Suggested Answers to Discussion Questions for
1. See Standard Questions Suitable for Any Film.
No suggested Answers.
2. Was the Holocaust inevitable?
No. It was the product of several factors: (1) unique historical and economic circumstances (including worldwide economic depression, a tradition of anti-Semitism in Europe, nationalistic fervor in Germany, the terms of the Treaty of Versailles which humiliated and impoverished Germany as punishment for its aggression in WWI, the ineffectiveness of the Weimar Republic); (2) the ability of Hitler and his inner circle to manipulate and intimidate, (3) the immorality and racism among the Nazis and those who carried out their genocidal policies; (4) racism and moral insensitivity among the Germans and the people in the occupied territories who knew what was going on and who either approved or didn’t take steps to stop it; and (5) weakness and indecision on the part of the decent people in Germany, in the occupied territories, and in the world at large. Had the Germans rejected racism and looked at the moral issues involved in what the Nazis were inducing them to do, and had they stood up to the Nazis, the Holocaust would not have happened.
3. In your opinion, what will it take for humankind to cure itself of the urge to kill other people and wage war? Are we doomed to always repeat the cycle of violence? Justify your answer.
There is no one right answer to this question. Good answers will use historical and current events to support conclusions.
4. Anne Frank has been called the best-known victim of the Holocaust. Actually, she is probably the best known victim of any holocaust, including, the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, Stalin’s murder of tens of millions of Ukrainians, the Cambodian holocaust, the decimation of the Tutsis in Rwanda, and the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo, to name some of the more infamous. Certainly, she was not the most accomplished or talented person to have died in the concentration camps: distinguished doctors, scientists, musicians, and other talented and accomplished people, were all killed indiscriminately. The destruction of Anne Frank’s family is just as tragic, but no more tragic than the millions of families that have been destroyed in the various holocausts. Take, for example, the family in Rwanda in which a Hutu village leader was induced to murder his Tutsi wife and his sons in front of the entire village. Anne’s story is certainly not the most heroic. Her family hid from the Nazis. They offered no resistance. The Franks and the Van Daans were able to help only one other person, Dr. Pfeffer, while some others helped many. The Dutch people who sheltered the Franks and the Van Daans were real heroes. They could have done nothing and lived through the war without undergoing the tremendous risks that they undertook to help the inhabitants of the secret annex. Given these facts, why has Anne Frank’s story captured the imaginations of so many?
There is no one right answer. A good response would include some of the following concepts: (1) Anne Frank, epitomizes the lost promise of all the people, especially the children, who have perished in holocausts. (2) The death of a child exemplifies the innocence of all victims of holocausts. (3) Anne Frank’s diary deals with much more than just the Holocaust. It helps students work through many of the issues that all children face in adolescence. (4) Through her diary, Anne Frank shared some of her innermost thoughts. People around the world got to know her as a person. Adolf Eichmann, the bureaucrat in charge of Hitler’s “Final Solution,” said, “One hundred dead are a catastrophe, a million dead are a statistic.” The fame of Anne Frank can be seen as a prime example of this principle in action. Anne, however, didn’t buy into this fallacy because she personally knew many people who were taken away and knew that each suffered a uniquely horrendous and personal tragedy. In her diary entry for July 15, 1944, Anne said, “I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness, I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too, I feel the suffering of millions….” You might want to point out that as terrible as her circumstances were, Anne did not lose hope. She continued the passage with these words “… And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more. In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals. Perhaps the day will come when I’ll be able to realize them!”
