5: Excerpt from essay, “Who Owns Anne Frank?” by Cynthia Ozick, 1997.
There is an interesting debate among thinkers and writers as to whether any redemptive outcome or sense of happy ending is possible when thinking about the Holocaust. For example, many intellectuals attacked the final few minutes of Steven Spielberg’s epic 1993 film Schindler’s List because it flirts with the idea of a possible happy ending to the Holocaust. In the scene, survivors liberated from concentration camps begin marching toward their next destination and while they march we hear the unofficial Israeli national anthem, “Yerushalayim Shel Zahav” (“Jerusalem of Gold”), implying that the State of Israel effectively redeems the Holocaust.
In this excerpt from her famous essay on the diary of Anne Frank, writer Cynthia Ozick attacks any attempt to find silver linings in Holocaust material. She particularly targets various optimistic responses to Anne Frank’s diary, and she wonders at the end of the essay if it would have been better for the world if the diary had been burned.
Suggested Activity: After reading the excerpt (and possibly assigning the entire article), and reviewing the scene from Survival in Auschwitz to which Ozick refers, have students debate the issue: Is it possible to speak of happy endings or redemption when discussing the Holocaust?
Source: Cynthia Ozick, “Who Owns Anne Frank?” The New Yorker (New York: October 6, 1997) 30-43.