Anne Frank’s sexual awakening fictionalized

British book condemned for "cashing in" on respected figure.

anne frank 298.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
anne frank 298.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
LONDON – A new book that allegedly portrays a fictional account of Anne Frank’s sexual awakening has been condemned as “cashing in” on a respected historical figure – though both the author and book’s publisher have denied the allegations by a British newspaper.
British novelist Sharon Dogar has produced a fictional retelling of the life of Peter van Pels, a close friend of Anne Frank, in her book Annexed – referring to the annexe of the Amsterdam office building where the Frank and van Pels families lived in hiding together. According to The Sunday Times, the book, set to come out in September, includes graphic accounts and intimate details of their time together, as imagined by the author.
The Sunday Times article claims a lovemaking scene was removed from the final version and that the book makes up explicit encounters between Anne Frank and Peter van Pels.
However, Dogar and the book’s publisher, Andersen Press, have denied the allegations.
The article quotes a scene from the book in which van Pels tells Frank he is “scared he will never make love to a girl,” and he speaks of “slipping my hand beneath the fabric of her dress and holding her a little tighter.”
In another section, he describes “feeling the warm weight of her on my neck and the soft press of her lips on my cheek. Then my mouth finds hers. And, once it’s there, I cannot stop.”
The article also quotes Andersen Press’s editorial director, Charlie Sheppard, as saying that the author believes that Frank and van Pels had sexual relations.
“Sharon feels they had sex, but this was taken out from an earlier version,” Sheppard told the newspaper. “Sharon reread and reread Anne’s diaries, and is in no doubt that they were in love.
They also talk about sex in the diaries. After all, the hormones of both were raging.”
However Andersen Press objected on Monday to the Sunday Times article, calling it a “total misrepresentation.”
“Sharon is very aware of the enduring importance that Anne’s account has for generations both past, present and future, and with this in mind has dedicated herself to meticulous research, working with Anne’s official biographer and communicating with the Anne Frank estate to produce a beautiful story of life in the annexe from Peter’s point of view. It is categorically not an attempt to ‘sex up’ her incredibly important story,” a spokesperson for Andersen Press said.
Asked about the quotes used in the Sunday Times article, the spokesperson said, “Sharon has been inspired by Anne’s account, and her book is partly about the love that grew between Anne and Peter in the most unusual and unbearable of situations. She has chosen to depict the passionate, inspirational and fiery young woman who leaps from the pages of the diary, and she’s written a wonderful novel about a life lived in hiding with her – and then beyond the diary in the horrors of the Nazi extermination camps.”
In the article, Anne’s first cousin, Buddy Elias, 84, is quoted as saying that the book was “unnecessary” and “wrong” in its characterization of the two.
Elias, who lives in Switzerland and heads a charity in Anne’s name, told the paper, “Anne was not the child she is in this book. I also do not think that their terrible destiny should be used to invent some fictitious story.”
He added, “From what Otto [Frank] told me about Peter, he was very shy, but in this book he is given a character he did not possess.”
However Andersen Press said that Dogar communicated closely with Elias throughout the drafts of her book and claimed that in his last correspondence, he had told Dogar: “I honor your opinion about Anne, as a person, as a writer, and I’m sure your motives are good. I wish you satisfaction with your book.”
The Anne Frank Trust, meanwhile, said it was “dismayed” by the alleged fictional sexualization of Frank and van Pels and said it feared it would cause offense to Holocaust survivors.
“If this novelist wants to write honestly about teenage sex, why not use her own fictional characters instead of blatantly exploiting the millions of devoted readers who she well knows will buy this book purely because the young girl portrayed is Anne Frank?” said Gillian Walnes, cofounder and executive director of the Anne Frank Trust UK.
“Of course fiction is important, and we would encourage teenagers to expand their imagination through reading it. However, why do the tragic real lives of Anne Frank and Peter van Pels need to be fictionalized? These were two young people who lived well before the constant sexualization of young people, and we even have proof in her writing that Anne and Peter did not go that far in their short romance,” she went on.
“Readers of a British national newspaper, The Daily Mirror, recently voted Anne Frank the most inspirational and influential woman of the past 100 years.
There is so much teenagers can learn about Anne’s life and writing that will have a positive impact on shaping their own attitudes, that fictionalization is totally unnecessary, and in fact sensationalist. I am afraid the words ‘cashing’ and ‘in’ come prominently to mind,” Walnes added.
Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said that “the story of Anne Frank, in her own remarkable words, surely contains enough true life drama, tragedy and tension without the need for embellishment. It is the honest and personal account of a child hidden from the age of 13 and murdered at the age of 15, and should absolutely not be turned into a salacious account of adult relationships by the fictional and fevered imaginings of a commercial author.”
Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, echoed this statement, saying, “Anne Frank’s diary invites us to consider from a very personal perspective what happened to one young girl during the Holocaust. The truth of her life and suffering in hiding is extraordinarily powerful – and fictionalizing her life is unnecessary and risks trivializing what happened to Anne, her family and millions of other victims during this dark period of history.”
In a statement on Monday, the book’s author said she had at no stage suggested that the two had had sexual relations and that the article was designed to upset people.
“I’m afraid people may have fallen into the trap of believing what you read in the papers. I’m so sorry that the article has upset people, but then again, that’s what it’s designed to do; and it’s also designed to make people believe that the author of the book is responsible for that upset, rather than the journalist who wrote the article,” said Dogar.
“At no stage in my book, now, or ever, have I suggested that Anne and Peter had sex,” she continued. “It would be so helpful if people could reserve judgment until having read the book.”