Anne Frank’s Diary is one of the most important documents of the Holocaust. Its adaptation as a graphic novel follows the current trend of using alternative methods to convey difficult subjects like war or persecution. Employing a visual aesthetic familiar to teenagers, it zooms in on historic events to show them with a close-up directness; at the same time, the graphic realisation produces an alienating effect, distancing the reader from history. This dialectic of immediacy and distance opens up a space in which to portray and convey emotions, fears and hopes and to show the inner world – the thoughts and experiences – of this young girl hiding from the Nazis.
Anyone who thought there was nothing new to say about Anne Frank’s diary is in for some surprises from Folman and Polonsky in whose narrative and drawings the story of the Amsterdam backyard is retold with extraordinary vitality, conveying the feeling of claustrophobia, the lack of privacy, the silent conflicts and the danger posed by news from outside that time and again brings Anne’s complex, yet monotonous everyday life into sharp focus.
The visual depiction of Anne’s inner life as she responds to her environment, sometimes with irony, sometimes with derision and increasingly with dejection, is particularly impressive. The images, most in colour, a few in sepia, bring home to readers the fears, emotions, day dreams, memories and hopes for the future of this intelligent young girl; but increasingly also her nightmarish fantasies, which grow out of the ever more detailed reports about the camps and the imminent threat of annihilation.
“Folman and Polonsky’s Diary of Anne Frank brings together central aspects of the work of the Munich Documentation Center for the History of National Socialism at the interface between knowledge, education and art. The authors have translated the history of the Holocaust into an artistic language that enables readers to comprehend the unimaginable and the unutterable. The powerful effect of their haunting images reaches even those readers who have little knowledge of history or reading ability. To address this difficult subject requires a great deal of courage, sensitivity and skill from the artist. Folman and Polonsky have made a valuable and pioneering contribution to efforts to create a continually evolving, lively culture of remembrance”, the jury stated, explaining why it had chosen to award them the prize.
Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation is available in all Munich public libraries.