I visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam before I actually read the book Diary of a Young Girl. I had been honestly afraid to read it. I had seen the photos of freed Holocaust survivors taken by an American GI, one of the first liberators of a Nazi concentration camp¹, at a very young age. A visiting guest showed these slides at my yeshiva when I was 7 or so. The Head Rabbi told us that we could close our eyes if we wanted to. I perhaps should have, in retrospect. I had a lot of angst about concentration camps after that. I avoided anything that mentioned the Holocaust for many years. I did not read the diary or watch things like Schindler’s list².
I felt obliged to read the diary after my visit, and much to my surprise, found that it was not the dour, frightening document that I expected, but a highly readable and relatable memoir of a normal teen forced to live in cramped quarters with many people. The circumstance and the fate of Anne is what makes it heartbreaking, not the text.
In the past few weeks, a coincidental convergence of new fiction relating to Anne Frank has come my way. I put two books on hold; each had a waiting list, and got them at the same time:
Hope: A Tragedy, by Shalom Auslander, reviewed here in a blog post by Don. Now, this main character Kugel (excuse me, but this is the name for noodle pudding in Yiddish), has serious Holocaust angst. All sorts of issues surrounding Anne Frank come up. A book that is darkly funny – my favorite kind!
What we talk about when we talk about Anne Frank, by Nathan Englander. This book of short stories is like eating a piece of cake (or kugel even), satisfying, delicious, and more fun than bread. It is expertly crafted storytelling, smart, humorous, and thought-provoking³. It was just what I needed after reading all 5 books of the Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) saga in a row.
The strange convergence continued for me when I read the story of Mormons posthumously baptizing Anne Frank. That this story broke as I was listening to The Book of Mormon⁴ on endless repeat on my CD player, plus the two aforementioned books, all at the same time, is just too weird. Oy!
1. When trying to verify the facts of this statement or come up with a link, I was forced to glimpse some photos – I found that I still cannot bear to look.
2. I have since seen this excellent, heart-rending film.
3. Mormons and Holocaust angst feature prominently in the title piece. Double Oy!
4. Brilliant! Funny! Worthy of the abundant praise heaped on it!