Lessons from The Diary of Anne Frank
by Harold Marcuse, UCSB
August 7, 2002

Anne, Edith and Margot Frank in Frankfurt, Germany, January 1933


California History-Social Science Project
"Technology in the History-Social Science Classroom"
UCSB, August 5-9, 2002

Central California History-Social Science Project
Technology in the History-social Science Classroom
University of California, Santa Barbara
August 5-9, 2002

Wednesday, August 7, 2002
Harold Marcuse

Lessons from the Diary of Anne Frank

Document Discussion Questions


  1. What parts of Anne Frank’s life does her diary document? What parts does it not tell about?
  2. From what perspective does Anne’s diary tell us about the Holocaust?
    What information about the historical context do we need in order to understand the diary?
  3. How did the 14½-year-old Anne go about editing the 13-year-old Anne’s diary entries for publication?
    What did she add? What did she leave out? What audience did she have in mind?
  4. Who was Anne Frank? What does the diary say about Anne’s (national, religious, gender) identity?
  5. How do we assess the arguments some people use to dispute the authenticity of Anne Frank’s diary?
  6. What lessons can be drawn from reading the diary? Which ones are appropriate?
  7. How can these documents be used in the classroom, especially with ELL, ESL and LEP students?


  1. Map showing "Odyssey of the Frank and van Pels Families, 1929-1945," after Ruud van der Rol and Rian Verhoeven, Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary (New York: Puffin, 1993/95), 12f.
  2. Schematic overview of the different version of Anne’s Diaries, from The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition (German version, 1988), p. 70.
  3. Diary entries Oct. 3-26, 1942 (version a), excerpts.
  4. Diary entry Oct. 9, 1942 (version b), excerpts.
  5. Excerpts from various diary entries regarding religious and national identity, career aspirations [included below]
  6. Robert Faurisson, "Is The Diary of Anne Frank Genuine?," The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 3 no. 2 (Summer, 1982), p. 147ff (first 2 pages of 34 available on http://zundelsite.org/). [included below]
  7. Sue Jones Erlenbusch, "Projects for Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl," handout from http://www.teachervision.com/lesson-plans/lesson-9370.html
  8. Alvin H. Rosenfeld, "Anne Frank—and Us: Finding the Right Words," in: Hyman Enzer and Sandra Solotaroff-Enzer (eds.), Anne Frank: Reflections on Her Life and Legacy (Urbana: University of Illinois, 2000), 206-213.
  9. Robert Bain, "‘Where are the Kids?’: Students’ Pre-Instructional Thinking in and about History," in: Heidi Roupp (ed.), A Jump Start Manual for World History Teachers (papers presented at the 8th Annual World History Association Converence, Univ. of Victoria, June 1999), excerpt.

Central California History-Social Science Project
Technology in the History-social Science Classroom
University of California, Santa Barbara
August 5-9, 2002
Wednesday, August 7, 2002
Harold Marcuse

Lessons from the Diary of Anne Frank

Recommended Bibliography

The Primary Source

Anne Frank’s diary comes in various versions:
1952 Bantam paperback, $5
1995 Doubleday "definitive edition", $11
1988 "Critical edition" with scholarly essays (libraries have it), 790 pages
1993 illustrated adaptation for grades 1-3, by David Adler (Holiday House, $7)

Background works, with illustrations

Ruud van der Rol and Rian Verhoeven, Anne Frank: Beyond the Diary (Puffin, 1993), 113pp, $8. Well illustrated, with maps, informative captions, comprehensive.

Susan Moger, Teaching the Diary of Anne Frank: An In-Depth Resource for Learning about the Holocaust … (Scholastic Professional, 1998), 100pp, $13. Solid and comprehensive.

Biographies of Anne Frank

Mirjam Pressler, Anne Frank: A Hidden Life (Dutton Children’s, 1999). 162 pages, appropriate for students and adults, by the editor of the definitive edition and noted Dutch-German translator. With a chronology.

