The life of Anne Frank in comic book form
Anne Frank’s diary – which must be one of the most widely read books on Nazi occupation in the Netherlands – is now available in comic book form.
The idea behind the new publication is to enable even more people to become familiar with the plight of the Jews in World War II. The “graphic biography” will on the bookshelves on Friday and will appear later this year in five different languages.
In the comic book, we see Anne Frank and her family together with the other people hiding from the Nazis. The eight of them live in secret in hidden rooms in the building where Anne’s father had his business on one of Amsterdam’s canals, the Prinsengracht. “Cycling, dancing, whistling, looking at the world,” writes Anne. “Feeling young and knowing that I am free.” – one of the many moving quotes from her diary on page 102.
The Anne Frank Foundation – which administers the Anne Frank House and helps combat racial discrimination – chose two Americans to write and illustrate the comic strip. Anne Frank Foundation director Hans Westra:
“In the US, there’s a strong tradition in developing this type of story. We found two men who have earned a reputation in comic art. Sid Jacobson wrote the story, working closely with the Anne Frank Foundation. We handed over all the information we had about the two years in hiding, the family and Anne herself to the writer. Then, Ernie Colón did the illustrations, largely based on historical photographs in our possession. I’m really proud of the result.”
The graphic biography – Westra prefers this term to “comic strip” – is aimed at readers aged 14 and older around the world. A special educational edition has been developed for schools. The story starts around the turn of the 20th century before Anne was born and documents the rise of Nazism and the persecution of Jews during the Second World War.
And the comic book continues where the diary stops. We see the ‘Achterhuis’, or Secret Annexe of the house, being stormed by German security police and the eight Jews in hiding being transported to camps. The book shows how Anne and her sister died from typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp just a couple of weeks before liberation. Anne’s father was the only one to survive and returned to the Netherlands. He was given his daughter’s diary and decided to have it published in 1947.
Why Anne Frank?
“Yeah, well we all read the diary at school,” explain four Irish girls queuing to see the Anne Frank House. “My ten-year-old daughter learnt about it in a history lesson,” says a Scot. “That’s why we’re here, because she just had to see it.” And would they be interested in a comic book version? “I would, because I don’t really like reading,” pipes up one of the Irish girls, “It’s much easier to read with pictures.”
That’s the very reason why the Anne Frank Foundation thinks it’s important to bring out this graphic biography, even though tens of millions of people have already read the diary. Hans Westra:
“Many people find it difficult to read long books. An illustrated story gets the imagination working and supports the storyline with emotional depth.
I think this comic book is really important in enabling people to form a clear picture about what happened to people who were in hiding during the occupation period. We want to put the Anne Frank story in the spotlight to serve as a memory about everything that was wrong in the Second World War. It should act as a reminder to people to be on the alert; things are happening – everywhere, also here in the Netherlands – that you should stop to think twice about.”
On the cover of the comic book, a girl, writing at her desk, looks into the eyes of the reader. The girl, we surmise, is Anne Frank. In Lambiek, a comic bookshop in Amsterdam, reactions to the book have been lukewarm. Bookseller Klaas Knol says:
“It’s a pity the illustration style is a bit on the flat side, the emotion doesn’t really come to the fore. I don’t like the backgrounds, and I don’t recognise Amsterdam.”
The Amsterdam bookseller says he will keep it in stock. “You have to, as the story takes place here in Amsterdam.”
Anne Frank’s graphic biography will be published in different countries, starting with the Netherlands by Uitgeverij L (Luitingh), in Great-Britain and Australia by MacMillan, in the US, Canada and several English-language countries by Hill and Wang, in Germany by Carlsen Verlag, in France by Les Editions Belin, in Italy by Rizzoli/Lizard and in Spain by Norma.