Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why Anne Frank shouldn't be taught

At the last Midwest Center for Holocaust Education cadre meeting I attended, one of our members mentioned that she had heard a Holocaust scholar say The Diary of Anne Frank should not be taught anymore.  At first, I was as surprised as anyone might be.  But, as I was thinking about what I could write for this month, I was perusing Teaching Holocaust Literature, edited by Samuel Totten, and there was an entire chapter devoted to this same topic.  So, I felt compelled to re-read the chapter and weigh the reasons behind the rationale to stop teaching Anne Frank.

In the chapter by Elaine Culbertson, she explains that Anne Frank’s story is not the usual story of a victim of the Holocaust.  Most victims were not in hiding, nor were there rescuers helping them as there are in Anne Frank’s story.  In fact, less than one percent of non-Jewish Europeans rescued anyone during the Holocaust, and some of the people who did rescue did so for monetary gain rather than out of the goodness of his/her heart. 

While I definitely understand that it may be difficult to go through the process of finding a replacement and having it approved in the curriculum, there are many resources that could replace Anne Frank if a teacher was willing to use smaller pieces, which would perhaps be even better because smaller pieces fit the common core requirements.  A teacher could implement several excerpts from memoirs, poetry and other Holocaust literature, such as diaries, letters, and more.  A great resource for this would be the Echoes and Reflections curriculum that is packed with excerpts.  Another resource might be web sites such as or and the Midwest Center for Holocaust Education’s resource library.  Culbertson also has several recommendations in Teaching Holocaust Literature.  Whatever resource a teacher chooses, hopefully he/she will reconsider teaching The Diary of Anne Frank.

Totten, Samuel.  Teaching Holocaust Literature.  Boston:  Allyn and Bacon, 2001.  Print.

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