Melissa Müller, Anne Frank: The Biography (Henry Holt, 1998), 330 pages, $14.
Excellent biography, adult level. (May 2001 ABC-TV docudrama based on this book.)

Scholarly Essays

Hyman Enzer and Sandra Solotaroff-Enzer (eds.), Anne Frank: Reflections on Her Life and Legacy (Univ. of Illinois, 2000), 265 pages. A collection of the best scholarly essays on many aspects of Anne’s life, the diary, its adaptations and uses. It has a bibliography of Anne’s works, and of scholarly works
The 31 essays are divided into the following categories:
1. History, biography and authenticity
2. Writer and Rewriter
3. Anne Frank on Stage and Screen
4. Memorializing the Holocaust

Web sites

I had originally planned to do this presentation as an exercise in web searching and evaluating, but changed my mind. I started putting the sites I had selected for that presentation on filamentality: <http://www.kn.pacbell.com/wired/fil/pages/listdiaryofhm.html>.
Coming soon: An annotated linkography will be available on my Holocaust oral history project web site:
http://www.history.ucsb.edu/projects/holocaust, under "Research and Teaching."

The New York Times has copies of reviews of the book and stage versions of the Diary going back to 1952: http://www.nytimes.com/books/97/10/26/reviews/971026.26leitert.html#1.

Text read aloud at the beginning of the oral presentation:

‘Where are the Kids?’:
Students’ Pre-Instructional Thinking in and about History

by Robert Bain

in: Heidi Roupp (ed.), A Jump Start Manual for World History Teachers (papers presented at the 8th Annual World History Association Conference, Univ. of Victoria, June 1999), 4-26; these excerpts 9-13.

Samuel Wineburg demonstrated significant differences in the way high school students and historians read text. Wineburg gave a group of high school history students and historians a set of primary sources from the U.S. Revolutionary War to read while thinking aloud. The students had completed successfully a U.S. history course and in some cases had a greater factual knowledge of the event under study than did some of the historians, particularly those whose specialty was not U.S. history. Yet, factual knowledge did not seem to affect how each group read the sources. The historians employed multiple strategies while reading. They corroborated sources within the document set, consciously attended to who created the source and the time of its creation, and worked to construct a larger context to situate the documents. Each historian tried to corroborate, discover attribution and contextualize each document and the entire set. They engaged in a multilayered dialogue between the documents and their own questions, trying to understand the minds of those they were studying while weaving tentative interpretations that successive readings challenged or refined.

And the students? They handled the documents as they did any text, simply reading for information. They rarely paid attention to a document’s author, to the relationship among sources or the larger context surrounding the evidence. Students read documents in the order given, and from top to bottom. Unlike historians, students made their assessments of the sources "without regret or qualification." In other words, they approached historical texts as vehicles of information, reading them as they read other material to get the facts. Historians, on the other hand, "seemed to view texts not as vehicles but as people, not as bits of information to be gathered but as social exchanges to be understood."

These differences, Wineburg concluded, were more complicated than differences in factual knowledge or reading skills. … What differentiated historians’ reading from that of students was … knowledge of how to … determine the validity of competing truth claims in a discipline." …

We might be fooling ourselves because students can engage in the outward trappings of an activity. A disciplinary task, such as reading primary sources, might mean something different to history students than it does to historians. …

… [p. 11] In replicating Wineburg’s study with teachers, Yeager and Davis found little evidence that teachers regularly corroborated evidence, looked for attribution or constructed context when reading multiple sources. While there was variation among the teachers in the study, the majority approximated the reading habits of the high school students in Wineburg’s study. …

[p. 12] The past, for students, was filled with facts that historians retrieved for students to memorize in ways that will somehow improve the present. …
For the students, history seemed to consist of indisputable stories told about the past, packaged with clear lessons and unfettered by … considerations of evidence.

