The Diary of a Young Girl
The Diary of a Young GirlINTRODUCTION
In a speech before the German law-making body called the Reichstag in January 1939, Adolf Hitler declared his desire to destroy all the Jews in Europe. Later that year, the German army invaded Poland and the Second World War began. Before the end of the war in 1945, six million Jews from across Europe would be systematically murdered in Hitler's "Final Solution."
Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl provides an intensely personal view of a small group of German Jews in Amsterdam during that time, living in hiding in an attempt to escape the genocide perpetrated by the German Nazi party and its allies in Holland. This book's historical and psychological importance is immeasurable; it provides a detailed account of the strategies the Frank family and their friends employed while trying to evade capture by Nazi authorities and it gives a human face to the incomprehensible horror of the Holocaust. However, its value does not end there. Just as its title states, Anne Frank's book is the diary of a young girl. Many of the struggles Anne describes are faced by every teenager, though they are significantly more difficult and poignant in her extraordinary circumstances. Anne's diary ends before her own direct experience of the concentration camps, so she gives her readers only an indirect picture of that period's specific terrors.
By contrast, her account of the difficulties and frustrations involved in her painful transition from a child of thirteen to a fifteen-year-old young woman of surprising wisdom and self-confidence is often shockingly immediate and candid. Written as a series of letters to an imaginary friend, Anne's diary expresses her profound longing for affection and understanding as she wrestles with her changing self-image, sexual curiosity, religious belief, intellectual goals, and, above all, the need to define herself as a person independent of her parents despite being unnaturally constrained to be near them.
The "Secret Annex" in which her family hides becomes a microcosm of the world at large in many ways and Anne struggles to define her position within its charged atmosphere. Her observations and assessments of her family members and the other people in hiding with them are at times funny and, just as often, brutal. The passages about her conflict with her mother, whom she saw as lacking the maternal skills necessary to earn the love she so obviously desired from her daughters, upset her father Otto enough for him to have them removed from the original published editions of the diary. Though Anne can be unforgiving in her opinion of others, she turns this same harsh criticism on herself as well, giving rise to what she sees as a division in her personality between a superficially cheerful and tough exterior and a sensitive inner core that yearns for self-improvement and authenticity. Rereading passages in the diary sometimes moves her to comment on them, and these comments indicate her changing views on a number of subjects, including her mother, as well as her awareness that emotions sometimes cloud her judgment. As Anne notes, however, her diary was meant from the beginning as an outlet for the feelings she cannot express aloud.
In March 1944, a member of the Dutch government in exile announced in a radio broadcast from London that he would collect diaries and letters after the war for publication as eyewitness accounts of the Dutch people's struggle during the German occupation. Anne immediately set to work revising and editing to produce a document she felt would be suitable for the public. She rewrote and improved many of the old entries, added others from memory, and omitted some passages. She also created pseudonyms for the people who would appear in the book to protect their identities.
When she and her family were arrested by the Gestapo on August 4, 1944, their friend and helper Miep Gies rescued Anne's diary and hid it away, hoping to return it to her after the war. Otto Frank was the only one of the eight people in hiding in the Secret Annex who survived the concentration camps, and he dedicated much of the rest of his life to preserving his daughter's memory through the publication of her diary. He combined passages from her original and edited versions to produce a substantially shorter third version that met the publisher's requirements. He chose to omit the passages in which Anne speaks openly about her sexuality (a taboo subject in the 1940s, especially in books for young adult readers) and passages that were especially unflattering to the deceased residents of the Secret Annex. The definitive edition of the diary was released by the Anne Frank Foundation in 1991 and translated into English in 1995, and it is the edition used here. It is based primarily on the second version Anne wrote when she was fifteen and restores much of the text omitted by Otto Frank, as well as some passages from the first version that Anne herself omitted from the second.
Anne says in her diary that her greatest wish is to become a journalist and a famous author, and to lead an extraordinary life for which she will be remembered after her death. Her life turned out to be much different from what she hoped, as the development of her obvious potential as an artist was tragically cut short. However, her diary allowed her to achieve her goals for herself and much sooner than she expected. Since its initial publication in 1947, The Diary of a Young Girl has been translated into dozens of languages and has become one of the most widely read books in the world.
The Diary of a Young Girl opens on June 12, 1942. It is Anne's thirteenth birthday and she writes of her hopes that she will be able to confide everything to her diary. She says that she has never been able to confide in anyone before and that it will be a great source of comfort to her. Two days later, she begins her diary in earnest with a description of her birthday. After that, she describes each of her classmates and talks about all the boys who have crushes on her.
Annelies Marie Frank was born on June 12, 1929, in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, the second daughter of Otto Frank and Edith Holländer Frank. Her sister Margot was three years old when Anne was born. Her parents moved the family to Amsterdam in the Netherlands, where a large German Jewish community resided, after Hitler's rise to power in 1933.
In May 1940, the Germans invaded and occupied the Netherlands, and immediately instituted a number of anti-Semitic laws. In July 1942, Margot received a call-up notice requiring her to report for deportation to a work camp in Germany. Otto immediately rushed his family to the hiding place he had been preparing. Shortly thereafter, they were joined by Otto's business partner Hermann van Pels (called van Daan in the diary), also from Germany, his wife Auguste (Petronella in the diary), and son Peter. Later, they agree to take in Fritz Pfeffer (Albert Dussel in the diary), a German dentist who had also fled to Amsterdam.
Germans discovered the Secret Annex on August 4, 1944, and the group was transported to Auschwitz, a concentration camp. In October, Anne and Margot were transferred to Bergen-Belsen. Both of them died sometime between February and March 1945. British troops liberated the camp one month later.
