Anne Frank's diary is not a fit subject for a musical

In the month when the UK observes its annual day of Holocaust remembrance, I read the article from your Madrid correspondent with a sense of trepidation (Anne Frank's diary to be made into a musical, January 7). As an academic with a research interest in how the Holocaust has been misrepresented and sentimentalised in popular culture, I was not surprised by this further slide of the Holocaust into the realm of entertainment.

While the report acknowledges that the account of arguably one of the most famous victims of the Holocaust "might not seem the most obvious material for a song and dance number", the man behind the new Spanish production is less reticent. Rafael Alvero hopes his new musical will be "inspirational", and has little compunction in "comparing Frank's life story to a tragic opera". Furthermore, Alvero explained that the aim of the musical would be to help society "understand the story better".

I am quite sure that, with the backing of the Anne Frank Foundation, and having taken over a decade to plan, the musical will endeavour to avoid offending public sensibilities at all costs. Yet the very fact that the Holocaust (in however sanitised a form) can be incorporated into the world of musical theatre in this way is of enormous concern, as is the determination of Alvero to seek "inspiration" in a story devoid of life-affirming details.

The musical will of course exploit the public fixation with the attic existence of Anne and her family. Anne's engaging, bittersweet account of her time in hiding has rightfully secured her place as an emblem of over 1 million Jewish children murdered during the Holocaust. Supporters of the musical might argue that this is a true story that people respond to, so why not allow it to educate people further about the Holocaust, in whatever guise is most likely to appeal to those uninterested in dry, historical facts? However, the diary of Anne Frank is probably so popular because it allows the reader, if they choose to, to hide from the realities of the Holocaust.

Anne's diary stops with the Frank family's capture by the Nazis in the summer of 1944. Of all of the occupants of that attic, only Anne's father, Otto, survived, yet ultimately we are spared the real conclusion to Anne's story.

We can consume her witty, girlish prose, wringing indecent pathos from it along the way, but in doing so we are sidestepping the Holocaust. We do not have to face the unbearable narrative of Anne's internment in Auschwitz, or her transfer to Bergen-Belsen, where she died from starvation and disease shortly before liberation, having first witnessed the death of her sister.

One cannot even begin to imagine what Anne experienced in the last year of her life. We would do her memory greater justice if we engaged with the testimony of the survivors of the Holocaust, rather than clinging to a false image of a young girl still full of faith in humanity. I would argue that to overlay the atrocity of the Holocaust with the veneer of culture and the uplift of musical theatre represents a degradation of accurate public memory.

Dr Sophia Marshman, a lecturer in the school of creative arts, film and media at the University of Portsmouth.