International Perspectives on Anne Frank

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International Perspectives on Anne Frank

Lecturers and Coordinators:

Prof. Dawn Skorczewski, (, Brandeis University

Prof. Diederik Oostdijk (, VU University Amsterdam

Prof. Dienke Hondius (, VU University Amsterdam

Guest Instructors: Dr. David Barnouw , NIOD

Dr. Denise de Costa

Dr Bettine Siersema, VU Amsterdam

Dr. Anna Ornstein, psychoanalyst and survivor

Course content:

The Diary of Anne Frank is one of the most famous books ever written. Composed during World War II in her place of hiding, this young Jewish woman’s diary became an enormous posthumous bestseller after the war. This course explores why and how this book became so successful around the world, focusing especially on how Anne Frank’s story has been told in different media over time. The course also invites students to participate in an international learning experience in which students and faculty at VU Amsterdam and Brandeis University learn, talk, and work together in a Skype-equipped classroom. The international perspectives offered in the course are thus represented in its content and its form. In the final weeks of the term, faculty and students will have the opportunity for further work in a face to face environment.
During her short life (Frankfurt 1929 – Bergen Belsen 1945), Anne Frank did not stand out to her family or friends as special or exceptional. History, legacy, memory, text and images have created a posthumous life of Anne Frank that is the topic of this course. By studying the many adaptations of the story of Anne Frank in historical context, we gain in-depth knowledge of the history and cultural memory of the Holocaust and the Second World War in Europe and the way in which those events have been remembered, especially in the Netherlands and the United States. Studying in a trans-Atlantic environment enriches this experience, particularly given Anne Frank’s status as an “American Heroine.”
Beginning with American incarnations of Anne Frank and a Holocaust Memorial Day Program, we will join our colleagues in Amsterdam in February via Skype to conduct a close reading of The Diary of Anne Frank. We will then explore the different ways in which this narrative has been retold, through the past seventy years and in different media. We will also “tour” the places mentioned in the diary via the Anne Frank APP. We will study children’s books, speeches, letters, commemorative texts, documentaries, movies, museum exhibits, music, plays, poems, and/or sculptures inspired by the story of Anne Frank. Dutch and American students will design Anne Frank projects and present them in our Skype classroom. American students and Dutch students will write diary entries for our combined class blog.
In the final weeks of the course, joined by a VU Professor of History who is also an employee of the Anne Frank House, the class will conduct research in the USC SHOAH archives to learn about other hidden children of the Netherlands When the course is completed, interested students are invited to compete for a June 2015 internship at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, where they will work in two teams (one American and one Dutch student) to study the “memory books,” guest books from the museum, an archive recording visitors experiences at the Anne Frank House for more than half a century.
Learning objectives:

  1. Students will gain a basic understanding of World War II and the Holocaust, and how those historical events impacted literature and culture afterwards.

  2. Students will analyze visual texts in comparison to written texts, and learn how a literary text can be remediated in other media. They will explore the historical, methodological, and theoretical implications of such remediations.

  3. Students will gain background knowledge about the many versions of the narrative of Anne Frank.

  4. Students will be encouraged to make connections with faculty and students in an international classroom space, to respond to questions about the literary and visual texts, and to share responsibility for the intellectual content of the discussion.

  5. During the web tours, students will gain insight about how the history of World War II has impacted the cities of Amsterdam and Boston and how the narrative of Anne Frank has left traces all around the world.

  6. Group projects will introduce students to their own work in Memory Studies, with an emphasis on acts of Memorialization.

  7. Anne Frank Project Assignments encourage students to cooperate in small groups on a research project related to Anne Frank and the Holocaust, and to present their findings in a coherent presentation.

  8. The individual essay that the students will write on this Anne Frank Project will challenge students write coherently and intelligibly about the vision of the legacy of Anne Frank

  9. .Research in the USC SHOAH archives will introduce students to other hidden children of the Netherlands to critically engage how others have written and spoken about the Holocaust in different media.

  10. Opportunities for continued research and publication will invite students to participate in the ongoing international conversations about the legacy of Anne Frank and the responsibilities of those who choose to study and remember the Holocaust .


  1. Presentation (10%): Students will give a presentation in pairs of their Anne Frank Project. Each group needs to hand in a presentation proposal of one-page (500 words) by March 7. Each presentation will take ten minutes followed by a Q & A session.

