Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young GirlINTRODUCTION
(Full name Annelies Marie Frank) German diarist, memoirist, short story writer, essayist, and author of fables.
The following entry presents commentary on Frank's memoir Het Achterhuis (1947; Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl) through 2004.
Known to the world through her poignant and powerful diarisitic memoir, Frank composed Het Achterhuis (Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl) during her years in hiding with her family in a small attic through the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam in the Second World War. Although Frank's diary is often regarded as a valuable document of personal growth and discovery of a young girl and developing writer, it has had its greatest impact as a narrative that details the travails of Jewish citizens at the hands of the Nazi Party during the worst years of the war. Her candid portrayal of life in hiding, set against the backdrop of the war and the era of strong anti-Semitic sentiments in Europe, offers an unblinking view into one of the most tragic eras in world history.
Frank was born Annelies Marie Frank, in Frankfurt, Germany, on June 12, 1929. Her father, Otto Frank, was a successful Jewish businessman in Frankfurt, where Anne and her older sister Margot, had a comfortable and happy childhood. Having witnessed an increasing amount of anti-Semitic sentiment in Germany following the end of the First World War, Otto moved his family to Amsterdam in 1934, following a Nazi decree that made it illegal for Jewish and non-Jewish children to attend the same schools. For Anne and her sister, life continued normally in Amsterdam, even following the German invasion of Holland in 1940. But the growing restrictions on Jews, including the round-ups of many of Amsterdam's Jews into concentration camps beginning in 1941, led Otto
Frank and his business associates to prepare a set of secret rooms in the back of one of their office buildings. In 1942, shortly after Anne turned thirteen, her sister Margot was notified of her assignation to the Westerbok concentration camp; the family immediately fled into hiding in the secret set of rooms Otto Frank had prepared months earlier. They were soon joined by another family, the Van Pelz's, and their fifteen-year-old son, Peter. Later on, Albert Dussel, a dentist, was added to the group. All eight people remained in hiding in their "secret annex" for over two years. Anne, who had turned thirteen just prior to the family's self-imposed imprisonment, had received a red and gray checkered, clothbound diary from her parents as one of her birthday gifts—during her years in the secret annex, this book became the diary in which she recorded, among other things, her life in hiding. Through the help of many friends, chief among them Otto's assistant Miep Gies and her husband, the Franks and their friends survived in their cramped hiding space amidst difficult circumstances. The eight people lived in constant fear of being discovered. Their concerns were heightened by seeing and hearing about other Jews who were rounded up in Amsterdam and by burglars at the warehouse who threatened to find them by accident. These fears, in addition to the stress of close confinement, resulted in great tension and quarrels throughout the group. As recounted in her diary, Anne could be headstrong, opinionated, and critical—especially of her mother. Generally cheerful and optimistic, she adored her father and attempted to get along with the others, but she was sensitive to criticism, explaining in her diary that no one criticized her more than she herself. The diary thus traces her development from an outgoing, popular child to an introspective, idealistic young woman.
On March 29, 1944, Anne heard a radio broadcast by Gerrit Bolkstein, the exiled Dutch Minister for Education, Art and Science. Bolkstein expressed his desire to build a collection of diaries and letters which recounted the lives of individuals who had suffered during the war. This announcement thrilled Anne—who had wished to become a published author—and she soon began revising her diary entries to make them more suitable for publication. However, in August of 1944, the inhabitants of the annex were betrayed, their hiding place discovered, and the Frank family was shipped off to concentration camps. It is now known that the Franks were among the last few prisoners taken to Auschwitz, one of the most notorious Nazi concentration camps. At some point, Anne, her sister, and her mother were transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. All three died in Bergen-Belsen of typhoid fever and malnutrition, two months before the German surrender and final Allied victory in the war. Otto Frank was the only person from the secret annex to survive the concentration camps and returned to Holland from Auschwitz where he discovered the fate of his family. Gies had managed to rescue some of the family's papers, including Anne's diary, from the annex shortly after their capture. She returned the diary to Mr. Frank who, after reading it, circulated the diary among his friends. Het Achterhuis was published two years later in 1947 with the English translation, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, following in 1952. The work instantly became an international best-seller and is considered one of the most emotionally engaging accounts of the horrors of World War II. Translated into numerous languages, The Diary of a Young Girl has become a staple in elementary and high school curricula and has also inspired notable film and stage adaptations. Due to revisions by her father—and Anne's own revisions after the March 1944 radio announcement by Bolkstein—several different versions of Anne's diary have been published, some with pages omitted from the original edition. These works include De Dagboeken van Anne Frank (1986; The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition) and The Diary of Anne Frank: The Definitive Edition (1995).
