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Anne Frank Unbound: Media, Imagination, Memory

Anne Frank Unbound: Media, Imagination, Memory

by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (Editor), Jeffrey Shandler (Editor)

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As millions of people around the world who have read her diary attest, Anne Frank, the most familiar victim of the Holocaust, has a remarkable place in contemporary memory. Anne Frank Unbound looks beyond this young girl’s words at the numerous ways people have engaged her life and writing. Apart from officially sanctioned works and organizations, there


As millions of people around the world who have read her diary attest, Anne Frank, the most familiar victim of the Holocaust, has a remarkable place in contemporary memory. Anne Frank Unbound looks beyond this young girl’s words at the numerous ways people have engaged her life and writing. Apart from officially sanctioned works and organizations, there exists a prodigious amount of cultural production, which encompasses literature, art, music, film, television, blogs, pedagogy, scholarship, religious ritual, and comedy. Created by both artists and amateurs, these responses to Anne Frank range from veneration to irreverence. Although at times they challenge conventional perceptions of her significance, these works testify to the power of Anne Frank, the writer, and Anne Frank, the cultural phenomenon, as people worldwide forge their own connections with the diary and its author.

Editorial Reviews

The Predicament of Culture
"A brilliantly conceived and long overdue opening up [or deconstruction] of the Anne Frank story." —James Clifford, Professor Emeritus, History of Consciousness Department University of California, Santa Cruz, The Predicament of Culture

— James Clifford, Professor Emeritus, History of Consciousness DepartmentUniversity of California, Santa Cruz


"Principally the work of senior international scholars in history, literature, Hebraic and Judaic studies, and performance and film studies, and of museum curators, this volume is a major contribution to scholarship regarding Anne Frank's diary and its cultural influence.... Highly recommended.
" —Choice

Shelley Hornstein

"These essays provide fresh takes on Anne Frank, her diary, and historical magnitude. The volume leaves the reader in a new place of discovery and awareness." —Shelley Hornstein, coeditor of Image and Remembrance: Representation and the Holocaust (IUP, 2002).

Jan T. Gross

"This collection of brilliant essays offers fascinating and unexpected insights into the significance of Anne Frank’s iconic Holocaust-era diary from many disciplinary perspectives in the arts and humanities." —Jan T. Gross, Princeton University

Marita Sturken

"This astute collection of essays unpacks the complexity of Anne Frank as the source of numerous editions, artworks, musical compositions, plays, films, novels, souvenirs, memorials, museums, and so on. It is a superb pedagogical tool for examining the particular impact of Anne Frank’s story as well as the larger issue of how cultural icons are constructed, circulate, and inspire engagement." —Marita Sturken, New York University

Alisa Solomon

"In their highly readable, illuminating essays, a cutting-edge cast of scholars explores the Anne Frank Phenomenon--the myriad mediations that one little plaid notebook has inspired over the last seven decades.... Rich and penetrating, Anne Frank Unbound brings into focus the world's ongoing engagement with a girl who has been constantly reinvented as paradigm, paragon, and even parody." —Alisa Solomon, Columbia University

The Predicament of Culture - James Clifford

"A brilliantly conceived and long overdue opening up [or deconstruction] of the Anne Frank story." —James Clifford, Professor Emeritus, History of Consciousness Department
University of California, Santa Cruz, The Predicament of Culture


"This engrossing collection of 12 interdisciplinary essays covers multiple aspects of 'the Anne Frank phenomenon'... The overall aim is to provide a greater understanding of the general and particular engagement with Anne Frank as a person, a symbol, an icon, an inspiration, and perhaps most polarizing, as one victim, not the victim of the Nazi holocaust." —Broadside

Women's Review of Books

"Anne Frank Unbound... tell[s] us a great deal about the myriad uses to which one individual story has been and can be put.... In addition to these ethical and political questions, the essays engage productively with the aesthetic choices made by writers, visual artists, filmmakers, performance artists, and comedians, who recast Anne Frank in a variety of media and situations.... If Anne Frank Unbound is any indication, the diary will certainly continue... to raise a set of persistent ethical, political, and aesthetic questions that have been with us since its first publication.
" —Women's Review of Books