In a sense, students have a positivist view of history. History is the mirror of the past. Students, as Shemilt showed, believed historical facts speak on their own and exist independently of the historian. The job of the historian is a gatherer of factual information, analogous, in the mind of the student, to a photographer who brings back "true" pictures of distant times, peoples and places.

[p. 13] It should not come as a surprise that students see textbooks as more reliable and free of bias when compared to other sources. In a study that investigated the ways students worked with a variety of sources used in history classrooms including textbooks, primary documents, drawings and photographs, Mary Singer Gabella discovered that students asked the same types of questions, regardless of the sources they were using. While the students liked using art and seemed engaged with it, students did not trust the information the drawings gave. The exception was with photographs that students saw as factual and unbiased. Of all the sources they used, the students held the textbook with the highest regard as an exemplar of historical knowledge. She concluded … that for students the "credibility of a source varies inversely with apparent human craftsmanship."

The cited studies are:

Samuel Wineburg, "Historical Problem Solving: A Study of the Cognitive Processes Used in Documentary and Pictorial Evidence," Journal of Educational Psychology 83:1(1991), 73-87.

Denis Shemilt, "The Devil’s Locomotive," History and Theory 224(1983), 1-18.

Terrie Epstein, "Sociocultural Approaches to Young People’s Historical Understanding," Social Education 61.1(1997), 28-31.

Mary Singer Gabella, "Beyond the Looking Glass: Bringing Students into the Conversation of Historical Inquiry," Theory and Research in Social Education (23(1994), 340-363.

Elizabeth Yeager and O.L. Davis, "Classroom Teachers’ Thinking about Historical Texts: An Exploratory Study," Theory and Research in Social Education 24:2(1996), 146-166.

Excerpts from Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Monday, December 7, 1942
Chanukah and St. Nicholas Day came almost together this year—just one day’s difference. We didn’t make much fuss about Chanukah: we just gave each other a few little presents and then we had the candles. Because of the shortage of candles we only had them alight for ten minutes, but it is all right as long as you have the song. Mr. Van Daan has made a wooden candlestick, so that too was all properly arranged.
Saturday, the evening of St. Nicholas Day, was much more fun. Miep and Elli had made us very inquisitive by whispering all the time with Daddy, so naturally we guessed that something was on.

Monday, December 6, 1943
When St. Nicholas’ Day approached, none of us could help thinking of the prettily decorated basket we had last year and I, especially, thought it would be very dull to do nothing at all this year. I thought a long time about it, until I invented something funny, … composing a little poem for each person …

Wednesday, March 29, 1944
Bolkestein, a M[ember of] P[arliament], was speaking on the Dutch News from London, and he said that they ought to make a collection of diaries and letters after the war. Of course, they all made a rush at my diary immediately. Just imagine how interesting it would be if I were to publish a romance of the "Secret Annexe." The title alone would be enough to make people think it was a detective story.

Wednesday, April 5, 1944 (def. edition)
I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that’s what I want! I know I can write ..., but it remains to be seen whether I really have talent ...
And if I don’t have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that. I can’t imagine living like Mother, Mrs. van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! ...
I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me!
When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that’s a big question,
will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?

Tuesday, April 11, 1944
[this is a key entry; after a very long narration about a break-in in the factory, during which they thought they’d be discovered, Anne reflects about her thoughts while she expected to die]
Who knows, maybe our religion will teach the world and all the people in it about goodness, and that's the reason, the only reason, we have to suffer. We can never be just Dutch, or just English, or whatever, we will always be Jews as well. And we'll have to keep on being Jews, but then, we'll want to be. …
But now, now that I’ve been spared, my first wish after the war is to become a Dutch citizen. I love the Dutch, I love this country, I love the language, and I want to work here. And even if I have to write to the Queen herself, I won't give up until I've reached my goal. …
I know that I’m a woman, a woman with inner strength and a great deal of courage!
If God lets me live, I’ll achieve more than Mother ever did, I’ll make my voice heard, I’ll go out into the world and work for humanity!

