Featured Movies

The Diary of Anne Frank (1959 original version)

You may view this if you are stundent in my Holocaust course.  If so, request the password from me directly next time we have class.  This is to keep in compliance with Copyright laws.  Thanks for your understanding.

NOTE: Periodically I hope to place a different Holocaust movie on this page.  Once the assignment is collected I will remove the movie and replace it with another instructional movie. Along with it I will write my own personal commentary about the movie and its place in Holocaust filmography.  If I do not assign it but youi would like to view it and do the assignment below it just let me know and I will give you the password.  It will be considered as an EXTRA CREDIT and will be placed in the Literature section of your overall grade.  You may use it for extra credit only after you have received your graded midterm back.  It cannot be done the last two weeks of class as well.

Professor Gair's Commentary: Read this in it's entirety before viewing the above movie.  Also keep the questions at the bottom in mind so that your critical essay addresses them fully. 

According to some scholars and critics in many ways the story of Anne Frank, either the book or one of the film versions, is not a fair representation of the true Holocaust.  In some cases this may be accurate.  It all depends upon how you view it within the context of other films.  In my Holocaust Literature course we do not even discuss "The Diary of Anne Frank" as literature.  My rationale is that the book is not a fair depiction of the true horrors that the Holocaust manifested.  It is let us say "atypical" rather than typical of the hell most survivors went through.  Of course when the book first came out it sold worldwide in many languages.  For many years The "Diary of Anne Frank" and "Night" by Elie Wiesel were the main or often only books most students ever read about the Holocaust.  This was so because in those days there were very few books written about the Holocaust.  The typical high school history textbook had a paragraph or two simply mentioning that the Nazis killed 6 million Jews during World War II. With so little attention to the subject no other books were being written.  Survivors were not telling their story because they felt that people were not interested in hearing them.  In many ways they were right.  The information, the facts, the details of what happened in the camps and ghettoes was just starting to come to light through some researchers, some authors and investigation.  As time went on and the world realized the extent to which this genocide of the Jews had gone, the interest in it began to grow.  As that started, survivors started to realize that there was gradually a growing desire for historians and others to know the truth.  As painful as it was the survivors began telling their stories.  As more and more did this the body of knowledge about the Holocaust began to grow at a faster rate.  More survivors started telling their experience either in books or interviews, films, documentaries and articles written about them.

In the 1978 a turning point was reached.  The 9 hour television mini-series "Holocaust: The Story of the Family Weiss" appeared on national broadcast over several nights.  One in every two Americans tuned in to watch this story which was based on the book "Holocaust" written by Gerald Green.  An entire generation of young people who were born right after the Holocaust became aware of a page in history that was recent and that they did not know much about.  After the 1960's in the United States there had been a growing concern for social problems and racial discrimination and of course the result was the  Civil Rights movement and the resulting new laws.  Young people became more vocal about their concerns about the ills of society, the Viet Nam War, racial segregation and women's lack of equality.  They bagan to march and protest openly in public.  The Holocaust was therefore another subject that drew interest because it represented the most extreme example of discrimination, prejudice and hate and what that can lead to if no action to halt it takes place.  After the broadcast of the mini-series and the new level of awareness and desire to know more about that time in history, schools and other educational institutions started to respond with more teaching about the subject. Eventually New Jersey became the first state to mandate, require by law, that the Holocaust be introduced in the lower grades and taught through the years as a child moved through the educational system.  The mandate was for grades K to 12.  One might wonder what a Kindergartener would be taught about the Holocaust.  The lower grades taught about character and moral development and how all people were equal no matter how different they were.  Over the subsequent years these concepts would be expanded to specifically cover the Holocaust and greater and more specific depth, culminating at Grade 12.  Eventually other states followed this pattern and as of today about 19 states require Holocaust education and the rest highly recommend it to their teachers.

