Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1552
The two years Anne Frank spends in hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation of Holland are an intensely self-analytical time for the young teenager. When her family goes into hiding, she has just turned thirteen years old, and her early entries testify to the fact that her personality and disposition are very typical of a young teenager. She is brimming with confidence to the point of self-centeredness, she is chatty and anxious, and she is intolerant of those who do not accept her. Over the next few years, however, the reader watches a new Anne emerge. This Anne is wiser, more patient, and astonishingly insightful. The intensity of her experience in hiding clearly accelerates her personal development. Anne's maturity is evident in all aspects of her life, including her relationship with her family, her relationships with the other inhabitants of the Secret Annex, her views of herself, her views on religion, and her perceptions of humanity and the world.
Anne's relationships with the members of her family change as she comes to accept each person by seeing him or her more clearly. Anne gets along much better with her father than she does with her mother, but this relationship undergoes a change, too. As part of her adolescence, she must assert her independence from her parents, and that includes her father. In an early entry, dated September 27, 1942, Anne writes, ''Even though our family never has the same kind of outbursts they [the Van Daans] have upstairs, I find it far from pleasant. Margot' s and Mother's personalities are so alien to me. I understand my girlfriends better than my own mother. Isn't that a shame?'' Although Anne and her mother never develop a loving, intimate relationship, Anne progresses from hatred and intolerance to acceptance of her own role in the breakdown of their relationship. On January 2, 1944, she writes:
It's true, she didn't understand me, but I didn't understand her either. Because she loved me, she was tender and affectionate, but because of the difficult situations I put her in, and the sad circumstances in which she found herself, she was nervous and irritable, so I can understand why she was often short with me.
Anne concludes that she and her mother are too different to ever really connect on a meaningful level, and while she is disappointed, she accepts this truth. Further, she realizes that it is better for her to write ''unkind words'' about her mother in the diary than to hurt her mother by saying them aloud.
Initially, Anne thinks of her sister with resentment. She feels that her parents hold Margot up as an example for Anne to follow, but Anne does not feel that she and her sister are much alike. For this reason, Anne maintains a distance from her sister until she is old enough to see that a relationship with her sister can be satisfying. Anne has no older female to whom she can relate until she develops a healthy relationship with Margot.
Anne's relationships with the other hideaways also change as she matures. Anne was the youngest person in the hiding place and therefore had the most changes to undergo. She realizes that she is still in the process of changing and growing but that the adults are generally set in their ways. Writing about Mr. Dussel on July 13, 1943, Anne observes, ‘‘Anyone who's so petty and pedantic at the age of fifty-four was born that way and is never going to change.'' Although she never befriends Mr. Dussel, Mr. Van Daan, or Mrs. Van Daan, she makes peace with their differences. One of the important social skills she learns that enables her to get along with the others in such a cramped space is tact. On July 11, 1943, she notes, ‘‘It's not easy trying to behave like a model child with people you can't stand, especially when you don't mean a word of it. But I can see that a little hypocrisy gets me a lot further than my old method of saying exactly what I think.'' Six months later, she arrives at the decision that the arguments between the Franks and the Van Daans were partially the Franks' fault because ''intelligent people (such as ourselves!) should have more insight into how to deal with others.’’ While this comment seems a bit condescending, the reader can see that Anne is beginning to take into account differences between people as she accepts responsibility for her role in some of the tension.
Perhaps the most startling change in Anne is in the way she perceives herself. In her early entries, she is interested in what she would buy if she had money, in describing and judging her classmates, and in criticizing the other hideaways. Toward the end, however, a markedly different Anne acknowledges her flaws, ponders the nature of humanity, leans on religion for hope, and details her dreams for the future. In her entry on November 28, 1942, Anne reveals, ''In bed at night, as I ponder my many sins and exaggerated shortcomings, I get so confused by the sheer amount of things I have to consider that I either laugh or cry, depending on my mood.’’ This passage, written during the first year in hiding, demonstrates that Anne is becoming more introspective and self-aware. In fact, on December 22, 1942, she remarks with enthusiasm, ‘‘Oh, I'm becoming so sensible!’’ As time passes, Anne's self-analysis is carried out on virtually every level of her personality. She develops the ability to be more objective about herself, as indicated by her comment on January 12, 1944: ‘‘It's funny, but I can sometimes see myself as others see me. I take a leisurely look at the person called 'Anne Frank' and browse through the pages of her life as though she were a stranger.’’ In short, Anne is on her way to becoming the woman she will be, and she is fully aware of this transformation.
Because Anne was creating two versions of her diary (one for herself and one for a collection of historical documents), the reader is able to see, in the Definitive Edition, Anne's own remarks about some of her early passages. On November 2, 1942, she mentions menstruation in passing. On January 22, 1944, she adds a comment:
I wouldn't be able to write about that kind of thing anymore.... I'm surprised at my childish innocence.... I can understand the mood changes and the comments about Margot, Mother and Father as if I'd written them only yesterday, but I can't imagine writing so openly about other matters.... My descriptions are so indelicate.
When Anne thinks back on her life before she went into hiding, she is amazed at her own transformation. At one point, she muses, ‘‘When I think back on my life in 1942, it all seems so unreal. The Anne Frank who enjoyed that heavenly existence was completely different from the one who has grown wise within these walls.'' She readily applies her new insights about herself to her plans for the future. She decides not to become ‘‘an ordinary housewife later on,’’ adding, ''What I'm experiencing here is a good beginning to an interesting life.''
Spiritually, Anne deepens and finds strength in a force outside herself from which she can draw in such difficult times. She declares her steadfast faith in God, who will never desert her. She recalls an instance in which German planes were flying overhead, which was a terrifying experience for the hideaways. She writes on January 30, 1944, ‘‘I stood at the top of the stairs while German planes flew back and forth, and I knew I was on my own, that I couldn't count on others for support. My fear vanished. I looked up at the sky and trusted in God.’’ Despite the horrible acts being committed against the Jews during the time Anne writes her diary, she is still able to find solace in religion. On April 11, 1944, for example, she demonstrates maturity far beyond her years when she writes,
In the eyes of the world, we're doomed, but if, after all this suffering, there are still Jews left, the Jewish people will be held up as an example. Who knows, maybe our religion will teach the world and all the people in it about goodness, and that's the reason, the only reason, we have to suffer.
Most readers come away from reading the diary with a sense of awe at how Anne could be so optimistic about people despite all she had been through. Her expressions of her belief in humankind reflect the musings of an introspective girl who has spent considerable time thinking about her situation. While many people would react to this experience with anger and bitterness, Anne takes a different view. Her ability to interpret the world with such hope and insight is the product of her maturation in every other aspect of her life, as seen in her diary. Anne remains a compelling figure in literature and history, and her universality enables generations of readers to relate to her, grieve for her, and learn from her.
Source: Jennifer Bussey, Critical Essay on The Diary of a Young Girl, in Nonfiction Classics for Students, The Gale Group, 2001.
Bussey holds a master's degree in interdisciplinary studies and a bachelor's degree in English literature. She is an independent writer specializing in literature.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 4527
Ever since the Gestapo entered into the rooms where eight people had been hiding for almost two years, the so-called Secret Annex in the center of Amsterdam has become one of the most famous and visited hiding places of Jews persecuted during the Second World War. Anne Frank's diary, begun in 1942 as a confidential correspondence to an imaginary friend and then revised with an eye to future publication, now counts as the most widely read document of the Holocaust. The diary has appeared in several edited and unedited editions since it was first recovered from the floor of the evacuated Annex. A comparison of these versions reveals how Anne's voice has been shaped, some even say censored, by different editorial hands. This fact was again brought to the fore with the recent discovery of five previously unpublished pages which Anne's father had withdrawn from the manuscript before his death in 1980. By request of the extended Frank family, these were again excluded from the otherwise unedited, critical edition published in 1986. The missing pages have sparked discussion about authorial intention, posthumous control, familial privacy and discretion in the public domain. When the Austrian journalist Melissa Müller published her biography of Anne Frank in 1998, she was allowed to use only paraphrases of these deleted passages while issues of copyright were being fought out in the Swiss courts. A Dutch newspaper, however, did get away with posting them on the Internet, and future editions of the diary will include the entries that have caused so much controversy. The question remains whether we should be allowed to read material that was either deliberately excluded by the author herself or that compromises the family involved. Are private hiding places meant to be fully uncovered for the public eye?
