This version of The Diary of a Young Girl – the one in the picture – has changed the way I think about teaching this book. It’s Anne’s face. I’m haunted by it. I’ve read the Diary before and been to Anne Frank’s House in Amsterdam, but for some reason, it’s this picture that made me cry. It’s funny how you can see thousands of pictures of someone or some horrific event and then one picture will make it all too real. I’m teaching this book to a group of middle school students right now, and while they read the standard paperback version, I carry this Everyman’s Library version in my bag. I need to look at Anne before I talk about her.
I’ve been conflicted about teaching this book to 12 and 13 year-old kids. Of course, they are at the right age to begin learning about WWII, but as much as they might learn the significant places, dates and names, they do not have the maturity to understand the massive moral hemorrhage that took place inside Buchenwald and Auschwitz and Dachau. As a teacher, it can be challenging. Middle school students have to understand how their world came to be – and history is the place to do that. I absolutely believe they should read Anne’s story, but sometimes I look at the cover of my book and hope I am doing justice to her life.