Return to Women Writing the Holocaust
This chapter, Anne Frank Inspirational Victim, is drawn from Women Writing the Holocaust by Catherine Bernard. In this article Anne Frank the women and writer has been diminished by historians and her own father to an inspirational victim.
4. Anne Frank: the Cultivation of the Inspirational Victim
On May 5, 1985, a few hours before his infamous visit with Chancellor Helmut Kohl to the German cemetery at Bitburg 57
U.S. President Ronald Reagan addressed a crowd at the former concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen.
As he commemorated the thirty thousand victims of Bergen-Belsen, Reagan sought to ameliorate the atmosphere of death and despair by invoking the name of Anne Frank Inspirational Victim:
And too many of them knew that this was their fate. But that was not the end. Through it all was their faith and a spirit that moved their faith.
Nothing illustrates this better than the story of a young girl who died here at Bergen-Belsen.
For more than two years, Anne Frank and her family had hidden from the Nazis in a confined annex in Holland, where she kept a remarkably profound diary.
Betrayed by an informant, Anne and her family were sent by freight car to Auschwitz and finally here to Bergen-Belsen. 58
Just three weeks before her capture, young Anne wrote these words:
“It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out.
Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.
I simply 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 the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the suffering of millions, and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty, too, will end, and that peace and tranquility will reign again.”
Eight months later, this sparkling young life ended at Bergen-Belsen.
Somewhere here lies Anne Frank.
Everywhere here are memories–pulling us, touching us, making us understand that they can never be erased.
Such memories take us where God intended his children to go–toward learning, toward healing, and, above all, toward redemption.
They beckon us through the endless stretch of our heart to the knowing commitment that the life of each individual can change the world and make it better.59
Anne Frank is simultaneously the best and the least known of the female documentors of Nazi terror.
Her diary has been translated into numerous languages and is part of the curriculum in schools around the world; yet despite her embrace by this general audience, she has been for the most part gently but unambiguously dismissed as a figure not meriting serious academic examination.
Therefore, although her name earns 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 life largely 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 diary describes has very little to do with the concentration camp and deaths which awaited Anne and her family, like millions of others.”60
Yet the themes which Heinemann identifies as female-centered–anatomy and destiny–resonate throughout Frank’s diary as Anne mediates on her relationship with her mother, on her emerging sexuality, and on the status of women in her culture, and would therefore 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 been adolescents just like Anne.
Rittner and Roth are more blunt about the reason for excluding Frank’s writings from their book, explaining that she, as far as their project 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, and second, that Different Voices ought to concentrate on writings by and about adult women.
Full of feeling and wisdom though it is, Anne Frank’s youthful voice speaks differently enough from those resounding in these pages that it seemed best not to expand the category “women and the Holocaust” so broadly as to include 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 in Anne’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 Frank which has been instrumental in the erasure of the issue of gender from Holocaust Studies.
It has been terribly important to isolate Anne from the impurity of adulthood in order to facilitate her function as a redemptive figure, to provide a point of uplift in what would be otherwise be, after all, an unremittingly depressing historical event.
The above speech by Reagan is a example of the means by which Frank, whose force putatively comes from her identity as a historical figure 62, has been emptied of her particularity and nudged into a metonymical role as both a palatable and a forgiving representative of the victims of fascism.
Anne Frank Inspirational Victim?
Consequently, any desire to examine the Diary of Anne Frank as the complex expression of an actual young woman has been far eclipsed by the importance of maintaining Frank’s symbolic role as the ultimate innocent victim.
And foremost, apparently, that maintenance has taken the form of eliminating reference to both Anne’s femaleness and to her emerging sexuality.
Most of those familiar with Anne Frank would, like Reagan, be able to parrot the oft-quoted phrase “I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
But few would recognize 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 is why did so many nations in the past, and often still now, treat women as inferior to men?
Everyone can agree how unjust this is, but that is not enough for me, I would also like to know the cause of the great injustice!
Presumably man, thanks to his greater physical strength, achieved dominance over woman from the very start; man, who earns the money, who begets children, who may do what he wants…It is 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 it becomes.
Luckily schooling, work and progress have opened women’s eyes.
In many countries, 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, and modern 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 held in 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 immortal fame, martyrs are revered, but how many will look upon woman as they would upon a soldier?