On June 20, she writes that the reason she wants to keep a diary is that even though she has many friends and admirers, she has never had a true friend to confide in. To enhance the illusion of having one now, she is going to write all her entries in the form of letters to a friend she will call "Kitty." She describes how her family came to Amsterdam from Germany and was generally happy until the Germans occupied the Netherlands and introduced a large number of anti-Semitic laws. Anne's maternal grandmother came to live with them until she got sick and died in January 1942. Anne still thinks of her often. Anne writes about her school, her friends, and her admirers, and tells the story of how she won the right to talk in class by writing a series of amusing essays and a poem when her teacher tried to punish her. She starts to go around with a boy named Hello Silberberg, but she is really still in love with an older boy named Peter Schiff. Anne is accepted to the Jewish Lyceum where her sister goes to school, as Jewish children are required by the Nazi administration to attend only Jewish schools. Margot gets better grades than Anne.
At the beginning of July, Otto tells Anne the family may have to go into hiding. Not long after that, Margot receives a call-up notice from the SS (the Nazi military), and "[v]isions of concentration camps and lonely cells race through [Anne's] head." The family rushes to move into the "Secret Annex" Otto has prepared on the top two floors of his company's building. It is cramped, but bearable and well hidden. Otto's employees Johannes Kleiman, Victor Kugler, Miep Gies and her husband Jan, and Bep Voskuijl and her father Johannes, aid them. Through Mr. van Daan they start the rumor that they have fled the country.
They set about cleaning and unpacking the boxes of belongings they had waiting for them in the Annex. Before long, Anne starts to feel that Edith and Margot pick on her unnecessarily and looks to her father for comfort. The van Daans join them in the Annex on July 13. They all get along well at first, but Anne decides that Peter, who is nearly sixteen, is not interesting at all.
Tensions soon develop between various occupants of the Annex. Anne complains that her parents do not allow her to read the many books that Margot is allowed to read. The men devise a plan to send a letter confirming that Otto is alive and to make it look like it was sent from Belgium. Mrs. van Daan asks to read Anne's diary, but Anne does not let her because she has just written something unflattering about her. Anne complains that everyone says she is ill-behaved and immature. She longs to feel more grown-up and she dreams of being able to go shopping. They hear from Miep that the Gestapo (Nazi secret police) are rounding up Jews and deporting them. They assume that they are being murdered.
The Annex tenants decide to take another person in and eventually agree on Albert Dussel, a dentist, who arrives in November. Margot moves into her parent's room and Dussel takes her bed in the room with Anne. Anne likes him at first, but they soon start to get on each other's nerves. The helpers raise everyone's spirits with a basket full of gifts and a poem for each of them on St. Nicholas Day (December 5).
Tensions among the Annex tenants continue. Everyone follows the war news on the radio as well as reports of Gandhi's struggle for Indian independence. The Nazi administration tries to hinder black market traders (from whom the Annex tenants get most of their supplies) and Jews in hiding by declaring thousand-guilder bills invalid. Otto tells Dussel to stop writing letters to Charlotte, his Christian girlfriend, and others, as they might endanger their hiding place. Peter hears a noise downstairs in the warehouse one night, and no one can sleep for fear of a burglary that might lead to police involvement and the discovery of their hiding place.
One night in April, Edith asks if she can listen to Anne's nightly prayers instead of Otto, who normally does this. Anne refuses, causing Edith to cry and say that she cannot make Anne love her. Anne feels sorry for her, but she feels that it is Edith who has rejected her by being tactless and sarcastic. Quarrels break out all over the Annex. The food situation worsens. Allied bombings destroy parts of the city. The Nazis reduce food rations for the Dutch in retribution for worker's strikes. Anne lowers her opinion of Dussel because he hoards food and criticizes her behavior. Anne's birthday comes around again and Otto writes her a poem in which he apologizes for the adult's habit of criticizing her every mistake. Mr. Voskuijl, one of their best helpers, is diagnosed with inoperable cancer. The Allies invade Sicily.
Anne becomes nearsighted and the adults try unsuccessfully to find a way for her to visit the eye doctor. She argues with Dussel over the use of a table in their room. Burglars break into the warehouse, stealing some money and the Annex's entire allotment of sugar ration coupons. Everyone's hopes are raised when Mussolini, the dictator of Italy, resigns and turns control of the country over to the king. Italy surrenders in September, but tempers continue to flare in the Annex. Anne starts taking valerian drops for her anxiety and depression. The group fears that Mr. van Maaren, a warehouse employee with a shady past, is beginning to suspect their presence. He does not know about the people hiding in the Secret Annex. The helpers suffer from various illnesses and overwork. The van Daans run out of money and try to sell some clothes through the helpers.
Anne's depression deepens and she feels increasingly estranged from her family. She even starts to feel distant from her father because she feels he favors Margot over her. Margot reproaches Otto for his plan to give Anne a Christian Bible for Hanukkah, so he decides to give it to Anne for St. Nicholas Day instead. The Annex residents begin to get careless, peeking through the curtains and lighting the stove later on Sunday mornings, even though this could draw attention from neighbors who think the building is empty outside normal business hours. Anne accidentally destroys the fountain pen she received from her grandmother years before. Bep, who normally does the grocery shopping for the Annex, is quarantined for diphtheria for six weeks. Dussel further alienates himself from the other residents by sulking and not thanking them for taking him in on the anniversary of his entrance into the Annex.
At the end of November, Anne has a disturbing dream about her friend Hanneli, who was taken away to a concentration camp. Anne prays that God will comfort Hanneli in her distress and feels bad that she is so much better off than Hanneli, asking God to "tell her I'm thinking of her with compassion and love, it might help her to go on."