It seems ironic that once carefully guarded places of refuge and hiding—the Annex and the diary—have now been exposed to the world many times over. One cannot help but feel like a voyeur, privy to the thoughts of a thirteen-year-old girl who never wanted all of her schoolgirl ''musings'' to be revealed beyond the version she explicitly edited for posterity. For decades, Anne's diary stood in and spoke for, but perhaps also eclipsed the individual stories of thousands of other Jewish children who were forced into hiding places during the Second World War. Amidst public rhetoric of the postwar years that relegated children to silence by casting them in a paradoxical, no-win situation as either ‘‘too young to remember’’ or ‘‘old enough to forget,’’ the success of the diary was a remarkable exception. In fact, for many readers today, it remains the first, sometimes the only, introduction to the Holocaust. This essay explores the various manifestations of hiding in and surrounding Anne Frank's diary. It engages the ongoing dynamic between hiding and exposure, refuge and vulnerability, secret and public personae. Hiding takes on multiple meanings, both literal and metaphoric. Within the confines of the Annex, we observe how Anne carves out a private, secret space for herself through writing. As with most diaries, hers functions as a place of refuge, a safe niche in which to construct and explore her various, but carefully hidden, selves. The marked difference from other adolescent diaries is that Anne writes within a historically specific context that has forced her into hiding. The typical teenager's need to salvage a private space for herself is magnified in this claustrophobic, constantly threatened hiding place. As readers, we are witnesses to the twofold hiding—physical and psychological—of a hidden self in actual hiding. The life of the diary since its first publication in 1947 also exemplifies different forms of hiding, including censored, screened, and missing memories and voices.
The Secret Annex
Faced with the bestial hostility of the storm and the hurricane, the house's virtues of protection and resistance are transposed into human virtues.... Come what may, the house helps us to say: I will be an inhabitant of the world, in spite of the world.
—Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space
The Annex which Anne first describes resonates with this archetypal, universal image of the house as shelter and fortress that both protects against and resists the world outside. Otto Frank had spent months transforming the rooms, attic, and loft into a comfortable hiding place. With furniture, decor, and supplies from the family's former life, he sought to preserve the illusion of order, normalcy, and continuity. Anne dedicates many pages of her diary to the description of the Annex as both physical and metaphoric place. When the diary was first published in Holland, it was called Het Achterhuis (The House Behind) rather than The Diary of a Young Girl, foregrounding the spatial over the autobiographical dimension. At first, Anne experiences the Annex in benign terms as part of an adventure or an interlude from reality: ‘‘I don't think I'll ever feel at home in this house, but that doesn't mean I hate it. It's more like being on vacation in some strange pension.’’ In her writer's imagination, it gets transformed into a ''unique facility for the temporary accommodation of Jews and other dispossessed persons'' with strict rules and regulations she describes in a characteristically playful manner: ‘‘Diet: lowfat. Freetime activities: None allowed outside the house until further notice.'' Irony functions as the house does: it is a protective screen that blocks off or hides the anxiety associated with matters of life and death. By choosing to laugh about the absurdity of the situation, she resists its power to defeat her. The Annex is a world away from the world, existing in spite of the world.
The resilience of this miniature, hidden world is continuously tested from the inside and the outside. Drawing her metaphor from the restricted view of the external world she has through the attic window, Anne describes the Annex's increasingly uncertain function as shelter:
[We are] a patch of blue sky surrounded by menacing black clouds. The perfectly round spot on which we're standing is still safe, but the clouds are moving in on us, and the ring between us and the approaching danger is being pulled tighter and tighter. We're surrounded by darkness and danger, and in our desperate search for a way out we keep bumping into each other. We look at the fighting down below and the peace and beauty up above. In the meantime, we've been cut off by the dark mass of clouds, so that we can go neither up nor down. It looms before us like an impenetrable wall, trying to crush us, but not yet able to.
The encroaching external menace and constant terror of discovery corrode and suffocate life on the inside. The Annex, once seen as a safe haven, an adventure, a self-contained and sheltering world, is transformed into a prison. She feels like a ‘‘songbird whose wings have been ripped off and who keeps hurling itself against the bars of its dark cage.’’ Circumscribed by safety measures, the days follow the same monotonous routine with long hours of oppressive silence and sluggish movement. Anne describes how, after more than a year in hiding, everyone has almost forgotten how to laugh and that she takes daily doses of valerian to help combat anxiety and depression.
Anne transforms the privations of everyday life into amusing anecdotes, fear into an interesting adventure story, longing and loneliness into a romance plot. The narratives allow her to distance herself from the situation at hand through irony or retrospective analysis, rather than being submerged by it. They also allow her to explore alternative, more assertive or honest roles she wished she had played. In the claustrophobic context of the Annex, the diary becomes a world into which Anne retreats. Here she can fully express the feelings she must otherwise contain. One can read the diary in spatial terms as a safe place for her real, but still hidden self. It can also be understood in functional terms as a performative sphere in which Anne tests out different versions of herself, giving them a voice and watching them grow. She secures this private domain for herself in direct response to the relentless scrutiny and evaluation of her character by other members in the Annex. These confined quarters where people's moods, thoughts, and fates are so closely intertwined allow very little room for personal enfolding. The diary, like her own person, is under constant threat of being discovered and must therefore be carefully guarded. ‘‘Daddy is grumbling again and threatening to take away my diary. Oh horror of horrors! From now on, I'm going to hide it.’’ To assuage the curiosity of the Annex members and to provide them with much-needed comic relief, Anne occasionally reads passages aloud. These readings also serve the purpose of gathering critical feedback on her success as a writer. For the most part, however, Anne considers the diary her own private business and writes under the assumption that it will remain completely confidential. Those from whom she must protect her diary are not the Annex members alone, but also the outside world. Two months after arriving in the Annex, Anne rereads her first diary entries about this initially ‘‘ideal place’’ and adds that she is terrified that the hiding place will be revealed and its inhabitants shot. This fear explains why she omits the name of the man who supplies the Annex with potatoes. She knows that, if discovered, the diary could potentially be used as incriminating evidence against their helpers. Later, when she begins revising her diary for a future audience, she uses pseudonyms to protect the real identities of the Annex members. This coded language reveals yet another level of hiding.
On one level, the diary offers a classic, almost textbook example of the process of individuation from childhood into adolescence, away from externally imposed definitions and parental expectations. Generations of young girls searching for, slowly discovering, and eventually affirming their ''true'' selves have found a positive role model in Anne. Critics applaud her feminist qualities and trace her development from a girl who has her ''own ideas, plans and ideals, but is unable to articulate them yet’’ into a young woman who shows a quickly developing talent as a writer. What distinguishes Anne's situation, of course, is that this process of self-discovery and adolescent rebellion takes place within a context that allows very little room to test out this evolving self. While her body and self-image are radically changing and she carries within her a new ‘‘sweet secret,’’ others still treat and judge her according to the child she once was. Being this former childish self, however, is no longer possible in the Annex, with its long hours of silence and necessity of constant self-control. Anne is also tired of playing the family ‘‘clown and mischief maker'' and wants to take on a role different from the one others have come to expect of her. She describes the clash between these external and internal perceptions and expectations in terms of an internal split in which her ''bad'' half turns against and beats down her better half. The ''good'' Anne cannot survive in this miniature world of ''negative opinions, dismayed looks and mocking faces.’’ In self-defense, this Anne retreats into the private, hidden world of the diary: ‘‘I end up turning heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I'd like to be and what I could be if... if only there were no other people in the world.''
Revisions and Omissions
Upon hearing a radio broadcast in the Spring of 1944, in which the exiled Cabinet Minister of Education and Culture announced that the Dutch government would be collecting wartime diaries and letters as testimony of ‘‘Holland's struggle for freedom,’’ Anne began revising and writing her diary for future publication. How did this internal assessment of ''good'' and ''bad'' selves affect the revision process as Anne was consciously constructing an image of herself and life in the Annex for the outside world and posterity? Were there parts of herself she wanted to keep hidden because she considered them too personal, immature, or shameful? Her decision to cut out a passage (one of the missing pages) that relays her physical attraction to a childhood girlfriend and her "ecstasy" at seeing female nudes in art history books suggests that she considered this revelation inappropriate within this new, public forum. Even before hearing the radio announcement, Anne would read through earlier entries, criticizing her former ''childish innocence,’’ her "sentimental" or ‘‘embarrassingly indelicate’’ descriptions. Often she found herself face to face with a stranger whom she barely recognized. These self-evaluations reveal how she used the diary to trace and measure her own maturation process. In preparing her ''memory book'' for publication, however, she begins to consider what would be most interesting or relevant for the future reader. A few sentences after describing the impact of the radio broadcast, for example, she writes: ''Although I tell you a great deal about our lives, you still know very little about us.’’ Here, the direct address to her imaginary friend, Kitty, seems to have shifted to us, her new audience. Anne also suggests that, up to this point in the diary, she may not have been conveying the kind of details about hiding to which historical testimonies should aspire. With its new status as historical and public document comes a prioritization of information that involves editing out certain passages and adding new ones written from memory.
This careful screening of information deemed public and private, relevant and irrelevant, was most pronounced after Anne's death. After returning to Amsterdam from Auschwitz, Otto Frank, Anne's father and the sole survivor of the Annex, began assembling the diary entries into a manuscript to share with family and friends. Upon suggestion that he publish the manuscript, he chose material from Anne's original, unedited diary and her revised version, cutting out sections to meet the page number requirements of the Dutch publisher. These posthumous modifications to Anne's diary were not merely guided by practical considerations. More significantly, they reflect the father's desire for privacy and discretion, as well as the social ethos of the time. Passages that were unflattering toward his wife, that dealt too frankly with Anne's sexuality, or were otherwise considered unimportant were omitted. In this first, highly acclaimed edition, Anne comes across as far more even-tempered and gentle than in the most recent unedited version (1991). With the inclusion of formerly deleted passages, Anne is more complex, lively, self-reproaching, and biting. Comparing these versions, one can see how Otto Frank molded Anne's voice to fit into his idealized, paternal image of her. While his revisions may have been well-intentioned, they ultimately kept part of Anne hidden.
