In spite of everything, would she still believe?

If she had not been mur­dered by the Nazis in ear­ly March 1945, Anne Frank would turn 80 years old on 12 June 2009.

Anne Frank in an age progression image at 80 years old

Anne Frank in an age pro­gres­sion image at 80 years old

What would you say to Anne Frank if you were to meet her on the street? …that she trans­formed your life? She made you a bet­ter, more hope­ful per­son?

In 1944 she wrote these, seem­ing­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry sen­tences:

I still believe, in spite of every­thing, that peo­ple are tru­ly good at heart

Then 2 sen­tences lat­er:

I see the world being slow­ly trans­formed into a wilder­ness, I hear the approach­ing thun­der that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suf­fer­ing of mil­lions…. In the mean­time, I must hold on to my ideals. Per­haps the day will come when I’ll be able to real­ize them.

Do you think that what she expe­ri­enced in the last few months of her life might have changed her out­look? Or per­haps might the ensu­ing 64 years have caused her to reeval­u­ate her “belief”? We can­not know.

Is Anne Frank truly dead?

When­ev­er we die, we are remem­bered as nev­er being, or becom­ing, any old­er that we were at our death. We cease to grow and change. And so it is with Anne Frank. She remains the young pre­co­cious teenag­er.

And yet, dur­ing the past 64 years much has hap­pened that many con­sid­er both encour­ag­ing and dis­cour­ag­ing.

She has become a metaphor­ic touch­stone for who our bet­ter selves should be.

In her 1997 arti­cle in The New York­er, “Who Owns Anne FrankCyn­thia Ozick took a close look at what had almost become an Anne Frank “indus­try” and attempts to “update” her mes­sage and under­stand it in our con­tem­po­rary con­texts. While stat­ing at the out­set that Anne Frank would by now be a world-class writer because:

At thir­teen, she felt her pow­er; at fif­teen, she was in com­mand of it.

Ozick shies away from imag­in­ing what she would be like:

Yet any pro­jec­tion of Anne Frank as a con­tem­po­rary fig­ure is an unholy spec­u­la­tion; it tam­pers with his­to­ry, with real­i­ty, with dead­ly truth.

After all…

…the diary in itself… can­not count as Anne Frank’s sto­ry. …the end is miss­ing.

[It] has been bowd­ler­ized dis­tort­ed, trans­mut­ed, tra­duced, reduced; it has been infan­tilized, Amer­i­can­ized, homog­e­nized, sen­ti­men­tal­ized; fal­si­fied, kitschi­fied, and, in fact, bla­tant­ly and arro­gant­ly denied.

Anne Frank’s sto­ry, truth­ful­ly told, is unre­deemed and unre­deemable.

And at the same time Ozick is con­cerned because of some­thing Alvin Rosen­feld has report­ed in his essay “Pop­u­lar­iza­tion and Mem­o­ry” (not avail­able online), (she shares):

Anne Frank has become a ready-at-hand for­mu­la for easy for­give­ness.

That she…

…remains in all coun­tries a revered and com­fort­ing [empha­sis mine] fig­ure in the con­tem­po­rary mind.

This seems to be a descrip­tion of the grand­moth­er we see in the pho­to­graph above.

Nobody, or, everybody owns Anne Frank

Anne Frank has entered the realm of myth­ic cul­ture hero as have so many oth­er peo­ple. The actu­al per­son lives on in the imag­i­na­tions of all those who have encoun­tered a tiny por­tion of her. These peo­ple (“We”) have, to add anoth­er metaphor, caught the ball and we’re run­ning with it toward what­ev­er goal posts we imag­ine are before us.

This process is not new. It began as soon as Anne’s (yes, she and I are on a first-name basis) diary was pub­lished in mod­i­fied form by her father. Then picked up by Mey­er Levin and trans­formed by Lil­lian Hell­man (for Broad­way then Hol­ly­wood), the “Dairy of a Young Girl” has been read by near­ly every young lit­er­ate teenag­er since the mid 1950s. Her image is near­ly rec­og­nized even today.

Could Anne Frank grow older?

Anoth­er per­son who tried to intro­duce us to a dif­fer­ent (an “old­er”) Anne Frank is Philip Roth in his 1979 nov­el The Ghost Writer. For some, unknown rea­son (per­haps because Roth’s con­ceit is too out­landish for her?) Ozick does not men­tion Roth in her arti­cle. In the nov­el, Roth’s lit­er­ary stand-in Nathan Zuck­er­man falls in love with and wants to mar­ry a woman who he believes is Anne Frank. An Anne Frank who has mirac­u­lous­ly sur­vived the Shoa. Var­i­ous rea­sons have been offered as to why “Roth” would want to mar­ry Anne Frank, among them an attempt to assuage his (pre­sumed) Jew­ish guilt for hav­ing writ­ten nov­els that describe Amer­i­can Jew­ish life in high­ly crit­i­cal images. Roth’s roman­tic con­cerns are not the issue here. Rather, the idea that he could “appro­pri­ate” Anne Frank at all. But appro­pri­at­ing real sit­u­a­tions and peo­ple is what cre­ative writ­ers (includ­ing Cyn­thia Ozick, though she may fic­tion­al­ize names) do.