  2. Attendance and Participation (20%): There is an attendance requirement, which means that students cannot miss more two classes in total. Students are encouraged to ask questions, to engage in meaningful discussions with fellow students and their instructors.

  3. Diary and Blog Post (10%): each student is required to write a weekly entry in a Journal. The Journal entry needs to be in between 250 and 500 words each week, and is only visible to you and the other instructors. One student from each country each week will voluntarily post an entry on the class blog. The entries should be individual responses to either that week’s lecture, practicum, or seminar, the development of your Anne Frank project (see below), or something else that is tangentially related to the course. The goal of this assignment is to allow you experience what it is like to keep a journal for twelve weeks, to write in several installments a personal reflection of how you experience the course. In class, the instructors will ask you to reflect on that experience and will try to make connections with The Diary of Anne Frank. All postings have to be submitted no later than Wednesdays at 5:00 P.M. If you fail to make a posting or if your posting is late you will be noted as absent.

  4. Essay: (20%): Each student hands in a paper of 2,500 words based on the Anne Frank Project. This essay needs to analyze the project and to render a personal reflection on it. Please note that this is an individual assignment (of a group project). Please consult the document “Writing Academic Essays” before submitting the essay, use the Essay Checklist as your cover page, and start off your essay with an abstract. The essay is due on April 30 at 12:00 noon.

  5. Research in the USC SHOAH archives (10%): Under the direction of Dutch historian and Anne Frank House employee Dienke Hondius, students will collect information on other girls and boys who hid in Holland during the war. They will listen to two interviews on the USC Shoah Archives and record their findings in a class database.

  6. Written Take Home Exam (20%): The written exam consists of seven questions (with up to three sub-questions) about all course material, covering all classes of and including the literature mentioned below. The exam questions will be distributed in the last class and due online on May 1 2015


Please acquire copies of the following texts.

-Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2007. ISBN13:


- Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara and Jeffrey Shandler, Anne Frank Unbound: Media,

Imagination, Memory. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2012. ISBN: 1-800-842-6796.

- Roth, Philip. The Ghost Writer. New York: Vintage, 1995. ISBN: 978-0679748984. (Or

later Vintage edition)

The following texts will be made available to students:

- Berryman, John. “The Development of Anne Frank.” The Freedom of the Poet. New

York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1976. 91-106.

- Goodrich, Frances and Albert Hackett. The Diary of Anne Frank. New York: Dramatists

Play Service, 1986.

- Kesselman, Wendy, The Diary of Anne Frank. New York 1998

- Leon de Winter and Jessica Durlacher, Anne. Amsterdam and Basel 2014

- Motion, Andrew. “Anne Frank House.” Selected Poems: 1976-1997. 16.

- Lidchi, Henrietta. “The Poetics and the Politics of Exhibiting Other Cultures.”

Representations, Second Edition. Ed. Stuart Hall, Jessica Evans, and Sean Nixon.

London: Sage, 2013. 120-179.

-C.K. Williams, “A Day for Anne Frank.” Collected Poems. New York: Farrar Straus

Giroux, 2007. 3-8.

Further Recommended Reading:

De Costa, Denise. Anne Frank and Etty Hillesum: Inscribing Spirtuality and Sexuality. New

Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1999.

-Friedländer, Saul. Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1933-1945. New York: Harper/Collins, 2009.

-Hilberg, Raul, Victims, Perpetrators, Bystanders. The Jewish Catastrophe, 1933-1945. New

York: Harper/Collins 1992.

-Moore, Bob. Victims and Survivors: The Nazi Persecution of the Jews in the Netherlands,

1940-1945. London, Arnold 1997. 

-Presser, Jacques. Ashes in the Wind: The Destruction of Dutch Jewry. London: Souvenir

Press, 2010 (1968).

-Prose, Francine. Anne Frank: The Book, the Life, the Afterlife. New York: HarperPerennial,


-Romijn, Peter. “The War, 1940–1945.”The History of the Jews in the Netherlands. Transl. by

Arnold Pomerans and Erica Pomerans. Ed. J. C. H. Blom, R. G. Fuks Mansfeld, and I.

Schöffer, Oxford: Littmann Library of Jewish Civilization, 2002. 296–335.

-Wolf, Diane L. Beyond Anne Frank: Hidden Children and Postwar Families in Holland.

Berkeley: U of California P, 2007.

Course Schedule:

Week 1

January 12


January 14

From the Present to the Past: what are your experiences of reading Anne Frank?


