Bruno Bettelheim's Criticism of The Frank Family

Bruno Bettelheim's Criticism of The Frank Family

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In the essay "The Ignored Lesson of Anne Frank," the author Bruno Bettelheim, distributes a different point of view on the Frank family. Bruno Bettelheim came to the United States in 1939 after spending a year in the concentration camps in Buchenwald and Dachau. He then spent the rest of his career working at the University of Chicago. Although in his essay Bruno Bettelheim says his intention is not to put down the Frank family, the majority of his essay shows him criticizing the Franks.
Bettelheim states that the Frank family did not plan and prepare properly. Bettelheim explains:
"By eulogizing how they lived in their hiding place while neglecting to examine
first whether it was a reasonable or an effective choice, we are able to ignore
the crucial lesson of their story – that such an attitude can be fatal in extreme
circumstances," (79).
This example expresses that Bettelheim believes the Frank family did not pre think their situation and that their actions created their own fate. Bettelheim claims, "The Franks' hiding place had only one entrance; it did not have any other exit. Despite this fact, during their many months of hiding, they did not try to devise one. Nor did they make other plans for escape," (80). Bettelheim obviously feels that the Frank family did not choose their hiding place well. He feels they were not making an effort to survive because they had no escape. Again, Bettelheim repeatedly criticizes the Frank family for not having planned and prepared themselves better.
Bettelheim canvases that Mr. Frank did not do all he could to protect his family. Bettelheim suggests:
"There is little doubt that the Franks, who were able to provide themselves with so
much while arranging for going into hiding, and even while hiding, could have
provided themselves with some weapons had they wished.

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Had they had a gun,
Mr. Frank could have shot down at least one or two of the "green police" who
come for them (79).
Bettelheim scrutinizes Mr. Frank for not having a weapon to protect his family and fight against the Nazis. Mr. Frank, in Bettelheim's eyes did nothing to help his family or himself and for this reason Bettelheim believes that the Frank family is not heroic but yet a failure. Bettelheim looks down upon Mr. Frank by saying:
Still, although one must assume that Mr. Frank would have fought courageously, as
we know he did when a soldier in the First World War, it is not everybody who can
plan to kill those who are bent on killing him, although many who would not be
ready to contemplate doing so would be willing to kill those who are bent on
murdering not only them but also their wives and little daughters (80).
Bettelheim here, for the most part, is calling Mr. Frank a coward. He is putting him down for not using violence to solve his problems. Bettelheim feels the Mr. Frank, being the man of the family, should have fought to protect his wife and daughters and because of the outcome Mr. Frank is a disappointment.
Some people might say that Bettelheim, in fact, is not criticizing the Frank family. Here Bettelheim states, "It would be very wrong to take apart so humane and moving a story, which aroused so much well-merited compassion for gentle Anne Frank and her tragic fate," (78). Here Bettelheim tricks the reader into believing he is truly not putting down the Franks and explaining that he understands both sides. He then comes back with saying that the Frank family's attitude may have been what led to their destruction. Bettelheim is manipulating the reader into believing he is not scrutinizing the Franks. Bettelheim then suggests:
"This is not mentioned as a criticism that the Frank family did not plan or behave
along similar lines. A family has every right to arrange their life as they wish or
think best, and to take the risks they want to take. My point is not to criticize what
the Franks did, but only the universal admiration of their way of coping, or rather
of not coping," (81).
Bettelheim here claims he is not criticizing the Franks but yet then comes back explaining why Marga, a survivor, should have received more credit then Anne. Bettelheim repeatedly keeps stating he is not criticizing the Franks and some may agree however, some people may see beyond this.
Mr. and Mrs. Frank are accused of valuing family unity more than the life of their child. Bettelheim shares:
"Little Anne, too, wanted only to go on with life as usual, and what else could she
have done but fall in with the pattern her parents created for her existence? But
hers was not a necessary fate, much less a heroic one; it was a terrible but also a
senseless fate. Anne had a good chance to survive, as did many Jewish children in
Holland. But she would have had to leave her parents and go to live with a gentile
Dutch family, posing as their own child, something her parents would have had to
arrange for her," (79).
Bettelheim is now blaming the parents for not trying different methods to help Anne survive. He is criticizing them because he believes they did nothing to help their family or the whole society. Bettelheim claims:
"The desire of the Anne Frank's parents not to interrupt their intimate family
living, and their inability to plan more effectively for their survival, reflect the
failure of all too many others faced with the threat of Nazi terror. It is a failure that
deserves close examination because of the inherent warnings it contains for us, the
living," (82).
The parents here are attacked by Bettelheim for wanting to keep their family together and for not taking more of a risk. Bettelheim truly believes that the Franks should have known to separate and that they would have had a better chance to survive.
In conclusion, Bettelheim spends the majority of his essay criticizing the Frank family. He believes the Frank family is not a family people should look up to and that they are a disappointment to the society. Throughout his essay Bettelheim tries to say he is not criticizing the Franks but yet after he negatively critiques every move the Frank family made I think that it is blatant to what he is doing. Bruno Bettelheim criticizes the Frank family, in the essay "The Ignored Lesson of Anne Frank."
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