Unknown date
People who have a religion should be glad, for not everyone has the gift of believing in heavenly things. You don't necessarily even have to be afraid of punishment after death; purgatory, hell and heaven are things that a lot of people can't accept, but still a religion, it doesn't matter which, keeps a person on the right path. It isn't the fear of God, but the upholding of one's own honor and conscience.

May 11, 1944
And now something else. You've known for a long time that my greatest wish is to be a journalist, and later on, a great writer. (...) In any case after the war I'd like to publish a book called The Secret Annex. It remains to be seen whether I'll succeed, but my diary can serve as the basis.

The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 3 no. 2 (Summer, 1982), p. 147ff


Is The Diary of Anne Frank genuine?

by Robert Faurisson

Is The Diary of Anne Frank genuine? For two years that question was included in the official syllabus "Text and Document Criticism," a seminar reserved for degreed students in their fourth year. The conclusion of my studies and research is that The Diary of Anne Frank is a fraud.

In order to study the question posed and to find an answer to it, I have carried out the following investigations:

  1. Internal criticism: the very text of the Diary (in Dutch) contains a number of unlikely or inconceivable facts.
  2. A study of the premises in Amsterdam: on the one hand, the physical impossibilities and, on the other hand, the explanations made up by Anne Frank's father severely compromise him.
  3. Interview of the principal witness: Mr. Otto Frank.
  4. Bibliographical examination: some curious silences and revelations.
  5. A return to Amsterdam for a new investigation: the witnesses turn out to be unfavorable to Mr. Frank; the probable truth.
  6. The "betrayer" and the person who arrested the Franks: why has Mr. Frank wished to assure them such anonymity?
  7. Comparison between the Dutch and German texts: attempting to make too much of it, Mr. Frank has given himself away; he has signed a literary fraud.

Internal criticism

The first step in the investigation is to determine if the text is consistent within itself. The Diary contains an extraordinary number of inconsistencies.

Let us take the example of the noises. Those in hiding, we are told, must not make the least sound. This is so much so that, if they cough, they quickly take codeine. The "enemies" could hear them. The walls are that "thin" (25 March 1943). Those "enemies" are very numerous: Lewin, who "knows the whole building well" (1 October 1942), the men from the store, the customers, the deliverymen, the agent, the cleaning woman, the night watchman Slagter, the plumbers, the "health service," the accountant, the police who conduct their searches of the premises, the neighbors both near and far, the owner, etc. It is therefore unlikely and inconceivable that Mrs. Van Daan had the habit of using the vacuum cleaner each day at 12:30 pm (5 August 1943). The vacuum cleaners of that era were, moreover, particularly noisy. I ask: "How is that conceivable?" My question is not purely formal. It is not rhetorical. Its purpose is not to show astonishment. My question is a question. It is necessary to respond to it. That question could be followed with forty other questions concerning noises. It is necessary to explain, for example, the use of an alarm clock (4 August 1943). It is necessary to explain the noisy carpentry work: the removal of a wooden step, the transformation of a door into a swinging cupboard (21 August 1942), the making of a wooden candlestick (7 December 1942). Peter splits wood in the attic in front of the open window (23 February 1944). It involved building with the wood from the attic "a few little cupboards and other odds and ends" (11 July 1942). It even involved constructing in the attic "a little compartment" for working (13 July 1943). There is a nearly constant noise from the radio, from the slammed doors, from the "resounding peal" (6 December 1943), the arguments, the shouts, the yelling, a "noise that was enough to awaken the dead." (9 November 1942). "A great din and disturbance followed I was doubled up with laughter" (10 May 1944). The episode reported on 2 September 1942 is irreconcilable with the necessity of being silent and cautious. There we see those in hiding at dinner. They chatter and laugh. Suddenly, a piercing whistle is heard. And they hear the voice of Peter who shouts through the stove pipe that he will certainly not come down. Mr. Van Daan gets up, his napkin falls and, his face flushed, he shouts: "I've had enough of this." He goes up to the attic and there, resistance and the stamping of feet. The episode reported on 10 December 1942 is of the same kind. There we see Mrs. Van Daan being looked after by the dentist Dussel. The latter touches a bad tooth with his probe. Mrs. Van Daan then lets out "incoherent cries of pain." She tries to pull the little probe away. The dentist looks at the scene, his hands on his hips. The onlookers all "roared with laughter." Anne, instead of showing the least distress in the face of these cries or this mad laughter, declares: "It was rotten of us, because I for one am quite sure that I should have screamed even louder."