“What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank,”Nathan Eglander

Week 2


January 21

Anna Ornstein, My Mother’s Eyes


Anna Ornstein, My Mother’s Eyes

Week 3

January 26

special guest Anna Ornstein, MD, psychoanalyst and Holocaust survivor

January 28

Diaries of young women living in the Netherlands, including Etty Hillesum.


Etty Hillesum, excerpts from diary

Week 4

The city

February 2


What happened in Amsterdam during World War II? What remains of the war in the city today? Where can we find traces of Anne Frank and her contemporaries?

February 4

Walking tour”


Hollandsche Schouwburg, Jewish Resistance Fighters Memorial, Resistance Monument, The Dockworker, pavement markers indicating former Jewish boys boarding school and houses formerly owned by Amsterdam Jews


Introduction: Anne Frank, the Phenomenon” (AFU) 1-22.

Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank

From Diary to Book: Text, Object, Structure” (AFU), 25-58.

Week 5:

The book

February 9

(w Denise de Costa)

How was the diary written? How was it edited? How has it been translated?

February 11

Discussion: Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank


“Suturing In: Anne Frank As a Conceptional Model for Visual Art” (AFU), 254-264
“Sounds from the Secret Annex: Composing a Young Girl’s Thoughts” (AFU), 265-287

Spring Break

Spring Break

Spring Break

Week 6:

The Play

February 26

(w Diederik Oostdijk)

How did the play of Anne Frank get to Broadway in 1955 and the Dutch stage? How was the diary converted to a play? How was the reception?

February 28

How does the Anne Frank Museum present her to the world? How has the concept of the museum changed over time?


Anne Frank from Page to Stage” (AFU), 59-92.

Sounds from the Secret Annex: Composing a Young Girl’s Thoughts” (AFU), 265-287;

Anne Frank on Crank: Comic Anxieties” (AFU), 309-323.

Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, The Diary of Anne Frank

Henrietta Lidchi, “The Poetics and the Politics of Exhibiting Other Cultures.”

Week 7:

The film

March 2

How did the movie of Anne Frank get to Hollywood? How is Anne Frank portrayed in later movies?

March 4

Film clips discussion:


Anne Frank’s Moving Images” (AFU), 93-134.

Watch George Stevens, The Diary of Anne Frank (1959)

*Groups will hand in presentation proposal.

Week 8:

The inspiration

Lecture 6

March 9

(Diederik Oostdijk)

How has the story of Anne Frank inspired American and British poets?

Practicum 6

March 11

(Dawn Skorczewski)

Philip Roth, The Ghost Writer

Seminar 6


Literary Afterlives of Anne Frank (AFU), 215-253)

John Berryman, “The Development of Anne Frank”

Andrew Motion, “Anne Frank House”

C.K. Williams, “A Day for Anne Frank.”

Philip Roth, The Ghost Writer

Week 9:

The world

March 16

Memory Studies

How is Anne Frank remembered around the world? What does this tell us about “cultural memory,” “collected memory,” “collective memory,” and “cultural recall”?

March 18

Remembering” Anne Frank Abroad


Hauntings and Sitings in Germany” (AFU), 137-157

Ilana Abramovitch, “Teaching Anne Frank in the United States” (AFU), 160-177
Brigitte Sion, “Anne Frank as Icon, from Human Rights to Holocaust Denial” (
AFU), 178-192

Liora Gubkin, “Anne Frank, a Guest at the Seder” (AFU), 193-211.

Week 10

March 23:

Anne Frank Projects

March 25:

Anne Frank Projects

*Dienke Hondius and Dawn Skorczewski both in Boston

Week 11

March 30:

Anne Frank Projects

April 1:

Anne Frank Projects

Dawn Skorczewski now participates from Amsterdam

Week 12

April 13

Dienke Hondius

  1. A short wrap up of the aftermath of the hiding place in Amsterdam. Who were in hiding? What happened? Introduction to all historical actors around the hiding place.

  2. Return and Reception of Jewish Survivors in 1945.

April 15

Dienke Hondius

Archival Research USC Shoah Foundation

  1. Leave a Message. What visitors write in the Anne Frank House comments’ books.

No readings: work on archival research on hiding in Amsterdam

Week 13

April 20

Dienke Hondius

Archival Research USC

April 22

Dienke Hondius

Archival Research USC

Continue work on archival research; add to database.

April 27

Dienke Hondius

  1. Holocaust Denial, Antisemitism, and Racism in Europe.

Final take home exam due May 1

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