Anne and her father decide everyone needs some cheering up, so they make a basket of gifts for everyone for St. Nicholas Day just as they had the year before. They do not have much left to give, so Anne and Otto write poems for everyone, put them in their shoes, and then put their shoes in the basket. Everyone is surprised to get their own shoes back with poems as gifts. Anne comes down with the flu. The Annex residents exchange Hanukkah gifts and then exchange gifts with the helpers for Christmas. Anne's depression worsens and she longs to go outside.
Anne explains to Kitty that she calls her mother "Momsy" or "Moms" because she does not think of her as a real mom. Anne hopes Edith never realizes why she does this because it would only hurt her feelings and probably would not change anything. Anne concludes that a story her father told her once meant that he is still in love with some other woman. Anne dreams of Grandma and Hanneli and realizes Grandma must have been very lonely toward the end of her life even with her family all around because she was not anyone's "one and only." Arguments flare again in the Annex, this time over food.
Anne looks back over her diary and feels ashamed of the bad things she has written about her mother. She still does not feel she can love Edith, but she does admit her own part in causing the conflicts with her and hopes that they will at least be able to give the appearance of getting along better in the future. She decides that Edith's main failure as a mother is that she has always tried to be a friend to her daughters. Anne feels that a friend cannot take a mother's place.
Anne reads an article on puberty and finds that it provides a good explanation for many of her recent experiences. Anne is proud of the fact that she is menstruating now and feels excited and curious about the naked female body. Her longing for someone to talk to leads her to seek out Peter's company for the first time. She finds his shyness attractive, but later she cries herself to sleep over the fact that she has to beg for attention from him. That night she dreams that her grade school boyfriend Peter Schiff comes to her and declares his love. She dwells on this thought over the next few days and takes comfort in his image whenever tensions in the Annex get her down.
Anne takes an interest in dancing and makes herself a ballet costume out of one of her mother's slips. Margot and Anne become friendlier with each other. Anne feels more grown-up since she had the dream about Peter Schiff. She starts to form her own opinion of the van Daans apart from her parent's views. She decides that Mrs. Van Daan is petty and selfish, but she is at least more open to talking things over than Edith. Anne finds that Peter is willing to talk to her about sex in a mature, intelligent manner. None of the children in the Annex have ever been taught about sex by their parents and have merely pieced together information from their friends. Peter shows Anne the cat's male genitalia and explains to her how cats are neutered.
When she is not doing her academic work, Anne relieves the ever-present boredom of life in the Annex by studying the genealogies of royal families and reading movie magazines. Mr. Kleiman brings news of resistance groups and other Dutch people helping other Jews in hiding. Talk of a British invasion increases and everyone gets excited. The Annex residents debate what to do if the Germans evacuate Amsterdam.
Anne pities her mother because she knows she loves Otto deeply, but Otto does not seem to be so passionately in love with her. Anne notices excitedly that Peter looks at her a lot. The two of them talk more often than before. Anne recognizes that he is longing for affection as much as she is. She claims not to be in love with him, but she gets depressed whenever he does not pay attention to her. She watches him chop wood in the attic and notes with pleasure that he is showing off for her. She takes great pleasure in looking out the window at the sky. She decides she gets along well with Peter because neither of them have a strong mother figure. Before long, Peter van Daan and Peter Schiff combine into a single object of desire and source of inspiration for Anne.
In March, burglars break into the warehouse one night, apparently with a duplicate key, and the Annex residents fear that one of the company's employees may be behind the theft and may have found out that they are hiding there. Mrs. van Daan starts to tease Anne about going up to Peter's room so much. Anne starts feeling protective of Peter, who is still very shy and awkward. She looks back over her life and decides she has grown and changed a great deal for the better since she went into hiding and that she is no longer as superficial as she used to be. Several of their helpers fall ill again and Mr. van Hoeven, the man who has supplied them with potatoes, is arrested. Anne wonders if Peter's feelings for her are similar to those she has for him. Anne feels more grown-up and chafes when her parents treat her like a child.
Anne starts to worry that Margot may be jealous of her relationship with Peter. Margot assures her that is not the case, although she does wish she had someone to talk to as well. Anne decides she wants to be a journalist and a famous author when she grows up. She has read her stories to other people in the Annex and they have been well received. She wants to lead a more interesting life than her mother and to be remembered after her death. In late March, an exiled Dutch official announces over the radio that after the war, he will collect diaries and letters that tell about life in Holland during the German occupation. Anne decides she should publish a novel based on her diary. Anne longs for Peter to kiss her and wonders why he hesitates. Meanwhile, her mother tries to stop her from seeing so much of him.
Burglars break into the warehouse again, and Mr. van Daan goes downstairs and scares them off by yelling, "Police!" Someone shines a flashlight through the hole the burglars have made in the door, and the Annex residents fear they may have been discovered. They hide in the Annex again, but someone comes and rattles the secret entrance. Eventually they stop and leave, but the terrified Annex residents remain still. The next morning they go downstairs and phone Mr. Kleiman to send someone over to prevent the police from poking around any further if they return. Jan and Miep Gies come and tell them what happened. Apparently, a night watchman found the hole in the door and got a policeman to look over the building with him. Mr. van Hoeven had been the one with the flashlight, but he had not called the police because he suspected people were in hiding in the building and did not want to put them in danger. The incident convinces the Annex residents to take new precautions against discovery. They have a carpenter from the underground come and make a barricade out of their bedsteads and they resolve not to open the windows or to flush the toilet at night. Just days later, though, the people in the building next door notice open windows in the Annex, and Peter forgets to unbolt the front door, making it impossible for the office employees to get in until Mr. Kugler breaks in through a window. Mr. van Maaren becomes suspicious.
