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The Everyman’s hardcover edition reprints the Definitive Edition authorized by the Frank estate, plus a new introduction, a bibliography, and a chronology of Anne Frank’s life and times.
The journal of a Jewish girl in her early teens describes both the joys and torments of daily life, as well as typical adolescent thoughts, throughout two years spent in hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation of Holland.
Every masterpiece is unique, but some are more anomalous than others. If we consider all the volumes that have appeared so far in the Everyman series, the cornerstones and classics of our cultural tradition, The Diary of Anne Frank is, we may notice, the only one to have been written by a girl between the ages of thirteen and fifteen. If it seems improbable that a person of that tender age should have produced a work not just of maturity but of genius, that improbability only increases the awe we feel, or ought to feel, in the presence of a book that possesses all the qualities we expect of great memoirs and spiritual autobiographies, and, to some extent, of great novels.
Varied and memorable characters are revealed in all their complexity and depth, summoned to life on the page complete with all their most admirable virtues and most maddening flaws, their engagingly and appallingly human quirks and contradictions. We find ourselves in the presence of a singular consciousness, a highly particular and utterly persuasive narrative voice, elastic and capacious enough to encompass the most day-to-day details of domestic life (how to peel potatoes!), incisive portrayals of the ways in which people behave under enormous stress, flights of speculative metaphysics, and passages of sophisticated inquiry into the mystery of human nature. Comparing Anne Frank's diary to the Confessions of Saint Augustine, the poet John Berryman point out that the diary allows its readers to watch the growth of a soul, the simultaneously quotidian and miraculous transformation that accompanies what Berryman termed "the conversion of a child into a person," a process that, in his view, had never been so brilliantly or even adequately described before Anne Frank tracked it in herself, and recorded it in her diary. "It took, I believe," wrote Berryman, "a special pressure forcing the child-adult conversion, and exceptional self-awareness and exceptional candour and exceptional powers of expression, to bring that strange or normal change into view."
The diary reminds us of what it is like to go through a stage of life — adolescence — that all readers past childhood have endured and still remember, or have tried to forget. It speaks to us about the universal experiences of first love, family entanglements, hope and despair, society and solitude, terror and even boredom, and at the same time it reports on an utterly specific and exceptionally ugly period in our history, an era that is receding from living memory with every second that passes. Like all great art, it reveals something about the individual hand that created it, and something about what it means to be a human being — in this case, what is require to maintain human decency and compassion in the most inhuman and dehumanizing circumstances.
The Diary of Anne Frank is among the most widely read and taught and (for a variety of reasons, most often its delicate but clear-eyed portrayal of adolescent sexuality) most frequently censored texts in the world; translated from the original Dutch into dozens of languages, it appears on the curriculum of schools everywhere. Viewing Laurent Cantet's 2008 French film, The Class (Entre les murs), set in a high school in the suburbs of Paris, we watch a group of teenagers, nearly all of the first-generation immigrants to France, studying and discussing the diary. In 2004, a segment of the CBS series 60 Minutes reported that North Korean schoolchildren were being instructed to see themselves as Anne Frank, and George W. Bush as the modern equivalent of Hitler.
What most students learn is that Anne Frank began writing in the little book, with its checked cloth cover, soon after she received it as a gift from her parents on the occasion of her thirteenth birthday, in June 1942. Roughly a month after Anne commenced her giddy narrative of friends and boyfriends, childish allegiances and humorous experiences at school, her family went into hiding in a cramped attic (as it is often termed, though this common feature of Amsterdam canal-house construction more resembles what might be called a rear addition) above and behind the spice and pectin business her father Otto ran until the Nazi racial laws made it illegal for Otto, a Jew, to conduct any business at all.
For the next twenty-five months, until August 1944, when the Frank family was arrested and deported, first to the Westerbork transit camp and afterwards to Auschwitz, the Franks — Otto, his wife Edith, their daughters Margot and Anne — shared the "secret annex" with the Van Pels family (Hermann, Auguste, and their son Peter) and a dentist named Fritz Pfeffer. As those months wore on, Anne's vivid account of their lives in hiding developed into a very different kind of book from anything that she, newly turned thirteen, could have imagined that she would be confiding in her journal.
1. a) After the Nazi invasion of the Netherlands in May 1940, the Dutch people were immediately faced with the question of choice: how to respond to the Nazi occupation. Tens of thousands of Dutch people followed Hitler, and millions more looked the other way. Eventually, a resistance movement began to grow. The Nazis needed Dutch collaborators to carry out their fascist decrees. What would have influenced someone to become a collaborator? What factors would have encouraged someone to join the resistance? Do you think these factors were based on personal characteristics or political beliefs? What was the price of resistance during the war? What was the price of collaboration? b) Anne Frank and her family were German refugees who resettled and tried to build their lives in the Netherlands. Although the Franks were proud of their German heritage, their feelings toward Germany became very complicated during the war. Anne wrote: "Fine specimens of humanity, those Germans, and to think I'm actually one of them! No. that's not true, Hitler took away our nationality long ago. And besides, there are no greater enemies on earth than the Germans and Jews." (October 9, 1942.) Although Anne had lived in the Netherlands since 1934, she did not become a Dutch citizen. Did Anne have a nationality? If not, were Anne's civil rights protected by any nation? By 1939 some 250, 000 Jews, half of Germany's Jewish population, had fled their homeland. Did these refugees have any guaranteed rights? After the war Otto Frank responded to references to "the Germans" by asking "which German?" He believed strongly that blaming all Germans was another form of stereotyping. What constitutes a stereotype? How is astereotype different from discrimination? c) In The New York Times the writer Anna Quindlen asked, "Would our understanding of the Holocaust be quite the same if Anne Frank had not taken a small plaid diary into hiding with her?" What has most shaped your understanding of World War II: personal experience, Anne's diary, popular films such as Schindler's List, newsreel footage, academic or historical texts? d) Otto Frank chose to edit out some of the negative comments Anne made about her mother and a number of the other residents of the Secret Annex--comments that have been restored in the new translation by Susan Massotty. He believed that Anne would have wanted him to do so. Do you think he was correct? e) In her diary Anne opined: "... if you're wondering if it's harder for the adults here than for the children, the answer is no... Older people have an opinion about everything and are sure of themselves and their actions. It's twice as hard for us young people to hold on to our opinions at a time when ideals are being shattered..." (July 15, 1944.) When was the last time as an adult that you experienced the "shattering" of an ideal? Is the media a neutral force, or do you think it plays a role in supporting or destroying idealism? f) Are there certain characteristics common among those few individuals who risked their own lives to rescue Jews during World War II? Why do so many of them deny their own heroism? g) A disturbing number of neo-Nazi groups have taken hold in all parts of the world. What social conditions would be necessary for them to grow? What do you believe would be the most likely basis of another world war: pride, nationalism, fear, racism, economic interests, or religious intolerance? h) Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann was asked how he could explain the killing of 6 million Jews. He answered, "One hundred dead are a catastrophe, a million dead are a statistic." Have we become more or less tolerant of murder since he made this observation? i) Anne Frank wrote: "I don't believe the war is simply the work of politicians and capitalists. Oh no, the common man is every bit as guilty; otherwise, people and nations would have rebelled long ago!" (May 3, 1944.) How should accountability be assigned? So many say they never understood what was happening. How likely could that have been? j) Hitler published Mein Kampf in 1925, describing his plan for the elimination of Jews. At that time, what steps might have been taken to stop Hitler's rise to power?