Although stylistic considerations are of minor importance when compared to the documentary value of The Diary of a Young Girl, some academics have described Frank as a "born writer" or as someone who easily could have become a professional author. Initially, Anne had considered her diary a private work that she might someday show to a "real friend." Motivated by her need for a confidant and by a strong desire to write, she disclosed her deepest thoughts and feelings to her diary, though she sometimes doubted that anyone would be interested "in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl." Conceiving of her diary as a friend, Anne named the book "Kitty" and wrote her entries in the form of letters to Kitty. Throughout, the diary reveals Anne's sense of an unseen audience as well as her ambivalence toward the importance of her own experience. She also sensed the need for variety in her writing, which she was able to achieve despite the repetitiveness of routine and paucity of stimulation in her life. Her vivid, poignant entries range in tone from humorous to serious, casual to intense, and reveal Anne's ability to write narrative and descriptive accounts of both concrete and abstract concepts. As a historical document, The Diary of a Young Girl is an indictment against the Nazi Party's cruel destruction of human life and culture during World War II. Although it has been suggested that Anne's writing is an escape into the ideal, this may be a quality which partially accounts for the near-universal acceptance of the diary as one of the most significant works of twentieth-century writing.
Because The Diary of a Young Girl was not written as creative literature, and because of the extraordinary circumstances of the author's life, critics have most commonly discussed the human and historical importance of the work rather than its aesthetic or structural elements. However, despite its continuing popularity with readers of each new generation, The Diary of a Young Girl has generated its own share of critical controversy. Most of the commentary has centered around sections of the original diary that may have been modified by either Otto Frank or others in preparing the manuscript for publication. Though some have disagreed regarding Otto Frank's intentions for altering his daughter's original text—for such varying reasons as making Anne's mother seem more sympathetic to removing mentions of Anne's developing sexuality—most scholars have concurred that, because the diary format is a continuing work-in-progress, there is no way to establish a final "definitive" version of Anne's memoirs. A few radical figures have questioned the authenticity of the diary, suggesting that it was written as a tool to generate sympathy for the Jewish survivors of World War II. This theory has been widely debunked and discredited—the Dutch government went as far as to hire handwriting experts to positively confirm that the text was actually written by Anne. As a work of literature, The Diary of a Young Girl has been characterized as either a Holocaust memoir or as a bildungsroman following the blossoming of a teenage girl during a tragic era in history. Hedda Rosner Kopf has noted the importance of Anne's diary in studying the lasting impact of the Holocaust, commenting that, "[s]ince it is impossible to comprehend the loss of 6 million voices, it is in contemplating the loss of Anne Frank's voice, only one voice, that we can begin to confront the endless abyss of that event."
Het Achterhuis [Anne Frank: The Diary of a YoungGirl] (diary and memoirs) 1947
The Works of Anne Frank (essays, fables, and short stories) 1959
Verhalen rondom het achterhuis [Tales from theHouse Behind] (fables, memoirs, and short stories) 1962
Verhaaltjes en gebeurtenissen uit het Achterhuis [Tales from the Secret Annex] (fables, essays, and short stories) 1983
De Dagboeken van Anne Frank [The Diary of AnneFrank: The Critical Edition; edited by David Branouw and Gerrold van der Stroom] (diary, essays, and memoirs) 1986
The Diary of Anne Frank: The Definitive Edition [edited by Otto Frank and Mirjam Pressler] (diary, essays, and memoirs) 1995
Ernest Schnabel (essay date 1958)
SOURCE: Schnabel, Ernest. "'The Focus and the Paths' and 'The Beginning of the Trail and the Shadow.'" In Anne Frank: A Portrait in Courage, translated by Richard and Clara Winston, pp. 15-34. New York, N.Y.: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1958.
[In the following essays, Schnabel discusses the family history of the Franks and comments on Frank's autobiographical remembrances in The Diary of a Young Girl, while providing additional testiony from various individuals who knew Anne personally.]
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Henry F. Pommer (essay date winter 1960)
SOURCE: Pommer, Henry F. "The Legend and Art of Anne Frank." Judaism 9, no. 1 (winter 1960): 37-46.
[In the following excerpt, Pommer provides an overview of the critical response to The Diary of a Young Girl, stating that, in addition to being a document of great moral significance, The Diary also allows readers a glimpse into the life of a talented young author.]
The quality of both her death and her life have given Anne Frank an extraordinary status in our culture. Antigone represents a willingness to die for principles; Juliet's is the tragedy of ironic confusion; Marguerite was the victim of her own and Faust's sensuality; St. Joan was martyred by jealous institutions. Anne was destroyed by a pattern of evil perhaps not unique to our century, but at least unique within Western culture of the past two thousand years.
