The Life of Anne Frank: A Five-Part Course with Gillian Perry - Context Travel

The Life of Anne Frank: A Five-Part Course with Gillian Perry

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In five lectures Gillian Walnes Perry, former Co-founder and Executive Director of the Anne Frank Trust UK, will delve into the life and experience of Anne Frank and her family before, during and after their time hiding in Amsterdam in July 1942. We’ll trace the family’s roots in Frankfurt to their emigration from Germany to Amsterdam, the stories of those who helped the Frank family go into hiding, the arrest, and Otto Frank’s journey back to Amsterdam after his liberation from Auschwitz.

Gillian’s account of Anne as a young girl is brought to life through direct personal accounts from many people who knew her, and aspects of Anne’s life in hiding will be explained through readings of relevant extracts from her diary and a discussion on why it has proved a continuing inspiration across the generations. All lectures will include readings from the book ‘The Legacy of Anne Frank’ by Gillian Walnes Perry and allow time for a Q&A and sharing of personal reflections.

Lecture 1: The Frank Family Before the Secret Annex
Anne Frank’s family was a staple of Frankfurt society. Otto Frank as a young man spent exciting times in New York. During WWI, as a German officer, Otto fought against his own French relatives. He married Edith Höllander, and had two daughters Margot and Anne. Anne’s earliest years were amidst the rise of Nazism. The Frank family attempted to flee and emigrated from Germany in late 1933. We discuss why Otto Frank chose Amsterdam as a city of refuge, and Anne’s school days and happy times there. Why are there so many photographs of Anne and Margot, and how did this remarkable collection of photographs survive? In May 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and introduced restrictions against the Dutch Jewish community. Mr Frank’s desperately prepared a secret hiding place for his family.

Lecture 2: Life in Hiding
Why were the Frank family suddenly forced into urgent hiding in July 1942? Gillian dips into the pages of Anne’s diary and shows how writing gave Anne comfort in the hiding place. Over the two years of claustrophobic and fearful hiding, tensions grew between the three families thrown so closely together in the limited space of the hiding place. Anne transformed from a child into an adolescent, with all the physical, emotional and sexual changes to her body that she described so vividly in her diary. From April 1944, Anne started editing her diary for possible publication after the war, whilst at the same time continuing to keep up her daily journal and fiction writing. This young girl’s moral framework was becoming more and more evident in her writing as the months in isolation wore on.

Lecture 3: The Helpers, Van Pels family, and Fritz Pfeffer
After the arrest of the eight Jews they were hiding, the lives of the helpers were in great danger. Nevertheless, they continued to show exemplary courage. Gillian will speak of her personal relationship with Miep Gies, having spent time with her in the 1990s and 2000s, including visiting Miep’s apartment and attending the 1996 Academy Awards in Hollywood together. This lecture also delves deeper into the other four people in hiding with the Frank family: the background to the van Pels family and the loneliness of Fritz Pfeffer, who was in hiding without his beloved non-Jewish fiancée. It also explores the ups and downs of Anne’s teenage romance with Peter van Pels.

Lecture 4: After the Arrest: Otto’s survival, Publication of the Diary, and the Anne Frank House
The betrayal and arrest of all the eight Jews who had been in hiding together resulted in a tragic outcome for seven of them, which is described in this poignant lecture. We’ll also discuss Otto Frank’s journey back to Amsterdam after his liberation from Auschwitz, his struggle to find out what happened to his daughters and how he was presented with Anne’s precious diary by the heroic Miep Gies. Otto had a remarkable vision of Anne’s diary being used as a general force for good, but faced a moral dilemma in publishing the words of his feisty daughter. After its 1947 publication, Anne’s diary went on to become an international literary sensation, spawning a Broadway play and a Hollywood movie, and becoming one of the world’s most read and admired works of nonfiction. This lecture explains the phenomenon of thousands of inspired teenagers writing to Mr Frank and conversely the battles Mr Frank fought against Holocaust deniers. This lecture ends on an uplifting note with the establishment of the Anne Frank House and the implementation of Otto Frank’s remarkable educational vision.

Lecture 5: Anne Frank’s Amsterdam
Amsterdam is brimming with fascinating history dating back to the 17th century and its place as the world’s leading trading city. This lecture looks at the beautiful city of Amsterdam through Anne Frank’s eyes, helped by the fact that so much of what she saw still remains intact. This is a destination focused lecture, of especial interest to those who are planning to visit Amsterdam.

How does it work?
This is a five-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?
Though the course is open to participants with no background in the life and history of Anne Frank, there are suggested readings for further investigation. You will receive this soon after course registration.

How long are the lectures?
Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?
The course is $175.00 for 5 lectures.

Is a recording available?
In general, our courses are not recorded. However, if you need to miss a lecture please let us know in advance and we can arrange for a recording for that session on an individual basis.


Gillian Walnes Perry was the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Anne Frank Trust UK. The Trust was set up in 1990, along with family and friends of Mr Otto Frank. When Gillian retired in 2016 the Trust had a staff of 35, taking educational programmes to combat prejudice and discrimination to schools, prisons and communities in all parts of the UK.

Gillian now lectures on the life and legacy of Anne Frank, as well as other social history topics, in the UK, the US and other parts of the world. She also acts as an ambassador and advisor to the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect in the USA. She has spoken at the United Nations in New York, 10 Downing Street and most recently the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock Arkansas. Her first book, ‘The Legacy of Anne Frank’ was published in 2018.

In 2010 Gillian was awarded an MBE (Membership of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) by Her Majesty The Queen for her work in education.

This course is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.