There is something in the book “The Fight for Life” that has affected me deeply, along the lines that women suffer more pain, more illness and more misery than any war hero just from giving birth to children.
And what reward does woman reap for coming successfully through all this pain?
She is pushed to one side should she lose her figure through giving birth, her children soon leave her, her beauty passes.
Women are much braver, much more courageous soldiers, struggling and enduring pain for the continuance of mankind, than all the freedom-fighting heroes with their big mouths!
In no way do I mean by this that women should turn against childbearing, on the contrary, nature has made them like that and that is all to the good.
I merely condemn all the men, and the whole system, that refuse ever to acknowledge what an important, arduous, and in the long run beautiful part women play in society.
I fully agree with Paul de Kruif, the author of the above-mentioned book, when he says that men must learn that birth has ceased to mean something natural and ordinary in those parts of the world we consider civilized.
It’s very easy for men to talk, they don’t and will never have to bear the miseries of women!
I believe that the idea that a woman’s duty is simply to bear children will change over the centuries to come and will make way for respect and admiration for one who without complaint and a lot of talk shoulders all these burdens!
yours, Anne M. Frank.
The above should be completely unfamiliar to anyone who has ever read the American edition of Diary of a Young Girl, and for good reason: although written by Anne on June 15, 1944, only two weeks before her final entry, it was deleted from the original Dutch edition and therefore from its translations, although the rest of the entry of which it was part was retained.
The reasons for this are entirely unclear, unless one accepts that for some reason these very adult and feminist statements were somehow seen as incompatible with the purpose of the book, or unacceptable to the reading public.
Not until 1986, when the critical edition of the diary was published in Holland (the English translation appeared in 1989), was this passage available, and even then its remarkable nature has not been commented upon save a 1993 article by the Dutch feminist Berteke Waaldijk entitled “Reading Anne Frank as a Woman.”
Waaldijk has done an excellent and coherent job of detailing the patterns of omissions made by Anne Frank and by her father and other parties, and in comparing the sets of deletions, and I shall return to her cogent analyses.
The critical 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 diary herself in preparation for publication after the war, and that the version published in 1947 had been redacted from the originals and from Anne’s partially completed manuscript, with sometimes extensive editing not only by Otto Frank, her father, but also by his colleagues and, in some cases, by translators.
In many cases, deletions in the published version followed deletions Anne herself had indicated, but in some cases, often significantly, they did not.
It is unlikely, for example, upon reviewing the nature of Anne’s own deletions, which were mostly items which were overly personal or petty, such as negative remarks about her classmates written when she was thirteen, that she would not have retained the above passage, especially since she wrote it concurrently with her editing.
Anne Frank began to edit her diary in response to an address on March 28, 1944 by exiled Minister of Education, Art and Science Gerrit Bolkstein, delivered to the Dutch nation on Radio Oranje:
History cannot be written on the basis of official decisions and documents alone.
If our descendants are to understand fully what we as a nation have had to endure and overcome during these years, then what we really need are ordinary documents–a diary, letters from a worker in Germany, a collection of sermons given by a parson or a priest.
Not until we succeed in bringing together vast quantities of this simple, everyday material will the picture of our struggle for freedom be painted in its full depth and glory.64
The next day, Anne wrote, “Of course, they all made a rush at my diary immediately…Just imagine how interesting it would be if I were to publish a romance of the ‘Secret Annexe.’
The title alone would be enough to make people think it was a detective story.”65
By May 11, her consideration of the idea 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 on a famous writer.
Whether these leanings towards greatness (or insanity?) will ever materialize remains to be seen, but I certainly have the subjects in my mind.
In any case, I want to publish a book entitled Het Achterhuis after the war.
Whether I shall succeed or not I cannot say, but my diary will be a great help.66
And finally, in a remark also deleted from previous published versions of the diary, she wrote on May 20 that “after a good deal of reflection I have started my ‘Achterhuis,’ in my head it is as good as finished, although it won’t go as quickly as that really, if it ever comes off at all.”67
We may assume that subsequent entries were made with the idea of publication in mind, and that therefore that the entry of June 15, with all its passion and vitality, would be one Anne would have wanted included.