But her fame rests on knowledge of her life as much as of her death. She is not a fictional character like Juliet or Tolstoy's Natasha, nor a girl with widespread and immediate effects like St. Joan or the young Cleopatra. Yet she shares with Cleopatra and St. Joan the fact of being historical; and her life is already, like theirs, the source of a legend. As an historical figure relatively unimportant to her immediate contemporaries but affecting a larger and larger circle after her death, she is most like St. Thérèse of Lisieux. But over all these girls from Antigone to St. Thérèse, Anne has the great advantage that she left a diary [Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl ]. Therefore, we need not know her through the documents of her contemporaries or the professional imagination of middle-aged authors. Her legend lacks the support of patriotic and ecclesiastical power, but it has the strength of her authentic, self-drawn portrait. (p. 37)
Some writers have considered the diary as primarily "one of the most moving stories that anyone, anywhere, has managed to tell about World War II." At Oradour-sur-Glane, where Nazis wantonly destroyed the entire population, is printed "Remember," and in the ruins of bomb-destroyed Coventry has been carved "Father Forgive." Anne's diary helps us remember what there is to forgive. (p. 38)
[The] truths of Anne's history, the bitter as well as the sweet, are not about Germans alone or Dutchmen or Jews, but humanity. And these truths must be recalled whenever we try to measure human nature, to estimate its heights and depths, its capacities for good and evil. The extremes of cruelty temper all our hopes. On the other hand, a young person is supposed to have once asked Justice Felix Frankfurter "And how do you know that the human race is worth saving?" The Justice replied, "I have read Anne Frank's diary."
A second group of critics has praised the diary as primarily an intimate account of adolescence. For these it is of only secondary importance that Anne hid with her family in an attic of old Amsterdam; of primary importance is her frankness in telling what it is like to grow up. (p. 40)
Often she was difficult to live with. Tensions were almost inevitable for eight people living with so many restrictions in such cramped quarters, but Anne seems to have done more than her share to stir up ill will. She had a temper, and was not always either anxious or able to control it. At times she must have been obnoxiously precocious in telling the other hiders what they were like; she may have appeared very patronizing at times, particularly in dealing with Margot about Peter. She was very critical of her mother, very fond of her father, and from time to time hurt both of them deeply. Her sense of justice, her loathing of whatever was pompous or artificial, and her desire to be treated as an adult led to frequent quarrels with Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan, and with Mr. Dussel.
Bit by bit, however, these evidences of immaturity and of being difficult decrease. Mixed with them, yet gradually replacing them, came the actions and reactions of a more mature young woman. (pp. 40-1)
Any diary of a young girl who hid in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation, who described her first protracted love affair, and who was a person of breeding, humor, religious sensitivity, and courage might well interest us. But Anne had one further trait of the utmost importance for her own maturity and for what she wrote: an unusual ability for self-analysis. She knew she had moods, and she could write eloquently about them—about loneliness, for example. But she could also step outside her moods in order to evaluate them and herself in them. (p. 43)
One of the clearest evidences of objectivity was her ability to see a moral ambiguity in her enjoying relative security while other Jews suffered worse fates:
I saw two Jews through the curtain yesterday. I could hardly believe my eyes; it was a horrible feeling, just as if I'd betrayed them and was now watching them in their misery.
This is the honesty concerning oneself out of which are born humor, maturity, and one kind of ability to write well.
Anne could write well. Her self-consciousness and skill as an author receive only implicit acknowledgement if we regard her diary as no more than an educative historical document or an intimate disclosure of adolescence. W. A. Darlington is probably correct in predicting that
in time to come, when the horrors of Nazi occupation in Europe are no longer quite so fresh in quite so many minds and The Diary of Anne Frank comes to be judged purely on its merits as a play, the piece will . . . lose its place on the stage.
But Anne's diary may have a longer life. It is, to be sure, a mixture of good and bad writing—but so, too, are the diaries of Pepys, Samuel Sewall, and William Byrd.
Some people have combed the external record of Anne's life for evidence of her ability as a writer. (pp. 43-4)
It was to be expected that little external evidence of Anne's talent would be found. When she went into hiding, she was not a diarist worthy of much attention. During the twenty-five months in the Secret Annexe, the world of her thought was a secret within a secret—a secret so well kept that even her father confessed, when the diary was first published, "I never realized my little Anna was so deep." After she had left the Annexe, the brutality of guards, shortages of food, epidemics of disease, separation from loved ones, and the prospect of gas chambers must have left Anne little time to think about writing, and certainly gave her companions little interest in what her literary talents might be. Ever so much more important was whether she could beg a piece of zwieback.
When we turn to the diary itself, we find that if her affair with Peter is the most striking measure of her change towards maturity, the second most striking is the clarification of her desire to be a writer. The third entry begins the development.
I haven't written for a few days, because I wanted first of all to think about my diary. It's an odd idea for someone like me to keep a diary; not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I—nor for that matter anyone else—will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. Still, what does that matter? I want to write, but more than that, I want to bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart. . . .
There is no doubt that paper is patient and as I don't intend to show this . . . "diary," to anyone, unless I find a real friend, boy or girl, probably nobody cares. And now I come to the root of the matter, the reason for my starting a diary: it is that I have no such real friend. . . .
It's the same with all my friends, just fun and joking, nothing more. I can never bring myself to talk of anything outside the common round. . . .
Hence, this diary. In order to enhance in my mind's eye the picture of the friend for whom I have waited so long, I don't want to set down a series of bald facts in a diary like most people do, but I want this diary itself to be my friend, and I shall call my friend Kitty.
