Sisterhood Blog

A Kiss in the Anne Frank House

By Sarah Seltzer

  • Print
  • Share Share

Hazel and Gus, played by Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, share an embrace in ‘The Fault in Our Stars’.

Is the Anne Frank House a scene of one girl’s hopeful coming-of-age in the face of evil, or is it a memorial to the genocidal murder of children? Is thinking about Anne’s life in the last place she lived before she was sent to the camps a testament to humanity’s best traits — or too painful to bear, an icon of humanity’s darkest moments?

This week, critics and observers are deeply divided over a over a climactic kiss in teen cancer weepie “The Fault in Our Stars” which is staged in the Anne Frank House. Is it “egregious” or affirming? One critic who had no problem with the book on the page was horrified: “… on the page, with your imagination at work, this plays as dramatically romantic. But on a screen, made real, all I could think was: OK, are these teens really making out in Anne Frank’s attic? Are they that cluelessly self-absorbed?” But another says the scene is powerful, turning the film for a moment into a statement “about the heroic moral search for meaning in suffering.”

As we know, Anne has long been a lightning rod, since long before Justin Bieber, Beyonce, and now John Green have created mini-scandals within the walls of the “Secret Annex.” My husband and I visited the Anne Frank House last fall, me for the second time. Her obvious similarities to our own younger selves, a young urbane, secular Jewish girl dreaming of journalism and writing, full of vim and humor, resonated with us in different ways — he was more horrified by her murder and I felt more connected to Anne across the ages.

Just as this new onscreen kiss has attracted different responses, so does visiting Anne’s house to begin with. Much depends on whether you’ve read the diary, when you’ve read it, and what it means to you. When I was a young girl myself, Frank’s life was both a testament to human tragedy on a broader scale and also, simply, a chronicle of a girlhood not unlike mine, one which made me feel more real based on its existence. And a visit to the House reminds us that she was conscious of her writing being published, consumed. She was revising even as she wrote. For that reason I can’t help but see her writing, her story, in a tradition of emotionally vivid storytelling — even as I am made uncomfortable by the kitschification of her memory.

Perhaps that’s why I didn’t blink twice when I read the scene in “The Fault in Our Stars.” I knew that Anne already belongs to the ages, her life story becoming a backdrop, a place for our catharses and memories, rather than her own. Our identification with her in and of itself, as beautiful as it is, is actually one of the Holocausts’ millions of secondary and tertiary tragedies. And that is a subtle distinction that it is very, very hard to convey, which is why it risks straying from the meaningful to the maudlin.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Anne Frank House, Anne Frank, "The Fault in Our Stars"

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!
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • 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.