Anne Frank

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Mashable reported that The Anne Frank House has just posted the only video footage of Anne Frank on YouTube. You see her leaning out of a second-story window as she watches a bride and groom exit a neighboring address. Here it is:

The Diary of Anne Frank was my way in to German history as a girl, alongside Die Weiße Rose/ The White Rose, the 1947 memoire by Inge Scholl on Sophie Scholl and her friends in German student resistance. The combination was potent. I was so thrilled by the story of student resistence that I had very little trouble knowing that my family was half German and my mother had grown up in Nazi Germany. It never occurred to me to be ashamed of my heritage, as I assumed that thinking people everywhere in Germany must have seen Hitler for what he was. That, of course, was a child’s view of the world, making it easier to find a place for myself. But I was quite shocked when a well-educated American sister-in-law of mine started talking about my family being Nazis. I never did figure out whether she was being nasty or trying to be funny, but the more she talked about it, the more she seemed to talk herself into it, creating an insurmountable barrier between us. I’ve actually spent quite a bit of time thinking about how the Nazi era played into my family’s lives. From their recollections about the war, I knew they were Catholic and despized the Nazis and found ways to live outside the system, be it because my grandfather had a big house in a village where he could listen to the radio in the basement and provide travellers with shelter, or in my mother’s case, because she lived a bohemian life as an actress and managed to lie low, and when the theaters closed went home to work as a nurse in her father’s country doctor’s office. One day I’d like to edit her papers, which I have piled up in the basement.

It wasn’t until much later, when I read Alfred O. Hirshman’s Exit, Voice, Loyalty that I understood what inward immigration really meant.

I often used the biographical, personal narrative approach when I was working as an historian and exhibition coordinator, and saw how great it is for awakening interest and involving people otherwise not drawn to history.

The Anne Frank Virtual Museum will open in 2010. A preview:


7 Responses

  1. It seems a bit crass to post this here, in which is essentially an important personal account of a very troubled time, but there is a story, which may or may not be true, of a very, very bad performance on the stage of Anne Frank’s Diary.
    Apparently it was really bad, and when it came to the scene where the Storm troopers entered to search the house, someone in the audience shouted – she’s in the cupboard.
    I apologise for posting it but there is something about a film on you tube of her looking out of the window that seems so anti everything we associate with her tragic story, that it made me think of it.

  2. Hi Chris, love it 🙂 Actually, it’s just so normal to make fun of the Nazi era, it comes out of everyone’s ears I guess, heard it a million times. But then you sometimes come across these dumb bastards who say the Holocaust was a lie and whatnot, so there you are.

  3. Oh very interesting, Anne, and I enjoyed the Hirshman link too. Do your mother papers include the war period? What treasures they could be.

  4. Dear Vicki,
    Thanks so much.

    Yes, there are some things from the war.
    I posted a poem she wrote towards the end of the war here recently:
    I found it very moving, as it tracks her idyllic childhood (she was born in a village in 1922) through her wild and rebellious years as an actress in Berlin, where she moved in 1938 at the age of 16 (“Die Nacht war mit Kometen / mit Glanz und Glück besternt” – the night was full of comets, bright lights and happiness)
    and then the horrible war years (“Die Nacht ist prasselnd ausgebrannt/ zu Morgengraun und Niemandsland” – the night burned out, turning into a no man’s land) and the “silent” years of inner immigration in her father’s “house of pain” (“Wir bauten uns ein Haus aus Leid/ kein Lied ward da gesungen/ und siedelten stumm in der stummen Zeit”) all the way up to the glimmer of hope at the end, waiting for the Allies to come to the rescue (“Da schlägt die Wachtel früh am Fluß”), which translates loosely as “The quail sings down by the stream, irritating the sleeping city but giving us hope, for that’s the new Angelus that every Christian must pray, grateful for the pain inflicted.”) It’s so foreign to our generation, but very illuminating in trying to understand Christian Germans of that generation.

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