After this early entry the diary shows a progressively self-conscious artistry reflected in the beginnings of certain letters to Kitty such as
Now that we have been in the "Secret Annexe" for over a year, you know something of our lives, but some of it is quite indescribable. . . . To give you a closer look . . . , now and again I intend to give you a description of an ordinary day. Today I'm beginning with the evening and the night. . . .
(August 4, 1943)
I asked myself this morning whether you don't sometimes feel rather like a cow who has had to chew over all the old pieces of news again and again, and who finally yawns loudly and silently wishes that Anne would occasionally find something new. . . .
(January 28, 1944)
Perhaps it would be entertaining for you—though not in the least for me—to hear what we are going to eat today. . . .
(March 14, 1944)
That her diary might itself be the basis of a published work may not have occurred to Anne before March 29, 1944, when
Bolkestein, an M.P., was speaking on the Dutch News from London, and . . . said that they ought to make a collection of diaries and letters after the war. Of course, they all made a rush at my diary immediately. Just imagine how interesting it would be if I were to publish a romance of the "Secret Annexe." The title alone would be enough to make people think it was a detective story.
But, seriously, it would seem quite funny ten years after the war if we Jews were to tell how we lived and what we ate and talked about here.
After the entry of March 29, Anne's expressed desires to be a journalist, and then a famous writer, grew more numerous. Writing would, she hoped, enable her to live after her death; she wrote short stories, even wanting to submit them for publication. (p. 45)
The chief literary merit of the diary is its permitting us to know intimately Anne's young, eager, difficult, lovable self. We follow the quick alternations of her great gaiety and sometimes equally great depression, and we benefit from the introspections generated by her sharply contrasting moods. Some pages read as though they had been written in the security of a Long Island suburbia; on the next page we are plunged into Nazi terror; and both passages use vivid details. Sometimes our delight is simply in her charm, as in "Daddy always says I'm prudish and vain but that's not true. I'm just simply vain." At other times her wisdom surprises us, as in her distinction that "laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction." She sensed the need for variety in reporting, and used effective techniques for achieving it. Life in the Secret Annexe was terribly repetitious, but there is little repetition in the diary itself.
Even if the last entry told of Jews liberated by the arrival of Allied armies in Amsterdam, the book would still have real interest and value. And it would still have its chief moral significance. Both diary and play illustrate D. H. Lawrence's contention that
the essential function of art is moral. Not aesthetic, nor decorative, not pastime and recreation. But moral. . . . But a passionate, implicit morality, not didactic. A morality which changes the blood, rather than the mind. Changes the blood first. The mind follows later in the wake.
Because of Anne Frank's art, this change in blood and then in mind sometimes takes the direction of brotherhood. At those moments her legend receives fresh life, and her adolescent record of history helps to make history less adolescent. (pp. 45-6)
Sylvia Patterson Iskander (essay date fall 1988)
SOURCE: Iskander, Sylvia Patterson. "Anne Frank's Reading." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 13, no. 3 (fall 1988): 137-41.
[In the following essay, Iskander analyzes the importance of reading to Frank's education and development as a young writer.]
Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl unfolds the story of a sensitive teenager in the throes of transition to womanhood, reveals an intimate portrait of eight people hiding in Amsterdam during World War II, fearful for their very lives, and offers a glimpse of some sincere, faithful Dutch men and women willing to risk their lives to aid their Jewish friends living in what Anne called het achterhuis or the "secret annex."
Miep Gies (pseudonym Miep Van Santen), perhaps the greatest source of comfort, supplies, and business assistance to the group in hiding had the foresight to save the orange plaid-covered diary and Anne's later papers, a revision of her work with an eye to publication, all of which were tossed in disarray from Mr. Frank's briefcase on that fateful day of 4 August 1944 when the Green Police stormed into the annex, removed the occupants, and confiscated everything they believed to be of value. Miep's own account, published in 1986, of those war-torn years when death and starvation were the norm, complements Anne's diary and in a sense completes the unfinished journal. Miep tells of gathering the diary, storing it unread in her desk, hoping to return it to Anne one day,1 and of her husband Henk retrieving the library books, among others, from the annex the day their friends were arrested (198-99). Miep later presented the diary to Mr. Frank, the only survivor from the secret annex. Concerned for his daughter's memory and the privacy of others still living, Frank at first refused to publish the manuscript, but later reversed his decision when friends prevailed upon him because of the uniqueness of its account of the war from the perspective of a young girl. [The Diary of a Young Girl ] soon became a great success (Gies 247). Upon his death in 1980, Otto Frank willed all his daughter's papers to the Dutch National Institute for War Documentation.
The complete, unexpurgated Diary, now available in Dutch, will be published in English for the first time by Doubleday in the fall of 1988. Undoubtedly, it will reveal more of Anneliese Marie Frank's autobiographical talent, a product of her education and learning experiences which resulted in large measure from her reading, both for recreational and for study purposes. I have used both versions currently available to trace Anne's reading, as well as Brinkman's Catalogue to verify which books or editions were in print in Holland prior to 1945.