On April 15, a day Anne refers to as a "redletter day," Peter gives Anne her fist kiss, half on her cheek and half on her ear. She enjoys lying in his arms, but she feels bad about sneaking around and wants to tell her parents. She also soon gets tired of just cuddling and kissing without talking and wants Peter to open up to her. She starts to fear her passion for Peter when a more emotional "second Anne" takes over one night when they are together, causing her to throw her arms around him and kiss him on the mouth. It is the only time she has ever had a feeling as intense as the one she had in her dream about Peter Schiff.
Peter agrees with Anne that she should tell Otto about their relationship. Otto is concerned and tells Anne that even though Peter is a good boy, he has a weak character and she must set limits to keep him under control. He tells Anne she should not go up to Peter's room so often, but she decides to continue her visits to show Peter how much she trusts him. Otto angrily forbids her to go upstairs so much, so she writes him a letter explaining that she feels she should be allowed to make her own decisions because her time in the Annex without anyone who understands her has made her a strong, independent person. Otto tearfully tells her the letter hurt his feelings and Anne shamefully retracts what she wrote. However, she continues to see Peter.
Though Peter and Anne promise each other that they will never quarrel, Anne starts to feel disappointed in him for never truly opening up to her. Otto loses a bet with Mrs. van Daan when the Allies fail to invade Europe by May 20. Reports reach the Annex of growing anti-Semitism in Holland because of Nazi reprisals against the Christian protectors of hidden Jews. Mr. van Hoeven is arrested and it is revealed that he was hiding two Jews in his house. The Franks run short on money. Finally, on June 6, the Allies invade Normandy in France, raising everyone's hopes that the war will end before the end of the year.
Margot and Peter tell Anne that they admire the way she stands up for herself. She wonders why they do not stand up for themselves in the same way. Anne takes stock of herself and decides that her most outstanding characteristic is her self-knowledge and ability to step outside herself and judge her own actions. She thinks about how her parents have always taken good care of her, but she has ultimately had to raise herself because Otto has never been able to relate to her on a truly personal level. She decides Peter is her greatest disappointment, however, because she used physical affection to get close to him and now cannot talk to him as a friend anymore. She concludes that life in the Annex has been harder on the children than the adults because the adults were already confident in their identities. She writes that she still believes people are good at heart, and even though she sees the great danger outside she hopes everything will turn out for the best.
A failed assassination plot against Hitler in late July raises Anne's hopes that she will be able to return to school in the fall. In her last entry on August 1, she contemplates her double nature—the lighthearted, superficial Anne on the outside and the serious, sensitive Anne on the inside, yearning to break free and come out into the open.
On August 4, an SS officer and three Dutch policemen arrive to arrest the Annex residents along with Mr. Kleiman and Mr. Kugler. Someone must have betrayed them. Kleiman and Kugler are sent to a work camp. Kleiman is released because of his poor health and Kugler manages to escape. The Annex residents are split up and sent to various concentration camps. Only Otto survives the war.
Oppression and Genocide
Anne strongly identifies with other Jews when it comes to their oppression. Her father was never religious before the war and he only discovers Anne's growing religious sensibility when he reads her diary after her death. Anne's religious feelings seem almost entirely tied to her realization that throughout history, Jews have been made to feel separate from any particular nationality by people who hated them. She loves the Netherlands and hopes that her adopted country will overcome any anti-Semitic tendencies that have emerged during the war to allow her full citizenship and respect after the war. She looks back on her early life in Frankfurt without regret at having to leave Germany and writes, "Hitler took away our nationality years ago…. There are no greater enemies on earth than the Germans and the Jews."
Anne chronicles many of the Nazi's oppressive policies towards Jews in the Netherlands even before her family goes into hiding. Jews were required to wear a yellow star at all times, and they were not allowed to own bicycles or to use any form of transportation besides walking. They were forbidden to engage in any athletic activities outside their homes or to go to theaters or other entertainment venues. They were restricted to Jewish schools, were not allowed to visit Christian homes, and were only allowed to shop and to be out on the streets during certain hours of the day. Anne glosses over the restrictions placed on Jews in business by saying her father spent a lot of time at home because there was very little for him to do at the office. This may have been Anne's attempt to focus on the positive. Otto was not allowed to own his own business because he was Jewish, so he had to find Christian Aryans whom he trusted to register as the legal owners and do much of the work. However, the Germans did not restrict their oppressive decrees to the Jews. They also periodically required able-bodied Dutch Christian men to report to work camps, especially when Allied advances made the occupying German forces fear the strength of the Dutch resistance groups.
All of this pales in comparison to the policy of deportation and extermination that the Germans adopted toward the Jews in Germany and its occupied territories. Anne writes in October 1942 that the Annex residents assume most of the deported Jews are being murdered because English radio broadcasts say they are being gassed. Anne often dreams of her friend Hanneli who was deported. In Anne's mind, Haneli comes to stand for all the Jews in the concentration camps. Anne feels guilty that she is safe and relatively comfortable while Hanneli might be dead. Ironically, Hanneli survived the war, while Anne and Margot died of typhus just a few weeks before Bergen-Belsen was liberated. Hanneli was at the same camp with Anne and Margot, and she saw Anne several times before she died.
A number of factors contributed to the Annex tenant's ability to survive in hiding for as long as they did. The most obvious of these was the strong support they received from their helpers, for which Anne repeatedly expresses gratitude in her diary. The helpers kept the hiding place secret, but they also provided a vital link to the outside world. This link enabled the Annex tenants to obtain food and other supplies and, almost as importantly, entertainment such as books, magazines, games, and cheerful conversation to pass the long hours they spent locked inside.