Inevitably, people and events described in a diary are introduced to us through the biased perspective of the writer. From reported speech and described actions, we may be able to glean the personalities and motivations of secondary characters, but our understanding of them within the context of the diary is always limited and shaped by the narrator. In her diary, Anne describes the most intimate details of the other seven members of the Annex, yet we never come to know them as complex individuals. At times, they seem to be mere caricatures of qualities Anne either emulates or despises: Margot, ever-patient and selfless; Otto, compassionate and understanding; Mrs. van Daan, nosy and bossy. Recent biographies and documentaries have sought to give a voice to—and bring out of hiding—those Annex members who suffered the ''fury of her pen.'' Edith Frank, whom Anne at one point angrily disavows as her mother, and the middle-aged dentist Fritz Pfeffer, whom Anne nicknamed Dussel (dope), bear the brunt of her criticism. Of the latter, we only see the ''old-fashioned disciplinarian and preacher of unbearably long sermons on manners.’’ We never get to know the man who sent clandestine love letters to a woman he was forced to leave because racial laws made it illegal for them to marry. Nor do we learn that he had a son, approximately Anne's age, whom he had put on a children's transport train to London in 1938 so that he would survive the war in safety with an uncle. In Jon Blair's documentary film Anne Frank Remembered (1995), Pfeffer's son conveys the bitter imprint Anne's diary has left on his life. Whereas Otto Frank became an icon of the perfect, caring father for generations of young girls, his father, with whom he had lost contact after the outbreak of the war, was harshly and unfairly portrayed. As Melissa Müller reveals in Anne Frank: The Biography, the recently recovered pages present a fuller picture of Anne's relationship toward her mother. In the pages Otto Frank removed because he felt the public did not need to know about his marriage, Anne expresses sympathy and understanding for her mother, whose passion for her husband was not reciprocated. Without this piece of information that explains why Edith Frank may have become ‘‘somewhat defensive and unapproachable,’’ we see her only as a source of deep disappointment and frustration for her daughter.
Not only does the diary contain silenced or hidden voices within it, one can also observe how for many years Anne Frank stood in for all children during the Holocaust. Generally speaking, scholarship did not begin to focus on the fate of children until forty years after the war, even though being a Jewish child in Europe meant certain extermination. Only 6-7% of Jewish children survived the Holocaust, compared with a 33% survival rate among adults. Most of these children survived the war in hiding. Some remained ''visible,'' passing as Christians in convents, monasteries, orphanages, or with foster families. They were forced to live double lives with new names and assumed identities. Survival depended upon concealing their emotions, remaining silent, and playing roles. Others remained "invisible" for months, even years, hiding out in attics, woods, barns, and other makeshift places, constantly vulnerable to discovery. Many lost not only their childhood, but also their identity, their families, and their lives. The prolonged public silence about hidden children may have to do with a general inability or reluctance to reconcile ideas of childhood with war. As countries grappled first with the shocking revelations of the death camps in the immediate postwar period and then tried to put the past behind them in the years of reconstruction, no room was given to the fate of children in public discourse. Anne Frank's story—that is, the one that ends before her deportation to and death in Bergen-Belsen—was the exception.
As Laurel Holliday argues in her introduction to an anthology of other children's secret wartime diaries: ''Maybe it was as much as we could bear to designate Anne Frank as the representative child and to think, then, only of her when we thought about children in World War Two.’’ Hers became the story of a Jewish childhood during the Second World War. Anne's life, not her death, became the ''human face'' of the Holocaust. Her diary functioned as a bearable, collective screen memory that hid the more widespread experiences of children in ghettos and concentration camps, who went hungry in the streets, witnessed their family members die, suffered disease, physical abuse, abandonment and horrendous deaths. Most readers remained unaware of the particular circumstances of Anne's own death. Willy Lindwer's television documentary The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank (1988), along with Jon Blair's aforementioned film and Melissa Müller's biography, have since extended the story to describe how Anne was first deported to the Westerbork detention camp, then to Auschwitz-Birkenau and finally to Bergen-Belsen, where she contracted typhus and died within a few weeks of liberation. Her body was thrown onto a mass grave. Some argue that the lasting power and relevance of the diary lies in its indirect, modulated approach to the Holocaust. Even though the terrors of persecution, physical suffering, and death exist only on the margins of the diary, they overshadow and determine our reading of it. Our sense of outrage, loss, and despair is enhanced because we know that Anne's optimism, faith in humanity, and future dreams will be bitterly deceived. Others argue just the opposite; that the diary's ‘‘naive idealism’’ allows us to ignore the genocide taking place beyond the Annex's walls. Rather than feeling horror, despair, and a radical uprooting of conventional frames of reference, we are able to feel sympathy and sadness for Anne, perhaps even a deep sense of identification, within the safe boundaries of familiar feelings.
Identifications and Appropriations
Identification with Anne's story has been particularly strong among adolescent girls who feel alienated from their parents while observing their own rapid internal changes with bewilderment and fascination. The diary mirrors their struggle for independence and search for a genuine voice. For adults, Anne is frequently seen as a universalized victim and ‘‘symbol of the oppressed.’’ Her diary stands in defiance of injustice and serves as a ''testament to courage, hope, and the faith in human goodness.’’ In some political situations, Anne has functioned as a role model. Nelson Mandela describes how the diary was smuggled into South African prisons during the years of apartheid, giving inmates the will to endure their suffering. Anne has also been an inspiration for writers who recognize and admire in her their own nascent desire to write. These multiple points of identification explain the ongoing, deep impact of the diary, but can also be problematic. Reading the diary as a classic portrait of adolescence, for example, glosses over the anxieties and all-too-real dangers associated with the particular historical context of the Holocaust. Early Broadway and Hollywood adaptations of the diary demonstrate how Anne's story was transformed into an ‘‘infantilized, Americanized, homogenized and sentimentalized'' story of general human interest that had little, if anything, to do with Jewish suffering.
Alvin Rosenfeld is troubled by the cultural trend to apply the term ''Holocaust'' to a wide range of contexts (from the AIDS epidemic to the war in Bosnia) and is skeptical of those who suggest an affinity with Anne when they speak of her as a ‘‘sister'' or a ''double.'' Such appeals to a common suffering, he argues, ''flatten history into the shapes we wish it to have.’’ The Holocaust is then transformed into a trope that expresses a ''personal and collective sense of 'oppression' and 'victimization,'’’ thereby losing its historical specificity and meaning. How are we still appropriating and molding Anne Frank's voice for our own personal or political ends? Does the Chilean poet Marjorie Agosin fall into this identification trap when—as a Jew, a woman, a writer, and an exile—she recognizes in Anne something of herself? In Dear Anne Frank: Poems (1994), she sees themselves connected through the reciprocal acts of reading and writing: ‘‘I name you and you are alive, Anne, although I died while reading you.'' They also share a history of persecution and of being Jews in predominantly Christian environments. Agosin's family escaped the Holocaust by settling in Chile before she was born and, in her own life, she left Chile to flee the violence of Pinochet's military regime. For her, Anne's abrupt end recalls the fate of thousands of victims in Latin America who were abducted and murdered during the 1970s. ‘‘When Chile's military junta smashed down the doors of our neighborhood to arrest women—yanking them off by their hair, which would later be shaved off—when they 'disappeared' them on dense, foggy nights, I thought of Anne Frank.’’ Like Anne, these desaparecidos are people without graves. Their deaths filter into Agosin's poems in the form of decapitations, mutilations, and rapes that Anne herself did not suffer, but which evoke the horror of Anne's death. When Agosin writes ''the gentlemen of the Gestapo listened to Mozart'' and then ''descended to ephemeral prison cells to bite into your ears, cut off your delicate breasts, your hands of a little princess, to strip you of your thirteen lived years,’’ she is no longer recalling Anne's story alone, but rather, torture in its essence—be it in the Nazi concentration camps or in Argentinian and Chilean prisons. The radical disjunction between Anne's image and her end is reflected in this juxtaposition between high culture and barbarism, delicacy and brutality.
In her poetry Agosin initiates an imaginary dialogue with Anne through direct address and questions. She challenges Anne's optimism (Did you really believe that all men were good?), draws attention to things left unsaid (How did you sleep during those nights riddled by airplanes delivering dread?) and inquires about what happened after the diary's end (Was there light behind that barbed fence?). The questions suggest that, if Anne could speak again, she would be unlike the one so many young girls ''carry in their hearts, tucked under their arms, in their illusory gazes.’’ Her answers would reflect a voice hardened by the cruelty that followed. Agosin describes how Anne appears to her ‘‘emaciated, transformed, like a demon.... You and I watching each other, without recognizing each other, with history's equivocal gaze, and you tinge with blood the room and windows.’’ This passage briefly suggests Agosin's awareness of the pitfalls and illusion inherent in her identification with Anne Frank. In defense of her proclaimed kinship, however, she observes that victims' families try to preserve the humanness of the deceased ''by means of remembrance that speak the soul's language, that see from within, that question and exclaim.’’ Her poems seek to perform this kind of personal, familial commemoration.
