FRANK, ANNE (1929–1945), teenage Holocaust victim who won fame following the posthumous publication of her now famous diary. Through the pages of this book, which she composed during more than two years of hiding from her Nazi persecutors, she has emerged as the preeminent symbol of the innocent but cruelly victimized Jewish child.
Anneliese Marie Frank was born in Frankfurt-am-Main. In the summer of 1933, following Hitler's accession to power, she left her native city with her parents and elder sister, Margot. After a stay of some months in Aachen, they settled in Amsterdam, where her father, Otto, had a business. Her early years in Amsterdam were relatively normal, but after Germany's invasion of the Netherlands on May 10, 1940, and especially after a series of harsh anti-Jewish decrees introduced in the following months, the situation of the Jews in the country worsened considerably. The Frank family sought safety by concealing themselves in several rooms in Otto Frank's office building. With four other Jews, they lived in this "Secret Annex" from July 6, 1942, until August 4, 1944, when they were betrayed and arrested. Sent first to Westerbork, a transit camp in Drente, in the north of Holland, they were deported a few weeks later to Auschwitz, the major Nazi death camp in Poland. After a little less than two months in this camp, Anne and Margot were then sent to Bergen-Belsen, in northern Germany, where, disease-ridden and emaciated, they died sometime in the early spring of 1945. Of the eight Jews in hiding in the "Secret Annex," only Otto Frank survived.
Anne's diary, parts of which were discovered and preserved by loyal co-workers of Otto Frank, was first published in Dutch in 1947. French and German translations appeared in 1950, and an English translation followed in 1952. Since then, the diary has been translated into some 60 languages and circulated in perhaps as many as 25 million copies. A highly popular stage version, written by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, appeared in 1955, and a much acclaimed film version by famed director George Stevens followed in 1959. In subsequent years, Anne Frank's story has also been the focus of a number of other films and television programs, ballets, operas, other musical productions, paintings, drawings, works of sculpture, scholarly and popular books, postage stamps, commemorative coins, videotapes, CD-ROMS, and more. In addition to her presence in virtually all of the media of popular culture, Anne Frank's image has been enshrined in Otto Frank's former office building on the Prinsengracht, in central Amsterdam, which for years now has been one of Europe's most frequently visited memory sites, drawing very large crowds annually. As a result, Anne Frank's story has become familiar to millions of people throughout the world, so much so that she may be the best-known child of the 20th century.
On one level, the diary chronicles the trials and adventures, yearnings and frustrations, of its precociously brightPage 179 | Top of Article and gifted author. Yet, while it has been prized chiefly as the personal confessions of an idealistic teenager doing her best to maintain her spirits and a measure of independence in confined and severely trying circumstances, the diary is also an important historical document. For it presents, often in vivid detail, the daily reflections of a highly intelligent and keenly observant young Jew struggling against the encroaching threats of the Nazi menace. Thus, the book has both universalistic and particularistic elements, and it can be and has been read in various ways.
The Goodrich and Hackett stage version of the diary elevated what Otto Frank himself energetically promoted as his daughter's "universal message" of goodness and hope and subordinated its darker and more specifically Jewish dimensions. Like the Hollywood film that followed it, the play features an Anne Frank who is basically cheerful, high-spirited, and ever optimistic. Its overarching "message" is summed up in words that have been broadly taken to constitute Anne Frank's signature line: "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."
The writer Meyer *Levin , who wrote an early adaptation of the diary for the theater, strongly objected to this interpretation of Anne Frank's story and fought for years to correct what he saw as an ideological distortion and political manipulation of the diary. He was largely unsuccessful, and his stage version has rarely been performed. More recently, however, the playwright Wendy Kesselman has adapted the Goodrich and Hackett stage play and given greater emphasis to the Jewish features of Anne Frank's story. Her version is in broader circulation today than Levin's ever was, and it may, over time, alter popular perceptions of her heroine's fate. In addition, new biographical, bibliographical, historical, and literary studies of Anne Frank's life and writings have appeared over the past two decades, and these have shown both the diary and its youthful author to be even more complex, interesting, and compelling than was earlier believed. At their best, these works have helped to demythologize the image of Anne Frank and to connect her more closely to the historical contexts in which she lived, wrote, and died. The meanings of Anne Frank's book no doubt will continue to be contested for years to come, including by those on the far-right revisionist fringe who have long denounced it as a "Jewish fabrication" and a "Zionist hoax," but the diary's place in the canon of 20th century literature is by now assured.
D. Barnouw and G. van der Stroom (eds.), The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition. Prepared by the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation (1989); Anne Frank's Tales from the Secret Annex, tr. R. Manheim and M. Mok (1984); The Diary of Anne Frank, dramatized by F. Goodrich and A. Hackett (1956);. The Diary of Anne Frank, by F. Goodrich and A. Hackett, newly adapted by W. Kesselman (2000); M. Gies, Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family (1987); L. Graver, An Obsession with Anne Frank: Meyer Levin and the Diary (1995); R. Melnick, The Stolen Legacy of Anne Frank: Meyer Levin, Lillian Hellman, and the Staging of the Diary (1997); C.A. Lee, The Hidden Life of Otto Frank (2002); W. Lindwer, The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank, tr. A. Meersschaert (1991); M. Mueller, Anne Frank: The Biography, tr. R. and R. Kimber (1998); A.H. Rosenfeld, "Popularization and Memory: The Case of Anne Frank," in: P. Hayes (ed.), Lessons and Legacies: The Meaning of the Holocaust in a Changing World (1991), 243–78; idem, Anne Frank and the Future of Holocaust Memory. The Tenth Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Annual Lecture, Washington, D.C., The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (2005); H.A. Enzer and S. Solotaroff-Enzer, Anne Frank: Reflections on Her Life and Legacy (2000).
[Alvin H. Rosenfeld (2nd ed.)]