Anne also credits her father with making her time in the Annex bearable. Early on, he is her only source of affection and the only person she feels she can talk to without being criticized. Her dream of Peter Schiff makes her realize that she craves affection from a boy her own age. This makes her less satisfied with her father's company, but also leads her to find solace with Peter van Daan. Peter then becomes one of her major interests and the single most important factor in determining her day-to-day moods, a significant consideration in the cramped confines of the Annex, where one person's mood quickly affects the others.
Hope plays a major role in the morale of the Annex. All the residents listen attentively to war news on the radio whenever possible and Allied successes never fail to raise their spirits, at least temporarily. When the Allies do poorly, however, the adults begin to argue over whether they will ever be liberated from the Germans. Anne chronicles each person's individual hopes for after the war. Most of these deal with good food and small comforts like being able to take a long, hot bath. Margot takes solace in her long-term goal of becoming a mother in the Jewish homeland of Palestine, but Anne hopes for a sophisticated life as a writer in a big European city.
Anne finds an increasing degree of comfort in nature, especially the sky, which becomes her metaphor for the situation in the Annex: she thinks of it more than once as a small patch of blue surrounded by thunderclouds. She also enjoys looking at a chestnut tree in the courtyard as it changes from season to season. Her faith in God is closely related to this newfound love of nature. Margot is more openly devout and Anne expresses annoyance at Dussel's long prayers in their room, but Anne nonetheless looks to God for comfort at several points, either for herself or for others. At one point, she is disgusted by Mrs. van Daan's idea of converting to Christianity after the war and she is likewise disappointed by Peter's plan to hide his Jewish heritage after he comes out of hiding. Apparently, after Anne was sent to the transitional camp in Westerbork prior to being sent to Auschwitz, she became friends with an Orthodox boy and talked with him at length about religious matters.
Anne is often remembered for her idealism in the face of a horrific reality. However, Anne never lost sight of that reality. She suggests that her faith in people's basic goodness is in its own way a necessity of survival. The broader context of many of the often-quoted hopeful passages from her diary shows that she can see the danger of her situation and the likelihood that things will only get worse. She rejects her mother's suggestion that she try to find comfort in the fact that many people face greater suffering because she recognizes the real danger that she will end up in those same terrible conditions. Anne's only defense against becoming depressed by the suffering she faces, then, is to think of something positive, whether it is nature, God, or the ultimate goodness of the people around her.
The anti-Jewish sentiments during World War II were nothing new in Europe. Beginning in the second century b.c. when the Romans exiled the Hebrews from their homeland in Palestine, the Jewish people faced suspicion and prejudice from local people in the various countries where they tried to settle. Many Christian countries in Europe restricted the places that Jews could live and the professions they could practice. Barred from other ways of earning a living, many Jews became merchants and moneylenders. Their prosperity in these pursuits often led to greater hostility, because they were seen as competing with non-Jews for wealth. Adolf Hitler and the Nazis exploited this stereotype of Jews as controllers of economic, political, and intellectual resources in the aftermath of Germany's defeat in World War I, using these ideas to suggest that Jews were responsible for the depressed economy and Germany's loss of the war. Many Germans—especially those suffering from economic hardships and eager for a scapegoat to blame for their country's problems—joined Hitler's National Socialist (or Nazi) party.
Holland During the Holocaust
After Hitler's rise to power in Germany in 1933, thousands of German Jews left the country. Fifty-one thousand emigrated in 1933 alone, four thousand of them (including the Franks) to neighboring Holland. By 1939, twenty-six thousand more had come to Holland. Faced with a sudden spike in immigration that threatened the labor market, the Dutch government set about trying to find ways to discourage Jews from settling there permanently. Beginning in 1934, the Dutch government strictly limited the length of time German immigrants were allowed to stay in the country and restricted foreigners from working in Holland without special permits that were difficult to obtain. Foreigners were allowed to become permanent residents if they could prove their lives were threatened in their home country, but the German government officially denied threatening anyone's life. The van Pels family (a.k.a. the van Daans) was only able to immigrate to Amsterdam in 1937 because Hermann's father was Dutch. The Netherlands also respected the Nuremberg Laws passed in Germany in 1935, which forbid marriage between Aryans and Jews. This is why Fritz Pfeffer (a.k.a. Albert Dussel) was not able to marry his Christian girlfriend Charlotte Kaletta.
Many Jews tried to flee the Netherlands after the Germans invaded, but most were unsuccessful. Many other countries would not accept Jewish refugees except under special circumstances. The United States, for instance, accepted Jewish immigrants only if a family member who already lived in the United States sponsored them. The United Kingdom accepted almost no one except a limited number of children. Fritz Pfeffer saved his son Werner by sending him to Britain as an underage asylum-seeker before he emigrated to the Netherlands himself.
When the Germans occupied Belgium and France, they set up military administrations over the existing local governments. In the Netherlands, however, the Germans set up an entire civilian administration governed by German officials and local collaborators, which gave the SS greater authority than it had in other occupied countries. Partly because of this, the survival rate for Jews in Holland was only 25 percent, as opposed to 60 percent in Belgium, 75 percent in France, and 85 percent in Italy.
Twenty-five thousand Jews went into hiding in Holland, more than anywhere else in Western Europe. This option was typically only available to the wealthy, because these Jews generally had to find places in the homes of Christians who often charged high rents and hush money. The Franks were extremely lucky to have a building of their own in which they could hide. Food was expensive as well, more so than usual because it often had to be bought on the black market. The Christians who concealed Jews were subject to severe punishment if their deceit was discovered. Eight thousand of the Jews hiding in Holland were detected or betrayed like the Franks before the end of the war.