On 11 July 1943, almost a year to the day after the family entered their hiding place in the unused laboratory and storehouse of Mr. Frank's office, Anne writes to Kitty, her fictional diary correspondent: "Ordinary people simply don't know what books mean to us, shut up here. Reading, learning, and the radio are our amusements" (97). Reading relieved the long hours of silence imposed on the Franks, the Van Daans, and Mr. Dussel for fear of being overheard by employees carrying on their daily business in the front of the house on the Prinsengracht Canal. Since the group frequently read the same books, they could discuss them in the evenings and late afternoons when, according to Anne, they "pass the time in all sorts of crazy ways: asking riddles, physical training in the dark, talking English and French, criticizing books" (66). Anne often discusses books with sixteen-year-old Peter Van Daan in their solitary talks in the attic room, and Otto Frank frequently reads aloud to the children from Dickens and from plays by Goethe and Schiller, such as Don Carlos. Mr. Frank's emphasis on books is attested to by his request that Anne and her sister, Margot, keep a card file of titles and authors of books which they read.
Anne compares the residents of the secret annex to little children receiving a present when new books arrive on Saturdays, brought by friends and employees of Mr. Frank's firm, for whom Anne invented the pseudonyms of Mr. Koophuis, Mr. Kraler, and Miep and Henk Van Santen. Some books are gifts for birthdays and other holidays; others are loaned from the library or from friends. Occasionally, a library due date challenges Anne to complete a book (11 May 1944). Once, 10 August 1943, a forbidden book incites Anne's criticism of Dussel for "indirectly endangering our lives" because Miep obtains a book for him "which abuses Mussolini and Hitler" (116).
Annuals, magazines, and newspapers are welcome gifts. On 11 July 1942, Mr. Koophuis presents Anne with the Young People's Annual, containing fairy tales, stories, and poems by such writers as Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, Jack London, Jules Verne, and H. G. Wells. (See Appendix for the complete reference to the Young People's Annual, as well as all other works mentioned in the Diary. ) Anne loves to read Cinema and Theater, a movie magazine which Mr. Kraler delivers on Mondays, enabling her to keep current with the latest films and stars (Gies 104). The collection of cut-out photographs hanging on the walls of her small room, measuring approximately 7 feet by 16 feet, reflects her interest in such famous people as Deanna Durbin, Robert Stack, Rudy Vallee, Norma Shearer, Greta Garbo, Ray Milland, Ginger Rogers, and even skating great Sonji Henie. Other visitors to the hiding place, such as Mr. Koophuis and Henk, bring newspapers and books which they discuss with the young people (28 January 1944). Anne even dreams about a book, one of drawings by Mary Bos (6 January 1944), the only author not identified in this study.
One article Anne discusses just with Kitty, not visitors, however, is about blushing by Sis Heyster, who authored several books on child and adolescent psychology. Anne believes the article might have been addressed to her personally, for its discussion of pubescent girls' feelings coincides with her experiences (5 January 1944). Her strong emotions about certain books elicit the comment of 8 November 1943, "If I read a book that impresses me, I have to take myself firmly in hand, before I mix with other people; otherwise they would think my mind rather queer" (127). Her frequent identification with books she reads can have negative results as well. For example, her dislike of math makes her algebra text her most loathed book; when a vase breaks, spilling water over her books and papers on 20 May 1944, she is disappointed that the algebra book is not ruined and threatens its destruction: "If I'm ever in a really very wicked mood, I'll tear the blasted thing to pieces!" (251)
In addition to algebra, Anne studies under Otto Frank's tutelage languages, history, science, religion, art, and geography. She frequently refers to Koenen, a Dutch dictionary. Relating her program of study for a single day, 27 April 1944, she states:
First, I translated a piece from Dutch into English about Nelson's last battle. After that, I went through some more of Peter the Great's war against Norway (1700-1721), Charles XII, Augustus the Strong, Stanislavs Leczinsky, Mazeppa, Von Görz, Brandenburg, Pomerania and Denmark, plus the usual dates.
After that I landed up in Brazil, read about Bahia tobacco, the abundance of coffee and the one and a half million inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro, of Pernambuco and Sao Paulo, not forgetting the river Amazon; about Negroes, Mulattos, Mestizos, Whites, more than fifty percent of the population being illiterate, and the malaria. As there was still some time left, I quickly ran through a family tree. Jan the Elder, Willem Lodewijk, Ernst Casimir I, Hendrik Casimir I, . . . Margriet Franciska (born in 1943 in Ottawa).
Twelve o'clock: In the attic, I continued my program with the history of the Church—Phew! Till one o'clock.
Just after two, the poor child sat working ('hm, 'hm!) again, this time studying narrow- and broad-nosed monkeys. Kitty, tell me quickly how many toes a hippopotamus has! Then followed the Bible, Noah and the Ark, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. After that Charles V. Then with Peter: The Colonel, in English, by Thackeray. Heard my French verbs and then compared the Mississippi with the Missouri.
