The Phenomenon of Anne Frank

The Phenomenon of Anne Frank

The Phenomenon of Anne Frank

The Phenomenon of Anne Frank


While Anne Frank was in hiding during the German Occupation of the Netherlands, she wrote what has become the world's most famous diary. But how could an unknown Jewish girl from Amsterdam be transformed into an international icon? Renowned Dutch scholar David Barnouw investigates the facts and controversies that surround the global phenomenon of Anne Frank. Barnouw highlights the ways in which Frank's life and ultimate fate have been represented, interpreted, and exploited. He follows the evolution of her diary into a book (with translations into nearly 60 languages and editions that added previously unknown material), an American play, and a movie. As he asks, "Who owns Anne Frank?" Barnouw follows her emergence as a global phenomenon and what this means for her historical persona as well as for her legacy as a symbol of the Holocaust.


On Sunday, April 27, 2014, amid great public interest, a cutting from the famous “Anne Frank tree” was planted in the garden of the Capitol in Washington, DC. Many seedlings of this chestnut tree had been cultivated after it blew down in the summer of 2010. The United States received eleven in addition to the one next to the Capitol. Cuttings were planted on the Boston Common, in Liberty Park in New York City, and in the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock to mention a few. The main theme at these ‘treeplantings’ was Anne’s indomitable spirit enduring through her book and plantings although her life was cut tragically short.

A week later, on May 8, 2014, I was present at the world premiere of the new play, ANNE, in a theater especially built for it in Amsterdam. The Dutch king, the minister of education, the mayor of Amsterdam, and other dignitaries were all present. It was a significant evening that had been anticipated for a long time, but it was also surrounded by discussions about whether going to see Anne could be considered a “nice evening out.” The most important discussions revolved around the question to whom Anne actually belonged and who should speak for her.

This was clear until the death of Anne’s father, Otto Frank, in 1980; on being asked, he explained what Anne had meant. Subsequently, it was the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, the administrator of the Annex on Prinsengracht, which guarded her legacy.

With a new play, an organization that had remained in the shadows came forward, claiming to administer Anne Frank’s legacy. This organization is the Anne Frank Foundation in Basel, which was established by Otto Frank in 1963. The Foundation administered the money from the royalties . . .

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