We All Wore Stars –
Memories of Anne Frank From Her Classmates
By Theo Coster
Palgrave Macmillan – £14.99
Other than being a surprising and rather disheartening disappointment, I found this book’s writing and all round approach just a little too light-weight for its own good; especially given some of the deeply entrenched, disquieting subject matter.
Admittedly, perhaps part of my thinking stems from the very simple fact that so much of what is mentioned within these 224 pages – right down to some of the very Amsterdam addresses – is an area of personal history I am all too familiar with. Reason being, not only was my mother lucky enough to survive the Gestapo round-ups during the German occupation of the Dutch capital, she was also the same age as Anne Frank. They even looked alike.
Yet, other than Anne Frank having ”become a universal symbol of the brutalized and extinguished innocence of childhood in the Holocaust,” I came away from this book thinking it was more of a vehicle for its author, Theo Coster, to promote his documentary The Classmates of Anne Frank (of which he was Executive Producer), rather than a considered re-telling of how it was. For the sheer scale and continuing trajectory of the Frank legend has a subliminal tendency to divert the onlooker away from that which it truly was: a young life wiped out due to a crazed, older man’s despicable ideology.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
As such, I had rather hoped that this might have been touched on somewhere in We All Wore Stars – Memories of Anne Frank From Her Classmates. But it unfortunately isn’t; even though Ben Barkow – director of the Wiener Library Institute of Contemporary History – writes: ”By highlighting the experiences of those who shared her school days and survived the war, Theo Coster helps us to see Anne alive in her community, one child among the millions touched so dramatically by evil. Their tales of survival offer a poignant and inspiring contrast to Anne’s horrifying death.”
Other than having found the bibliography the most interesting aspect of this book, I am absolutely no more the wiser so far as Anne Frank’s early years are concerned; which is a shame for a number of reasons.
Most notably, the all powerful title, ultimately suggests otherwise.