Why it was not included, and, moreover, why the evidence that Anne Frank was aware of and desirous for the possibility of her diary’s publication has been suppressed, is unresolved.68
At this point, some information on the diary’s publication history and on its initial critical reception may serve to begin to answer the questions which have been raised.
The diary 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 three separate exercise books and some loose sheets, containing Anne’s entries from her thirteenth birthday in June of 1942 up to her last entry on August 1, 1944.69
Approximately a year later, after Otto Frank, Anne’s father and the only surviving member of the family, had returned to Amsterdam, Gies handed Anne’s writings over to him.
He immediately began to edit the diaries into a single typescript and to seek out a publisher.
As mentioned, Otto Frank did not merely copy out the diaries; he edited out items which he felt were offensive to his dead wife or to other third parties, as well as items which he “felt would be of little 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 into my possession.
The Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation already holds some two hundred similar diaries, but I should be very much surprised if there 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 is that her young life was willfully cut short by a system whose witless barbarity we swore never to forget or forgive while it still raged, but which, now that it belongs to the past, we are already busily, if not forgiving, then forgetting, which ultimately comes to the same thing.
To me, however, this apparently unconsequential [sic.] diary, this “de profundis” stammered out in a child’s voice, embodies all the hideousness of fascism, more so than all the evidence of Neuremberg put together.
To me the fate of this Jewish girl epitomizes the worst crime perpetrated by everlastingly abominable minds.
For the worst crime is not the destruction of life and culture as such–these could also fall victim to a culture-creating revolution–but the throttling of the sources of culture, the destruction 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 have lost the fight against human bestiality.70
It is not surprising that shortly afterward, Frank was besieged by publishers, and that the Dutch edition of the diary, 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 which then appeared and set the standard for subsequent characterizations of the Diary,is the anger and despair Rome in expresses.
In his article “Popularization and Memory: The Case of Anne Frank,” Alvin H. Rosenfeld elaborates:
What is remarkable about [Romein’s] statement is its date: April 1946.
The war had ended less 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 its outcome, it may already have been a lost one…Given this sense of things, he read Anne Frank’s diary in the only way he could, as an admonitory text.
The book’s youthful author, after all, had been murdered by the Nazis, and her death appeared to him as a warning of further devastation to come unless the spirit of nihilism unleashed by Nazism could be permanently overcome.
Rome in recognized Anne Frank’s precocious talent, to be sure, but for all of that he found nothing in her diary that transcended his sharp sense of her horrible end and the monstrous system that destroyed her.71
Very rapidly, however, it would be established that the message of the Diary was one far different than that with which Romein had identified.
This is expressed quite perfectly by the reviewers who glowingly orated that Het Achterhuis was “a miracle,” “uniquely tragic,” and “transcends the misery so recently [in 1947] behind us”; it was a “moral testament” and “a human document of great clarity and honesty,” and, it was stressed, “by no means a war document as such [but]…purely and simply the diary of an adolescent girl.”72
Whereas Romein could not but meditate on the murder of Anne Frank, his colleague Henri van Praag suggested that Frank should be viewed as a figure which exhorted the ideals of a moral life. He wrote:
How does it happen 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 enter into the kingdom of heaven.
And the Chinese sage Lao-tse also exhorts us to become like children again.He who does not lose his child’s heart can hope for a better world where peace and justice will prevail…
Anne Frank inspires us to keep our child’s heart.73
What happened, in short, is that the tortured reading which Romein had gleaned from the diary was soon entirely replaced by the popular conception of the Diary of Anne Frank as an inspirational victim text.
This interpretation, despite the periodic appearance of some excellent challenges, has held to this day. Anne herself was transformed into an empty vessel, and her voice glorified as pure, innocent, completely unblemished.
To read the forewords which accompanied the first translated editions–The Diary of a Young Girl in English, Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank in German, Journal de Anne Frank in French–is to begin to understand the function of this consecrated and inviolate Anne; in each foreword the she is made to serve for each nation as a flattering mirror-image of itself.
