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Lecturer David Barnouw reflects on the legacy of Anne Frank

On Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022, the University of Maine welcomed Independent Scholar and Lecturer David Barnouw at the Buchanan Alumni House for a presentation on Anne Frank, her legacy and her betrayal.

Barnouw is a renowned author of over fifteen books and has devoted his life to intensive research on War and Genocide Studies. His discussions delve into a truth beyond what has been told and he advocates for those afflicted by the Holocaust. Barnouw’s most recent book is entitled “The Phenomenon of Anne Frank.”

“I am very fascinated by the end of Anne Frank’s diary,” second-year nursing student Alexa Rosenberg said. “Specifically how close her family was to surviving the rest of the war in hiding.”

Barnouw began by providing the audience with information about his own background. His grandfather, a minister, was arrested with two German colleagues and sent to a concentration camp for providing help to Jewish people. He elaborated further on a particular experience that changed his life: the passing of Anne’s father, Otto Frank, on Aug. 19, 1980.

After publishing his daughter’s diary, Otto Frank left everything to the Anne Frank Foundation. It has been discovered that two years into hiding (March of 1944), Anne rewrote her diary a second time but with more improved, fluent Dutch. However, there were certain inconsistencies between the first and second editions that scholars have been working to comprehend. Firstly, there are two or three pages in the original diary where she writes about certain classmates in a rather negative, critical manner that was left out of her second copy. Secondly, the newer edition mentions an anti-semitic radio broadcast that aired in 1942 but was not mentioned in the first edition.

It begs the question of whether her sister had it noted in her own diary and helped Anne to rewrite it, or if her father just happened to remember and chose to include it. Regardless, other entries of Anne’s have been censored by Dutch publications after being considered “sexually explicit.” Specifically, an anecdote she had made about being at a sleepover with her friends at the age of six and asking to see their breasts. Members of Parliament, as well as others, refused to include this entry without the consent of Anne’s father.

Anne had a unique message for the world, and Otto was active in translating, promoting, and mainstreaming her story. One misconception about “The Diary of Anne Frank” is that it is only a story about a Jewish girl hiding in Amsterdam during the Holocaust. The book is much more than that; Anne was a lively teenager, who had disparities with her mother but a close relationship with her father.

What makes her writing so versatile is that her experiences can be interpreted in a multitude of different ways depending on the audience. Due to a lack of strict opinions, it can be personalized to anyone anywhere. The worldwide connection to her book breaks the barrier of her reputation as solely a Holocaust victim and allows people to link her words to more current, universal struggles. Her story has been altered and mainstreamed through movies, plays and book adaptations. This leads you to wonder if her voice has become lost within these different, newer versions of her experiences. Could she be used as an icon for social and ancestral justice in other senses, despite not being able to give her own account of each situation?

Barnouw settled on the conclusion that Anne Frank’s voice will not be lost, but will change depending on what the world needs to hear. Her legacy is being preserved through donations to her foundations which provide hundreds of cities and dozens of countries with exhibitions and monuments in her honor.

Just as important is further research into her writing, specifically what has been left out or disregarded.

“I strive to provide as much possible background information to those interested, as well as answer any lingering questions,” Barnouw said.

This presentation was sponsored by the Judaic Studies program and co-sponsored by UMaine History, Honors, McGillicuddy Humanities Center and the Jewish Community Endowment Association.

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