matters far more isthat her young life was willfully cut short by a system whose witless barbaritywe swore never to forget or forgive while it still raged, but which, now that itbelongs to the past, we are already busily, if not forgiving, then forgetting,which ultimately comes to the same thing.
To me, however, this apparentlyunconsequential [sic.] diary, this “de profundis” stammered out in a child’svoice, embodies all the hideousness of fascism, more so than all the evidence ofNeuremberg put together. To me the fate of this Jewish girl epitomizes the worstcrime perpetrated by everlastingly abominable minds. For the worst crime is notthe destruction of life and culture as such–these could also fall victim to aculture-creating revolution–but the throttling of the sources of culture, thedestruction of life and talent for the mere sake of mindless destructiveness…
That this girl could have been abducted and murdered proves to me that we havelost the fight against human bestiality.70
It is not surprising that shortlyafterward, Frank was besieged by publishers, and that the Dutch edition of thediary, entitled, as Anne had wished, Het Achterhuis (“The Attic/Secret Annexe”),published by the Dutch house Contact, appeared a year later. But what is notable,especially in comparison to the unanimously celebratory tone of the reviews whichthen appeared and set the standard for subsequent characterizations of the Diary,is the anger and despair Romein expresses. In his article “Popularization andMemory: The Case of Anne Frank,” Alvin H. Rosenfeld elaborates:
What isremarkable about [Romein’s] statement is its date: April 1946. The war had endedless than a year before, and yet, as is obvious from Jan Romein’s downcast words,the question of memory was already a worried one; indeed, in terms of itsoutcome, it may already have been a lost one…Given this sense of things, he readAnne Frank’s diary in the only way he could, as an admonitory text. The book’syouthful author, after all, had been murdered by the Nazis, and her deathappeared to him as a warning of further devastations to come unless the spirit ofnihilism unleashed by Nazism could be permanently overcome. Romein recognizedAnne Frank’s precocious talent, to be sure, but for all of that he found nothingin her diary that transcended his sharp sense of her horrible end and themonstrous system that destroyed her.71
Very rapidly, however, it would beestablished that the message of the Diary was one far different than that withwhich Romein had identified. This is expressed quite perfectly by the reviewerswho glowingly orated that Het Achterhuis was “a miracle,” “uniquely tragic,” and”transcends the misery so recently [in 1947] behind us”; it was a “moraltestament” and “a human document of great clarity and honesty,” and, it wasstressed, “by no means a war document as such [but]…purely and simply the diaryof an adolescent girl.”72 Whereas Romein could not but meditate on the murder ofAnne Frank, his colleague Henri van Praag suggested that Frank should be viewedas a figure which exhorted the ideals of a moral life. He wrote:
How does ithappen that the diary of a child has had such an extraordinary effect on mankind?The answer is, simply that a child is the symbol of human perfection and purity.As Christ says in the gospel, unless ye be as little children, ye shall not enterinto the kingdom of heaven. And the Chinese sage Lao-tse also exhorts us tobecome like children again.
He who does not lose his child’s heart can hope for abetter world where peace and justice will prevail…
Anne Frank inspires us to keepour child’s heart.73
What happened, in short, is that the tortured reading whichRomein had gleaned from the diary was soon entirely replaced by the popularconception of the Diary of Anne Frank as an inspirational text. Thisinterpretation, despite the periodic appearance of some excellent challenges, hasheld to this day. Anne herself was transformed into an empty vessel, and hervoice glorified as pure, innocent, completely unblemished. To read the forewordswhich accompanied the first translated editions–The Diary of a Young Girl inEnglish, Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank in German, Journal de Anne Frank inFrench–is to begin to understand the function of this consecrated and inviolateAnne; in each foreword the she is made to serve for each nation as a flatteringmirror-image of itself. To Eleanor Roosevelt, this young girl, “not afraid oftelling the truth,” is a symbol of American pluck;74 for the triumphant, alwaysunconventional French, her unusual and spirited observations defy all that is”dusty and discolored”;75 for the wary and weary Germans, Anne’s “cool, keenobservation of human beings, and her resolve to be alert to the comic element ineven the worst situations, these are familiar to us: they belong to the armorworn by our generation.”76 Thus, stripped and reassembled, Anne was to serve as aredemptive figure for the suffering masses, an assurance that despite theevidence of the Holocaust, humanity was fundamentally good, that the devastationwreaked by the Nazis had been but a momentary lapse in the ultimate civilizingtrajectory of Western culture.
Psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim, himself a survivorof Dachau and Buchenwald, was nearly alone in his antipathy towards thisphenomenon. In 1960, he wrote that “The universal success of The Diary of AnneFrank suggests how much the tendency to deny the reality of the camps is stillwith us, while her story itself demonstrates how such denial can hasten our owndestruction.”77 Bettelheim’s thesis is that the Franks’ decision to hidetogether, as a family, amounted to an attempt to go on with “life as usual” andto refuse to accept the extent to which evil had infested their world, an act ofwillful blindness which contributed as much to their fate as did Nazipersecution. And what he attacks, precisely, are her famous words about thegoodness of all men:
If all men are basically good–if going on with intimatefamily living, no matter what else, is what is to be most admired–than indeed wecan all go on with life as usual and forget about Auschwitz. Except that AnneFrank died because her parents could not get themselves to believe in Auschwitz.And her story found wide acclaim because for us too, it denies implicitly thatAuschwitz never existed. If all men are good, there was never an Auschwitz.78
AsNaomi Seidman notes, Bettelheim’s furor is misplaced and amounts to at the veryleast what is known as “blaming the victim.”79 The Franks’ choice to hide as afamily may indeed have been illogical, but in Holland, where fewer than twentypercent of Jews ultimately survived under one of the most brutal of theOccupation regimes, the question of logic had become untenable. Hannah Arendtsupplied a profound and succinct answer to Bettelheim’s accusations in a letterto the Jewish quarterly Midstream in 1962:
Mr. Bettelheim’s position in thisrespect bears a striking resemblance to the Prosecutor’s attitude in the Eichmanntrial. You will remember that Mr. Hausner asked witness after witness, survivorsof extermination camps: Why did you not resist? Why did you not rebel? Thisquestion has been taken very seriously by reporters and has caused endlessdiscussions in Israel and elsewhere. In point of fact, it was a silly question.Why were there no rebellions in Russian concentration camps prior to Stalin’sdeath? Why did the Russian peasants, deported by the million, not resist? It isas though people have forgotten what terror means, and that there exist thingswhich are considerably worse than death.80
Yet Bettelheim’s antipathy as asurvivor towards this saccharine version of Anne is understandable, and pointsmoreover to the degree to which the adaptations of the diary by the Americanentertainment industry came to be as authoritative as their source. The 1955stage play by Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett, and the film version of theplay released in 1959 were instrumental in interpreting Anne’s writings accordingto a universalist ethic. The public perception of the writings of Anne Frank hasbeen shaped as much by the enormously successful play and movie versions of thediary as by the diary itself, and perhaps more so. Even Bettelheim notes that hisobjections are based not on “what actually happened to the Frank family–only onthe account given in Anne’s Diary and in the play and movie based on it,”81neglecting to distinguish between the degree of accuracy manifested by ahistorical document and by its fictionalizations. The adaptations of the diarydiffer significantly from their source in terms of focus and characterization.Meyer Levin, who sued after his own stage adaptation was rejected by Otto Frank,describes bitterly in his aptly-titled memoir The Obsession how Anne’s musingswere emptied of their Jewish particularity in order to guarantee their appeal toa gentile audience. Judith E. Doneson contends that this was done in accordancewith the assimilationist ideals of the 1950’s, and that, ironically, it resultedin simplified characters which contributed, if unintentionally, to conventionalanti-Semitic stereotypes of the inhabitants of the Secret Annexe as nervous, weakJews at the mercy of their courageous Christian friends.82 The exception, ofcourse, is Anne herself, whose strong awareness of herself as a Jew and a womanis replaced by an irrepressibly optimistic and entirely lovable childlike figurewhose triumphant final declaration–that, of course, she still believes peoplegood at heart–banishes the feelings of horror and fright which might haveovercome the audience upon learning of her cruel end. That this line “does notappear in the diary in anything like the climactic role it is made to assume inthe play,”83 and that “As Lawrence Langer has written, this line, ‘floating overthe audience like a benediction assuring grace after momentary gloom, is theleast appropriate epitaph conceivable for the millions of victims and thousandsof survivors of Nazi genocide,'”84 has not altered the tendencies of enormouslyinfluential speechifiers such as Reagan. It is useless to point out that Annewrote these words long before she experienced Auschwitz; at any rate, Auschwitzis not an evident part of the universe to which the adaptations refer.