From the Publisher
"This astute collection of essays unpacks the complexity of Anne Frank as the source of numerous editions, artworks, musical compositions, plays, films, novels, souvenirs, memorials, museums, and so on. It is a superb pedagogical tool for examining the particular impact of Anne Frank’s story as well as the larger issue of how cultural icons are constructed, circulate, and inspire engagement." —Marita Sturken, New York University

"A brilliantly conceived and long overdue opening up [or deconstruction] of the Anne Frank story." —James Clifford, Professor Emeritus, History of Consciousness Department
University of California, Santa Cruz, The Predicament of Culture

Library Journal
The essays in this collection, edited by Kirshenblatt-Gimblett (performance studies & Hebrew and Judaic studies, New York Univ.) and Shandler (Jewish Studies, Rutgers Univ.) and derived from a New York University colloquium of the Working Group on Jews, Media, and Religion of the Center for Religion and Media, focus on how Anne Frank's life, death, and diary have become part of contemporary memory. The first part of the book, "Mediating," examines how her diary has been shaped into stage plays and movies (including Japanese anime). The second part, "Remembering," considers how the politics of popular culture transformed Frank from a distinctly Jewish victim of the Nazis into a universal symbol of human rights. The third part, "Imagining," demonstrates how Frank's diary has served as the basis for music (both secular and religious) as well as conceptual art. The fourth section, "Contesting," shows how Frank's story can be iconoclastic, e.g., as the backdrop of a South Park episode. The epilog tracks the fate of the chestnut tree behind the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam and the public reaction to its death, indicating that even physical things associated with Frank have become part of collective memory. VERDICT This collection of highly specialized essays will appeal mostly to scholars and is best suited for specialized collections.—Frederic Krome, Univ. of Cincinnati Clermont Coll.

Product Details

Indiana University Press
Publication date:
Modern Jewish Experience Series
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.10(d)

Read an Excerpt

Anne Frank Unbound

Media ? Imagination ? Memory

By Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Jeffrey Shandler

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2012 Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Jeffrey Shandler
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-00755-1


From Diary to Book: Text, Object, Structure

Jeffrey Shandler

Most of the many mediations of Anne Frank's diary—plays, films, artworks, musical compositions, memorials, lesson plans, even jokes—begin with the book: that is, the published diary. To speak of "the diary" as "the book," though, is to elide the diary's initial, key mediations. Its transformation from the different notebooks and manuscripts that Anne wrote between June 1942 and August 1944 into a published book, which first appeared almost three years after her last entry, entailed extensive editing by more than one hand, including her own. In published form, Anne's diary appeared in a series of languages—first the original Dutch in 1947, then French and German translations in 1950 and English in 1952. These were followed by translations into over thirty more languages within another two decades, including three different Yiddish renderings—published in Bucharest, Buenos Aires, and Tel Aviv—all in 1958. Additional translations continue to appear, such as renderings into Arabic and Farsi in 2008 issued by the Aladdin Online Library, a Paris-based organization combating Holocaust denial in the Muslim world. Some translations attract public attention, hailed for promoting Holocaust awareness and combating anti-Semitism or as a touchstone of human rights. Thus, when the diary appeared in Khmer in 2002, the Dutch ambassador to Cambodia noted that

Anne Frank's ordeal bears resemblance to the personal history of thousands of Cambodians who have suffered a similar fate at the hands of the Khmer Rouge during the regime of Democratic Kampuchea.... I hope that many Cambodians will find something of relevance to their own lives and experience in this book and that it can be a source of comfort. Anne Frank died, as did 1.7 million Cambodians. But their deaths have led to a strong resolve that the international community should do everything to prevent further crime against humanity.

In the six decades after its initial publication, Anne's diary has appeared in over sixty different languages and sold more than thirty-one million copies, making it one of the world's most widely read books. Moreover, the diary has been printed in hundreds of editions and in diverse formats: abridged versions; anthologized excerpts, some published with Anne's other works; teacher's or student's editions; limited editions for book collectors (including a 1959 oversize publication in French, with a frontispiece by Marc Chagall, and a 1985 two-volume set in English with etchings by Joseph Goldyne); and sound recordings (read in English by Claire Bloom, Julie Harris, and Winona Ryder, among other actresses). The published diary has appeared with different redactions of the original text and with various titles, cover designs, introductions, illustrations, and epilogues. Each publication presents a distinct mediation of Anne's diary.