Under this program of study, Anne advances rapidly, yet the Franks maintain that Margot is the real student of the family.
In conjunction with her study of French and English, Anne keeps a notebook for foreign words and reads in French Alphonse Daudet's delightful La Belle Nivernaise: Histoire d'un vieux bateau et son équipage and in English Oscar Wilde's four-act comedy The Ideal Husband, as well as the book by Thackeray mentioned above, which perhaps may be The History of Henry Esmond, Esq.: A Colonel in the Service of Her Majesty Queen Anne.
Clearly Anne learns much history, music, and science from reading biographies, such as Emperor Charles V, which took Professor Karl Brandi forty years to write, Maria Theresa by Karl Tschuppik, who also wrote biographies on Franz Joseph and Elizabeth of Austria, Hungarian Rhapsody, the life of Franz Liszt by Zsolt Harsányi, who authored as well a biography of Galileo Galilei, and perhaps Knut Hagberg's Carl Linnaeus, a book Mr. Frank received for his birthday on 12 May 1994 from Koophuis, which Anne may not have read. She does read contemporary history, however, such as Palestine at the Crossroads, and her strong interest in the genealogy of many royal families evokes the reference to genealogy on 6 April 1944 as her number two hobby (number one being writing); this interest, furthered by her reading in biography and history, is attested to by her copying the long genealogical tables found in Emperor Charles V and by her posting on her bedroom wall pictures of the youthful Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose. She even states on 21 April 1944 her wish that Margaret might marry Prince Baudouin of Belgium.
Another of Anne's interests, religion, apparently increases with time. On 29 October 1942, Mrs. Frank gives her prayer book in German to Anne to read, but the prayers do not have much meaning for Anne. A year later, her father requests a copy of a children's Bible from Mr. Koophuis so that she can learn about the New Testament. When Margot asks on 3 November 1943 if Anne will receive the book for Chanukah, Mr. Frank suggests St. Nicholas' Day as more appropriate. Although Anne clearly recognizes her Jewish heritage and daily confronts the problems of being Jewish in Hitler's reign of terror, she also posts on her wall a picture of Jesus from Michaelangelo's famous Pietà.
Her fondness for art, perhaps accounting for the Pietà picture and a copy of Rembrandt's Portrait of an Old Man on her wall is strengthened by the gift of Anton Springer's five-volume History of Art for Anne's fifteenth birthday.
Vivid illustrations enhance Tales and Legends of the Netherlands by Joseph Cohen, a book Anne receives for her thirteenth birthday along with money with which she hopes to purchase The Myths of Greece and Rome by H. A. Guerber, who collected myths about the Norsemen and the Middle Ages as well. Anne's interest in mythology, hobby number four and not a part of her regular program of study, is confirmed by a picture of an unidentified Greek god in her room and sparked by Guerber's book, which she does not purchase, but instead receives on her fourteenth birthday.
The Franks obviously oversee their children's reading, occasionally restricting it. On 2 September 1942, Anne says, "Margot and Peter can read nearly all the books Mr. Koophuis lends us" (36), but they are forbidden to read a certain book (unnamed) about women. Peter's quite normal curiosity urges him to disobey and continue reading the book until he is caught by his parents and punished. Margot is allowed to read one book, forbidden to Anne because of her younger age (21 September 1942): Heeren, knechten en vrouwen, or Gentlemen, Servants and Women (39). In this first book of a trilogy about a burgemeester or mayor of Amsterdam and his family, the mayor considers betraying his country's alliance with England by assisting the French in sending arms to the American colonies in their fight for independence. Whether the issues of patriotism and betrayal, or sexual issues which also appear, or all of them made the Franks censor the book for their thirteen year old is impossible to say. To the Franks' credit, however, is the fact that a year and a half later on 17 March 1944, Anne reveals that although all books she reads are "inspected," her parents "are not at all strict, and I'm allowed to read nearly everything" (192).
Three books mentioned in the Diary (13 May 1944) not expressly forbidden to Anne, but which she may not have read are Arend Tael's Little Martin, a birthday gift to Dussel from Kraler; a nature book (title and author not stated), a gift to Otto Frank from Kraler; and Gerhard Werkman's Amsterdam by the Water, a book containing numerous photographs of the waterways of Amsterdam, some depicting such sports activities as swimming, boating, and fishing.
Other adult fiction which Anne reads are Eric Lowe's Cloudless Morn, the first in a trilogy on the History of Robin Stuart, a book everyone in the annex enjoys (12 January 1944) and Mrs. Frank particularly likes because of its presentation of the problems of youth; and Ina Boudier-Bakker's The Knock at the Door, a story of four generations from 1860 to 1920, including philosophical ideas prevalent at the time. Anne's mixed emotions about the latter are reflected in her comments of 12 March 1943 when she first says that she cannot "drag herself away from [it]," and then reveals that the "story of the family is exceptionally well-written. Apart from that, it is about war, writers, the emancipation of women; and quite honestly I'm not awfully interested" (82).
