New photos, videos and app shed fresh light on Anne Frank’s family life
Archive documents, photos and video footage are released to the public for the first time in digital edition of Anne’s diary
Scrapbook pictures that give a bright glimpse of Anne Frank’s life before her family went into hiding are among a wealth of unpublished material made public for Holocaust Memorial Day on Sunday.
The scrapbooks, thought to have been made by her father Otto, are held in the archives of the Anne Frank Fund and their release, with rare film footage, letters and pictures, is intended to give a broader picture of the Frank family.
“Anne’s father was a keen amateur photographer, something that was more unusual at that time, and we have hundreds of images, mainly of special family occasions, but of friends too,” said Yves Kugelmann, who sits on the board of the fund.
A photo of Anne with her elder sister and parents out together in May 1941 near their home in Amsterdam is a poignant reminder of the freedom they lost, while a jaunty image of Anne, taken by her sister Margot, shows her leaning over the balcony of a block of flats and letting her hair fly. The picture was meant to include their grandmother, Rosa, but a note in the scrapbook explains that she moved out of the way at the last moment.
Original documents, diary pages and footage are all included in the first app edition of The Diary of a Young Girl, the journal written by the teenage Frank during the two years she spent concealed from the Nazis in an annexe behind a warehouse.
The content of the app is drawn from archives held in Basel, Switzerland, where Otto Frank lived after the war, and has been assembled with the help of Frank’s only surviving direct relative, Bernd Elias, known as Buddy. “I am happy to say that interest in Anna and her times is still strong, but bringing out this now is highly important for the future of her story,” Elias told the Observer. “The new material gives it a completely different outlook.”
In childhood Anne’s elder cousin, Buddy, was the object of her dreams. Inside the annexe at Prinsengracht 263 she drew a picture of the outfit that she hoped to wear one day when she went ice-skating with him. Now 87, Elias works with the Anne Frank Foundation and is still committed to explaining the relevance of his cousin’s story.
“It is a great thing that we have so much material available now for young people,” he said. “In the past there was only the diary, now there are pictures and videos. Hatred, of course, and racism are still working away all over the world. They are with us. It is so important that children learn to respect all religions and all nationalities.”
Tens of millions have read The Diary of a Young Girl since it was first published in 1947; readers of the app can now see the hiding place she shared from 6 July 1942 until 4 August 1944 with her parents, her sister, the Van Pels family and a dentist called Fritz Pfeffer.
Importantly for Kugelmann and Elias, the app also shows what was happening outside the annexe. While Helena Bonham Carter reads Anne’s diary entries, users can watch videos of those who secretly helped the threatened Jewish family, or listen to original radio news broadcasts.
“When I knew Anne, she was a girl like every other girl,” said Elias. “She was lovely and wild and we had a wonderful time playing together. But she was no real exception, although it is true that she just loved writing, even before she was in hiding. In a way, she was not somebody special, though. That was the point really.” Although Frank was “great fun”, Elias often thinks of the rest of her family too. “We know about Anne because of her writing, yet no one knows about her sister. Sometimes I can’t believe that she went then too. And I know that Otto felt that. Margot was highly intelligent and was always the best in her class. Anne was one victim of millions, and all these victims were each people with their own characters.”
Elias feels Anne’s wider importance now is as the best known Holocaust victim. “She has become an icon of that time, and now I think about her every day because of my work. I get mail sent to me almost every day and I answer them all.”
The Anne Frank Fund makes no profits and invests in education projects, so its commercial ventures are carefully chosen. Elias believes his cousin’s legacy is liable to exploitation. “I hated to see the musical. She is used sometimes for things that are not right. There were even some Anne Frank jeans at one time. Horrible ideas.”
At the same time it is “heartwarming”, Elias says, that she is read all over the world. Penguin General’s app also includes 21 video clips from the Oscar-winning documentary Anne Frank Remembered and several audio recordings, including a commentary from Miep Gies, one of those who risked her life to help Anne.
But schoolchildren will not, of course, be spared the last chapter of Frank’s story. Her time in hiding ended on a summer’s day when the Austrian Nazi SS Oberscharführer Karl Silberbauer entered the annexe. Those inside were all taken away and Frank went first to the Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands, then on to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, where she died from typhus three months before her 16th birthday.