The present collection of writings has been exploring the real and imagined ‘‘secret spaces’’ children create for themselves in different contexts and for a variety of reasons—from play to outright survival. In Anne Frank's case, finding a hiding place was neither a matter of choice nor a game. Next to exile, hiding was one of the few alternatives Jews had to escape or postpone death. Examining this most extreme, literal form of hiding in conjunction with its other, more metaphoric meanings yields a nuanced understanding of the external and internal conditions that created the diary. With the inclusion of five new pages into future editions of the diary, yet another part of Anne Frank's emotional and fantasy life will have been brought out of hiding into the public sphere. With them, the once intimate hideaway will be fully exposed. Just as the diary and its reception reveal different levels of hiding and uncovering, it has, for better or for worse, invited many kinds of identifications and appropriations. The blank page that follows the final signature ‘‘Yours, Anne M. Frank’’ has been and will continue to be an invitation for writers to fill. Their responses may open up new questions and readings between the lines of the diary. It is this multi-layered quality that lies at the heart of the diary's success both as historical testimony and as literature.
Source: Karein K. Goertz, ‘‘Writing from the Secret Annex: The Case of Anne Frank,’’ in Michigan Quarterly Review,/i>, Vol. XXXIX, No. 3, Summer 2000, pp. 647-59.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1938
A Globe and Mail article, August 27, 1998, reports the discovery of several missing pages of Anne Frank's diary. The subtitle of the article quickly moves from the "sadness" of the excerpts to the real news, that is, the possible violation of copyright. For the article observes that the Anne Frank Fund has called in its lawyers to examine this apparent violation. In turn, the Amsterdam daily Het Parool, which published the excerpts on its front page, responds that their lawyers are ready and waiting. The Diary of Anne Frank is, as it has been for much of its history, big business. So much for Otto Frank's hope that publishing his daughter's diary, albeit in an edited form, would help change the world.
From the very beginning of the diary's fame, people have been arguing over what Anne said and what she meant, leading Cynthia Ozick recently to make the ''shocking'' suggestion that it would have been better if the diary had never been found. First published in 1947, then by Doubleday in an English translation in 1952 under the title Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, three years later a Pulitzer-Prize winning play, The Diary of Anne Frank, which in turn became the basis for the Hollywood film in 1959, the diary and its adolescent writer have become a symbol of idealism and artistic talent tragically destroyed by the Holocaust. The July 15, 1944 diary entry ‘‘in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart'' continues to be quoted in isolation, apart from the diarist's prior acknowledgment that ‘‘ideals, dreams, and cherished hopes rise within us, only to meet the horrible truth and be shattered.’’ Too often we forget such complexities in the diary, and the fact that less than three weeks later such a shattering occurred when the Frank family and the others hiding in the secret annex were betrayed. We would rather not dwell on the unlikelihood of maintaining belief in the goodness of people when one is dying of typhus in Bergen-Belsen. It is not surprising then that the diary and its theatrical interpretation remain the canonical way to tell children about the Holocaust. For children's literature demands that we teach that people are really good at heart, a lesson that is difficult to teach given the historical realities that drove the Frank family into hiding. Reading superficially, we find in the diary the lesson we wish to hear.
Why do we read this particular diary? There are many diaries of Holocaust victims, and even more memoirs of Holocaust survivors. What accounts for the canonical status of this particular work? Do we read it only because the voice is witty and sensitive, offering such a wonderful role model for child readers? And why does it matter so much what this particular Holocaust victim wrote? Do Anne's words sharpen or lessen our ability to remember that there were many other victims of Nazi genocide, not all of them as articulate as Anne but victims nevertheless? That of the six million Jewish victims, one and half million were Jewish children speaks brutally to the nature of Nazi genocide. That such children were statistically the least likely to survive confirms that Anne's death is not part of some vague romantic tragedy but the result of an organized genocide whose main victims were targeted for only one reason. Whether or not they were witty, sensitive, and eloquent—indeed we sometimes forget how many of those victims literally could not speak— they were still victims.
How Anne Frank became the ''authentic Holocaust voice'' for Meyer Levin, and how that voice was altered for ''ideological’’ reasons is the subject of Ralph Melnick's impressively researched and persuasively argued The Stolen Legacy of Anne Frank: Meyer Levin, Lillian Hellman, and the Staging of the "Diary." Melnick refers to this ‘‘search for an authentic Holocaust voice’’ in his opening sentence; he obviously believes that establishing where such authenticity lies is both possible and crucially important. To prove that Anne Frank's was such an authentic voice but one that we cannot hear because of what is usually regarded as a fairly trivial American theatrical battle is the goal of Melnick's book. In it, he argues that Meyer Levin, an American Jewish writer who died in 1981 still convinced that he had been the victim of a Stalinist plot engineered by Lillian Hellman and her minions (the term seems appropriate given Hellman's behind-the-scenes manipulation of writers, producers, and publishers), was the writer who first heard that authentic voice. But despite all the evidence Melnick presents, his book concludes gloomily that it is too late now to restore Levin's accurate perception of the meaning of Anne's voice:
But if there is reason to hope for a reassessment, there is greater reason to believe that the falsely crafted, ideologically determined image of an adolescent, stripped of her Jewish identity, naïvely proclaiming on stage and screen a simplistic and unwavering belief in the goodness of people, will remain fixed and unchallenged, denying the reality of the Holocaust—both the enormity of its evil and the very specificity with which those targeted for slaughter were hunted down and murdered.
Melnick's story of how the diary became a contested symbol is both fascinating and disturbing. We know that Otto Frank withheld portions of his daughter's diary; the recently published newspaper excerpts confirm how Frank withheld material that was flattering neither to himself, his dead wife, nor to the way he wished his daughter to be remembered. Melnick persuasively argues that the Broadway play represents an even more thorough revision in which Anne Frank's growing Jewish self-awareness is excised for a seemingly more universal presentation. He thus demonstrates that the controversy over the staging of the diary was more than a Broadway tempest, and that by replacing Levin with two Hollywood screenwriters, Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, a McCarthy-shocked Lillian Hellman determined how the diary of a murdered adolescent could be used to further her own political ends. Reading Melnick's account, it is hard to believe that people really are good at heart, or that Hellman cared that much. Did she really think that the public perception of the character of one Holocaust victim would make any difference? Melnick's perspective essentially agrees with Levin's: both see Hellman as the arch-villain (Hellman's motives are constantly described as ''ideological'' whereas Levin's, in contrast, are always heartfelt, the psychological burden of his traumatic memories as a war correspondent who was among the first Americans to enter the death camps, including Bergen-Belsen, the camp where Anne died). And the evidence Melnick presents of a struggle to control the meaning of Anne's voice is overwhelming. Melnick insists that there was no commercial theatrical need to make Anne's voice less Jewish for the predominantly Jewish audiences that attend Broadway theatre; instead he presents Hellman as both a self-hating Jew and a Stalinist who saw in the diary a cultural property by which she could indirectly propagate her own communist views at a time when her recent appearance before the House on Unamerican Activities necessitated a public silence.
Basing his argument on a careful and detailed reading of the archival papers of Otto Frank, Lillian Hellman, Meyer Levin, the Hacketts, and the other key participants, Melnick does not tell the usual story of Meyer Levin's paranoid and pathetic obsession (for that, see Lawrence Graver's 1995 aptly named text, An Obsession with Anne Frankm). Seeming to quote every relevant letter and statement recorded since 1950 when Tereska Torres, Levin's wife, gave Levin the French translation of the diary (a decision she would later regret, even attempting suicide in despair over her husband's behaviour), Melnick painstakingly shows how easily a diary written by a young Jewish victim of the Holocaust became the dramatic tale of a "universal" female adolescent experience, universal as defined by two screenwriters whose questionable qualifications for writing the adaptation include their friendship with Hellman and prior success in writing light comedies such as the Thin Man series.
Playing to Otto Frank's own self-perception (according to Melnick ‘‘secular, uneducated in Judaism, and anti-Zionist’’), Goodrich and Hackett, not themselves Jewish, consulted Jewish sources but also relied heavily on Hellman's advice, and became ‘‘unwitting co-conspirators.’’ With producer, Kermit Bloomgarden (Hellman's friend and ‘‘sometime lover’’) and director, Garson Kanin, the Hacketts were easily swayed by Hellman's perspective, so that even though they were later judged guilty of plagiarizing Levin's script, Melnick suggests that their more significant cultural crime was their willingness to omit nearly all Jewish references. For example, the Hacketts originally included, as did Levin, Anne's argument with Peter about the long history of Jewish suffering. Anne tells the non-religious Peter, ‘‘We're not the only Jews that've had to suffer. Right down through the ages there have been Jews and they've had to suffer.’’ In the seventeen-page critique Kanin sent the Hacketts, he called this speech ''an embarrassing piece of special pleading'' for its characterizing of the Holocaust as a specifically Jewish event, and urged them to delete it. For Anne—who dies precisely because she is Jewish—was to Kanin a symbol who ‘‘reduces her magnificent stature'' if she mentions that somehow embarrassing fact. Thus in the play's final draft, Anne says instead, ‘‘We're not the only people that've had to suffer. Sometimes one race... sometimes another'' (a statement later to be echoed in Hellman's own memoir Pentimento, and rightly criticized by Melnick for its casual acceptance of Hitler's racial rhetoric). Fearing ticket sales would be affected because the play was perceived as ''too serious,'' the Hacketts and Hellman spent the weekend together ''to give the play a lighter tone.’’ Even more Jewish references were cut, and the Hebrew Ma 'oz Tzur was replaced by a less ''alienating'' and more upbeat American Hanukah song.