To Eleanor Roosevelt, this young girl, “not afraid of telling the truth,” is a symbol of American pluck;74 for the triumphant, always unconventional French, her unusual and spirited observations defy all that is”dusty and discolored”;75 for the wary and weary Germans, Anne’s “cool, keen observation of human beings, and her resolve to be alert to the comic element in even the worst situations, these are familiar to us: they belong to the armor worn by our generation.”76
Thus, stripped and reassembled, Anne was to serve as a redemptive figure for the suffering masses, an assurance that despite the evidence of the Holocaust, humanity was fundamentally good, that the devastation wreaked by the Nazis had been but a momentary lapse in the ultimate civilizing trajectory of Western culture.
Psychoanalyst Bruno Bettelheim, himself a survivor of Dachau and Buchenwald, was nearly alone in his antipathy towards this phenomenon.
In 1960, he wrote that “The universal success of The Diary of Anne Frank suggests how much the tendency to deny the reality of the camps is still with us, while her story itself demonstrates how such denial can hasten our own destruction.”77
Bettelheim’s thesis is that the Franks’ decision to hide together, as a family, amounted to an attempt to go on with “life as usual” and to refuse to accept the extent to which evil had infested their world, an act of willful blindness which contributed as much to their fate as did Nazi persecution.
And what he attacks, precisely, are her famous words about the goodness of all men:
If all men are basically good–if going on with intimate family living, no matter what else, is what is to be most admired–than indeed we can all go on with life as usual and forget about Auschwitz.
Except that Anne Frank 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 that Auschwitz never existed.
If all men are good, there was never an Auschwitz.78
As Naomi Seidman notes, Bettelheim’s furor is misplaced and amounts to at the very least what is known as “blaming the victim.”79
The Franks’ choice to hide as a family may indeed have been illogical, but in Holland, where fewer than twenty percent of Jews ultimately survived under one of the most brutal of the Occupation regimes, the question of logic had become untenable.
Hannah Arendt supplied a profound and succinct answer to Bettelheim’s accusations in a letter to the Jewish quarterly Midstream in 1962:
Mr. Bettelheim’s position in this respect bears a striking resemblance to the Prosecutor’s attitude in the Eichmann trial.
You will remember that Mr. Hausner asked witness after witness, survivors of extermination camps: Why did you not resist?
Why did you not rebel?
This question has been taken very seriously by reporters and has caused endless discussions 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’s death?
Why did the Russian peasants, deported by the million, not resist?
It is as though people have forgotten what terror means, and that there exist things which are considerably worse than death.80
Yet Bettelheim’s antipathy as a survivor towards this saccharine version of Anne is understandable, and points moreover to the degree to which the adaptations of the diary by the American entertainment industry came to be as authoritative as their source.
The 1955 stage play by Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett, and the film version of the play released in 1959 were instrumental in interpreting Anne’s writings according to a universalist ethic.
The public perception of the writings of Anne Frank has been shaped as much by the enormously successful play and movie versions of the diary as by the diary itself, and perhaps more so.
Even Bettelheim notes that his objections are based not on “what actually happened to the Frank family–only on the account given in Anne’s Diary and in the play and movie based on it,”81 neglecting to distinguish between the degree of accuracy manifested by a historical document and by its fictionalizations.
The adaptations of the diary differ 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 musings were emptied of their Jewish particularity in order to guarantee their appeal to a gentile audience.
Judith E. Doneson contends that this was done in accordance with the assimilationist ideals of the 1950’s, and that, ironically, it resulted in simplified characters which contributed, if unintentionally, to conventional anti-Semitic stereotypes of the inhabitants of the Secret Annexe as nervous, weak Jews at the mercy of their courageous Christian friends.82
The exception, of course, is Anne herself, whose strong awareness of herself as a Jew and a woman is replaced by an irrepressibly optimistic and entirely lovable childlike figure whose triumphant final declaration–that, of course, she still believes people good at heart–banishes the feelings of horror and fright which might have overcome the audience upon learning of her cruel end.
That this line “does not appear in the diary in anything like the climactic role it is made to assume in the play,”83 and that “As Lawrence Langer has written, this line, ‘floating over the audience like a benediction assuring grace after momentary gloom, is the least appropriate epitaph conceivable for the millions of victims and thousands of survivors of Nazi genocide,'”84 has not altered the tendencies of enormously influential speechifiers such as Reagan.
It is useless to point out that Anne wrote these words long before she experienced Auschwitz; at any rate, Auschwitz is not an evident part of the universe to which the adaptations refer.
Berteke Waaldijk is one of the first scholars to question the degree to which Anne’s specific identity as a woman has been underrepresented.
