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Anne Frank Revisited

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It is more than seventy years since the first publication of the first Dutch version of Anne Frank’s diary appeared in print. It was followed by both English and American editions in 1952 and subsequently translated into more than 60 languages to become perhaps the most iconic text to emanate from the Holocaust period.

The writings of a young girl, albeit in extreme circumstances, trying to make sense of growing up and writing about her hopes and fears, struck a chord with successive generations of young people across the globe. Sales figures bear witness to its popularity as a text, but that also made it a target for Holocaust deniers – undermine the veracity of the text and you undermine the veracity of the Holocaust itself. One of the deniers’ arguments was that there were different versions of the diary and they could not have been written by the same person.

In response, the custodians of the diary, the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation published what they described as the ‘critical’ edition in 1989 where they placed the various versions side by side, to show how they had been edited and changed by Anne herself. The book also contained chapters about the Frank family and the circumstances of their betrayal.

An unwieldy tome and not really designed for the mass market, it inevitably did nothing to convince hard-line deniers, and was itself subsequently undermined by the admission that there were a number of diary pages that had been withheld from previous publications because Otto Frank had deemed them too critical of Anne’s mother, Edith.

Twenty five years on and with the copyrights on the various versions of the diary coming closer to expiry, albeit staunchly defended by the lawyers of the Fondation Anne Frank in Basle, funds were found to mount a comprehensive re-evaluation of the diary. Martin van Gelderen (Lichenberg Kolleg) and Raphael Gross (Fritz Bauer Institut) led a team of scholars and translators who have gone back to the original manuscript diary to produce a new version. Their work has uncovered innumerable flaws in the earlier transcriptions.

For example, a fresh look at the manuscript shows that Anne often made errors and used German rather than Dutch grammatical constructions in her writing. This is especially ironic given the sometimes cruel jibes she made about her mother’s lack of competence in the language. Such errors seem to have been elided out in earlier versions.

A close reading of the diary also betrays Anne’s reliance for her writing style on the various Dutch authors she read as a child, not least the novels of Dutch children’s author Cissy van Marxveldt. Moreover, the sections that she was rewriting in 1944 show how her style changed as she got older and was influenced by other authors she read while in the Achterhuis. This on its own will force a literary reappraisal of the diary and provide a much more nuanced view of her writings.

This new set of publications will undoubtedly change the scholarly landscape surrounding Anne Frank’s legacy, not least in encouraging comparison with another recently discovered contemporary diary of Carry Ulreich, a teenage Jewish girl who survived the occupation in hiding in Rotterdam. That said, Anne Frank the symbol shows no sign of losing its status. Within the last six months alone, there have been at least two major controversies.

The first involved a Deutsche Bahn plan to name one of its new ICE trains after Anne Frank. While the idea sparked a great deal of debate, it was mediated by the Fondation’s insistence on a contextual explanation in the train itself. Far more extreme and deliberately provocative was distribution by neo-fascist fans of SS Lazio football club of stickers showing Anne Frank wearing a shirt of their arch rivals AS Roma. Such was the public outcry that the Italian football federation ordered a reading from the diary at all Serie A matches the following week – something that rather backfired when it led to further ugly scenes elsewhere.

Although an updated and more accurate version of the diary will undoubtedly be of benefit to academic and scholars, will it put an end to the use and misuse of Anne Frank as a symbol? Somehow I doubt it.

The Dagboek van Anne Frank will be published in Dutch by Prometheus in 2018 and in English and German translations by Cambridge University Press and Fischer Verlag respectively in 2019. Carry Ulreich‘s Nachts droom ik van vrede. Oorlogsdagboek 1941-1945 was published by Uitgeverij Mozaïek in 2016.

Professor Bob Moore is Professor of 20th Century European History at The University of Sheffield. His research is centred on the Second World War and Holocaust in Western Europe. He is currently a vitisting fellow at the Lichtenberg-Kolleg in Goettingen and Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institut fuer Zeitgeschichte, Munich.

This blog is part of a series of posts for National Holocaust Memorial Day – they will appear here as they are posted.

Image: Anne Frank, 1940 [Via WikiCommons]

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Remembering The Holocaust: Ukraine and The Holocaust by Bullets

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This week marks the eighteenth National Holocaust Memorial Day, an occasion on which to mourn and remember the annihilation of six million Jews by Nazi Germany. Symbolised by the very existence of this day, public memory of the Holocaust in Britain, as in the west more broadly, remains highly developed and manifests in the cultural, political and educational spheres. Yet in Ukraine, as in other Eastern European countries such as Belarus, Moldova and Bosnia, these memory-cultures are considerably less established despite the passing of over 70 years since the end of the war, and the 1.5 million Jews killed there between 1941-44.