Contrasting with the textbooks and adult works are those which might be classified as young-adult fiction: Niklaus Bolt's Daisy's Mountain Holiday, described by Anne as "terrific" when she received it for her thirteenth birthday (1); Nico van Suchtelen's Eva's Youth, a romantic story about the youth of a small girl Eva, whose monthly period is discussed and which is perhaps the source of Anne's forthright discussion of hers (29 October 1942); Helene Haluschka's What Do You Think of the Modern Young Girl?, a library book criticizing the youth of the time and evoking one of Anne's most insightful discussions about herself, her relationship with her parents and with Peter Van Daan, and finally her belief in the goodness of people and her hope for peace and tranquillity (15 July 1944); and last, Marianne Philips's Henry from the Other Side, a book Dussel likes enough to recommend, but then criticizes Anne's dislike of it by complaining (29 July 1943) that she cannot "understand the psychology of a man!" (105). Although this book and others ostensibly appear to be the source of arguments, in reality the source is the inevitable tension resulting from such differing personality types in extremely close quarters over an extended period of time.
No one argued, however, with Anne about her favorite author, Cissy van Marxveldt, a prolific writer who composed in Anne's lifetime four of the five books in the Joop ter Heul series, still popular in Holland. The series about a young girl growing to maturity with a most unusual name for a female "thrilled" Anne when she read it in September and October of 1942, and she claims that she enjoyed "very much" all of van Marxveldt's works, having read Een Zomerzotheid, roughly translated as Summer Antics, four times (38). She did not like De Stormes (The Assault) as well as the Joop series, but refers to the young-adult author not only as "first-rate," but also as one whom she will let her own children read one day (51). The fun-loving Joop, who corresponds with her friend Net until her father limits her letter writing and she turns to keeping a diary, also has a friend named Kitty2, perhaps Anne's inspiration for her imaginary correspondent.
These then are the twenty-six books, two plays, one article, and one magazine specifically named in the Diary. The importance of reading cannot be overstated, for the role it played in the education, as well as the recreation of Anne and the others. Mr. Frank should be credited not only with a most appropriate selection of birthday gifts for his daughters, but also, and more importantly, with encouraging them to read, discuss, and think critically. Surprisingly, almost all the books they read were at the time very recent publications. Authored by writers from Germany, England, France, Sweden, Australia, Hungary, Switzerland, as well as The Netherlands, they represent a wide diversity and a broad spectrum and reflect Anne's reading in Dutch, German, French, and English. Perhaps they contributed to her tolerance for others and her hope for the future in the midst of undeniable fear and horror, for Anne wished to publish her diary to achieve her desire for peace, as well as her longing for fame as a writer.
The untimely death of Anne Frank from typhus at Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp just two months prior to the end of the war adds a poignancy to the Diary, whose universality is confirmed by the sale of more than fifteen million copies and by its translation into more than fifty languages. Exhibitions, plays, films, even art work attest to the success of this youthful writer, who certainly has achieved her desire for fame, although not yet her desire for peace in the world.
- Simon Wiesenthal disagrees with Miep's account, stating that Anne's father found the diary on the floor when he returned to the annex a year later (172). Wiesenthal also reports that Kraler recalled that he, not Miep, intervened on behalf of the Franks at Gestapo headquarters shortly after their capture (176). Miep describes her unsuccessful intervention in some detail with no mention of Kraler's (202-204).
- Translated for me by Charles "Dutch" Spekschate of Eunice, LA.
BOOKS MENTIONED IN THE DIARY
**Ammers-Küller, Jo van. Heeren, knechten en vrouwen [Gentlemen, Male Servants, and Women]. Amsterdam: J. M. Meulenhoff, 1934/1935. (Referred to by Anne as Heeren, vrouwen en kneckten. Later Heeren becomes Vol. I of The Tavelincks: The History of Amsterdam's Governing Families in the Stressful Years 1778 to 1813. Amsterdam: J. M. Meulenhoff, 1942.)
Het boek voor de jeugd [Young People's Annual]. Comp. C. Bruyn, A. Pleysier, A. Scheffer, Th. J. Thijssen and P. Schuhmacher. Introd. R. Casimir. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Boek and Newspaper, 1938.
Bolt, Niklaus. Daisy's bergvacantie [Daisy's Mountain Holiday]. Trans. Frida Brinkman based on Swiss publication Daisy auf der Gemmernalp. Zeist: J. Ploegsma, 1940.
Boudier-Bakker, Ina. De klop op de deur [The Knock at the Door]. Amsterdam: P. N. van Kampen & Zoon, 1930.
Brandi, Karl. Keizer Karel V [Emperor Charles V: Formation and Destiny of a Personality and of a World Empire]. Trans. of Kaiser Karl V: Werden und Schicksal einer Persönlichkeit und eines Weltreiches under the supervision of and with a foreword by N. B. Tenhaeff. Amsterdam: H. Meulenhoff 1943/1945.
