I currently work as a research fellow at the Lichtenberg Kolleg at the Georg August Universität Göttingen on the project The diaries of Anne Frank. Research—Translations—Critical Edition (see also the project website).
This project is a collaboration between the Lichtenberg Kolleg at the Georg August Universität Göttingen and the Fritz Bauer Institute in Frankfurt. It involves a new historical-critical edition of the diaries in Dutch, English and German as well as an accompanying multi-author research monograph. I am responsible for the annotations of the new edition as well as involved in planning the monograph for which I will contribute a chapter on wartime Yiddish diaries.
Seventy years after the end of the Second World War our knowledge about the war and the Holocaust is based upon a wide variety of sources and a rich range of historiographies. Amongst the first sources to be published, and quickly acquiring a rather unique status, were the diary notes of Anne Frank. Around the world many children and teenagers have read and are still reading editions of Anne´s diaries—either at school or in private. In the biography of many readers as well as in national commemorative cultures the engagement with the war and the Holocaust began with the diary of Anne Frank. It became a symbol.
Meanwhile Anne Frank’s notes have been aligned with a wide range of moral debates—on refugees, on asylum, on human rights. From a historian’s perspective this is not without problems. Historical dimensions such as the particular political circumstances of the persecution of Jews in the Netherlands, Anne Frank’s family history in Germany, her emigration, which she shared with many German Jews, the situation of other teenagers persecuted by the National Socialists—to mention only a few dimensions—have played a somewhat secondary role in the worldwide reception of the diaries. Moreover, over the decades countless publications, oral histories and autobiographies relating to the Holocaust have become available, enabling us to read and study Anne Frank’s diaries in the context of these sources.
So far much research has focused on important issues such as the authenticity of the diaries—a key topic of the debates of the 1970s and 1980s, on aspects of Anne Frank’s family history and on the issue of who was responsible for the betrayal of the inhabitants of the Secret Annex.
Our new project aims to open up a range of additional and new perspectives, exploring the history of Anne Frank and her diaries within the framework of more comparative European, if not global cultural, intellectual, literary and political history.
Our first keyword is ‘contextualisation’. What were the broader cultural, intellectual and political contexts from which the diaries originated? Which literary models were available to Anne Frank when she wrote her texts? Which cultural and moral connections did she make? To what extent do the diaries belong to Jewish cultures? What were the political circumstances of Jews in the occupied Netherlands, in Germany or the neighbouring states? Which experiences and traditions did the Frank family bring to the Netherlands? What were the war time experiences of teenagers—in Amsterdam, London, Frankfurt, St. Petersburg/Leningrad?
Our second keyword is ‘reception’. Why and how were the diaries read across the globe? What are the translation and publication histories of the diaries? Which metamorphoses did the history of Anne Frank experience, as it was adapted in a wide variety of regions, countries and cultures across the globe for decades? What did it mean to perform the diaries, to put them on the stage, in the theatre, in the movies? How did a teenage girl, living in hiding due to the Nazi persecution of the Jews, became a worldwide symbol in the memory cultures of the Holocaust? And what, to open up a final normative dimension, should the legacy of the diaries be in the near future?