In a culture determined to make of the Holocaust a lesson, what is the lesson here? Surely Levin's need to see himself as the one most sympathetic to Anne Frank's intentions is understandable given how his enthusiastic front-page review of the English translation of the diary in the New York Times, June 15, 1952 helped to make the diary a bestseller. Yet not everyone whose work is rejected sees himself as another victim of the Nazis. In what Melnick understatedly calls ''an unfortunate parallel,’’ Levin not only sued Otto Frank and Kermit Bloomgarden for damages, but wrote repeatedly to Frank that he was being tormented by the equivalent of the Nazis who had destroyed his daughter. Unable to understand why Frank ignored his work as the diary's first playwright, Levin accused Frank of acting the way the Nazis did when they took away an innocent Jew's business and gave it to someone else. The public agreement finally and problematically reached in 1959 that Levin would no longer publicly discuss whether the Hacketts' adaptation should have been produced did little to silence him. Having ‘‘made the public relations mistake of the century’’ when he decided to sue the father of Anne Frank, Levin died still tormented by the injustice he had been dealt. One wonders what the diarist, with her keen satiric eye for the foibles of those around her would have made of all of this. For does it really matter whether Anne Frank came to a realization of her Jewish identity in the months preceding her death? Does it lessen the impact of genocide to believe this? Or does Levin's need to see in Anne Frank's words such a realization demonstrate only our post-Holocaust desperate need to find a redemptive meaning in events that offer no redemption to anyone?
Source: Adrienne Kertzer, Review of The Stolen Legacy of Anne Frank, in ARIEL, Vol. 29, No. 4, October 1998, pp. 191-95.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 7007
No single document written during the Holocaust riveted the attention of the Western reading public more than the diary kept by Anne Frank and published in extract by her father, Otto, in 1947. Translated from the original Dutch into French in 1950, these extracts were initially read by a relatively small audience. Even the 1950 German translation had no resonance. It was only with its publication in the United States in 1952 that the diary was brought to the attention of a wider reading public. The English stage adaptation in 1955 inspired a republication of the German translation by the house of S. Fischer, and this caught the imagination of the German reading public. The German critic Philip Wiebe, writing in the socialist World of Work in 1955, summarized the German response to the discovery that the Jews murdered in the Holocaust were not passive and silent about their fate: "When we read the publisher's note about her dreadful death, we feel a true pain about the tragic fate of this young Jewess, who, through her jottings, has become better known to us than our sister.’’ The Western reading public, in Germany as well as in the United States, came to measure the Holocaust through its identification with the individual fate of Anne Frank. Untangling the reading of this text presents some extraordinary complications, complications resulting from the fragmentary nature of The Diary's publication as well as from its reception in the light of its dramatization. Anne Frank provided a ready-made definition of the Jew as author, and the Jewish author as mute victim after the Holocaust.
The complexity of reading The Diary of Anne Frank can be measured by its function in any number of studies of the Holocaust written by German Jewish survivors during the late 1950s. Theodor Adorno, in an essay on the reconstruction of the past, used an anecdote concerning the dramatization of The Diary to show the limitations of texts in uncovering the true nature of the Holocaust and its origin. He reports that he had been told of a woman in Germany who had seen the production of the stage version of The Diary and had said afterwards, deeply moved: ‘‘Yes, but that girl at least should have been allowed to live.'' Adorno sees this as a tentative first step to an awareness of the nature of the Holocaust, but an awareness that, ‘‘although it seems to trivialize the dead,’’ is limited by its focus on a single case and avoids any search for the cause of the tragedy. What Adorno does not read into this response is the inherent ambivalence of the statement, for it is possible to read it as stating:"We were in general right to kill them, but in this specific case we should have behaved differently.'' Adorno, himself a survivor who escaped Germany in 1934, sees here as faulty the focus on the individual as the means of escaping any search for the true roots of the Holocaust. He also shows how the Germans remain unmoved even by this individual fate to examine their own basic attitudes toward the Jews. George Steiner, in his essay on the "hollow miracle,’’ echoes this view: ‘‘True, German audiences were moved not long ago by the dramatization of The Diary of Anne Frank. But even the terror of The Diary has been an exceptional reminder. And it does not show what happened to Anne inside the camp. There is little market for such things in Germany.’’ The drama based on The Diary provided the audience in Germany as well as throughout the Western world with a living victim. It provided the resurrection of one of the dead witnesses of the Holocaust, one who spoke and thus broke through the silence attributed to the victim.
The relationship between The Diary and the play is important for understanding the movement of the text from the world of the text to that of "realistic illusion,'' the world of the theater. It also provides the frame for one of the most striking images of the '' self-hating'' Jew to be found in post-Holocaust writing. In 1950 the Jewish American writer Meyer Levin read the French translation of the diary. Levin, a lifelong Zionist, had authored, in 1931, the first English novel dealing with the kibbutz movement. Convinced that The Diary was the living witness to the Holocaust,"the voice from the mass grave,’’ he reviewed it in the Congress Weekly, the organ of the American Jewish Congress, and his review led to the publication of the English translation by Doubleday. Levin thus received permission from Anne Frank's father, Otto, to write the stage adaptation. When the dramatization was finished, it was passed on to the producer, Cheryl Crawford, who rejected it, at least in part on the advice of the dramatist Lillian Hellman, as unplayable. The project eventually passed into the hands of Kermit Bloomgarden, who, again with the advice of Hellman, commissioned the husbandandwife team of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett to write a new adaptation of The Diary, which was performed in 1955 and won the Pulitzer prize. Starring Susan Strasberg, it was the hit of the 195556 Broadway season. In 1959 Millie Perkins was cast as Anne Frank in George Stevens's film version of the play, with Joseph Schildkraut as Otto Frank. The success of the film imprinted the figure of Anne Frank as the image of the victim on international awareness. The motion picture, with all of its sense of the need for a commercial success among groups other than Jews, maintained the sanitized version of Goodrich and Hackett and added to it many of the banalities of Hollywood's postHolocaust image of the Jew as victim. Anne Frank becomes a positive figure through being the essential victim in a manner parallel to that of the figure of Noah Ackerman (played by Montgomery Clift) in Edward Dmytryk's 1958 film of Irwin Shaw's The Young Lions or Danny Kaye's comic S. L. Jacobowsky in the film version of Franz Werfel's Me and the Colonel (1958). Jews are victims—positive victims, but victims nevertheless. This short history of the creation of the dramatization is of importance only in that it sets the stage for one of the most complex creations of a projection of selfhatred by a twentiethcentury Jewish writer. From 1953 to 1957 Meyer Levin instituted a series of lawsuits against the producer of the play as well as Otto Frank. In January 1958 Levin was awarded fifty thousand dollars in damages.
Levin's struggle with The Diary, a text that had a central position in his understanding of the Holocaust in the history of Western Jewry, and his projection of the "bad" Jew formed the basis for a novel, The Fanatic (1964), and the second volume of his autobiography, The Obsession (1973). The first volume of his autobiography, In Search (1950), ended with the founding of the state of Israel; the second volume, initially entitled ‘‘The Manipulators,’’ dealt exclusively with The Diary and his role in presenting it to the world. This autobiographical text is remarkable, for, like Elias Canetti' s memoirs, it is as much an attempt to provide a reading of a series of actions as it is an attempt to present them. The "frame" of the autobiography is Levin's psychoanalysis, which is aimed at his trying to understand the basis for his "obsession'' with the diary. Levin sees his exclusion from participation in the presentation of The Diary to the living world of the theater as the result of a plot on the part of the German Jewish Communist intelligentsia. He focuses on Lillian Hellman, born in New Orleans of German Jewish ancestry, blacklisted under McCarthy, and one of the most visible representatives of American liberalism on the Broadway stage, as the essential "bad'' Jew. He sees her as manipulating The Diary to stress its "international'' rather than its specifically Jewish character. His dramatization of the diary was unacceptable, he believes, because it was ‘‘too Jewish.’’ The "bad" Jew, that Jew which Levin wishes to distance from himself, is the German Jew, the international Jew:
It was true... that although Otto [Frank] was entirely unpretentious, something of the aristocratic manner remained, despite even the experience of Auschwitz— and, nasty as this seems—I must put down that even on that day there arose in me a faint doubt as to his view of me, a doubt that I once suppressed with shame, as being due to my early Chicago prejudices against German Jews, who persisted in their superiorityattitude toward us Ostjuden from Poland or Russia... To this day I accuse myself of this counterprejudice against German Jews, yet I cannot rid myself of the feeling that I am seen by them as a Yid.