She focuses in part on the differences between the three versions of the diary–the unabridged, that containing Anne’s own revisions, and that finally published –and finds that “Although the differences may be negligible from the point of view of the political and judicial claims of authenticity,” in the face of which the critical edition had in fact been compiled, “they are extremely significant for readers interested 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 a woman: “They have to do with her body, menstruation and sexuality, her conversations with Peter about sex, and her relationship with her mother.” 86
The remarks Anne had made about her mother were deleted by Otto Frank exclusively.
Waaldjik claims that within the diary these observations were generally a manifestation of Anne’s normal adolescent rebellion from her mother; the separation Anne desired could not be physically achieved while her family was in hiding, and she compensated by articulating, sometimes harshly, a mental distance from her mother.
That Otto Frank, so shortly after the murder of his wife, could not tolerate the publication of these passages is understandable.
Yet in censoring Anne’s complex relationship with her mother, he also undoubtedly removed an important part of her.
Various passages concerning Anne’s sexuality, however, were deleted by both Anne and her father.
For example, Anne chose to leave out of her rewritten version a one-page description of her genitals. “Because Anne Frank never finished her editing,” Waaldijk explains, “we cannot be sure that would not have resurfaced in some other form, but it would clearly be wrong 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 popular portrayals of her diary and Anne’s own self-censorship is this: whereas overt references to Anne’s sexuality were eliminated by, for example, P. de Neve, the managing director of Contact, because they were felt to be offensive, and by Goodrich and Hackett because they interfered with the stylization of Anne as the ultimate childlike innocent, Anne removed passages because she felt they made her appear immature.
A passage composed on October 22, 1942, in which thirteen-year-old Anne expresses her impatience for the onset of menarche, was deleted in both Anne’s and the published version, and in a note to the page penned on January 22, 1944, Anne writes, in a tone of embarrassed dismay, “I shall never be able to write such things again!”88
She takes advantage, that same day, of a page she had left blank in her first diary to elaborate:
It was stupid of me to have left all these lovely pages blank, but perhaps it’ll be all to the good if I am now able to put down my thoughts in general about what I have written.
When I look over my diary today, 1 1/2 years on, I cannot believe that I was ever such an innocent young thing.
I cannot help but realize that no matter how much I should like to, I can never be like that again. I still understand those moods, those remarks about Margot, Mummy and Daddy so well that I might have written them yesterday, but I no longer understand how I could write so freely about other things.
I really blush with shame when I read the pages dealing with subjects that I’d much better have left to the imagination. I put it all down so bluntly! But enough of that.89
Anne ultimately deleted these two notes to herself as well, as did her father.
What controversy there has been about the diary has been centered, in fact, upon Anne’s descriptions of her remerging sexuality.
As recently as 1982, the book was challenged in a Virginia school by parents who complained that the book was offensive due to its sexual content.90
And to Ditlieb Felderer, whose tract Anne Frank’s Diary–A Hoax was one of the challenges to the diary’s authenticity (and by extension to the historicity of the Holocaust itself) which the critical edition was published to answer, both the mature nature of Anne’s writing and the mere existence of her sexuality were cause for doubt:
At the end [of the official Anne Frank Foundation Amsterdam brochure], we are finally shown an excerpt purporting to belong to Anne Frank, then 15 years old.
Somehow this excerpt, the only one given in the brochure, does not fit our conception of a girl at that age.91[The passage to which Ditlieb refers is that quoted by Reagan above.]
Another matter which strikes the reader is that the diary is not the type of story one would want one’s own child to write.
It is not a KIND story. It is not the sign of a healthy child.
Indeed it leaves the air of being a product of someone who tries to invent a child’s mind but is unable to do so, sprinkling it with “sexy” portions to sell the story…We cannot make out why a girl living under these circumstances would be preoccupied with all these “love affairs” at such tender age.
In today’s promiscuous society it may be an ordinary thing but not during the war…Apparently the “sexy” portions were too much even for some Jews to stomach, and one of the first, if not the only group, to voice their objections against the diary, were some Orthodox Jews who felt it gave the Jews a bad image.
A proper girl would not act in such a way. Whether their objections were based on true moral grounds or for 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 publishing house, 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 the self-protective blindness of the other.
