A New Anne Frank Controversy

There’s a new novel out that imagines the life inside the Annex where Anne Frank and her family lived, told from the perspective of Peter Van Pels (known in her diary as Peter Van Daan). Apparently the novel includes some suggestions to Anne’s sexual awakening and/or to intimacy between Anne and Peter. And as you might expect, some people are skeeved out.

Isn’t the amazing thing about Anne that she was a regular teenager, a fantastic writer, who was able to writer poignantly and relatably about her life? And have you ever met a fifteen year old girl? They have a lot to say about sex. Some of them are having sex. It’s not disrespectful to suggest this. It’s honest.

When I was at Limmud NY I saw a documentary about a Dutch couple that were in a concentration camp together. At the time they were in the camps the man was married to a different woman, and in the documentary he joked about having his wife and his girlfriend in the camps with him and how awkward it was. This might be surprising to us, but it shouldn’t be. It was a horrible horrible time in history, and people were suffering in every imaginable way. But natural urges are natural urges, and to pretend that no one was interested in having sex during the many years of the Holocaust is unrealistic at best.

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