Levin uncovers the fact that the Franks were indeed a wealthy, highly assimilated family in Frankfurt before they emigrated to the Netherlands. Indeed, he further discovered that they were related to the Straus family (which owned Macy's) and that Otto Frank had spent a year in New York working for them. The German Jewish conspiracy is thus complete.
Levin's need is to mold Anne Frank and her text into a "Jewish"—that is, anti-assimilationist— model, for he sees in the assimilation of the German Jews, of Frank herself, a fault that can only be rectified by a return to his own sense of what is appropriate for the witness to the torment of the Jews. Frank must be made to speak as a Jew, and Jews, having been treated as different, must see themselves as positively different. The ‘‘Hellman Hackett'' version of The Diary (as Levin refers to it throughout the text) stressed the universalism of Anne Frank. Thus their text altered a passage that stressed the difference of the Jews (‘‘Who has made us Jews different from all other people ... If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will be held up as an example.'') into one that stated their representative function as victims (‘‘We're not the only people that've had to suffer. There have always been people that've had to ... sometimes one race ... sometimes another.’’) For Levin this alteration, which made Anne Frank the representative of yet another example of humankind's inhumanity to humans rather than of specifically German persecution of the Jews, smacks of the assimilationist tendency that views him as merely a "Yid.'' The world of the German Jew is corrupt and degenerate. While one may wish to see Levin's attack on the universalization of Anne Frank's experience as a means of protecting the "Jewish'' character of the Holocaust, it is clear that the Franks' brand of ethnic Judaism was inherently unacceptable to Levin. "Jewish," is for him, a narrowly defined label which would preclude precisely the type of universalization advocated by German Jews such as the Franks and which echoes very clearly in the dramatization. Levin reproduces this image of the corrupt German Jew in great detail in his bestknown work, his novelization of the Leopold-Loeb murder case, in which he presents the world of Chicago's German Jewish community as one that produces unmotivated murders not unlike those of Nazi Germany. Compulsion (1956) was a work that he hoped would "show what those overproud German Jews, with their superiority and their exclusiveness, were like.’’
Both the Hackett dramatization of The Diary of Anne Frank and Levin's seemed to present antithetical readings of a text in the light of two models of the Jew present in Eisenhower's America. The first was of the Jew as a child, as victim, like all other children, like all other victims. The only answer to this image was the liberal answer: Humanity must eliminate all suffering, and such suffering, too, would vanish. How? The underlying theme of the drama is certainly not a Marxist one. There is no intimation that antiSemitism (or indeed any other persecution) is the result of a decaying world of capitalism. Rather the audience is left with the vague feeling that something must be done, even if no program is presented Levin's reading presents a program. It is through the strong identification of Jews as political and religious Jews, defined in the light of the newly realized political ideal of Zionism, that such horrors can be prevented from happening again. The Diary itself, or at least the fragments that have been published, presents a mix of both views. But Levin's selective reading of these fragments reveals strikingly his wish to label Anne Frank as the "good'' Jew, and thus the "good'' Jew as writer, and his parallel wish to see in Hellman the "bad'' Jew as writer. One of the central proofs that Levin brought in his court suit against the Hacketts was the use of a specific scene placed at the conclusion of the second act:"Here, now, was the Chanukah scene, just as I had placed it, as the climax at the close of the second act. Anne, extremely excited, hurrying about distributing her little gifts, the excitement mounting and mounting—something seemed wrong to me. The way they had done it was more like Christmas.’’ Indeed, the Chanukah celebration is so presented in the Hacketts' play. But what is the parallel in the diary itself? On 7 December, 1942, Anne Frank records that Chanukah and St. Nicholas's Day fell almost together. Chanukah was celebrated, but ‘‘the evening of St. Nicholas's Day was much more fun.’’ In December 1943 there are five separate entries recording her joy at the coming of St. Nicholas's Day and Christmas. It is on St. Nicholas's Day that good little boys and girls are rewarded with gifts, while bad children receive coals in their shoes. Anne Frank was typical of assimilated Jews, who adopted Christian religious observations without any religious overtones in lieu of a Jewish religious celebration. Both versions of the play thus create a speaking Jew, and being Jewish, at least in the world of the theater, is tied to the image of religion, if not to religion itself. The language that Anne Frank is made to speak is stage English, just as her diary was written in literary Dutch, so there is not specific linguistic marker for her identity. She does not speak with a Jewish accent, does not mix bits of Hebrew in her discourse. The authors, no matter what their political persuasion, must give her some type of identification as a Jew. For the illusion is that the Jewish dead of the Holocaust are made to speak. This is, of course, merely an illusion. The dead remain mute; the living revivify them for their own ends.
Early in his recounting of his involvement with the dramatization of The Diary, Meyer Levin cites one authority whose work on the pattern of survival has become a standard in the past decades. Bruno Bettelheim, born and educated in Vienna, was incarcerated in Dachau and Buchenwald during 1938 and 1939. His study The Informed Heart (1960) was his attempt to see the Holocaust as an outgrowth of modern society. He views the inability of the Jews to respond to the world of the camps as merely another manifestation of the dehumanization of modern technological society. As early as 1943 Bettelheim expressed this view in one of the first psychological studies of the Nazi persecution of the Jews. But it was only in 1960, after the tremendous success of the dramatization of The Diary of Anne Frank, that Bettelheim produced a monograph on the Holocaust, a monograph that contained a study of The Diary. In it Bettelheim criticizes Otto Frank for putting his family into hiding and maintaining, in their hiding place, the idea that life must continue ‘‘as nearly as possible in the usual fashion.’’ Bettelheim castigates the Franks for not hiding individually or providing themselves with weapons to resist their (for Bettelheim) inevitable discovery and deportation. Bettelheim's criticism of the reception of The Diary is aimed at those who wish "to forget the gas chambers and to glorify attitudes of extreme privatization, of continuing to hold onto attitudes as usual even in a Holocaust.'' He sees the popularity of the book as a part of the denial ‘‘that Auschwitz even existed. If all men are good there was never an Auschwitz.’’ This is the final line of the Hacketts' dramatization. Meyer Levin cites Bettelheim as his authority on survival, since he survived the camp experience. He sees him as the "good'' survivor whose work exposes the "bad'' survivor, Otto Frank, whose actions caused the death of the "good'' Jew, Anne Frank. Similarly, George Steiner sees in Bettelheim's study the inner truth of the Holocaust because of his claim to authentic personal experience: "Fiction falls silent before the enormity of the fact, and before the vivid authority with which that fact can be rendered by unadorned report.''
Indeed, Bettelheim himself, in his 1979 collection of essays pointedly called Surviving, republished his 1960 essay ‘‘The Ignored Lesson of Anne Frank.’’ It becomes clear that Bettelheim too is responding to the "speaking" Anne Frank of the drama, at the conclusion of which she says, in a disembodied voice, "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.’ ' ‘'This improbable sentiment is supposedly from a girl who had been starved to death, had watched her sister meet the same fate before she did, knew that her mother had been murdered, and had watched untold thousands of adults and children actually being killed. The statement is not justified by anything Anne actually told her diary.’’ Bettelheim implies that he knows that the opposite must have been true—that Anne Frank must have lost her individuality in the camps, that she, too, must have been dehumanized. Of course this is as much a subjective reading as that of the Hacketts. Bettelheim's pessimistic reading of Anne Frank's fate is needed by him to explain her failure to survive. Indeed, in the 1960 essay, Bettelheim compares Anne Frank's diary with the autobiography of another survivor, Marga Minco, whose Bitter Herbs appeared in 1960. Bettelheim is appalled at the ‘‘universal admiration of [the Franks' ] way of coping, or rather of not coping. The story of little Marga who survived, every bit as touching, remains totally neglected by comparison.’’ It is the living survivor, Bettelheim himself, who is neglected, while the voices of the dead continue to haunt him. Bettelheim's reworking of the earlier excursus on Anne Frank in this later essay repeats many of the earlier claims. It lays directly on the doorstep of the "play and movie'' the denial of the realities of the Holocaust: "If all men are good at heart, there never really was an Auschwitz; nor is there any possibility that it may recur.'' Bettelheim has created in his image of Anne Frank the source of the denial of the Holocaust, of the father as the "bad'' Jew, of the speaking witness as the lying witness.