In the post-communist nations of Eastern Europe, Soviet rule ensured that the Holocaust, Nazism, and its victims occupied a peripheral position among the nation’s memories. That is, until the late 80s-early 90s, when the confrontation of their pasts catalysed a proliferation of public memories and testimonies of the Holocaust. Such restorative commemoration processes were decidedly less radical in Ukraine, however, where the emergence of memoirs after its independence in 1991 were less pronounced and often entailed the erasure of Jewish voices.

Contrary to the sophisticated nature of Holocaust memory in neighbouring Poland, not only does the Holocaust barely feature in cultural production in Ukraine, but many of its residents are not familiar with the term ‘Holocaust’. Here, the Holocaust is often confused with the ‘Holodomor’ – the name given to the famine of 1932-33, during which 3.5 million ethnic Ukrainians starved to death under Stalin’s colossal grain requisitions. This tragedy signifies the country’s dominating narrative of national suffering.

While death and labour camps such as Auschwitz have gained considerable global attention since 1945, much less remembered modes of extermination were those perpetrated by mobilised killing squads in Ukraine called Einsatzgruppen. Aided by German and Ukrainian police, Einsatzgruppen carried out mass shootings of Jews at sites such as Babi Yar, a ravine where 100,000 Jews and other minorities were shot during the course of the war, before depositing their bodies into mass graves dug by the victims prior to their deaths. Knowledge of the ‘Holocaust by Bullets’, as these murders are known, is scarce, as is the location of hundreds of Ukraine’s unidentified mass graves.

The legislation of 1996 incorporating the Holocaust into the Ukrainian curriculum did not materialise until the year 2000, where its significance on Ukrainian territory was muted and its details distorted. What is more, the Ukrainian Institute for National Memory (established in 2006) committed itself to the disproval of Ukrainian nationalist complicity in war crimes, rather than commemorating the lives of its Jewish victims and condemning collaborators of the Holocaust.

Under the governance of president Viktor Yushchenko (2005-2010), the same decade also witnessed the glorification of antisemitic military groups such as the OUN (Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists) and UPA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army). These groups played a significant role in the routine killing of Jews as well as Poles during WWII. It is hardly surprising, then, that the racial hostility and collaboration of ethnic Ukrainians who participated in the persecution and murder of Jews, and benefited economically from their destruction, has largely gone unrecognised.

The dissolving of the Holocaust into Ukraine’s general memory of the war has thus obscured the reality of its history. This ‘forgetting’ evokes what Edward T. Linenthal calls ‘comfortable horrible’ memory – that which allows us to obtain security from memories that are in some way uncomfortable or threatening.[1]

As Melanie Klein wrote in her 1937 work Love Hate and Reparation: ‘on the whole we do not like the idea [of aggressive feelings] so unconsciously we minimise, and underestimate their importance’, keeping them always in ‘the outer edges of our field of vision’.[2] In order to combat the insufficiency of Holocaust memory in Ukraine, it must strive toward a remembrance of the Holocaust that recognises its own role in the ‘aggression’ and brutality of Nazi genocide, and acknowledges the identities of its Jewish victims.

The UK also has a responsibility to cultivate a more transnational memory of the Holocaust for the prevention of future catastrophes – one that includes the nations of Eastern Europe where it remains difficult to do so. Applied to contemporary political aggression and aggressors, this refusal to ‘forget’ or to underestimate that which makes us uncomfortable is also critical to the ways in which we respond to the pressing crises of white supremacy and the rise of the alt right gaining traction in Britain, the USA and Poland.

Emily-Rose Baker is a first year PhD student at the University of Sheffield, researching the emergence of Eastern European Holocaust memory post 1989-91. Based in the School of English, she is funded by the White Rose College of the Arts and Humanities (WRoCAH), as part of ‘The Future of Holocaust Memory’ Network at Sheffield, Leeds and York.

This blog is part of a series of posts for National Holocaust Memorial Day – they will appear here as they are posted.

Image: Einsatzkommando shooting action in the aftermath of Operation Barbarossa [via WikiCommons].

[1] Edward T. Linenthal in Michael Rothberg, Multidirectional Memory: Remembering the Holocaust in an Age of Decolonisation (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2009) p.9.

[2] Melanie Klein and John Rickman, Love, Hate and Reparation (London: W.W. Norton & Co., 1964) p.6.

 

 

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Transatlantic Fascism before Trump

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On 29 November 2017, Donald Trump retweeted a video shared on Twitter by one of the leaders of Britain First, purporting to show a ‘Muslim migrant’ beating up a ‘Dutch boy’. This was later reported to be fake news, with the perpetrator from the video being born and raised in the Netherlands. Founded in 2011, Britain First is a far-right group with a big presence on social media, where it posts a slew of memes ranging from the fairly innocuous to the crudely racist. Britain First has an estimated membership of around 1,000.

