An Evolving Legacy: How Well Do We Know Anne Frank?
Anne Frank is a figure of hope whose diary has been read by millions of people around the world. Two new books, an upcoming film and a soon to open museum seek to create a contemporary, complicated — and more Jewish — image of the Holocaust victim.
For Buddy Elias, she was the girl with the smile, the girl with whom he played hide and seek, the girl who was determined to go ice skating with him; and she was his cousin, who he is still trying to protect to this day.
In her diary, she even drew a picture of the dress she would like to wear if she were to go ice skating with him.
Elias beams when he talks about her, but his eyes reveal a sense of sadness. For years, Elias has been talking about his favorite cousin Anne, speaking to schoolchildren who are amazed that he exists and that Anne Frank was even a real person. Of course, they know she existed, because they’ve read her diary. The book has transported them to back house, or Secret Annex. Her words have spoken to them and they have perhaps even trembled as she once did as they read her story. Some people even claim to have seen here, in Manila or Buenos Aires, and they are convinced that Anne Frank survived.
Anne Frank is the face of the Holocaust.
In her room at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam, where she hid with her parents, her sister Margot, the Van Pels family and Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist, from July 6, 1942 to Aug. 4, 1944, she had a photo of Greta Garbo as well as many other pictures pinned to the wall. Like most teenagers, she dreamed about Hollywood.
Buddy Elias went on to become a star in the Holiday on Ice skating show. He was an actor in the theater and on television, and he lived Anne’s dream. To this day, it seems to inspire him, although it isn’t clear whether he wasn’t in fact running away, during all those years spent on tour in Egypt and America, before he became the man who is Anne Frank’s cousin. It’s the role of his life. For Elias, who is 87, Anne Frank was family.
In the last entry in her diary, written on Aug. 1, 1944 — three days before she was betrayed and taken first to the Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands, then to Auschwitz and later to Bergen-Belsen — Frank described herself as a “bundle of contradictions”.
Even today, the rest of the world is still trying to figure out who, exactly, she was?
Anne Frank was, of course, a victim who represented the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis. Her story became one, as is often stated, that keeps us from forgetting. It was never to happen again, and making sure that it wouldn’t was also one of the roles of Anne Frank, who has a shared legacy as both a girl and a memorial.
She was the friend, the strong one, the difficult one, the girl in love, the girl who fought with her mother and discovered her vagina, and the girl who, despite her death, tells a story of hope.
She was the saint of the Holocaust and its teenage star. But there is one thing she rarely was: herself.