In January 1959, while Bettelheim was writing his long essay on Anne Frank, A German schoolteacher named Lothar Stielau was charged with disseminating anti-Semitic propaganda. Stielau, a member of a neoNazi party in Lübeck, had claimed that The Diary of Anne Frank was a fabrication, created to defame the German people. Stielau's claims had been published in the party's newspaper in December 1958. He saw in The Diary a mix of sentimentality and pornographic sexuality aimed at showing the German people in the worst possible light. Stielau charged that the Holocaust, as portrayed in The Diary, simply had not happened. The court ordered him dismissed from the civil service and removed from his position in the school system. But this was in no way the end of the antiSemites' denial of the reality of The Diary. In the United States in 1967 an essay repeating most of the charges made against The Diary appeared in what had become a shadow of H. L. Mencken's American Mercury. The author, Teressa Hendry, labeled The Diary a "fiction'' and dismissed it as part of the libel against the Germans. In 1979, the same year in which Bettelheim published his collection Surviving, Ditlieb Felderer published a slim monograph entitled Anne Frank's Diary: A Hoax with the virulently antiSemitic Institute for Historical Review in California. Felderer presents an interesting case. An Austrian Jew born in 1943, he emigrated to Sweden, where he became a convert to the Jehovah' s Witnesses, who sent him to Germany after the war to document the Nazi crimes against their members who were persecuted as pacifists. His pamphlet on The Diary is one of the most widely circulated of the revisionist documents. Felderer's arguments, while more detailed than the others, are not very different from Stielau's and Hendry's. All were widely reported in the American press. The basis for all their charges was Meyer Levin's lawsuit against Otto Frank and his claim to have written the authentic version of The Diary—for the stage! This claim was twisted into a claim that Levin actually wrote The Diary: "The Diary of Anne Frank ... has been sold to the public as the actual diary of a young Jewish girl who died in a Nazi concentration camp after two years of abuse and horror . . . Any informed literary inspection of this book would have shown it to have been impossible as the work of a teenager.’’ So says Hendry, but this is the central thesis of all of the antiSemitic readings of The Diary. All of these accounts make detailed reference to Levin's court case and interpret the findings of the judge for Levin as "proof of the fictionality of The Diary. Hendry calls The Diary fiction labeled as fact. This view is repeated in a widely circulated monograph by Robert Faurisson, the French revisionist, which simply collects the earlier material and arranges it in systematic order. Thus The Diary is, for the antiSemites, further proof of the lying discourse of the Jews. Jews lie, and they lie to profit themselves through the claims of their own annihilation in their creation of "fictions" about themselves. Seen in this light, The Diary of Anne Frank is yet another failed Jewish novel. It fails because it is not a "real" representation of the hidden language of the Jews but rather a literary work that any "informed literary inspection’’ would reveal as a work of fiction written within nonJewish literary conventions. Thus, part of Levin's unconscious response to the struggle he has with his own Jewish identity is the fact that he has undermined the veracity of The Diary as testimony. In claiming to have authored the only valid reading of The Diary, he cast the veracity of the diary into doubt. This is Levin's implicit reading, which is then internalized and projected onto everyone involved with the dramatization of the work. It also becomes part of the readings of The Diary during the 1960s. What is clear is that the anti-Semitic readings of The Diary are but continuations of older charges of the dissimulation of the Jews. Since The Diary comes to have a central role in defining the nature of Jewish discourse, the pollution of its interpretation by the antiSemitic reading causes the figure of Anne Frank to assume a central role in projections of Jewish selfdoubt. This is especially the case with The Diary's role in defining the damaged discourse of the Jew as a force in shaping the identity of the writer who perceives himor herself as Jewish.
The confusions surrounding the Jewish readings of The Diary of Anne Frank are examined and explained in the work of Philip Roth. Roth's fascination with the double bind situation present within American Jewish identity dominates his writing. Beginning with his collection of short stories Goodbye, Columbus (1959), which won the National Book Award for fiction, Roth comments on the decline of American Jewry under the pressure of the "American way of life.'' His early ideal for the Jew seems to be the introspective writer manqué, like the hero of the title story of that collection, the writer who has yet to prove himself but who separates himself from the commercial world of bourgeois Jewish values. The confusion that reigns among his early characters can best be judged in his tale ‘‘Eli, the Fanatic,’’ from Goodbye, Columbus. The eponymous hero of the tale confronts the Jew in the form of a group of Eastern European Jews who come to settle in a suburban community. Their dress calls attention to them and thus, in the minds of the local Jews, to the idea of the Jew itself. Eli is sent to persuade the newcomers to change their appearance, their outer sign of identity, which they are quite willing to do. He however, becomes obsessed with the idea of their difference and assumes their cast off garments, becoming a parody of those whose identity as Jews had so frightened and fascinated him.
According to Roth, Goodbye, Columbus earned him the label of ‘‘being antiSemitic and 'selfhating,' or at least, tasteless.’’ This attitude was compounded, if anything, when Roth published Portnoy's Complaint in 1969. Peter Shaw, the associate editor of the Jewish conservative periodical Commentary, concluded his review:
But if he has not been bad for the Jews, he has decidedly been bad to them—and at the expense of his art. For Portnoy's Complaint, in descending to caricature to get its effects, fails at the very point of imagination which raises a novel above a tract. Roth has been a positive enemy to his own work, while for the Jews he has been a friend of the proverbial sort that makes enemies unnecessary.
Labeled as a ‘‘self-hating Jew,’’ a label that arose to characterize the psychopathology of assimilation as represented by the discourse of acculturated Jews, Roth incorporated this charge in his fiction. If the author who writes about Jews in a critical manner is "selfhating," then one manner of dealing with this image is to create a persona, the author labeled as ‘‘selfhating Jew,’’ in one's own fiction. Roth begins, in a trilogy about the Jewish American novelist Nathan Zuckerman, to explore the psyche of a Jewish writer identified as writing like a Jew, but a negative Jew, a "bad" Jew, a "selfhating'' Jew. Roth explores this psyche, as he had in Goodbye, Columbus, with the tools of the social critic, irony and satire. Zuckerman is not Roth or even a Roth surrogate; he is what his readers expect the author ofPortnoy's Complaint to be. In a sense Roth creates a figure based on the paradigm of the Jew that he rejects: ‘‘Jews are people who are not what antiSemites say they are. That was once a statement out of which a man might begin to construct an identity for himself; now it does not work so well, for it is difficult to act counter to the ways people expect you to act when fewer and fewer people define you by such expectations.’’ Roth wishes to explore how an author labeled ‘‘selfhating’’ arrived at his identity. He reverses the image of the "self-hating" Jew and comes to a definition of the Jews as precisely those people who are not what Jews say they are. He has more than adequate information to construct a "self-hating" identity for Nathan Zuckerman.
Nathan Zuckerman is one of the most complex representations of the Jew as author in modern prose fiction. He first appears in Roth's work as a character in the fiction of Peter Tarnopol, the protagonist of Roth's My Life as a Man (1974). Zuckerman is the literary figure whom the author Tarnopol uses to project all of his internalized sense of the "pain of life;’’ having Zuckerman suffer, in the stories, from inexplicable migraines. The use of a character created by a fiction to represent the confusion between life and art, between the charges made in American society about being a Jew and a writer and their embodiment within the work of art, raises the problem of selfhatred and its relationship to the "damaged’’ discourse of the Jew to a new level of analysis. Roth sees the problem as one with the myths of Jewish identity imported from Europe, myths that are inappropriate to the formation of the identity of the American Jew, especially the American Jew as writer. He gives the reader the ultimate confusion between life and art, the confusion that he has his character's character, Zuckerman, experience quite against his logical perception of the world in the course of the trilogy.
The education of Nathan Zuckerman is portrayed in Roth's novel The Ghost Writer (1980). In this novel Zuckerman meets the Jewish American short story writer E. I. Lonoff, viewed as a "quaint remnant of the Old World ghetto'' whose "fantasies about Americans’’ some thought ‘‘had been written in Yiddish somewhere inside czarist Russia.’’ Lonoff lives as a recluse in New England, married to a woman whose ancestry reaches back to the American Puritans. He divides his time between teaching at a woman's college and drafting and redrafting his ‘‘brilliant cycle of comic parables.’’ Lonoff is the Jewish writer as establishment figure. Zuckerman arrives as a newly published author in 1955 to convince Lonoff to "adopt" him as his protégé. In Lonoff s home he meets Amy Bellette, who is ostensibly cataloguing Lonoff s papers for the Harvard Library, where they are to be deposited. A former student of Lonoff s and now his lover, Bellette is revealed in the course of the writer's fantasies to be Anne Frank, who survived the death camps and eventually came to the United States.
The juxtaposition of Anne Frank and Nathan Zuckerman to Lonoff provides Roth with the context in which he defines the Jew as writer. Anne Frank's central position in this definition is heightened by Roth's use of the label "self-hating" for Zuckerman even at this very early stage of his career. Nathan has written a tale of the interfamilial squabbles over the inheritance left by one of his aunts. He sees the story as portraying the strength of character of some of the individuals involved as well as the pettiness of individuals placed in a society without rigid ethical standards. His parents, especially his father, see the story as an attack on all Jews as ‘‘money grubbing.’’ He sees ‘‘himself and all of Jewry gratuitously disgraced and jeopardized by my inexplicable betrayal.’’ His father turns to a remote family acquaintance, a judge who had helped his son get into the University of Chicago, for advice. The judge writes Nathan a long letter, with an appended questionnaire, that points to the potential misuse of his work by a "Julius Streicher or a Joseph Goebbels.’’ The letter ends with a postscript: ‘‘If you have not yet seen the Broadway production of The Diary of Anne Frank, I strongly advise that you do so. Mrs. Wapter and I were in the audience on opening night; we wish that Nathan Zuckerman could have been with us to benefit from that unforgettable experience.’’ It is the drama based on The Diary that defines Anne Frank for this world. It is the image of the speaking, living witness, the dead come to life, the dead never having died, that provides the emotional clue to the inner life of an American Jew as critic. Judge Wapter is the "bad'' Jew; he attempts to manipulate Nathan by equating his world with that of Anne Frank, by equating the American Jewish experience after the Holocaust with that of Europe. Roth sees these two worlds as inherently different, separated not only by the difference in the structures of society but by the very occurrence of the Holocaust. In the United States the Holocaust, through its commercialization in works such as the dramatization of The Diary of Anne Frank, has provided all Jews with a homogeneous history. Roth sees the need to provide autonomy for each individual's experience, to reverse Bruno Bettelheim's view that the camps were the ultimate loss of autonomy in a mass age. The dramatization of The Diary provided a history for all American Jews that was distant from their own private terrors. Zuckerman's father demands that Nathan respond to the judge’s letter, but Nathan refuses:
‘‘Nothing I could write Wapter would convince him of anything. Or his wife.’’ ‘‘You could tell him you went to see The Diary of Anne Frank. You could at least do that.’’ ‘‘I didn’t see it, I read the book. Everybody read the book.’’ ‘‘But you liked it, didn’t you?’’ ‘‘That’s not the issue. How can you dislike it? Mother, I will not prate in platitudes to please the adults.’’