As time grew, more and more surviors told their story, wrote books and started seeing films made about some of these stories and events.  This encouraged others to tell their story.  Along with this there gradually became a growing awareness and concern that the survivors were aging and in the not so distant future there would no longer be any survivors left to tell the world what happened.  The need to document the event and for the rest of the world to hear it directly from the victims was growing as the clock was ticking.  Eventually that clock would strike a moment when the world realized there were no more survivors left to tell the truth.  The need to start writing books, having survivors speak and record their interviews and to tell their story on screen became one of urgency, sort of a race against the clock.  So when we look at the story of Anne Frank against this backdrop we start to realize that Anne Frank lived a rather privelaged and sheltered life before the Holocaust.  We also realize that although she was in hiding in that attic for about two years, during that time she had shelter, clothes, food daily and was not being tortured or worked to death.  It was only at the very end of the story that we know that she was discovered and taken to Bergen Belsen where she eventually dies.  Most of the movie shows life in the attic and the closest it comes to the real horrors of the camps was the dream sequence inwhich we see her for a brief moment dream of her future fate.  As a story it does not represent a typical picture of the Holocaust.  It is indeed a beautiful story of a young girl coming of age.  A young girl dealing with the frustrations and curiosities about the physical and mental changes she is feeling as she reaches womanhood.  It is a story about first love and hopes and dreams.  It is a beautiful story as I said, but it is her story, not a story of the Holocaust.  To use it as literature in the beginning stages of learning about the Holocaust leaves the reader with the impression that the Holocaust was not all that bad.  Later, after a solid foundadtion of knowledge of just what did occur does the book or the movie make sense.  That is why I include the movie now in this course.  All the students taking this course have already completed LIT 2174- "Literature and Multimedia of the Holocaust." They know so much about the Holocaust by this point that they understand the true facts and horrors and can place her story in the context of all that.  The movie I have posted here was made in 1959.  The Holocaust ended in 1945.  You can now see what I meant when I said it was early in the evolution of Holocaust literature and filmography.  Over the subsequent years there were a couple of new versions of the movie and in them we see a little more about the horrors, but again it remains Anne's story. 

Personally, I will tell you that I had not watched the movie for many many years. In fact the last time I had seen it was when they rebroadcast it on TV.  In preparation for creating this course I purchased the DVD and watched it a couple of times.  I saw a beauty in the story I had not seen in my early days of viewing it.  I had a new appreciation for the beauty and richness of the story, but all along I realized her story was not typical but rather atypical.  I think you will likely feel the same way now that you have already spent a semester in great depth exploring the topic and its darkest times, and are now looking at the story with a different viewpoint.  


Please view the movie and then write an essay with your reaction to what I have said here       and the movie itself.  You are NOT required to agree with me.  You are required to display a thorough analysis and synthesize your anaylsis into a well written, coherent, and scholarly sounding paper.  Critical thinking here is what I am expecting to see when I read your paper.  Follow some of the gudelines and rubrics I have posted or included in some of the links on this site.  Your paper might be written from the viewpoint of a film critic or a researcher or Holocaust historian.  Your paper should include elements we have studied in this course such as how the filmmaker used sound, music, lighting, camera angles, camera shots (close up versus wide).  You may incorporate answers to some of the following questions.

1. Are there any key scenes or sequences that stood out to you?  Why?

2. What cinematic techniques does the director George Stevens use to enhance the story?  (flashbacks, foreshadowing,  mis en scene, camera angle, etc.) (Google the terms you do not know.)

3. How does the character of Anne Frank develop over time?  How does her relationship with Peter develop over time?

4. What values does Anne have that seem unusual today in the year 2013-2014?

5. If you have ever read the book what major differences struck you in the movie?  Which version did you think was better?  Why?

6.  How did the movie make you feel in the end?  Happy?  Depressed?  Sad?  Moved?  Confused?  Why?

7. Was there anything about the musical score, the lighting or even the camera angles that you feel made the film better?

8. How did the movie compare to your expectations? 

© RICHARD A. GAIR, MA 2013, rich@professorgair.com