One Voice Speaks for Six Million

The uses and abuses of Anne Frank's diary.

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Reprinted with permission from The Yale Holocaust Encyclopedia (Yale University Press).

By the late 1950's, Anne Frank had become a legend: known around the world not only as the author of a vivid, life-affirming book, but also as the prime symbol of the sufferings of innocent victims of Nazi genocide. "One voice speaks for six million," the Russian writer Ilya Ehrenburg wrote, "the voice not of a sage or a poet but of an ordinary little girl." 

In Her Honor

Streets, schools, youth villages and forests were soon named in her honor; paintings and statues perpetuated her image; poems and songs were composed in her memory; and--as Alvin Rosenfeld has observed--"public figures of every kind, from politicians to religious leaders, regularly invoke[d] her name and quote[d] lines from her book. In all of these ways, her name, face, and fate [were] kept constantly before us."Anne Frank stamp

In 1957, Otto Frank had further memorialized his daughter by helping to establish the Anne Frank Stichting in Amsterdam, a foundation whose original aim was "to repair and renovate the property at 263 Prinsengracht and especially to maintain the building's back annex, as well as to propagate ideals left to the world in the diary of Anne Frank." In May 1960, the Anne Frank House opened as a museum, and the foundation supported youth conferences, lectures and exhibitions designed to combat anti-Semitism and racism. Activities soon expanded. A specialized library brought together a collection of books, newspapers and magazines about discrimination and threats to the rights of minorities; and the educational department developed programs, courses, and teaching aids to be used in schools and other settings.

In 1985 the traveling exhibition "Anne Frank in the World: 1929-1945" was organized by the Foundation and has since been seen (and will continue to be seen) in hundreds of cities and towns across Europe, North and South American, and Asia. The number of visitors to the Anne Frank House has grown from about 9,000 in 1960 to more than 600,000 each year in the 1990's, making it something of a shrine, as well as one of the most popular museums in Europe. Anne Frank Centers were also established in New York and other cities, and at this writing one is planned for Berlin. In Basel, the ANNE FRANK-Fonds oversees matters related to copyrights andn reprint permissions, and also supports educational and philanthropic projects. (See Anne Frank House: A Museum with a Story. Amsterdam, 1992.)

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Lawrence Graver

Lawrence Graver is Professor Emeritus at Williams College, and author of An Obsession with Anne Frank, and other books.