Amsterdam was liberated from German occupation by the Canadians on May 8, 1945.
The majority of the critical literature on Anne Frank's diary focuses on the role it (and its various adaptations) plays in memorializing and teaching about the Holocaust. Critics debate the way Anne has been used as a representation of all Jews, all Holocaust victims, and all sufferers in general. Her compelling story has inspired people all over the world in a variety of situations. For example, in Nelson Mandela's 1994 speech to open the Anne Frank Exhibition at the Museum Africa in Johannesburg, he said "some of us read Anne Frank's Diary on Robben Island and derived much encouragement fromit." Still, many people resist the tendency to think of Anne as a martyr, an icon, or anything besides a unique individual who was part of a much larger historical moment. Arguments are often put forward against attempts to make Anne seem more universal by eliminating such individual characteristics as her religious and ethnic identity or inappropriate uses of her diary that neglect the larger realities of the Holocaust. Miep Gies positions the diary in a broader view of world events in a note at the end of Melissa Müller's biography of Anne, Anne Frank: The Biography, writing,
Anne's life and death were her own individual fate, an individual fate that happened six million times over. Anne cannot, and should not, stand for the many individuals whom the Nazis robbed of their lives…. But her fate helps us grasp the immense loss the world suffered because of the Holocaust.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (1995) was released in an abridged version on audiocassette by Random House. It is narrated by actress Winona Ryder.
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl was adapted as a play titled The Diary of Anne Frank by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett in 1955.
The play The Diary of Anne Frank was adapted as a film in 1959 by George Stevens, starring Millie Perkins as Anne. It is available on DVD from Fox Home Entertainment.
Anne Frank: The Whole Story (2001) is a mini-series that depicts Anne's years in the Annex as well as her time in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. The series stars Ben Kingsley as Otto and Hannah Taylor Gordon as Anne. It is available on VHS from Disney Studios.
The Anne Frank House maintains a multilingual website at http://www.annefrank.org/dedicated to Anne Frank and the other residents of the Secret Annex with an extensive collection of photos and historical information.
The Annex in which Anne, her family, the van Pels, and Fritz Pfeffer hid is now a museum in Amsterdam. The museum, at 263 Prinsengracht Street, is open every day except Yom Kippur, a Jewish high holiday. Tours cost 7.50 Euros ($9) for adults and 3.40 Euros ($4) for children.
An early battle over interpretations of the diary developed between Otto Frank and the Jewish author Meyer Levin. Their relationship began amiably enough when Levin wrote a play based on the diary, but Otto eventually gave Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett the legal rights to the stage adaptation of the diary because of their greater experience in the theater. These two wrote a play called "The Diary of Anne Frank" that is still performed today. Levin (and an increasing number of others over the years) denounced the play as a betrayal of Anne's memory, that excluded, in the words of Molly Magid Hoagland in "Anne Frank, On and Off Broadway," "her sense of irony, her dark foreboding, her sensuality, and most of all her Jewish consciousness" in favor of a more universal story. According to Levin and their other detractors, Goodrich and Hackett won their Broadway box-office success with a cheap sentimentality that allowed audiences to leave feeling uplifted and hopeful about the Holocaust.
In a similar vein, other critics have argued that the diary itself can be misused to create falsely positive impressions of what went on in Holland and elsewhere during the Holocaust by focusing on the heroism of the Frank's Christian helpers or by taking positive passages of the diary out of their broader context. G. Jan Colijn, for instance, claims in "Toward a Proper Legacy," that the Dutch drastically improved their postwar image by using the diary to create the false impression that all non-Jewish Dutch citizens resisted the Nazis as heroically as did the people who helped those in the Secret Annex. Similarly, Sidney Bolkosky in "Voices of Anne Frank" urges educators to include testimonies of concentration camp survivors such as Elie Wiesel's Night along with Anne Frank's diary to combat the understandable but ultimately dangerous tendency of looking for a positive, redemptive lesson in the Holocaust.
Karein K. Goertz
In the following excerpt, Goertz explores how the various versions of The Diary of Anne Frank have revealed a war-time portrait and how various historical figures have identified and drawn inspiration from Frank.
The diary has appeared in several edited and unedited editions since it was first recovered from the floor of the evacuated Annex. A comparison of these versions reveals how Anne's voice has been shaped, some even say censored, by different editorial hands. This fact was again brought to the fore with the recent discovery of five previously unpublished pages which Anne's father had withdrawn from the manuscript before his death in 1980. By request of the extended Frank family, these were again excluded from the otherwise unedited, critical edition published in 1986. The missing pages have sparked discussion about authorial intention, posthumous control, familial privacy and discretion in the public domain. When the Austrian journalist Melissa Müller published her biography of Anne Frank in 1998, she was allowed to use only paraphrases of these deleted passages while issues of copyright were being fought out in the Swiss courts. A Dutch newspaper, however, did get away with posting them on the Internet and future editions of the diary will include the entries that have caused so much controversy. The question remains whether we should be allowed to read material that was either deliberately excluded by the author herself or that compromises the family involved. Are private hiding places meant to be fully uncovered for the public eye?
It seems ironic that once carefully guarded places of refuge and hiding—the Annex and the diary—have now been exposed to the world many times over. One cannot help but feel like a voyeur, privy to the thoughts of a thirteen-year-old girl who never wanted all of her schoolgirl "musings" to be revealed beyond the version she explicitly edited for posterity. For decades, Anne's diary stood in and spoke for, but perhaps also eclipsed the individual stories of thousands of other Jewish children who were forced into hiding places during the Second World War. Amidst public rhetoric of the postwar years that relegated children to silence by casting them in a paradoxical, no-win situation as either "too young to remember" or "old enough to forget," the success of the diary was a remarkable exception. In fact, for many readers today, it remains the first, sometimes the only, introduction to the Holocaust.