BertekeWaaldijk is one of the first scholars to question the degree to which Anne’sspecific identity as a woman has been underrepresented. She focuses in part onthe differences between the three versions of the diary–the unabridged, thatcontaining Anne’s own revisions, and that finally published –and finds that”Although the differences may be negligible from the point of view of thepolitical and judicial claims of authenticity,” in the face of which the criticaledition had in fact been compiled, “they are extremely significant for readersinterested in Anne Frank as a woman writer.”85 Waaldijk finds that in most cases,the passages removed dealt directly with aspects of Anne’s experiences as awoman: “They have to do with her body, menstruation and sexuality, herconversations with Peter about sex, and her relationship with her mother.” 86 Theremarks Anne had made about her mother were deleted by Otto Frank exclusively.Waaldjik claims that within the diary these observations were generally amanifestation of Anne’s normal adolescent rebellion from her mother; theseparation Anne desired could not be physically achieved while her family was inhiding, and she compensated by articulating, sometimes harshly, a mental distancefrom her mother. That Otto Frank, so shortly after the murder of his wife, couldnot tolerate the publication of these passages is understandable. Yet incensoring Anne’s complex relationship with her mother, he also undoubtedlyremoved an important part of her. Various passages concerning Anne’s sexuality,however, were deleted by both Anne and her father. For example, Anne chose toleave out of her rewritten version a one-page description of her genitals.”Because Anne Frank never finished her editing,” Waaldijk explains, “we cannot besure that would not have resurfaced in some other form, but it would clearly bewrong to picture her only as the object of silencing.”87
The difference, however,between the nature of the elimination of Anne’s sexuality from the popularportrayals of her diary and Anne’s own self-censorship is this: whereas overtreferences to Anne’s sexuality were eliminated by, for example, P. de Neve, themanaging director of Contact, because they were felt to be offensive, and byGoodrich and Hackett because they interfered with the stylization of Anne as theultimate childlike innocent, Anne removed passages because she felt they made herappear immature. A passage composed on October 22, 1942, in whichthirteen-year-old Anne expresses her impatience for the onset of menarche, wasdeleted in both Anne’s and the published version, and in a note to the pagepenned on January 22, 1944, Anne writes, in a tone of embarrassed dismay, “Ishall never be able to write such things again!”88 She takes advantage, that sameday, of a page she had left blank in her first diary to elaborate:
It was stupidof me to have left all these lovely pages blank, but perhaps it’ll be all to thegood if I am now able to put down my thoughts in general about what I havewritten. When I look over my diary today, 1 1/2 years on, I cannot believe that Iwas ever such an innocent young thing. I cannot help but realize that no matterhow much I should like to, I can never be like that again. I still understandthose moods, those remarks about Margot, Mummy and Daddy so well that I mighthave written them yesterday, but I no longer understand how I could write sofreely about other things.
I really blush with shame when I read the pagesdealing with subjects that I’d much better have left to the imagination. I put itall down so bluntly! But enough of that.89
Anne ultimately deleted these twonotes to herself as well, as did her father. What controversy there has beenabout the diary has been centered, in fact, upon Anne’s descriptions of heremerging sexuality. As recently as 1982, the book was challenged in a Virginiaschool by parents who complained that the book was offensive due to its sexualcontent.90 And to Ditlieb Felderer, whose tract Anne Frank’s Diary–A Hoax was oneof the challenges to the diary’s authenticity (and by extension to thehistoricity of the Holocaust itself) which the critical edition was published toanswer, both the mature nature of Anne’s writing and the mere existence of hersexuality were cause for doubt:
At the end [of the official Anne Frank FoundationAmsterdam brochure], we are finally shown an excerpt purporting to belong to AnneFrank, then 15 years old. Somehow this excerpt, the only one given in thebrochure, does not fit our conception of a girl at that age.91 [The passage towhich Ditlieb refers is that quoted by Reagan above.]
Another matter whichstrikes the reader is that the diary is not the type of story one would wantone’s own child to write. It is not a KIND story. It is not the sign of a healthychild. Indeed it leaves the air of being a product of someone who tries to inventa child’s mind but is unable to do so, sprinkling it with “sexy” portions to sellthe story…We cannot make out why a girl living under these circumstances would bepreoccupied with all these “love affairs” at such tender age. In today’spromiscuous society it may be an ordinary thing but not during the war…Apparentlythe “sexy” portions were too much even for some Jews to stomach, and one of thefirst, if not the only group, to voice their objections against the diary, weresome Orthodox Jews who felt it gave the Jews a bad image. A proper girl would notact in such a way. Whether their objections were based on true moral grounds orfor fear that the story was letting the cat out of the bag may be debatable.Talmudic sources are certainly not foreign to perverse sex.92
Upon first glance,the blatant antisemitism of revisionists such as Felderer (whose publishinghouse, Bible Researcher, had also published the title Zionism the Hidden Tyranny)may seem to have no connection with the adoration most express for Anne Frank.Yet the hateful intolerance of one finds a friend, unfortunately, in theself-protective blindness of the other. Felderer also writes that “We find itexceedingly difficult to believe that a healthy girl at her age can be sopossessed with hate [for the Germans].”93 And apparently, so did those whoaccompanied the transformation of Anne’s diary into its published and adaptedforms. In the critical edition, editor Gerrold van der Stroom remarks at lengthon the degree to which the German translator, Anneliese Schutz, took it uponherself to edit out some of Anne’s more anti-German sentiments:
The explanationthat to those listening to the radio in the Annexe “there were no forbiddenstations with the proviso that it was understood that only exceptionally couldone listen to German stations, for instance to hear classical music and thelike,” was omitted from the German version…The Dutch: “And indeed, there is nogreater hostility than exists between Germans and Jews,” became in German: “Andthere is no greater hostility in the world than between these Germans andJews!”…The rule that people in the Annexe were required “to speak softly at alltimes, in any civilized language, therefore not in German,” became intranslation: “Alle Kultursprachen…aber leise!!! [All civilized languages…butsoftly!!!].”94
Alvin H. Rosenfeld informs us that Goodrich and Hackett took painsto minimize, in their adaptation, Anne’s very understandable animosity towardsthe Germans:
Peering out of her hideaway windows, for instance, Anne Frank sawand recorded the brutality of the German occupation (entry of November 19, 1942):“Evening after evening the green and gray army lorries trundle past. The Germansring at every front door to inquire if there are any Jews living in the house. Ifthere are, then the whole family has to go at once. If they don’t find any, theygo on to the next house. No one has a chance of evading them unless one goes intohiding…It seems like the slave hunts of olden times. But it’s certainly no joke;it’s much too tragic for that. In the evenings when it’s dark, I often see rowsof good innocent people accompanied by crying children, walking on and on…bulliedand 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.”
…no suchpassage as the one just quoted appears in the stage play.95
Indeed, no suchpassage appears in either the play or the film; it would be fundamentally at oddswith the “indestructibly affirmative”96 Anne which they labored to create. Andthis inability to cope with Anne’s complexity marks a reluctance to face both thequestions she posed and the answers suggested by her fate, and is not, after all,so very far removed from Felderer’s desire to whitewash the Holocaust and turn itinto a benign and vastly exaggerated moment in history.
To sum, the suppressionof different aspects of the real Anne Frank facilitated, and in fact may havebeen necessary in, her transformation into a idealized figure who served tosweeten the bitter cup of the Shoah. In deleting the details pertaining to Anne’scomplex relationship with her mother, to her sexual awakening, and to her angertowards the misogyny of her society, many of the references to Anne’s womanhoodwere lost; this made it all the easier to relegate Anne Frank to the easilymanipulable role of a child. Anne’s bitter sense of the fate the Nazis haddesigned for her and her drive to become a writer, expressed with force andfluency, pointed to a mind which had been disillusioned and which longed todescribe the world in its own terms: many of these observations, too, werealtered or deleted, permitting “the reduction of Anne Frank to a symbol of moraland intellectual convenience,”97 to a mechanism for easy forgiveness.
It ishighly ironic that the public has been prevented from knowing Anne as a woman oras a mature writer, because she saw these two aspects of herself as intricatelyrelated. The rejection of her mother and of her mother’s role as a bourgeoishousewife was deeply linked to Anne’s literary ambitions. As Waaldijk explains,and as is evident in the entry of April 4, 1944 quoted below, “Anne’s wish tolead the life of a writer coincides with her desire to lead a better life thanthat of her mother”:98
And now it’s all over. I must work, so as not to be afool, to get on, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want! I know thatI can write, a couple of my stories are good, my descriptions of the “SecretAnnexe” are humorous, there’s a lot in my diary that speaks, but–whether I havereal talent remains to be seen.
I am the best and sharpest critic of my own work,I know myself what is and is not well written. Anyone who doesn’t write doesn’tknow how wonderful it is…
And if I haven’t any talent for writing books ornewspaper articles, well, then I can always write for myself. But I want to geton; I can’t imagine that I would have to lead the same sort of life as Mummy andMrs. v.P.99 and all the women who do their work and are then forgotten, I musthave something besides a husband and children, something that I can devote myselfto!
I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful toGod for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and ofwriting, of expressing all that is in me!100
The question remains to what extentthe popularization and valorization of Anne Frank has had an impact on otherwomen writers of the Holocaust. Anne Frank was and continues to be blatantlydenied status as a woman; this coincides disquietingly with the pressure to omitor minimize the importance of the question of gender in critical works about theHolocaust, and suggests that Anne Frank may have left behind a legacy with whichshe would not be content. In addition, one must wonder whether the enormouscritical and commercial success of Anne Frank’s diary has had anything to do withthe fact that the majority of women’s literary contributions to the subject arein the form of diaries or memoirs. The diary, after all, seems to be a perfectexpression of the role to which women have been relegated time and time again: itis personal, emotional, unobtrusive, spontaneous and without “serious” literarypretensions. Anne Frank ventured far outside these guidelines, but she wasposthumously forced back into them.