Thursday, June 12, 2014

Remembering Anne Frank

June 12 is the 85th birth anniversary of Anne Frank. It's hard to imagine Anne Frank, forever a teenager, as an 85 year old woman. With the publication of her diary and the subsequent books written by family and friends, she became for  many the face and the voice of Jewish Holocaust victims.

After Auschwitz: a story of heartbreak and survival by the stepsister of Anne Frank by Eva Schloss. Before the war began Eva Schloss became friends with Anne Frank. Eva and her mother Fritzi were arrested on her 15th birthday and were sent to Auschwitz. Unlike Anne Frank, Eva survived, although she lost her father and brother. In 1953 Fritzi married Otto Frank and Eva worked with her stepfather to preserve Anne Frank's legacy.

Anne Frank: the biography by Melissa Muller is a recent addition to Anne Frank scholarship which was originally published in German in 1998 and translated into English in 2013 with additional information to the original text to include material that Otto Frank had originally suppressed. Muller added fascinating details about the Frank family history, an analysis of who betrayed the family, information about Anne's time in the Concentration Camp and an epilogue of information about survivors, family and friends.

Muller first read Anne Frank's diary when she was of a similar age. This is not unique and young girls are drawn to Anne for expression of their shared experiences as well as for her heart-breaking story. Francine Prose in Anne Frank: the book, the life, the afterlife takes a somewhat different approach. Rather than only assume that the diary is a heartfelt outpouring of a young girl, she analyzes the text to show that Anne Frank was actually quite a gifted writer who was crafting her diary for publication.

Theo Coster was a classmate of Anne Frank's. He and five other classmates share their memories of Anne in We All Wore Stars: memories of Anne Frank from her classmates, which includes not just her story, but their own experiences during the war. In Kirkus Review ,"All speak of Anne’s vivacity and spirit, although they reveal some resentment of her singular fame. Details reveal the enormous pressure on the children in hiding to be quiet and not make trouble, and the absolute lack of professional help after the war in easing the emotional trauma."
Margot by Jillian Cantor is a fictionalized re-imagining of the life of Anne Frank's sister Margot had she survived Bergen-Belsen. It is 1959 and Margie Franklin has a hefty dose of survivor's guilt. She works in a law firm in the US, passing as a Christian while secretly practicing her Jewish faith and covering her concentration camp tattoos with long sleeves. When her sister's diary is published, her pretense begins to fall apart.

In another imagined outcome, The Boy Who Loved Anne Frank by Ellen Feldman, Peter Van Pels, who came to live with the Franks in hiding, survives the camps and reinvents his life in America. Similar to Margot, Peter lives in the present and does not acknowledge his past. The publication of Anne's diary has a deeply disturbing effect on his otherwise ideal life.

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