27th annual Joseph Alexander Colloquium examines Anne Frank's diary

Anne Frank - story

“The Diary of A Young Girl,” the most widely read version of Holocaust victim Anne Frank’s journal, has informed generations of readers about the horrors of Nazi Germany and preserved the observations of a young witness to history.

First published in Dutch in 1947, the diary has been translated into dozens of languages over the years, with each edition influencing scholarship, fiction, theater, film, and even humor. Before the diary was printed as a book, it was a private manuscript created inside a notebook, and it underwent rewriting and editing by various hands—including Anne Frank while she was in hiding—before being presented to the public.

The complex history of the book and its impact on society will be discussed on Thursday, Nov. 8 at the 27th annual Joseph Alexander Colloquium in the Benjamin Franklin Room of Houston Hall at 5 p.m. At the event, which is free and open to the public, Jeffrey Shandler, professor of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University and president of the Association for Jewish Studies, will deliver the lecture titled “Anne Frank: From Diary to Book.”

Shandler, with Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, is co-editor of the book “Anne Frank Unbound: Media, Imagination, Memory.” He also co-edited the book “Remembering the Lower East Side: American Jewish Reflections (The Modern Jewish Experience),” with Hasia Diner and Beth Wenger, professor of history and director of the Jewish Studies Program at Penn.

In “Anne Frank Unbound,” Shandler examines the far-reaching influence Anne Frank’s work has had around the world. “Seldom has an individual, known only for creating a single work, not only achieved such great renown but also inspired so many different kinds of engagement,” he says. 

Since it first appeared in print 65 years ago, Anne Frank’s diary has become one of the world’s most widely read books. But, Shandler says, since the original Dutch publication of 1947, there have been many dozens of editions, each one presenting readers with a different approach to the diary.

“At the same time, the original red-and-white plaid notebook in which Anne started keeping her diary in 1942 has become the object of veneration, suspicion, and scholarly scrutiny, as well as an iconic presence on stage and screen and in museum exhibitions,” he says. “By considering the transformation of Anne Frank’s diary into a book and then following that book’s journey through its many different presentations, we gain insight into the powerful significance attached to Anne’s life and work.”

The lecture is cosponsored by the Department of Germanic Languages & Literatures and the Jewish Studies Program, in commemoration of Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass), a series of anti-Jewish riots carried out across Nazi Germany for two nights beginning Nov. 9, 1938. For more information about the lecture, contact Christine Walsh at 215-898-6654 or email chwalsh@sas.upenn.edu.

Originally published on November 1, 2012