5. How does one hold onto his or her human dignity when faced with a holocaust?
The answer is that we resist to the best of our ability. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum tells us that “Resistance, for example, usually refers to a physical act of armed revolt. During the Holocaust, it also encompassed partisan activity; the smuggling of messages, food, and weapons; and actual military engagement. But resistance also embraced willful disobedience such as continuing to practice religious and cultural traditions in defiance of the rules or creating fine art, music, and poetry inside ghettos and concentration camps. For many, simply maintaining the will to remain alive in the face of abject brutality was an act of spiritual resistance.” See USHMM Guidelines page 4. Most people take from the study of the Holocaust the lesson that no one is “just a bystander” and that all involved must fight. The victims should not go meekly to their deaths, but more importantly, those in the larger society must step forward and stop the persecution. But there are limits. The victims and resisters should not respond with atrocities themselves. The innocents in the community of the oppressor cannot be punished for the actions of the evil people in their community. Sometimes, however, the resources and power of an entire community are taken over by the oppressors, and the entire community must be attacked. In WWII, the Nazis controlled and harnessed the power of the German state and the energies of the German people. Thus, to stop the evil, the Allies were forced to conquer the German people and destroy the German state. This resulted in injuries to noncombatants and children as well as to the oppressors. Similarly, in the 1990s, the power of the state of Serbia supported ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Kosovo. The U.S. and NATO selected aerial bombing, in which some innocent people were killed, as the strategy to force the Serbs to withdraw and stop their atrocities. This strategy, and the application of limited direct force, avoided the much more lethal and destructive alternative of a full scale invasion of Serb controlled territories. In the unresolvable debate about whether the U.S. should have used atomic bombs to end the Second World War, most people concede that a full scale invasion of the Japanese home islands would have resulted in more casualties to the Japanese people through direct injuries, starvation, and disease, than were caused by the atomic bombs. The question involved in that debate is whether a Japanese surrender could have been obtained through less lethal means than either of those two alternatives. See Learning Guide to Fat Man & Little Boy.
6. Edmund Burke (1729-1797), a British political philosopher whose writings strongly influenced the Founding Fathers of the United States, said that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” How does this apply to the Holocaust?
The Holocaust happened, indeed all holocausts happen, because good people are silent and afraid and don’t speak up to stop them. Look at the experience of Holland. While some 20,000 courageous Dutch sheltered Jews during the war, and many more supported them (like the grocer who gave Miep Gies extra produce and didn’t turn her in), there were millions of Dutch people who did little or nothing as the Jews were led away to their deaths. If those millions had actively resisted many more could have been saved. The same is true of any holocaust. There were many people living in Serbia and many Serbs living in Kosovo and Bosnia who knew that ethnic cleansing was wrong. Had they stood up to Milosovich and his henchman and thrown them out of power, the atrocities would have stopped.
7. The Talmud is a set of commentaries on religion and life by Jewish religious scholars. It has the force of law for religious Jews. The Talmud states that “To save one life is as if you have saved the world.” How does this apply to our reaction to Anne Frank’s tragic story?
The statement from the Talmud elaborates the concept that in every human consciousness there is an entire world. Anne Frank’s diary is an exposition of the world that she experienced. Her world was only one of the millions and millions of worlds wantonly destroyed in the Holocaust and in all holocausts.
8. Were 6,000,000 Jews the only people killed in the Holocaust?
The Nazi extermination machine killed another 6,000,000 Russian prisoners of war, Poles, political opponents of the Nazi regime, Gypsies, and the disabled. The term “the Holocaust” is most often used to mean the murder of the Jews because they were the largest single group killed and they were singled out because of their religion and ethnic origin.
9. In the diary entry for June 20, 1942, first entry for the day, Anne referred to the diary as a fictional friend named Kitty. Why did she do this?
This is a literary device intended to make her diary more interesting and entertaining. Anne was practicing to be a writer.
10. In her diary entry for December 24, 1943, Anne describes things that she misses like the smell of wind on the clothes of people who come in from the outside, breathing fresh air, riding a bike, dancing, whistling, and looking at the world. Can you think of some other things that you would miss if you were confined to a few rooms for 25 months?
There is no one response but good answers should combine imagination with insight as to what would be important.
11. In the diary entry for January 12, 1944, Anne talks about having a “craze” for dancing. What, as exemplified by this passage, must one do when confined in a few rooms for months on end?
Take care of yourself physically as well as mentally. This is no different than life outside the Secret Annex, but living confined and in hiding focuses one on the needs of body and mind.