The remarks that I am making here in regard to noises I could repeat in regard to all of the realities of physical and mental life. The Diary even presents the peculiarity that not one aspect of the life that is lived there avoids being either unlikely, incoherent, or absurd. At the time of their arrival in their hiding place, the Franks install some curtains to hide their presence. But, to install curtains at windows which did not have them up until then, is that not the best means of drawing attention to one's arrival? Is that not particularly the case if those curtains are made of pieces of "all different shapes, quality and pattern" (11 July 1942)? In order not to betray their presence, the Franks burn their refuse. But in doing this they call attention to their presence by the smoke that escapes from the roof of a building that is supposed to be uninhabited! They make a fire for the first time on 30 October 1942, although they arrived in that place on 6 July. One asks oneself what they could have done with their refuse for the 116 days of the summer. I recall, on the other hand, that the deliveries of food are enormous. In normal conditions, the persons in hiding and their guests each day consume eight breakfasts, eight to twelve lunches and eight dinners. In nine passages of the book they allude to bad or mediocre or insufficient food. Otherwise the food is abundant and "delicious." Mr. Van Daan "takes a lot of everything" and Dussel takes "enormous helpings" of food (9 August 1943) . On the spot they make wet and dry sausages, strawberry jam, and preserves in jars. Brandy or alcohol, cognac, wines, and cigarettes do not seem to be lacking either. Coffee is so common that one does not understand why the author, enumerating (23 July 1943) what each would wish to do on the day when they would be able to leave that hiding place, says that Mrs. Frank's fondest wish would be to have a cup of coffee. On the other hand, on 3 February 1944 -- during the terrible winter of '43/'44 -- here is the inventory of the supplies available for those in hiding alone, to the exclusion of any cohabiting friend or "enemy:" 60 pounds of corn, nearly 60 pounds of beans and 10 pounds of peas, 50 cans of vegetables, 10 cans of fish, 40 cans of milk, 10 kilos of powdered milk, 3 bottles of salad oil, 4 preserving jars of butter, 4 jars of meat, 2 bottles of strawberries, 2 bottles of raspberries, 20 bottles of tomatoes, 10 pounds of rolled oats, and 8 pounds of rice. There enter, at other moments, some sacks of vegetables each weighing 25 kilos, or again a sack of 19 pounds of green peas (8 July 1944). The deliveries are made by a "nice greengrocer," and always "during the lunch hour" (11 April 1944). This is hard to believe. In a city described elsewhere as starving, how could a greengrocer leave his store, in broad daylight, with such loads to go to deliver them to a house located in a busy neighborhood? How could this greengrocer, in his own neighborhood (he was "at the corner"), avoid meeting his normal customers for whom, in that time of scarcity, he ought normally to be a person to be sought out and begged for favors? There are many other mysteries in regard to other merchandise and the manner in which it reaches the hiding place. For holidays, and for the birthdays of the persons in hiding, the gifts are plentiful: carnations, peonies, narcissuses, hyacinths, flower pots, cakes, books, sweets, cigarette lighters, jewels, shaving necessities, roulette games, etc. I would draw attention to a real feat achieved by Elli. She finds the means of offering some grapes on 23 July 1943. I repeat: some grapes, in Amsterdam, on 23 July. They even tell us the price: 5 florins per kilo.