The Diary of Anne Frank is the true experience, the Jew as writer in an appropriate discourse; it is the drama that provides the clue to the middle class’s expropriation of fears that are not their own. What happened to the Jews of Europe a decade before became the pattern against which Roth’s American Jews, those who so freely wield the label of ‘‘self-hating Jew’’ against the writer, measure themselves. But it is a trivial model; it is the world of the commercial theater or film, not the reality of Belsen, that defines their identity. Thus when Roth recounts to Lonoff Amy Bellette’s admission that she is Anne Frank (and his seduction by her), it is in terms of the drama. She goes to New York from Boston to see ‘‘the dramatization of Anne Frank’s diary’’:
It wasn’t the play—I could have watched that easily enough if I had been alone. It was the people watching with me. Carloads of women kept pulling up to the theater, women wearing fur coats, with expensive shoes and handbags. I thought, This isn’t for me . . . . But I showed my ticket, I went in with them, and of course it happened. It had to happen. It’s what happens there. The women cried. Everyone around me was in tears. Then at the end, in the row behind me, a woman screamed, ‘‘Oh, no.’’ That’s why I came running here . . . . And I knew I couldn’t when I heard that woman scream ‘‘Oh, no.’’ I knew then what’s been true all long: . . . I have to be dead to everyone.
It is evident even to Lonoff that she is creating a fiction, indeed a fiction patterned after her mentor’s own stories. She recounts her life as Anne Frank, how she survived Belsen as a mute and passive child, how she took the name Bellette from Little Women (creating herself as a literary character), how she discovered her father’s publication of her diary in an old copy of Time in a dentist’s office, how she ordered and received a copy of the Dutch original. Roth’s reading of The Diary through the eyes of Amy Bellette reveals the work as one of unselfconscious self-analysis, but a book that received its force through the writer’s death: ‘‘But dead she had something more to offer than amusement for ages 10–15; dead she had written, without meaning or trying to, a book with the force of a masterpiece to make people finally see.’’ Roth plays this found work of art off against the craft of the play. And he, too, uses the example of religious celebration. ‘‘As for celebrations, she had found St. Nicholas’s Day, once she’d been introduced to it in hiding, much more fun that Chanukah, and along with Pim made all kinds of clever gifts and even written a Santa Claus poem to enliven the festivities . . . How could even the most obtuse of the ordinary ignore what had been done to the Jews just for being Jews, how could even the most beknighted of the Gentiles fail to get the idea when they read in Het Achterhuis that once a year the Franks sang a harmless Chanukah song, said some Hebrew words, lighted some candles, exchanged some presents—a ceremony lasting some ten minutes—and that was all it took to make them the enemy.’’ Roth makes language, the Hebrew of the liturgy, into the means by which Amy Bellette defines the world of Anne’s Jewishness. The ‘‘Jewishness’’ of the drama rings false in Roth’s presentation, since it is the most superficial identification with Jewish ritual rather than with Jewish ethics. The Franks’ Chanukah, in Roth’s eye, is quite parallel to the Jewish wedding presented in the title novella of Goodbye, Columbus. It is ritual language without meaning.
It is not simply that Roth sees in the silence imposed on Anne Frank, on her role as the dead author speaking, the misreading of her text. Roth parallels the fate of Lonoff’s two ‘‘children’’: Anne, the woman who seduces him, and Nathan, the man who wishes to become his ‘‘son.’’ Nathan’s upbringing is thus strikingly parallel to that of Anne:
In fact my own first reading of Lonoff’s canon . . . had done more to make me realize how much I was still my family’s Jewish offspring than anything I had carried forward to the University of Chicago from childhood Hebrew lessons, or mother’s kitchen, or the discussions I used to hear among my parents and our relatives about the perils of intermarriage, the problem of Santa Claus, and the injustice of medical school quotas.
Zuckerman’s attraction to Anne, the idea of being ‘‘Anne Frank’s husband,’’ has some of its roots in his identification with her understanding of herself. Both see themselves as Jews in terms of the minimal identification with the special language of the Jews—not Hebrew, the language of liturgy, of the annual visit to the temple, but the Yiddishtinged language of the Jewish writer, Lonoff. Lonoff becomes all Jewish writers for Zuckerman. He becomes (in Zuckerman’s analogy) Kafka as well as Babel. And when he fantasizes Amy into the role of Anne Frank, a role that she created for herself out of the stuff of Lonoff’s fictions and the Hacketts’ play, he sees her as Kafka’s ‘‘K’’: ‘‘Everything he dreamed in Prague was, to her, real Amsterdam life . . . . It could be the epigraph for her book. ‘Someone must have falsely traduced Anne F., because one morning without having done anything wrong, she was placed under arrest.’’’ Anne is a fiction of Amy in Zuckerman’s world. She is a fiction that Zuckerman wishes to use to prove that he is not a ‘‘self-hating’’ Jew: ‘‘Oh, marry me, Anne Frank, exonerate me before my outraged elders of this idiotic indictment! Heedless of Jewish feeling? Indifferent to Jewish survival? Brutish about their well-being? Who dares to accuse of such unthinking crimes the husband of Anne Frank!’’.
For at this point, at the close of Roth’s novel, Zuckerman knows that Amy is not Anne. ‘‘When the sleeve of her coat fell back, I of course saw that there was no scar on her forearm. No scar; no book; no Pim.’’ Amy’s fiction of Anne Frank enables Zuckerman, the ‘‘self-hating’’ Jew, to perceive that his voice can be one apart from the fragments of European history that make up the world of Anne Frank. No scar, no book, only theater. The voice of the poet, of Lonoff as the master craftsman, is likewise revealed to be dry and cramped, destructive of art as much as the bourgeois theater in which The Diary is played. Zuckerman can go on to examine that world in which he has found himself, that world, according to Roth, of social accessibility and moral indifference, where one cannot always figure out what a Jew is that a Christian is not.
In Roth’s reading of The Diary of Anne Frank, the model of self-hatred incorporated in American consciousness, based on the analogy of the American experience with that of Europe, is drawn into question. Bettelheim, Steiner, and, indeed, even Meyer Levin accept the polar definition of the ‘‘self-hating’’ Jew, one who internalizes the charges of anti-Semitic rhetoric, specifically about the nature of his own language, and projects these charges onto others labeled as Jews. For Bettelheim the villain is Otto Frank; Levin sees in him the same villain, the ‘‘bad’’ Jew, but for quite different reasons. Roth takes the idea of the Jewish writer in post-Holocaust American society as his theme. He wishes to examine how the very process of internalization and projection works in forming the consciousness and identity of his prototypical ‘‘Jewish’’ writer, Nathan Zuckerman. Roth’s point of departure is his fictionalization of the double bind in which writers such as Bettelheim, Steiner, Adorno, and Levin found themselves when ‘‘reading’’ The Diary of Anne Frank. They saw the work, especially when presented as a play or a movie, as a resuscitation of the Jew as victim, without acknowledging that such an action would draw into question the very role of the survivor. This double bind situation, the survivor’s confrontation with the survival of the victim, a victim seemingly better able than the survivor-witness to articulate the horror of the Holocaust, becomes the stuff of Roth’s fiction. In the education of Nathan Zuckerman, in his confrontation and fantasy about Anne Frank, is the very stuff of the double bind of contemporary readings of The Diary of Anne Frank, distanced through the use of satire and understood as part of the European inheritance that shapes the identity of the American Jewish writer. Roth wishes to distance himself from the world of Nathan Zuckerman, from the world of the Jew who internalizes the charge of the silence of the Jew as victim and the special role assigned, to the articulate Jew as witness, the Jewish author as the creator of his own undamaged discourse. In the various readings of The Diary of Anne Frank one can see the function of such a text, especially in it form as play and movie, in providing the matrix for a discussion of the appropriate language of the Jew as survivor.
Source: Sander L. Gilman, ‘‘The Dead Child Speaks: Reading The Diary of Anne Frank,’’ in Studies in American Jewish Literature, Vol. 7, Spring 1988, pp. 9–23.
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