12. In her diary entry for March 7, 1944, Anne talks about happiness and courage. What is Anne doing in this passage? Do you agree with her?
Anne is trying to keep up her spirits. There is no suggested answer to the second part of this question.
13. In the diary entry for March 7, 1944, Anne thinks about how completely different her life was in 1942 before she and her family took up residence in the Secret Annex. Read what she says and describe whether you have ever had a similar feeling about a period in your life.
No suggested answer.
14. In her diary entry for March 16, 1944, Anne complains about having to share her room. She says that only in the attic, and with her diary, can she be herself. “…for a while just a little while.” Why is a place where a person can relax and just be themselves important? Do you have a place like this? If you do, describe how that place makes you feel.
There is no one right answer to this question.
15. In the diary entry for April 4, 1944: “I want to go on living after my death!” Will the memory of Anne fade as time goes on? What factors will keep it alive and what will tend to make it fade away?
It will stay alive as long as her experience speaks to people and has relevance to their lives. After its relevance lessens, it will fade away.
16. In the diary entry for May 3, 1944 (pp. 200-202) Anne states that “There’s in people simply an urge to destroy…” Do you agree or disagree? Justify your answer and tell us where this urge comes from and how it can be restrained or replaced with a desire to nurture.
There is no one right answer to this question.
17. Play for the class the song “The Universal Soldier” performed by Donovan, Buffy St. Marie, and others or read it to them as a poem. Then read them Anne’s diary entry for May 3, 1944: “I don’t believe the war is simply the work of politicians and capitalists. Oh no, the common man is every bit as guilty; otherwise, people and nations would have rebelled long ago!” What do you think about these sentiments? Do you agree or disagree? Is it an impossible dream for the common soldiers to stand up as one man, on both sides of the political or national divides, and say “Never again. We won’t fight”?
There is no one right answer, however, we tend to be pessimistic about this happening in the near future.
18. In the diary entry for July 15, 1944, Anne talks about the world becoming a wilderness and feeling the suffering of millions. Do you agree that the world is becoming worse off or is it actually getting better?
There is no one correct response. A good response should refer to the holocausts that have occurred since WWII (Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina/Kosovo, and Rwanda) and also to the international tribunals that have been established, the overthrow of Milosovich in Serbia and the international efforts to stop genocides.
19. In the diary entry for July 15, 1944, Anne says that she still believes that people are good. Is Anne being inconsistent in her beliefs about the inherent goodness of people? See entry for May 3, 1944.
People change their opinions over time. Also, they are not particularly consistent in their beliefs. The belief in the inherent goodness of mankind and in mankind’s evil are both basic notions in Western Civilization. In addition, believing that the human race is inherently evil is very destructive for the personality of anyone. How could Anne go on, day after day, if she had lost her faith in the inherent goodness of mankind?
20. What were some of the problems that the inhabitants of the “secret annex” faced during their time in hiding?
They are innumerable. They include: getting along together in cramped quarters, having to see the same people day after day; restricted diets; inability to go outside; constant fear of discovery; and the need to be silent during the day.
21. At Bergen-Belsen, Anne’s mother and her sister Margot were offered the opportunity to go to a labor camp where their chances of survival would have been much better. (In fact, almost all of the people who went to that labor camp survived.) Anne could not go because she was suffering from scabies. Edith Frank and Margot refused to leave Anne. As a result, all of them died. Did they do the right thing?
There is no one correct answer to this question. It is typical of the terrible moral choices that the Holocaust forced on people. See, for example, Sophie’s Choice by William Styron. One could argue that they should not both have gone to the labor camp, but that Mrs. Frank should have insisted that Margot go. This way, at least Margot would have survived. The problem with this argument is that the Frank’s derived their strength from staying together as a family. Margot may have been so distraught at leaving Anne and her mother that she would have died in the labor camp. What a terrible choice!