Revisions and Omissions
Upon hearing a radio broadcast in the Spring of 1944, in which the exiled Cabinet Minister of Education and Culture announced that the Dutch government would be collecting wartime diaries and letters as testimony of "Holland's struggle for freedom," Anne began revising and writing her diary for future publication. How did this internal assessment of "good" and "bad" selves affect the revision process as Anne was consciously constructing an image of herself and life in the Annex for the outside world and posterity? Were there parts of herself she wanted to keep hidden because she considered them too personal, immature, or shameful? Her decision to cut out a passage (one of the missing pages) that relays her physical attraction to a childhood girlfriend and her "ecstasy" at seeing female nudes in art history books suggests that she considered this revelation inappropriate within this new, public forum. Even before hearing the radio announcement, Anne would read through earlier entries, criticizing her former "childish innocence," her "sentimental" or "embarrassingly indelicate" descriptions. Often she found herself face to face with a stranger whom she barely recognized. These self-evaluations reveal how she used the diary to trace and measure her own maturation process. In preparing her "memory book" for publication, however, she begins to consider what would be most interesting or relevant for the future reader. A few sentences after describing the impact of the radio broadcast, for example, she writes: "Although I tell you a great deal about our lives, you still know very little about us." Here, the direct address to her imaginary friend, Kitty, seems to have shifted to us, her new audience. Anne also suggests that, up to this point in the diary, she may not have been conveying the kind of details about hiding to which historical testimonies should aspire. With its new status as historical and public document comes a prioritization of information that involves editing out certain passages and adding new ones written from memory.
This careful screening of information deemed public and private, relevant and irrelevant, was most pronounced after Anne's death. After returning to Amsterdam from Auschwitz, Otto Frank, Anne's father and the sole survivor of the Annex, began assembling the diary entries into a manuscript to share with family and friends. Upon suggestion that he publish the manuscript, he chose material from Anne's original, unedited diary and her revised version, cutting out sections to meet the page number requirements of the Dutch publisher. These posthumous modifications to Anne's diary were not merely guided by practical considerations. More significantly, they reflect the father's desire for privacy and discretion, as well as the social ethos of the time. Passages that were unflattering toward his wife, that dealt too frankly with Anne's sexuality, or were otherwise considered unimportant were omitted. In this first, highly acclaimed edition, Anne comes across as far more even-tempered and gentle than in the most recent unedited version (1991). With the inclusion of formerly deleted passages, Anne is more complex, lively, self-reproaching, and biting. Comparing these versions, one can see how Otto Frank molded Anne's voice to fit into his idealized, paternal image of her. While his revisions may have been well-intentioned, they ultimately kept part of Anne hidden.
Inevitably, people and events described in a diary are introduced to us through the biased perspective of the writer. From reported speech and described actions, we may be able to glean the personalities and motivations of secondary characters, but our understanding of them within the context of the diary is always limited and shaped by the narrator. In her diary, Anne describes the most intimate details of the other seven members of the Annex, yet we never come to know them as complex individuals. At times, they seem to be mere caricatures of qualities Anne either emulates or despises: Margot, ever patient and selfless; Otto, compassionate and understanding; Mrs. van Daan, nosy and bossy. Recent biographies and documentaries have sought to give a voice to—and bring out of hiding—those Annex members who suffered the "fury of her pen." Edith Frank, whom Anne at one point angrily disavows as her mother, and the middle-aged dentist Fritz Pfeffer, whom Anne nicknamed Dussel (dope), bear the brunt of her criticism. Of the latter, we only see the "old-fashioned disciplinarian and preacher of unbearably long sermons on manners." We never get to know the man who sent clandestine love letters to a woman he was forced to leave because racial laws made it illegal for them to marry. Nor do we learn that he had a son, approximately Anne's age, whom he had put on a children's transport train to London in 1938 so that he would survive the war in safety with an uncle. In Jon Blair's documentary film Anne Frank Remembered (1995), Pfeffer's son conveys the bitter imprint Anne's diary has left on his life. Whereas Otto Frank became an icon of the perfect, caring father for generations of young girls, his father, with whom he had lost contact after the outbreak of the war, was harshly and unfairly portrayed. As Melissa Müller reveals in Anne Frank: The Biography, the recently recovered pages present a fuller picture of Anne's relationship toward her mother. In the pages Otto Frank removed because he felt the public did not need to know about his marriage, Anne expresses sympathy and understanding for her mother whose passion for her husband was not reciprocated. Without this piece of information that explains why Edith Frank may have become "somewhat defensive and unapproachable," we see her only as a source of deep disappointment and frustration for her daughter.
As Laurel Holliday argues in her introduction to an anthology of other children's secret wartime diaries: "Maybe it was as much as we could bear to designate Anne Frank as the representative child and to think, then, only of her when we thought about children in World War Two." Hers became the story of a Jewish childhood during the Second World War. Anne's life, not her death, became the "human face" of the Holocaust. Her diary functioned as a bearable, collective screen memory that hid the more widespread experiences of children in ghettos and concentration camps, who went hungry in the streets, witnessed their family members die, suffered disease, physical abuse, abandonment and horrendous deaths. Most readers remained unaware of the particular circumstances of Anne's own death. Willy Lindwer's television documentary The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank (1988), along with Jon Blair's aforementioned film and Melissa Müller's biography, have since extended the story to describe how Anne was first deported to the Westerbork detention camp, then to Auschwitz-Birkenau and finally to Bergen-Belsen, where she contracted typhus and died within a few weeks of liberation. Her body was thrown onto a mass grave.
