Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Autho­rized Graph­ic Biography

Sid Jacob­son and Ernie Colón
  • Review
By – September 13, 2011
Begin­ning with the lives of Anne Frank’s par­ents, and stretch­ing into the years after World War II, Jacob­son and Colón deliv­er a com­pre­hen­sive resource on the famous diarist and the events that make up the Holo­caust. In an ide­al set­ting, this unique graph­ic biog­ra­phy would be read along­side Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl. Lack­ing the emo­tion of a first-per­son account, the infor­ma­tion is pre­sent­ed in a dry, jour­nal­is­tic style. Par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful are maps of Europe dur­ing the war and detailed dia­grams and images of the Annex where Anne, her fam­i­ly, and the oth­er hiders” spent a tense two years. Through­out the book are snap­shots,” which pro­vide back­ground infor­ma­tion on Ger­many in World War I, the Ger­man eco­nom­ic cri­sis, the rise of the Nazi par­ty, the Wannsee Con­fer­ence, and the con­cen­tra­tion camps. The art­work is real­is­tic and not sen­sa­tion­al­ized; images of the vic­tims of the camps and oth­er Nazi atroc­i­ties are appro­pri­ate­ly dis­turb­ing. In a mar­ket that is sat­u­rat­ed with mate­ri­als about Anne Frank and the Holo­caust, this newest con­tri­bu­tion pro­vides a resource which may be use­ful for read­ers who pre­fer to learn in a visu­al man­ner. Con­tains a chronol­o­gy and sug­ges­tions for fur­ther read­ing.

Girl for the Ages

The famil­iar and poignant sto­ry, told in sophis­ti­cat­ed images and an infor­ma­tion-packed lay out, make this unusu­al graph­ic biog­ra­phy appeal­ing to teens as well as adults. Lau­ren Kramer reviewed Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Autho­rized Graph­ic Biog­ra­phy for the chil­dren’s sec­tion of Jew­ish Book World.

There’s some­thing riv­et­ing about read­ing com­ic strips. The images thrust you imme­di­ate­ly into the sto­ry with­out the inten­si­ty of con­cen­tra­tion demand­ed by reg­u­lar lit­er­a­ture. When it comes to Anne Frank’s graph­ic biog­ra­phy, autho­rized by the Anne Frank House and cre­at­ed by Sid Jacob­son and Ernie Colón, that imme­di­a­cy feels at once fright­en­ing­ly close and warm­ly famil­iar. As Jew­ish read­ers we already know so much about Anne’s life by way of her diary, which revealed the hon­esty of her voice and her frus­tra­tion as an incar­cer­at­ed teen long­ing for free­dom. But Jacob­son and Colón have cre­at­ed this absorb­ing new graph­ic biog­ra­phy that brings new light and a fresh per­spec­tive to her sto­ry and the sto­ry of her fam­i­ly and their helpers. The cre­ators’ con­sis­tent­ly real­is­tic dia­grams cap­ture pain and hope on the faces of their char­ac­ters, while their sketch­es of the Annex and the city around it give the scene an eerie famil­iar­i­ty. The authors con­trast the occur­rences inside the Annex with snap­shots of what was going on in the out­side world. They use num­bers and fig­ures to give read­ers a sense of how bleak the future looked for Jews. 

Their mate­r­i­al is fas­tid­i­ous­ly researched through the archives at the Anne Frank House in Ams­ter­dam, the Anne Frank Fund in Basel, and his­tor­i­cal data and pho­tos from oth­er author­i­ties. The nov­el is neat­ly arranged into chap­ters to help delin­eate its focal points. 

The graph­ic biog­ra­phy is a fas­ci­nat­ing read for read­ers of all ages, but the authors were reach­ing in par­tic­u­lar to young peo­ple aged 14 to 18. Our mis­sion is to make the life sto­ry of Anne Frank acces­si­ble to as large an audi­ence as pos­si­ble,” the authors write. Young peo­ple in par­tic­u­lar enjoy read­ing graph­ic nov­els (as a pref­er­ence to nor­mal’ books.) Now that the gen­er­a­tion that expe­ri­enced World War II and the Shoah in per­son slow­ly fades, it is impor­tant to find new ways of keep­ing this peri­od alive with the younger gen­er­a­tions.” 

This is an impor­tant resource in the school class­room, too, and a help­ful aid to teach­ing chil­dren about the his­tor­i­cal con­text in which Anne’s diary was writ­ten. Our hope,” write the authors, is that the biog­ra­phy encour­ages its read­ers to think about the mean­ing Anne Frank had in his­to­ry, and it would be great if they then would feel tempt­ed to read her actu­al diary.” 

While oth­er ver­sions of Anne Frank’s diary focus on her voice, Jacob­son and Colón give room and col­or to her father, Otto, describ­ing the type of man he was and the lev­el of respect he engen­dered from those around him. Most of us don’t know, for exam­ple, that Otto respond­ed per­son­al­ly to many of the thou­sands of let­ters he received from young read­ers after the first pub­li­ca­tion of his daughter’s diary. Rather than be con­sumed by mis­ery and pain, he wrote I hope Anne’s book will have an effect on the rest of your life so that, inso­far as it is pos­si­ble in your own cir­cum­stances, you will work for uni­ty and peace.” 

We all know the fate Anne Frank and most of her fam­i­ly mem­bers met, and yet that doesn’t stop the read­er from wish­ing fer­vent­ly, all the way through this biog­ra­phy, that things might have turned out so dif­fer­ent­ly were it not for a sin­gle betray­al. At one point in his life Otto Frank tried to find out who betrayed his fam­i­ly, but was unable to get any answers. In his old age, he decid­ed he didn’t want to know any­more. I can­not for­give, but I don’t want retal­i­a­tion, I want rec­on­cil­i­a­tion,” he reflect­ed. 

Giv­en the enor­mi­ty of his loss, these words take on new sig­nif­i­cance and by the time the read­er clos­es the book, there is a sense of relief and hope, albeit one tinged with sadness.

Lau­ren Kramer is a Van­cou­ver-based journalist.

Wendy Was­man is the librar­i­an & archivist at the Cleve­land Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry in Cleve­land, Ohio.

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