Even as other mediations of the diary proliferate, the act of reading it in book form remains the foundational (if not always initial) encounter, rooted in an authorized, carefully regulated text and seemingly closest to Anne's own practice of writing. Reading the diary has become a meaningful act in its own right and has been incorporated into other mediations of the diary, including films, fiction, and performance. The book's wide readership has also fostered interest in the original diary's materiality. The object of veneration, suspicion, and scholarly scrutiny, Anne's first diary notebook has become an icon. Its cover or sample pages have been widely reproduced, including in published editions of the diary. Similarly, photographs of Anne and of the building where she hid have appeared in published editions of the diary and hence have become familiar symbols of Anne's life and work. Examining the diary's redaction, publication, and materialization reveals a complex of obscured or easily overlooked mediations between Anne's original writings and her millions of readers, shaping their encounter with her life and work.


While Anne Frank's diary might be regarded as exemplary of the genre, it is an unusual and, in some ways, challenging one. The diary went through two major phases of redaction before it was first published, each transforming the text substantially, well beyond the usual editing of a diary for publication. Anne began her diary on or shortly after June 12, 1942, her thirteenth birthday, when she was given the plaid cloth-covered notebook in which she wrote her first entries. Within weeks after starting her diary, Anne and her family went into hiding on July 6, 1942, secreted in abandoned rooms in the rear of 263 Prinsengracht, where Opekta and Pectacon, two businesses run by her father, Otto, had their offices. There, Anne continued her diary; by December 1942 she filled the notebook she had received on her birthday. Miep Gies, an employee of Anne's father and one of the people who helped hide the Franks, gave Anne "an ordinary exercise book" to continue her diary. She also wrote entries in her sister Margot's chemistry exercise book and inserted some later entries (written in 1943 and 1944) in the original diary notebook on pages previously left blank. Anne continued keeping her diary until August 1, 1944, several days before her arrest, along with her parents, sister, and the four other Jews hiding with them, by the Sicherheitsdienst. Gies and a fellow employee retrieved Anne's diaries and other writings soon thereafter, hoping to return them to her after the war. Gies neither read the diary nor showed it to others. "Had I read it," she explained years later, "I would have had to burn the diary because it would have been too dangerous for people about whom Anne had written," referring to those who had helped hide Anne and the other Jews. Ultimately, Gies gave Anne's writings to Otto Frank, the only one of the eight Jews to survive the war, after he learned that Anne was dead.

These manuscripts included two different versions of the diary, each incomplete, works of fiction Anne had written while in hiding, and a notebook of her favorite literary quotations. The diary's first version, written in a series of notebooks, has a gap between December 6, 1942 and December 21, 1943 (apparently, one or more notebooks were lost or destroyed at some point). Anne began the diary's second version in the spring of 1944, after Gerrit Bolkestein, a minister in the Dutch government-in-exile, appealed over Radio Oranje to the Dutch people to keep diaries, letters, and other personal documents as evidence of their resistance to Nazi occupation. By May 20, 1944, Anne noted that she had begun reworking her earlier entries, now writing on loose sheets of paper. In fact, Anne had already transformed some of her entries into literary pieces. About a year after beginning her diary, Anne reworked some entries into short stories and started writing other pieces of fiction. These she kept in a separate notebook, labeled Verhaaltjesboek (Book of Tales), which she began on September 2, 1943, continuing to add entries through May 1944.

Anne envisioned the revised diary as a literary project on a larger scale—a book, titled Het Achterhuis (literally, "The House Behind," usually rendered in English as the Secret Annex), referring to her hiding place. Anne drafted her revised diary during the final ten weeks of her time in hiding, while continuing to write new entries in notebooks. When she started another notebook for new entries on April 17, 1944, Anne created a title page that suggests she was thinking of both her new entries and the rewritten ones as intended for publication:

Diary of Anne Frank
from 17 April 1944 to
"Secret Annex"
A'dam C. [i.e., Amsterdam Centrum]
Partly letters to "Kitty"
The owner's maxim:
Schwung muss der Mensch haben! (Zest is what man needs!)