Identifications and Appropriations
Identification with Anne's story has been particularly strong among adolescent girls who feel alienated from their parents while observing their own rapid internal changes with bewilderment and fascination. The diary mirrors their struggle for independence and search for a genuine voice. For adults, Anne is frequently seen as a universalized victim and "symbol of the oppressed." Her diary stands in defiance of injustice and serves as a "testament to courage, hope, and the faith in human goodness." In some political situations, Anne has functioned as a role model. Nelson Mandela describes how the diary was smuggled into South African prisons during the years of apartheid, giving inmates the will to endure their suffering. Anne has also been an inspiration for writers who recognize and admire in her their own nascent desire to write. These multiple points of identification explain the ongoing, deep impact of the diary, but can also be problematic. Reading the diary as a classic portrait of adolescence, for example, glosses over the anxieties and all-too-real dangers associated with the particular historical context of the Holocaust. Early Broadway and Hollywood adaptations of the diary demonstrate how Anne's story was transformed into an "infantilized, Americanized, homogenized and sentimentalized" story of general human interest that had little, if anything, to do with Jewish suffering. Alvin Rosenfeld is troubled by the cultural trend to apply the term "Holocaust" to a wide range of contexts (from the AIDS epidemic to the war in Bosnia) and is skeptical of those who suggest an affinity with Anne when they speak of her as a "sister" or a "double." Such appeals to a common suffering, he argues, "flatten history into the shapes we wish it to have." The Holocaust is then transformed into a trope that expresses a "personal and collective sense of 'oppression' and 'victimization,'" thereby losing its historical specificity and meaning. How are we still appropriating and molding Anne Frank's voice for our own personal or political ends? Does the Chilean poet Marjorie Agosin fall into this identification trap when—as a Jew, a woman, a writer, and an exile—she recognizes in Anne something of herself? In Dear Anne Frank: Poems (1994), she sees themselves connected through the reciprocal acts of reading and writing: "I name you and you are alive, Anne, although I died while reading you." They also share a history of persecution and of being Jews in predominantly Christian environments. Agosin's family escaped the Holocaust by settling in Chile before she was born and, in her own life, she left Chile to flee the violence of Pinochet's military regime. For her, Anne's abrupt end recalls the fate of thousands of victims in Latin America who were abducted and murdered during the 1970s. "When Chile's military junta smashed down the doors of our neighborhood to arrest women—yanking them off by their hair, which would later be shaved off—when they 'disappeared' them on dense, foggy nights, I thought of Anne Frank." Like Anne, these desaparecidos are people without graves. Their deaths filter into Agosin's poems in the form of decapitations, mutilations, and rapes that Anne herself did not suffer, but which evoke the horror of Anne's death. When Agosin writes "the gentlemen of the Gestapo listened to Mozart" and then "descended to ephemeral prison cells to bite into your ears, cut off your delicate breasts, your hands of a little princess, to strip you of your thirteen lived years," she is no longer recalling Anne's story alone, but rather, torture in its essence—be it in the Nazi concentration camps or in Argentinian and Chilean prisons. The radical disjunction between Anne's image and her end is reflected in this juxtaposition between high culture and barbarism, delicacy and brutality.
In her poetry Agosin initiates an imaginary dialogue with Anne through direct address and questions. She challenges Anne's optimism (Did you really believe that all men were good?), draws attention to things left unsaid (How did you sleep during those nights riddled by airplanes delivering dread?) and inquires about what happened after the diary's end (Was there light behind that barbed fence?). The questions suggest that, if Anne could speak again, she would be unlike the one so many young girls "carry in their hearts, tucked under their arms, in their illusory gazes." Her answers would reflect a voice hardened by the cruelty that followed. Agosin describes how Anne appears to her "emaciated, transformed, like a demon … You and I watching each other, without recognizing each other, with history's equivocal gaze, and you tinge with blood the room and windows." This passage briefly suggests Agosin's awareness of the pitfalls and illusion inherent in her identification with Anne Frank. In defense of her proclaimed kinship, however, she observes that victims' families try to preserve the humanness of the deceased "by means of remembrance that speak the soul's language, that see from within, that question and exclaim." Her poems seek to perform this kind of personal, familial commemoration.
The present collection of writings has been exploring the real and imagined "secret spaces" children create for themselves in different contexts and for a variety of reasons—from play to outright survival.
Source: Karein K. Goertz, "Writing from the Secret Annex: The Case of Anne Frank," in Michigan Quarterly Review, Vol. 39, No. 3, Summer 2001, p. 647.
Anne Frank Museum Amsterdam: The Official Anne Frank House website, www.annefrank.org (August 25, 2005).
Bolkosky, Sidney, "Voices of Anne Frank," in Anne Frank in the World: Essays and Reflections, edited by Carol Rittner and M. E. Sharpe, 1998, pp. 87-94.
Colijn, G. Jan, "Toward a Proper Legacy," in Anne Frank in the World: Essays and Reflections, edited by Carol Rittner and M. E. Sharpe, 1998, pp. 95-104.
Frank, Anne, The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition, translated by Susan Massotty, Bantam Books, 1995.
Hoagland, Molly Magid, "Anne Frank, On and Off Broadway," in Commentary, Vol. 105, Issue 3, March 1, 1998, pp. 58-63.
Mandela, Nelson, Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Johannesburg Opening of the Anne Frank Exhibition at the Museum Africa, The African National Congress, www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/mandela/1994/sp940815.html (August 15, 1994).
Müller, Melissa, Anne Frank: The Biography, translated by Rita and Robert Kimber, Henry Holt, 1998.