Felderer also writes that “We find it exceedingly difficult to believe that a healthy girl at her age can be so possessed with hate [for the Germans].”93
And apparently, so did those who accompanied the transformation of Anne’s diary into its published and adapted forms.
In the critical edition, editor Gerrold van der Stroom remarks at length on the degree to which the German translator, Anneliese Schutz, took it upon herself to edit out some of Anne’s more anti-German sentiments:
The explanation that to those listening to the radio in the Annexe “there were no forbidden stations with the proviso that it was understood that only exceptionally could one listen to German stations, for instance to hear classical music and the like,” was omitted from the German version…The Dutch:
“And indeed, there is no greater hostility than exists between Germans and Jews,”
became in German:
“And there is no greater hostility in the world than between these Germans and Jews!”…
The rule that people in the Annexe were required “to speak softly at all times, in any civilized language, therefore not in German,” became in translation: “Alle Kultursprachen…aber leise!!! [All civilized languages…but softly!!!].”94
Alvin H. Rosenfeld informs us that Goodrich and Hackett took pains to minimize, in their adaptation, Anne’s very understandable animosity towards the Germans:
Peering out of her hideaway windows, for instance, Anne Frank saw and recorded the brutality of the German occupation (entry of November 19, 1942):
“Evening after evening the green and gray army lorries trundle past.
The Germans ring at every front door to inquire 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…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 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.”
…no such passage as the one just quoted appears in the stage play.95
Indeed, no such passage appears in either the play or the film; it would be fundamentally at odds with the “indestructibly affirmative”96 Anne which they labored to create.
And this inability to cope with Anne’s complexity marks a reluctance to face both the questions 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 it into a benign and vastly exaggerated moment in history.
To sum, the suppression of different aspects of the real Anne Frank facilitated, and in fact may have been necessary in, her transformation into a idealized figure who served to sweeten the bitter cup of the Shoah.
In deleting the details pertaining to Anne’s complex relationship with her mother, to her sexual awakening, and to her anger towards the misogyny of her society, many of the references to Anne’s womanhood were lost; this made it all the easier to relegate Anne Frank to the easily manipulable role of a child.
Anne’s bitter sense of the fate the Nazis had designed for her and her drive to become a writer, expressed with force and fluency, pointed to a mind which had been disillusioned and which longed to describe the world in its own terms: many of these observations, too, were altered or deleted, permitting “the reduction of Anne Frank to a symbol of moral and intellectual convenience,”97 to a mechanism for easy forgiveness.
It is highly ironic that the public has been prevented from knowing Anne as a woman or as a mature writer, because she saw these two aspects of herself as intricately related.
The rejection of her mother and of her mother’s role as a bourgeois housewife 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 to lead the life of a writer coincides with her desire to lead a better life than that of her mother”:98
And now it’s all over. I must work, so as not to be a fool, to get on, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want! I know that I can write, a couple of my stories are good, my descriptions of the “Secret Annexe” are humorous, there’s a lot in my diary that speaks, but–whether I have real 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’t know how wonderful it is…
And if I haven’t any talent for writing books or newspaper articles, well, then I can always write for myself.
But I want to get on; I can’t imagine that I would have to lead the same sort of life as Mummy and Mrs. v.P.99 and all the women who do their work and are then forgotten, I must have something besides a husband and children, something that I can devote myself to!
I want to go on living even after my death!
And therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me!100
The question remains to what extent the popularization and valorization of Anne Frank has had an impact on other women writers of the Holocaust.
Anne Frank was and continues to be blatantly denied status as a woman; this coincides disquietingly with the pressure to omit or minimize the importance of the question of gender in critical works about the Holocaust, and suggests that Anne Frank may have left behind a legacy with which she would not be content.
In addition, one must wonder whether the enormous critical and commercial success of Anne Frank’s diary has had anything to do with the fact that the majority of women’s literary contributions to the subject are in the form of diaries or memoirs.
The diary, after all, seems to be a perfect expression of the role to which women have been relegated time and time again: it is personal, emotional, unobtrusive, spontaneous and without “serious” literary pretensions.
Anne Frank ventured far outside these guidelines, but she was posthumously forced back into them.
Anne Frank Inspirational Victim
Return to Women Writing the Holocaust