22. The Holocaust was the worst episode of prejudice against Jews. But Jews had been subjected to scapegoating, pogroms (riots by their neighbors in which Jews were killed and their property destroyed), and hatred in parts of Europe for centuries. What is the reason for the long history of anti-Semitism in Europe?
First, the anti-Semitism of the Holocaust should be put in perspective. There were many people in occupied Europe who risked their lives to help Jews. See the Helpful Background section of this Guide for a description of the substantial efforts to protect Jews made by 20,000 Dutch people who hid Jews during the war, and others, such as the Danes who protected virtually their entire Jewish population. See also Learning Guide to Schindler’s List. In short, many people in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s were anti-Semitic, but many were not. It should also be noted that anti-Semitism has not evaporated. The recent pronouncements by the Prime Minister of Malaysia and the continued problem of hate crimes still perpetrated against Jews in Europe tell us that anti-Semitism is still a serious problem. — But to get to the question of the source of this disease in Europe. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of books and articles devoted to the study of this subject. We don’t pretend to have a full or final answer. What follows is a rubric which will allow students to begin to conceptualize this troubling phenomenon.
There are four basic reasons for anti-Semitism that we have identified. The first is the tendency of people to feel uncomfortable with any group or culture that is different from their own. Communities of Jews had existed in Europe for more than 1500 years, but the Jewish communities had kept apart, maintaining their own religion, rituals, and observances that were clearly different than the predominantly Christian communities in which they lived. A second reason is a psychological need for people, in times of distress or economic decline, to have a scapegoat on which to blame their troubles. A group which does not accept the norms of the culture is a convenient scapegoat. In the history of Europe, particularly in Eastern Europe and Germany, this need was fed by autocratic rulers who would blame Jews for the problems of their countries and periodically sponsored repressions or pogroms. This diverted the attention of the people from the real problems of the country, for example, problems caused by incompetent autocratic rulers. A third reason, historical to Europe, was that rulers would at times rely upon the Jews for services that they could not or did not want to obtain from others. For example, in some areas of Europe the aristocrats used Jewish agents as rent collectors. This allowed them the benefits of the rents but they could blame the rent collectors for any abuses. In other circumstances, because Jewish merchants and bankers were governed by a body of commercial law which applied across national borders, they could raise funds in amounts needed by nations to wage war. Christian bankers were restricted to local sources of funds because there was no body of law that extended beyond the local level. Certainly, some actions taken by some Jews at some times were unpopular and no group is without individuals who act wrongfully. But there is no evidence that these were any worse or any more frequent than bad actions taken by individuals from other groups. Any wrongful action by a person who happened to be Jewish was simply blown out of proportion. A fourth reason for anti-Semitism is the gross failure of leadership among the secular and religious leaders of Europe for centuries before the Second World War. Any prejudice denies the humanity of individuals and is basically a moral failing of the person who holds the prejudice. It is the responsibility of the leaders of communities, both secular and spiritual, to bring the full force of the positive principles in their religion or ideology to bear against the forces of prejudice. We have seen the President of the United States, George Bush, perform this function on behalf of Muslim and Arab Americans (actually on behalf of all Americans) after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. Had the leaders of Europe in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries performed similarly, the Holocaust would not have happened.
23. The diary of Anne Frank has been translated into dozens of different languages. It is read throughout the world. How can you account for this?
Its appeal is universal and relates to all mankind. See response to Discussion Question 4.
24. What do you think it would have been like to live cooped up for more than a year in a small attic with seven other people and one cat?
There is no one right response. The focus should be on (1) all the parts of life that Anne Frank lost by being confined to the Secret Annex and (2) the psychological effects of this loss. A good answer would include, for example, the inability to be out in the fresh air, to view nature, to go to school, to be with friends, to go to concerts; to go to art museums; to go out to eat at a restaurant, etc.
25. How much does Anne Frank have in common with today’s youth in America?
A lot. The same desire to be outside, to have a boyfriend, problems separating from parents, love of movie stars, desire to succeed in life. These are all recurrent themes in the Diary. They are thoroughly modern. Anne Frank has much to say to the youth of today. See also Learning Guide to Anne B. Real.
