Monday, August 2, 2010

Anne Frank: her Life in Words and Pictures by Menno Metselaar and Ruud van der Rol, translated by Arnold J. Pomerans.

Like most people, I read Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl when I was about 11 years old. Over the years, I have read various other works about Anne and her family, about life in the annex hiding from the Nazis and later in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. But I knew very little about her life before Anne went into hiding. This is one of the reasons why I found Anne Frank Her Life in Words and Pictures so interesting.

This is a small book - its size is and shape imitates the size and shape of Anne’s diary. It is divided into six sections chronicling Anne’s life, and each section includes abundant photos. It begins with 1925-1933 A German Girl, covering the marriage of Otto Frank and Edith Holländer in 1925, the birth of sister Margot in 1926, the birth of Anne in 1929, as well as Hitler’s activities and ultimate seizure of power in 1933. The year 1933 Leaving Germany, stands alone. With Hitler now in power, anti-Semitism and discrimination against Jews is sanctioned and the Franks decide to leave Germany for Amsterdam. The third section, 1934-1939 At Home in the Netherlands, show Anne and Margot happily at play and at school, while back in Germany Hitler prepares for war. By 1940-1942 War and Occupation, life has changed dramatically in the Netherlands, which is invaded by Hitler on 10 May 1940. The Nazis make life for Jews there very difficult; nevertheless Anne and Margot continue to attend school and see friends, as the photos show. The last section personally about Anne and her family is 1942-1944 In Hiding. When Margo receives a notice that she must report to a work camp in Germany, the family decide to go into hiding. Otto and Edith Frank knew that it was just a question of time before they would be forced to do this and had prepared the attic above the offices where Otto Frank has his business. In 1944, a still unknown person reported the hiding place and all eight occupants were arrested. After the arrest, the contents of the annex were sent to Germany. The photos here take the reader through the now empty rooms to show where and how all the occupants had lived in such a small space. It also includes excerpts from the diary that Anne received for her 13th birthday while in hiding and pictures of some of pages showing Anne’s entries. Betrayal, arrest and the fate of the family is covered in 1944-1945 The End. In August, the family is temporarily sent to Westerbrook camp, then in September to Auschwitz, where the women are separated from Otto Frank. In October, Anne and Margot are sent to Bergen-Belsen, but Edith Frank remains in Auschwitz and starves to death. This section is about life after arrest and includes pictures of transport trains, the selection process upon arrival at a camp of who lives and who dies, of people being marched to the gas chambers, and life in and around the barracks including eyewitness accounts by people who survived. It is, quite naturally, the most difficult section to see. The rest of the book, 1945 and After - The Legacy, deals with Otto Frank’s search for his children after the war, then learning of their deaths and receiving the diary from Miep Gies and its subsequent publication.

The Holocaust is a difficult subject and it is hard to know how much information is appropriate for children. Surely they should learn about it and Anne Frank is the iconic representative of the 1.5 million Jewish children who died in the Holocaust. But Anne was much more than an icon, which is why this book is so phenomenal. So many of the family’s personal photos somehow survived the Holocaust and we see Anne as an individual, a girl who wanted people to remember her name – as a writer.

Anne Frank Her Life in Words and Pictures is an excellent book in its own right, or in conjunction with The Diary of a Young Girl. The layout makes the time period very understandable and the text is geared appropriately towards readers between 9 and 15. One disturbing feature of the book, which I do not believe was intentional, is that it shows how many close calls there were where the fate of Anne and her sister may have been different. Saddest of these is at the end. Anne and Margot died of typhus in March 1945; Bergen-Belsen was liberated 15 April 1945. Their father had been freed from Auschwitz in January 1945, six weeks before the girls died, but he didn’t know where they were.

For information about the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam see:
A virtual tour of the annex is also available online at
In 2003, I went down to United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to see an exhibit there about Anne Frank the Writer. It was one of the most moving exhibits I have ever seen. There is an online exhibition of this at

YouTube offers a variety of images about Anne, at

The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, which originally published Anne Frank: her Life in Words and Pictures, has created a graphic biography that will be available in the US on 14 September 2010.

Non-Fiction Monday is hosted is hosted this week by Three Turtles and Their Pet Librarian

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