So, is Anne Frank alive?

You might think that is a sil­ly ques­tion, and yet Bar­bro Karlen believes she is. In fact Bar­bro believes she is Anne Frank!

In her fic­tion­al­ized account of her “self-dis­cov­ery” as Anne Frank And the Wolves Howled , Frag­ments of Two Life­times, Ms Karlen, born to non-Jew­ish par­ents in 1954 in Goeten­borg, Swe­den, believes that she is Anne Frank rein­car­nate. That would make the woman in the pho­to­graph at the top 24 years too old.

The fact that Anne Frank has had an impact on the world, espe­cial­ly young Euro­pean non-Jew­ish women, caus­ing some of them to decide to become (“reborn”) as Jews, is not unknown. And, indeed, Rab­bi Yonas­san Ger­shom (who seems to have writ­ten his own Wikipedia entry) has writ­ten exten­sive­ly on the ques­tion of Rein­car­na­tion and the Holo­caust. How­ev­er Ms. Karlen has tak­en this to a new lev­el.

Otto Frank, Anne’s father tried to get Amer­i­can visas for his fam­i­ly… had he suc­ceed­ed she might now be liv­ing on Long Island. His efforts were thwart­ed, it seems because of under­ly­ing anti-Semi­tism in Amer­i­can soci­ety, by bureau­crat­ic iner­tia, and a wartime fear of Ger­man-born immi­grants. In an ex-post-fac­to attempt to rem­e­dy the sit­u­a­tion, Christo­pher Bod­kin of Sayville, LI attempt­ed to acquire for Anne posthu­mous cit­i­zen­ship.

Will you meet Anne on the street?

Indeed, Anne is on the streets of New York City, though not as you might expect or appre­ci­ate.

Anne Frank on the Upper West Side of Manhattan

Anne Frank on the Upper West Side of Man­hat­tan

Who “owns” Anne Frank? Indeed! And, why is she wear­ing a kef­fiyeh? It appears as if the per­son or group that post­ed that stick­er (there must be more!) believes that Anne Frank would iden­ti­fy with the Pales­tini­ans and oppose Israel (or at least cer­tain Israeli poli­cies).

On April 17, 2009, The New York Times wrote a sto­ry about the chest­nut tree that gave Anne Frank solace. The ail­ing tree has pro­duced ten saplings that will be plant­ed around the world, at least one of them in New York City.

Ten saplings that orig­i­nat­ed from that state­ly but seri­ous­ly ail­ing tree are to be brought here lat­er this year for dis­tri­b­u­tion by the cen­ter [The Anne Frank Cen­ter, USA], a non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tion with an office on the fifth floor of 38 Cros­by Street.

38 Cros­by Street?! That is around the cor­ner from where my sis­ter lived for near­ly 30 years. Who knew? Why does this seem to be a secret? I decid­ed I need­ed to vis­it. Attempt­ing to take my pho­to at the entrance to the build­ing and and not hav­ing as much suc­cess as I want­ed, I asked a young man and woman in their thir­ties stand­ing near­by smok­ing cig­a­rettes (!) if they would help. They won­dered why I want­ed the pho­to and I told them that it was the entrance to the Anne Frank Cen­ter. They each had read the diary and were glad to know that the Cen­ter was there. The build­ing has no iden­ti­fy­ing mark­ers oth­er than the lit­tle label (fourth from the top beneath the secu­ri­ty cam­era) that reads “Anne Frank Cen­ter”.

visiting the Anne Frank Center USA in SoHo

vis­it­ing the Anne Frank Cen­ter USA in SoHo

It is as though zom­bie Annes walk the streets and true Anne is still in hid­ing!

Stay Vocal

Anne Frank appears on at least two dif­fer­ent lapel but­tons. One, which I was not able to acquire dis­play’s the offi­cial line.

Anne Frank… still believes

Anne Frank… still believes

The oth­er, which I have been wear­ing for the few weeks lead­ing up to this date and appears in the pho­to of me above, push­es the mean­ing of Anne Frank in a slight­ly dif­fer­ent direc­tion. It seems that the group Stay Vocal believes that if we each speak out about abus­es we encounter, soci­etal crises such as those that lead to Anne Frank’s mur­der would not occur.

Anne Frank Stay Vocal

Anne Frank Stay Vocal

Date: 2008?
Size: 2.54
Pin Form: straight clasp
Print Method: cel­lu­loid
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