The rewritten diary begins with a prologue, dated June 20, 1942, which provides an overview of her family, ending "and here I come to the present day and to the solemn inauguration of my diary," followed by an entry for that date. The first entry in the original diary, however, is a brief inscription dated June 12, 1942 (i.e., the day she received the plaid notebook)—"I hope I shall be able to confide in you completely, as I have never been able to do in anyone before, and I hope that you will be a great support and comfort to me"—followed by a more substantial entry dated June 14, 1942. The last entry of the rewritten diary is dated March 29, 1944, the date on which Anne first wrote about Bolkestein's appeal for documents of wartime resistance.

The differences between the diary's two versions reflect a central shift in agenda between them. Whereas Anne began the first version as, like most diaries, a confessional work, written for her eyes alone, the second version was composed for a public readership as documentation of an experience understood as being of historical importance. The differences between the two versions are apparent in both content and form. Perhaps the diary's best-known feature is its epistolary format. In her revised version (as in the published version), Anne's entries are addressed to an imaginary friend, Kitty, whose identity is explained in the revised diary's opening prologue of June 20, 1942 (and, in the first published version, the entry of that date). This device simplifies the more varied practice found in Anne's original diary, which features entries addressed to a list of imaginary correspondents—all girls—named Conny, Jetty, Emmy, Marianne, as well as Kitty. These are not the names of Anne's actual girlfriends but of characters in Joop ter Heul, a popular series of Dutch novels for girls. Choosing these fictional names suggests that, even in her first diary, Anne blurred the line between keeping a diary as a conventional record of daily experiences or thoughts and engaging in a more imaginative, literary exercise. Anne's epistolary entries extend from reportage and introspection to fantasies, especially of companionship and, on occasion, activities (e.g., shopping, ice skating) that she could no longer pursue in hiding.

In her reworked diary, Anne omitted these entries, limiting their range as she simplified the practice of addressing them all to Kitty. Moreover, Anne conceived the revised diary as a different kind of work. In her original diary she wrote on March 29, 1944: "Just imagine how interesting it would be if I were to publish a romance of the 'Secret Annex,' the title alone would be enough to make people think it was a detective story." Indeed, as she reworked the diary, Anne transformed her wide-ranging entries into a kind of suspense novel à clef, featuring continuing characters (with decodable pseudonyms), a running plot interspersed with suspenseful and comic episodes, a narrator offering reflections on the story she is relating, and background information on the larger context in which events inside the Annex take place. Where the original diary's incremental format disrupted Anne's vision of a larger narrative structure, she variously conflated, reordered, expanded, or tightened individual entries. Beyond the usual editing of a diary for publication, which is largely a matter of trimming and annotating, Anne's revisions strove for a publishable work of both historical value and literary merit. Moreover, she implicitly imagined that she would live to complete this work as a validation of surviving Nazi persecution and a celebration of Germany's defeat.

The diary's second phase of redaction, resulting in its first published editions, was initiated after the war by Otto Frank, who selected and compiled material from Anne's various manuscripts in a series of type-written versions generated between 1945 and 1946. These redactions involved more than one language and editorial hand, and they were prepared for different readers. First, Otto Frank rendered sections of the diary into German, to be shared with his mother (who did not know Dutch); a subsequent typescript was prepared for other family members and close acquaintances. After deciding to pursue publication of the diary, Otto Frank assembled another version of the text in Dutch with the help of Albert Cauvern, a friend who then worked as a radio dramatist. This text integrated material from two incomplete sources—Anne's original and rewritten diaries—into a typescript, presented as a single, integral work. This redaction also incorporated some of Anne's short prose pieces inspired by her life in hiding that were not part of either diary manuscript. Otto Frank also removed some material from the diaries that he deemed either extraneous or offensive to the memories of the others who had hidden in the Annex and then died during the war.

In preparing the text for publication, Otto Frank and Cauvern changed the names of most of the people mentioned in the diary, generally following Anne's notes about pseudonyms to be used in her published version. Thus, the van Pels family, who went into hiding with the Franks, became the Van Daans; the dentist Fritz Pfeffer, who later joined them, became Albert Dussel, and so on. Anne's list of pseudonyms also stipulated changing her own family's last name to Robin, but Otto Frank elected to keep their actual names in the published diary.

