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Archive for Thursday, October 15, 1998

FRANK EXPERT DESCRIBES DIARY PAGES

October 15, 1998

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A Holocaust expert on Wednesday discussed the enduring popularity of Anne Frank and how she wrote herself into history.

The unearthing of five new pages from Anne Frank's original diary has given Rolf Wolfswinkle added fuel in his recent tour of American campuses and lecture halls.

Wolfswinkle, 55, a professor on sabbatical from the University of Kaapstad in Cape Town, South Africa, spoke Wednesday at Kansas University about the public release of the pages as well as Frank's enduring status as a Holocaust icon.

``It's not really a find because the person who had them always knew he had them,'' said Wolfswinkle, a native of Amsterdam who has published several books and a number of articles about the Holocaust, Dutch collaboration with the Nazis during World War II and National Socialism in Germany and Holland.

On Wednesday he unveiled an English translation of one of the pages. Reportedly spirited out of harm's way by Frank's father, Otto, the pages were kept for almost 18 years by a friend of Otto Frank, who died in 1980.

In the pages, Wolfswinkle said, Frank displays a maturity as a writer even as she berates her mother for being cold, unloving, unattractive and spiteful.

``She's really very nasty,'' he said.

Wolfswinkle also discussed the emergence of a new suspect in the betrayal of the eight Jews staying in the Amsterdam attic as well as the driving force of Frank's status as a martyr, even a saint, throughout the world. Her diary has been translated into 55 languages, and more than 25 million copies have been sold.

Interest also was renewed recently by the publishing of two biographies detailing the short life of Frank, who died of typhoid fever in a German prison camp three weeks before the British liberated it in March 1945.

Americans, Wolfswinkle said, identify with suffering, whether through trash talk shows or war stories. But most people lack the ability to empathize with Jews who were taken to gas chambers.

So they adopted Frank, a teen-ager who wrote down conversations with and thoughts about her parents, who fell in love, and who stayed cooped up in an attic for two years.

``The truth is so unpalatable that we have a surrogate sufferer,'' said Wolfs-winkle, whose wife, also a professor in South Africa, is taking her sabbatical to examine American studies programs at KU, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and elsewhere in the Midwest.

-- Matt Gowen's phone message number is 832-7222. His e-mail address is mgowen@ljworld.com.

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