Writing About Anne Frank?

Guttersnipe

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I was planning on writing an alternate history story in which Anne Frank survives the Holocaust and rises to political power, transforming the world into a utopia. Is this at all offensive or patronizing?
 

Mon0Zer0

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To be, ahem, frank, it depends on how you do it. There's many ways you might write it that might be offensive and probably far fewer that aren't. How would you feel if you were in the relatives shoes?

Harry Turtledove wrote a short story where Frank survived and emigrated to America. Might want to check that out for how he handled it.
 

Ori Vandewalle

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If you would like the opinion of an Official Jewish Person, it definitely strikes me as possible that a plotline of any one person transforming the entire world into a utopia might come across as patronizing. Plenty of people did survive the Holocaust, though, and extreme and lasting emotional trauma is one of the hallmarks of that survival. So if you want to do the story well, I'd say be prepared to treat that aspect of it very seriously and conscientiously.
 

luriantimetraveler

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Thinking about this, what occurs to me (beyond the good points already made) is: why?
  • If it's because Frank possessed character traits you're excited by, why not base a character off of her?
  • If it's to unpack the idea of the futures that were lost with the 6 million, I think perhaps other, smaller stories would be more poignant or meaningful.
  • If it's to explore the possible impact of a single person, there are already so many Holocaust stories (true stories!) about how one person can impact so many others (Frankl, Dr. Ruth, etc) that — I'm not quite sure how to put it, but it somehow seems dismissive of those survivors to create a character of Frank who "saves the world."
Also want to echo Ori that trauma will have to be accounted for.
 

paranoid marvin

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Her diary certainly has had an impact on the many people who have read it, and in some ways I'm sure has helped to make the world a better place. But I would be cautious of changing her story., especially in such a fantastical way. How about creating one based on someone who has read her diary and been inspired to help change the world for the better?
 

Thiswriterinme

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All of the above points made are definitely great points to consider. Recently, an author - Elin Hilderbrand - came under fire for mentioning Anne Frank in one of her books in a casual way with a joke made about hiding in an attic all summer. I didn't read the book, but a lot of the backlash was about how the joke was in poor taste.

Hilderbrand has said she has nothing but respect for Anne Frank's story, but that doesn't mean using it for her own benefit (and in an indelicate way) hasn't caused a lot of upset. There are some topics that are so emotional and so traumatic, it is really hard to rewrite them in a fantasy retelling or even alternative history retelling - despite the good intentions. Even if it is meant to be fiction, there is a lot of stigma around writing about a historical event when you yourself don't have a personal connection or personal experience with (although, I don't know if you do or don't), because if anyone who has that connection or experience reads it, they could take offense to the severity, trauma, or experience being misrepresented in any way.

I've been seeing a lot of this coming out through LGBTQ+ characters being misrepresented by writers who don't have a personal understanding of what that's like, along with racial minorities - not only with the challenges they face but also with the mass stereotypes that surround them. So, it is definitely a delicate area to tread in, and I would say would require extensive research into the Holocaust from multiple perspectives if you were even going to attempt it.

Personally, I like the idea of writing a story with a character based on Anne Frank - maybe with some of the same events in their life - who is experiencing something similar to the Holocaust in their own time/world and how they survive and change their own world.
 

Abernovo

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I was planning on writing an alternate history story in which Anne Frank survives the Holocaust and rises to political power, transforming the world into a utopia. Is this at all offensive or patronizing?
Because you're asking the question, you're probably aware of at least the possibility of it being offensive and/or patronising.

Part of the reason for the success of Anne Frank's Diary as a memoir of a terrible time is that it shows a normal girl, who is articulate enough to put into her writing the mundane occurrences of her life alongside the privations and awfulness of hiding, in fear for life. To make a fictionalised version of her into a saviour figure ignores the fundamental value of her life as someone you could otherwise have met on the street, or in your family -- a regular person, with regular dreams.

My other concern would be the coding of the Holocaust/Porajmos in many films and books as "this terrible thing which happened in the past" without examining the fact that genocides and persecution (and the type of beliefs which cause them) continue. I'm not suggesting that is in any way your intention, but the idea that a utopia can be created by a survivor feeds into the notion, as well as the trope that suffering/adversity fosters growth.

So (tl;dr), I cannot and would not say do not write it, but to be very thorough in your research, and certain of the message you intend to convey.
 

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