The move shocked and confused commentators on both sides of the Atlantic. Why was Donald Trump, current President of the United States, retweeting the leader of a British far-right group whose presence beyond social media is tiny? While the answer to this question will likely be debated for some time to come (or at least until Trump tweets something else) this process of far-right ideological exchange has a long history.

During the inter-war period, British racial nationalists published and disseminated books and periodicals from various locations across the world, including the United States. The Britons, an anti-Semitic organisation founded by Henry Hamilton Beamish in 1919, spent much of its time and effort on maintaining these transnational exchanges.[1]

The Britons kept their audience in touch with racists across the pond. In 1923, an advertisement in their newspaper informed readers that Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic newspaper, Dearborn Independent, was available to purchase from their headquarters.[2] The same issue also carried an enthusiastic article on the Ku Klux Klan. The Britons applauded the Klan’s white supremacist views and their campaign against ‘the Jew Menace’.[3]

Arnold Leese, a disciple of Beamish and The Britons, later founded one of the most extreme of Britain’s fascist groups, the Imperial Fascist League (IFL). Like Beamish, Leese clearly believed in the importance of cultivating international links and ideological exchanges. The IFL’s newspaper, The Fascist, as well as Leese’s own ideology carries traces of these international influences.

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Madison Grant, around 1913.

On numerous occasions The Fascist carried recommendations for the works of American white supremacist writers Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard.[4] In their best-selling books, Grant and Stoddard advocated the formation of a racial aristocracy against democracy and especially against Bolshevism, which Stoddard racialised as the ideology of ‘The Under-Man’ (a term later borrowed by the Nazis, who were fans of both authors) bent on ‘racial… war’.[5]

Leese’s ‘Racial’ or ‘Nordic Fascism’ combined Grant and Stoddard’s Nordicism with the work of Nazi racial scientist Hans F. K. Günther. For Leese, the goal of fascism was the establishment of a racial aristocracy to defend against what he believed were Jewish attempts to undermine white supremacy.[6] His constant attempts to racialise Bolshevism were borrowed more or less wholesale from Stoddard.[7]

The IFL had a tiny membership and almost no immediate impact on mainstream British politics. They had an initial estimated membership of 150 and their paper had a circulation of 3,000 per issue. Despite this, through his efforts circulating the writings of obscure racists, Leese preserved a strain of white supremacist ideology that went on to nurture a new generation of British fascists after the Second World War.

During this time, the British radical right was confronted not only with the end of Empire but also the arrival in Britain of Commonwealth citizens from the West Indies. They referred to these new black Britons as the ‘Negro Menace’.[8] The Britons Publishing Society (BPS), which had developed out of The Britons, advised readers of its Free Britain journal to ‘take warning’ from ‘American authors like Stoddard and Madison Grant’.[9]

This has been a brief historical review of the transnational links possessed by the British radical right. There is a worrying difference, however, between these historical examples and Trump’s retweeting. The exchanges mentioned above were taking place between marginal fascists on the radical right and not between a far-right group and the current President of the United States.

Liam J. Liburd is in the second year of his PhD studies with the University of Sheffield. His thesis is entitled “Constructions of Race, Gender and Empire on the British Fascist and Radical Right, 1920s to 1960s”. His research focuses on the relationship between the British Radical Right, including British fascism, and the British Empire. He has broader interests in gender and cultural historical approaches to British political history in the twentieth century.You can find Liam on Twitter @LiamJLiburd.

Image: Madison Grant, around 1913 [Via WikiCommons].

[1] For a comprehensive history of The Britons and their transnational influence see: Nick Toczek, Haters, Baiters and Would-Be Dictators.

[2] ‘The Ford Pamphlets’, The Hidden Hand, 12, 3 (January, 1923), p. 2.

[3] ‘Ku Klux Klan’, The Hidden Hand, 12, 3 (January, 1923), pp. 2-3.

[4] ‘Books Which Fascists Should Read’, The Fascist, 1, 7 (September 1929), p. 3; ‘Obituary’, The Fascist, 101 (October, 1937), p. 2; Gyron, ‘The Chemistry of Progress’, The Fascist, 104 (January, 1938), p. 4.

[5] Lothrop Stoddard, The Rising Tide of Colour Against White World Supremacy (London, 1923), p. 220.

[6] ‘Leadership’, The Fascist, 56 (January, 1934), p. 2.

[7] Arnold Leese, ‘Communism and Race’, The Fascist, 29 (October 1931), p. 3.

[8] H. T. Mills, ‘Spurious Conservatism – 4’, Free Britain, 49 (5 March, 1950), p. 2.

[9] ‘Malaya, India, Nigeria and Tottenham Court Road’, Free Britain, 36 (4 December, 1949), p. 2.

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