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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #107
November 18, 2009

Teens Off The Couch: The Diary of Anne Frank

Anne Frank - The Whole Story + Jewish Holocaust Museum

Anne Frank's popularity gets renewed with each new generation that reads her diary.  While the details of her tragic story are well known, what keeps her book on everyone's reading list is that it so powerfully chronicles the life if an ordinary 13 year old girl - her battles with her mother, her first crush and the awkwardness of one's social life at that age. Of course, the fact that these 'normal' struggles are taking place against the background of World War Two and the Holocaust make the book an indelible part of every young person's literary education. The classic film adaptation of The Diary of Anne Frank sticks to Anne's chronicles of life in the attic, but we like Anne Frank - The Whole Story because it gives a fuller picture of Anne and her community.  Spending a third of the film on Anne’s pre-hiding life gave us a portrait of her not just as a victim of Nazi persecution, but as a thriving girl just like our teens.  We see her first boyfriend, her birthday parties, and her concern over new shoes even as the Nazi’s invade Holland.  The second portion of the movie occurred while Anne was in hiding, showing the strains of two families and a single man living together, along with Anne growing up and falling love with Peter.  The final third traced Anne’s life in the concentration camps; first in Holland, then when her family was chosen for transport to Auschwitz, and finally in the brutal Bergen-Belson where Anne and her sister died.  We learned about the people in Anne’s life. We compared Miep and the co-workers who hid the families in the attic to the people who told the Nazis where the Franks were hiding, providing our teens with stark examples of the effect of each person’s choices in the face of evil. 

Our trip to Los Angeles' Museum of Tolerance gave us the perfect opening to discuss prejudice and intolerance in the context of the past and in our own times. The Museum gives a human face to the Holocaust by giving each visitor a Photo Passport that describes a typical child living under the Nazis.  During the tour, we stopped at a kiosk to update what was happening to the child at that time in history, some were transferred to a concentration camp and others went into hiding, and finally, whether or not the child survived. While none of the exhibits are gruesome, the Museum of Tolerance uses multi-media installations, air temperature, lighting, and furnishings to consciously and subconsciously convey the darkness that fell over Europe under the Nazis.  As we exited through separate doors, we all found ourselves at the Wall of Righteousness, a tribute to the people to who risked their lives to save Holocaust victims. Each name plate lists the person and the number of people saved, underscoring the most important message at the Museum of Tolerance, that one person can make a difference. If you don't happen to live in Los Angeles or Washington D.C., home to two powerful Holocaust museums, check out your cities Jewish Museum or Jewish Heritage Center, where there will more than likely be section dedicated to education about the Holocaust and Anne Frank.

Film Title: Anne Frank - The Whole Story
Directed By: Robert Dornhelm
2001, Rated U, 189

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this film:

  • What Worked for Us: The mini-series is an adaptation of Anne Frank: A Biography by Melissa Muller.  It does contain scenes from The Diary of Anne Frank, but gives a wider view of her life and the era than the diary, or the original film adaptation (that is 50 years old this year, but takes place only in the attic and is based on a play). The mini-series stars Ben Kingsley as Otto Frank and our kids appreciated knowing Anne is a teenager before her captivity, as well as having a sense of what happened at the end of her life.
  • Red Flags: Caution!  The scenes in the concentration camp are explicit.  For teens who would be too disturbed, consider reading Anne Frank: The Diary of A Young Girl.  Another young adult book is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak in which a German family hides a Jewish man.  We liked this book because it gave a German view of the era and the family’s choice to save someone, showing another selfless response to evil.  For younger kids, My Friend Anne Frank by Jacqueline Van Maarsen is a wonderful book by Anne’s best-friend, full of recollections of Anne and their adolescent life.  For adults, Phillip Roth writes about Anne Frank and her effect on our understanding of the Holocaust in The Ghost Writer.

Our Tips for Talking with your Teens about this Film:

  • History Savvy: Had she lived, Anne would have turned 80 years old in June 2009. And August 4 marked the 65th anniversary of the family's arrest by German security agents.
  • Cinema Savvy: In Freedom Writers, Hilary Swank teaches her gang-infested Long Beach high-school students to keep a diary, after having them read Anne Frank. The whole class goes on a visit to LA's Museum of Tolerance.



Local Jewish Museum or Jewish Heritage Center

Age Recommendation:  12 and up

Time Allotment:  An afternoon

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom on This Adventure

  • What We Learned: Our museum guides groups through the Holocaust portion, then visitors are free to explore around the halls to other exhibits that discuss prejudice, personal responsibility, and intolerance.  Many of the exhibits are interactive requiring visitors to think about their own opinions and values. Parents should be cautioned that a concentration camp exhibit is not for the faint of heart, but is an important way to teach kids what the Holocaust was really like.
  • Don't Miss Meeting a Survivor: At our local museum almost every day one or more Holocaust survivors tell their experience and end with a question and answer exchange.  The woman we listened to described how she lost a shoe during a winter death march in Poland so she had to hide and escape, she could no longer march.  One of the teenagers asked “why not?”  Apparently, not all teens understand what it's like to live without creature comforts.  Our Holocaust survivor was very open about her experience, making history come alive.  Have your own eye-opening face to face experience with a brave survivor by tuning into the interviews on the Voice/Vision Holocaust Survivor Oral History Archive.
  • Schedule at Museum: Your museum probably offers a variety of programs.  If your local museum is not entirely devoted to just the Holocaust, check the museum schedule for talks and exhibits which often surface at Jewish Museums.

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

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