Portrait of Anne Frank, age 13
Credit: Courtesy of the Anne Frank Stichting in Amsterdam,the Netherlands.
... I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that's what I want! I know I can write... it remains to be seen whether I really have talent...I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! ... I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that's why I'm so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that's inside me!
When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?
—Anne Frank, Wednesday, 5 April,1944
In its online introduction to Anne Frank, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum states, "Anne Frank was one of the hundreds of thousands of Jewish children who died in the Holocaust." In that sense, she is not unique; however, through the very ordinary act of writing a diary, through her youthful wisdom and budding literary talent, Anne remains today an extraordinary "symbol for the lost promise of the children who died in the Holocaust." This lesson invites you to supplement your students' reading of The Diary of a Young Girl by connecting the diary to the study of history and to honor the legacy of Anne Frank, the writer, as she inspires your students to use writing to deepen their insights into their own experiences and the experiences of others.
If desired, review with the class some basic background information about Anne Frank and the Holocaust from the EDSITEment resource United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. How old was Anne (born June 12, 1929) when the Frank family went into hiding? (She was 13.) How old was she when she died? (She was 15.) Share with the class this quote from the Anne Frank House website: "Because she has to keep going under trying circumstances she quickly becomes more grown-up than other youngsters of the same age." Though Anne lived under trying and unusual circumstances, what would your students say Anne has in common with contemporary young people.? In what ways is she different? Assign students (working alone or in groups) a particular half of the diary (by length, the first half would be up to about January 6, 1944). Students will read the diary in search of quotes that indicate Anne's reflections on different feelings, relationships and behaviors that she noted while her family was in hiding. A PDF worksheet, The Diary of Anne Frank: A Changing record is provided for students to fill out as they work. If desired, each group could transfer its findings to a poster serving as the basis of a short presentation to the class.
As students share their findings, they should compare the items found in the first half of the diary and the second half. Is there any evidence of change in Anne's attitudes from the earlier entries to later entries? Based on Anne's writing--and setting aside for the moment the trying circumstances under which she lived—how would students say Anne is like young people today? How is she different? Poll the class. Do class members believe Anne is like or unlike young people today? Now that the students have looked at Anne, the person, and come to some conclusions about the changes she did or did not undergo during her time in hiding, they are ready to look at Anne, the writer. Her Tales from the Secret Annex (published in 1983) attested to the seriousness of Anne's desire to be a writer. Anne regarded her diary as practice for her future career, a means toward personal development and an attempt to keep up her spirits in difficult times. Share with the students the page "First Diary" from Anne Frank House. Anne used her diary for many purposes. In a number of the diary entries, Anne used some strategies—self-imposed rules about how she would compose a particular entry--to challenge herself to compose something beyond a conventional diary entry. Below are some examples:
Review one or more of the entries cited above to see how Anne applied the strategy. Once students are familiar with the writing strategies from Anne's diary, they can now apply one to material from their own lives by composing a personal narrative. Assign students the writing of a brief essay based on one of the strategies identified above. So, for example, a student could choose to describe what is happening around him/her (in the lunchroom, for example) at five-minute intervals. For a pre-writing activity, that student might make notes every five minutes on paper previously divided for the purpose. Later she would shape the pre-writing material into an essay. The best essays will explore one specific aspect of human behavior. Students should strive to draw conclusions by citing examples from specific incidents until, in the end, they move from specific examples to generalizations about the behavior.
1. When learning about Anne Frank, students were acquainting themselves with only one of many individuals whose lives were affected by events in Europe before and during World War II. Through the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum site, students can read (and even view video of) a number of first-hand accounts in which people dealt with intense aspects of human behavior.
Begin by reading or viewing and then discussing one or more accounts such as:
Have students read and/or view eyewitness accounts with a lens on one specific aspect of human behavior such as those explored above for Anne Frank. Many first-person accounts are available through the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum website. The articles on the countries occupied by Germany used in Lesson 1 (also from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum website) also contain links to personal stories:
If desired, students can be asked to compare these eye-witness accounts to Anne Frank's writings.
2. Students interested in learning more about The Holocaust can explore The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's The Holocaust: A Learning Site for Students: "Organized by theme, this site uses text, historical photographs, maps, images of artifacts, and audio clips to provide an overview of the Holocaust. It is the first step in a growing resource for middle and secondary level students and teachers, with content that reflects the history as it is presented in the Museum's Permanent Exhibition, The Holocaust."
3. Students can read authentic stories of some Dutch citizens in Netherlands Stories, from U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Included are four brief videotaped accounts of eyewitnesses.
4. Students can read and react to a contemporary diary written by a young woman in a war torn part of the world through Zlata's Diary, by Zlata Filipovic. (Viking Press, 1997. Grade levels: 6–12.)
5. Students can use the resources of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to research "Blacks During the Holocaust", including learning about Joseph Nassy, "a black expatriate artist of Jewish descent. Nassy was living in Belgium when World War II began, and was one of about 2,000 civilians holding American passports who were confined in German internment camps during the war."
6. Students can use the resources of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to research the 1936 Olympics and read Witness to History: John Woodruff, African-American Gold Medal Winner, 1936.
7. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum also provides information about contemporary incidents of potential genocide through Alerting the National Conscience to Threats of Genocide Today.
8. Have students read (or read to them from) Tales from the Secret Annex by Anne Frank (Doubleday Books: 1983. Grade levels 9–12.).
9. Students who want to learn more about Anne Frank can view some photos of the rowhouse and the attic in which Anne spent two years confined with her family and four other people, available from the website Anne Frank House. As one recent visitor to the house described it:
"Amsterdam rowhouses are very tall, very narrow, with incredibly steep staircases. You walk up the steep narrow stairs, go through the secret doorway behind the bookcase, then all of a sudden there's this surprisingly large space. … From the windows of the Anne Frank House … you can look out and see the windows of other houses and of the street and canal below; for us this was a picaresque detail, but for Anne and her family it presented an incredible danger, as their eventual betrayal by a Dutch neighbor attests." Some editions of the diary include a sketch that Anne herself made of the rooms in the house.
10. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum provides several bibliographies for anyone wanting to know more about Anne Frank
2 class periods