Sisterhood Blog

Anne Frank, the App

By Hinda Mandell

  • Print
  • Share Share
Hinda Mandell

Earlier this month I found myself waiting in an hour-long line outside the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Antsy, I decided to download the free “Anne’s Amsterdam” app that was advertised outside the museum.

A quick download from the iTunes store and — Voila! —“Anne’s Amsterdam” was installed on my home screen. There was her smiling face, captured in black and white, her hair pinned back with a barrette — one of the most iconic faces to emerge from the Holocaust. And the app sits kitty-corner to my Facebook and Twitter icons on my iPhone.

Cognitive dissonance at its best, I think.

“Anne’s Amsterdam,” which came out in May, is a GPS driven application that takes its users to 30 different sites around the city. Among the sites are the city’s Jewish quarter and the location where Anne Frank attended Jewish school in 1941 — once Jews were banned from mainstream schools in Amsterdam.

Through the app I learned that my hotel was a mere 560 feet from Anne Frank’s Jewish school. Once I arrived there, an informational tab with photos popped up on my iPhone’s screen. I learned:

“Anne is well known as a funny girl who likes to be the centre of attention. Anne gets on well with all her teachers. Only her math teacher, Mr. Keesing, is cross with her for a while because she always talks in his lessons. Her punishment is to write an essay entitled ‘Quack, quack, quack said Mistress Chatterback.’”

I was impressed by the app’s many historical insights, photos and videos about its iconic subject. And yet, I found myself a bit unsettled by it.

Maybe because it turned Anne, a little girl forever perched on the cusp of womanhood, into just something else to digitally consume.

I suspect that like so many of Anne’s readers, I feel protective of her. It’s not just because I devoured her diary so many years ago. But it’s because she provides us deep access into her microcosm — and by doing so she inadvertently reminds us of how many other microcosms were devastated by World War II. Reading her diary allowed me to create a distinct image of her in my head. But the smartphone app takes that power away from me.

I am not a technological naysayer. I download apps often and find it funny when I see clusters of folks of all ages scroll through their devices, mid-stride, to write a text or post a Twitter update.

But must everything be “app-ified?” Can we not be left to our own devices (the non technological kind) to interact with history? This is not so much a complaint but a call — to all of us — to consider what it means when the Anne Frank “experience” is as easily downloadable as Angry Birds.

I get the fact that since millions of school children around the world read “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” that the museum that protects her legacy wants to reach these school children where they’re at — on their phones. The museum likely sees it as another way to encourage conversations about difference, bigotry and war. But is an app, so easy to install and uninstall, and even easier to be distracted from, really the best way to do this?

According to an installation inside the museum, Anne Frank’s father, Otto, would not permit the museum to show a real-life reproduction of the furniture layout within the annex. No explanation was given.

I like to think that for a father whose daughter became so public — whose inner thoughts became the subject of lesson plans and classroom discussions worldwide — that one thing must remain private to him alone. I thought about that while considering the app, which further turns her into more of an icon than a young woman.

Days after visiting the Anne Frank House, I toured the D-Day beaches in Normandy, France. It wasn’t until hours after I left that I realized there was no mention of social media at the site, let alone an app.

Without this type of distraction, I was left to experience the D-Day landing beaches on my own, in my own world, with my own thoughts and emotions.

My fingers did not itch to scroll through my iPhone’s home screen. But I knew that if there was an app available I wouldn’t be able to control my fingers.

Without it, I was able to pay quiet homage to the past. It was solemn, peaceful and powerful.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Anne Frank

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • “You will stomp us into the dirt,” is how her mother responded to Anya Ulinich’s new tragicomic graphic novel. Paul Berger has a more open view of ‘Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: Hundreds of protesters marched through lower Manhattan yesterday demanding an end to American support for Israel’s operation in #Gaza.
  • Does #Hamas have to lose for there to be peace? Read the latest analysis by J.J. Goldberg.
  • This is what the rockets over Israel and Gaza look like from space:
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.