Like Anne's own redaction, Otto Frank's posthumous version evolved from a private document (providing family members and acquaintances with a selection of what he considered essential parts of her writing) to a publishable work. He strove to respect Anne's original aspirations for the rewritten diary while responding to new circumstances. In addition to following her vision of a "romance" in diary form about her life in hiding, with the enigmatic title Het Achterhuis, Otto Frank regarded the book as a memorial to Anne and the others who had hidden with her and were murdered during the Holocaust. His decision to follow only partially Anne's list of pseudonyms exemplifies this larger, hybridized agenda. Retaining the Franks' actual names directly credited Anne as the diary's author; changing the names of the others, who had died and had no one to speak on their behalf (as Otto apparently did for his wife and daughters), protected them from any disrespect that might arise in Anne's ardent, candid writing and honored her authorial wishes.

This version of the diary—synthesized into a uniform text and considerably shorter than the full inventory of material recovered from the Annex in 1944—was submitted to publishers by acquaintances of Otto Frank, acting on his behalf. The text that was finally issued by the Amsterdam press Uitgeverij Contact in 1947 in an edition of 1,500 copies contained further emendations. Like some of the other presses that had considered the diary and rejected it, Contact requested excisions of passages dealing with Anne's discussion of menstruation and sexuality. With these deletions, which were approved by Otto Frank, the diary first appeared in book form. (Excerpts printed in the summer of 1946 in the intellectual journal De Nieuwe Stem mark the first publication of Anne's writing.) Translations of the diary in the ensuing five years into German, French, and English each entailed slightly different redactions. For example, the German edition included passages about Anne's sexuality deleted in the Dutch edition.

This complex history of redaction was not explained in either the diary's first editions or other accounts, such as interviews given by Otto Frank. A 1971 publication by the Anne Frank House does report that "Anne wrote fake names which she intended to use in case of publication [of the diary]. For the time being [i.e., while she was in hiding] the diary was her own secret which she wanted to keep from everyone." The account goes on to explain that, after the war, Otto Frank

copied the manuscript for his mother, who had emigrated and was living in Switzerland with relatives. He left out some passages which he felt to be too intimate or which might hurt other people's feelings. The idea of publishing the diary did not enter his mind, but he wanted to show it to a few close friends. He gave one typed copy to a friend, who lent it to Jan Romein, a professor of modern history. Much to Otto Frank's surprise the professor devoted an article to it in a Dutch newspaper, Het Parool. His friends now urged Otto Frank to have Anne's diary published as she herself had wished.

This elliptical account of the diary's long path toward publication does not mention that it had been rejected by several publishers before Romein's article appeared on April 3, 1946, hailing the diary as an outstanding example of wartime documentation by a remarkably talented Jewish girl (whose name was not disclosed). The account also offers a limited description of Anne's ambitions to turn her diary into a book and ignores the extent to which the others in hiding with her or who hid them were aware of her diary, if not the specifics of its contents. Rather, this account characterizes the diary as a confessional document of coming of age, a record of "the flowering of a charmingly feminine personality eager to face life with adult courage and mature self-insight." This image of Anne as a model of integrity extends to her father, who redacts the diary with the feelings of others in mind. With regard to both its writing and its redaction, Anne and her diary are characterized as paradigms of awareness and sensitivity.


Excerpted from Anne Frank Unbound by Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Jeffrey Shandler. Copyright © 2012 Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Jeffrey Shandler. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett is University Professor of Performance Studies and Affiliated Professor of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University. Her books include (with Mayer Kirshenblatt) They Called Me Mayer July: Painted Memories of a Jewish Childhood in Poland before the Holocaust and The Art of Being Jewish in Modern Times. She currently leads the exhibition development team for the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.

Jeffrey Shandler is Professor of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University. He is author of Adventures in Yiddishland: Postvernacular Language and Culture and While America Watches: Televising the Holocaust, editor of Awakening Lives: Autobiographies of Jewish Youth in Poland before the Holocaust, and editor (with Hasia R. Diner and Beth S. Wenger) of Remembering the Lower East Side (IUP, 2000).

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