More Than A Rite of Passage

 Anne Frank wrote in her diary: “It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.” frank-1

Anne Frank chronicled the details of her life until the family was betrayed and arrested in August, 1944. Seven months late she died of typhus at the age of 15 in the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Northern Germany. Frank’s diary was translated from its original Dutch and first published in English in 1952 as The Diary Of A Young Girl.The Diary of Anne Frank records the teenager’s experiences over 25 months while hiding out with her family in a secret annexe in a canalside warehouse in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. It became an international bestseller and made her an icon of  The Final Solution and the holocaust when it was first published in 1947. Anne was to write the most famous diary in history and chronicle and express how lonesome, miserable, and spiritually restricted her confinement was.

Disney recently ceased development on playwright, screenwriter and filmmaker David Mamet’s interpretation of the Diaries as being too dark and possibly too morbid and profound a subject matter for the style of mass distribution and derivative products which Disney is most noted for.In any event, Mamet and Frank was an odd juxtaposition of antagonistic and salty writing with a tender memoir. Mamet, in his essay collection wrote, ”whose favorite jew is Anne Frank and whose second favorite does not exist.”

The conflict has been Frank identified, appropriated and commodified as an icon of the holocaust and symbol or the diffusion at large of a rite of passage of universal value by a writer who happened to be Jewish. The issue of who Anne Frank was is extremely complex; her difficult and ambivalent relationships denote torment and suffering of great depths yet the analysis of human relationships and articulate self-examination are of written in a lucidity and quality of prose of great maturity. Yet her personal identity internal central themes continue to evade those who study her:

”A neighbor, and acquaintance of the Frank girls later said that Anne was extremely talented but also harsh, rebellious and sharp-tongued, while her parents were easygoing people and Margot was an excellent and much-liked pupil. Yet the diary shows the world a sensitive and talented Anne while depicting her mother and sister as self-righteous complainers. Another childhood friend of Anne’s gave similar accounts of the family’s personalities, describing Anne as acquisitive, self-centered and very sexual. A series of accounts, interviews and biographies that appeared mainly in the 1980s and 1990s describe Anne and the other fugitives in a more complex manner than the diary and its successors.”

Otto Frank

Otto Frank



The evolution on who was Anne Frank and what was the nature of her relationship with her father and why she identified so closely with him continues to fascinate if only for Otto Frank’s repeated efforts to restrain access to information, and repress alternative renditions,stigmatize elements of Judaism and display a pattern of incoherence only understandable in light of later information about him: 

 It was Otto Frank himself who began this process of universalization and sterilization with the publication of the diary’s first edition. He deleted portions in which Anne wrote about her physical maturation; her love for Peter van Pels, who was about her own age; the quarrels between members of her family and the insults they exchanged in the pressure cooker in which they lived for two years; and the characteristics and appearances of her fellow fugitives. In 1947 all mention of sex and even immature adolescent infatuations wa

ill taboo.

Probably the most troubling aspects of the Anne Frank story :

” In March 2002, Carol Ann Lee’s biography of Otto Frank, The Hidden Life of Otto Frank, had the Netherlands in an uproar. She places responsibility for the discovery of the attic’s inhabitants on Anton (Tony) Ahlers, a sworn antisemite and a member of the Dutch Nazi party who systematically informed on Jews. Ahlers was Frank’s business partner and knew that his spice company had done business with the Wehrmacht at the beginning of the war. Frank evidently paid Ahlers hush money even before his family entered the attic. Afterwards, he paid him not to reveal to the Dutch government that he had done business with the Wehrmacht, and apparently continued to pay him off until his death in 1980. Following the public furor, which spread to the United States, The Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation, the main organization that researches Anne Frank’s legacy today, announced that it would investigate Lee’s claims and soon publish its findings. Lee’s biography turns Anne’s father, the man who influenced her more than anyone and won her total admiration, into a man of flesh and blood devoid of the saintly image that had previously clung to him. It also placed the issues of informing and collaboration in the Netherlands and in Europe back on the public agenda, along with the question of the relationship to the Jewish citizens of those countries and their fate. Once more, Anne’s image hovers over the controversy, with its dark eyes and penetrating gaze, its hopes for a new world and faith in humankind.”

”Honestly, I’m a bit confused about the other reason for “Anne Frank’s” rejection — that it was “too dark.” What exactly did Disney think the movie was going to be? With a writer like David Mamet aboard the project, not to mention the incredibly morbid subject matter, it would be wildly inappropriate to Disney-fy Anne Frank’s tragic journey. If that was the studio’s intention, I’m happy that “Anne Frank” has fled the House of Mouse.” In effect, the story is too complex with too many threads to be simplified and packaged. Perhaps, Mamet, criticized for his portayals of jews as unrecognizable with their anxieties belonging to no real place or time, to the extent of appearing unreal, is what  is necessary to bring the narrative to its proper conclusion.

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2 Responses to More Than A Rite of Passage

  1. KJ says:

    The “Story of Anne Frank” is near and dear to me because it opened my eyes, as a young girl, to a world I wasn’t prepared to see. It sparked a 2-year process of discovery for me as I read any book about the Holocaust that I could acquire. That said, it seems that modern day writers are on a trek to disqualify or darken heroes, role models, and beacons of hope, including former patriots of America. The implicated message is, “What was text book in the 50′s and 60′s was simply lies and propaganda.” I’m sure that Anne Frank was exploring her sexuality, as most young people do. I think it is safe to say that she had far more time on her hands to explore it since she was a prisoner in hiding for 2 years before being captured by the Germans. When books are written so long after the actual events, the observation of first hand witnesses becomes somewhat sketchy. I often ask why there is a need to dig up dirt. There is plenty of present day dirt to write about without digging.

    • Dave says:

      Thanks for reading, and your eloquent reply. Am personally not overly knowledgeable about the Holocaust, though it appears so impossible and surreal its hard almost to understand it; though I am sure the mechanisms that catalyzed it were pretty much in place beforehand.

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