26. How did Anne grow and change over the year and a half she was in the Secret Annex?
She changed from a little girl to an adolescent.
27. Why did Otto Frank relocate his family from Germany to Holland? What would have happened had he relocated his family a hundred miles further to the west, in England?
He realized that the Nazis would continue to persecute the Jews. If he had gone just a little further, to England, they would have been safe. This is not to say that Mr. Frank is in some way to blame for the death of his family. The Nazis were the killers.
28. Discuss how Otto Frank quietly prepared for the worst and made arrangements to ensure the safety of his family.
He slowly took furniture to the “Secret Annex” and prepared it to be a residence. He made arrangements with his Dutch employees and business associates to serve as their protectors. All of this was done in advance.
29. What incident finally prompted the Franks to go into hiding?
Anne’s sister Margot received an order to go to a labor camp in the East.
30. Describe three problems that the occupants of the Secret Annex had in living together in cramped quarters for more than two years.
The list that follows describes only a few: getting enough food, keeping busy, getting along in close quarters, keeping silent; making sure no one noticed them.
31. Anne Frank revised her diary. What was the reason she did this?
Because she wanted it to be good enough for others to read.
32. Why did Miep Gies save Anne’s diary?
She wanted to give it to Anne when the war was over.
33. The Franks had moved to Holland to get away from the Nazis. Why did they do this?
The Franks thought that Holland would be safe. Holland had been neutral in the First World War. Hitler assured the Dutch that he would respect their neutrality. When the Franks realized that the family could be at risk in Holland, Margot and Anne had become accustomed to life in Holland, and the Franks were not sure that they would adjust well if moved again. In addition, Mr. Frank was 50 years old at the time, and the prospect of starting again was daunting. He felt tired.
FAMILIES IN CRISIS
1. How did the Frank family deal with the crisis of the Holocaust? Suggested Response: They pulled together, but they had their problems and their difficulties along the way. These, such as Anne’s feelings of estrangement from her mother, would have come out even if they had not been confined.
2. Why are the Dutch protectors of the Franks heroic figures?
The Dutch protectors, without any obligation whatsoever, put their lives at risk to help others. While an estimated 20,000 people in Holland hid Jews, and there was a general strike and some protests in support of Jews at the beginning of the German occupation, there were millions of people in Holland and all over occupied Europe who, out of fear or indifference, did nothing to protect the victims of the Nazis. Victor Kugler, Johannes Klieman, Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl heroically tried to save the Franks.
3. If the Frank’s Dutch protectors had not risked their lives to help their friends hide from the Nazis, would you have criticized them for not doing enough?
Most people believe that the only way to stop a holocaust such as befell the Jews in Germany and occupied Europe, is to resist and protest at an early stage. Silence and inaction are not adequate responses the face of injustice. So the answer, with the benefit of hindsight, is “Yes.”
Moral-Ethical Emphasis Discussion Questions
(Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements)
(Do what you are supposed to do; Persevere: keep on trying!; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act — consider the consequences; Be accountable for your choices)
(Do your share to make your school and community better; Cooperate; Stay informed; vote; Be a good neighbor; Obey laws and rules; Respect authority; Protect the environment)
Suggested additional questions are:
1. Why did the Dutch protectors risk their lives to try to help the Franks and the others hidden in the attic? What would you have done in that situation?
See Helpful Background Section for Miep Gies’ answer to this question.
2. During World War II, what were the different reactions of citizens of various countries to the Nazi persecution of the Jews?
See Helpful Background Section.
3. What does this poem mean?
In Germany they first they came for the communists
and I did not speak up because I was not a communist
Then they came for the Jews
and I did not speak up because I was not a Jew
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak up because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Catholics
and I did not speak up because I was a Protestant
Then they came for me —
and by that time there was no one left to speak up.
— Pastor Niemoeller (victim of the Nazis)
We must look out for the liberties of each other or when our own liberties are challenged, no one will be around to help us.