Cohen, Joseph. Nederlandsche sagen en legenden [Tales and Legends of the Netherlands]. With 32 illust. Zutphen: W. J. Thieme, 1922.
Daudet, Alphonse. La Belle Nivernaise: Histoire d'un vieux bateau et son équipage [La Belle Nivernaise: The Story of an Old Boat and Its Crew]. Ed. W. Bartels. 16th to 18th eds. Groningen: J. B. Wolters, 1936/1940.
Faragó, László. Palestina op de tweesprong [Palestine at the Crossroads]. Trans. E. Straat from the English Palestine on the Eve. Amsterdam: Nederlandsche Keurboekerij, 1937.
Guerber, H[elene] A[deline]. De mythen van Griekenland en Rome [The Myths of Greece and Rome]. Ed. B. C. Goudsmit. Zutphen: W. J. Thieme, 1934.
*Hagberg, Knut. Carl Linnaeus, de bloemenkonig [Carl Linnaeus, King of Flowers]. Trans. Marie Vos from the Swedish. Amsterdam: A. J. G. Strengholt, 1944.
Haluschka, Helene. Hoe vindt u het moderne jonge meisje? [What Do You Think of the Modern Young Girl?]. Trans. Annie Salomons of Was sagst du zu unsrem Evchen? Cover and illus. Rudolf Wirth. Heemstede: De Toorts, 1937.
Harsányi, Zsolt. Een hemelbestormer: De roman van Galilei's leven [The Star-Gazer: The Story of Galilei's Life]. Trans. A. M. de Jong from Mégis mozog a föld. Amsterdam: A. J. G. Strengholt, 1941.
——. Hongaarsche rhapsodie [Hungarian Rhapsody]. Trans. Frans Schneiders from the Hungarian Magyar Rapszódia. 3 vols. Leiden: A. W. Sijthoff, 1941.
Koenen, [Matthijs Jacobus]. Verklarend zakwoorden-boekje der Nederlandse [Pocket Dictionary of the Dutch Language] 9th-10th eds. Groningen: J. B. Wolters, 1942/1943. (Anne may have used any of Koenen's many Dutch dictionaries.)
Lowe, Eric. Ochtend zonder wolken [Cloudless Morn]. Vol. I of De geschiedenis van Robin Stuart [The History of Robin Stuart]. Trans. S. Vestdijk from the English. Culture Serie. The Hague: Zuid-Holl, 1940.
Marxveldt, Cissy van [pseud. Setske van Beek-de Haan]. De Stormes [The Assault]. Amersfoort: Valkhoff, 1925.
——. Een Zomerzotheid [Summer Antics]. Amersfoort: Valkhoff, 1927.
——. Joop ter Heul series: Der H.B.S.—tijd van Joop ter Heul [The High School Years of Joop ter Heul], 1919; Joop ter Heuls problemen [Joop ter Heul's Problem], 1921; Joop van Dil-ter Heul [Joop of Dil-ter Heul], 1923; Joop en haar jongen [Joop and Her Baby Son], 1925; and De dochter van Joop ter Heul [The Daughter of Joop ter Heul], 1946. Amersfoort: Valkhoff, 1919/1946.
Philips, Marianne. Henri van den overkant [Henry from the Other Side]. Bussum: C. A. J. van Dishoeck, 1936.
Springer, Anton Heinrich. Geschiedenis der beeledende kunst [History of Art, author cited as Sprenger in English version of the Diary]. Ed. A. W. Weissman. 4 vols. Leiden: A. W. Sijthoff, 1896-1898. (Anne claims to have received a 5 vol. version, perhaps the German Handbuch der Kunstgeschicht. 5 vols. Leipzig: E. A. Seaman, 1898-1906.)
Suchtelen, Nico[laas Johannes] van. Eva's jeugd [Eva's Youth]. Serie Nieuwe romans. Amsterdam: Maatschappij voor goede en goedkoope lectuur, 1925.
*Tael, Arend. Martijntje [Little Martin]. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Boeken Courantmij, 1941.
Thackeray, W. M. De kolonel [The Colonel] (probably De Lotgevallen van Henry Esmond [Henry Esmond, Esq.: A Colonel in the Services of Her Majesty Queen Anne]). Trans. Dutric Doetinchem. n.p.: C. Misset, 1917.
Tschuppik, Karl. Maria Theresia: Biographie [Maria Theresa: Biography]. Amsterdam: Allert de Lange, 1934.
*Werkman, Gerhard. Amsterdam: Stad te water [Amsterdam: City by the Water but translated Amsterdam by the Water in English edition of the Diary]. Illus. Jan Reinders. Photographs J. Berkhout. Bussum: F. G. Kroonder, 1944.
Wilde, Oscar. An Ideal Husband: A Play. Explanatory notes by D. H. Meyer. 5th edition. Stories and Sketches, No. 13. Zwolle: W. E. J. Tjeenk Willink, 1926. (Later editions, which Anne may have read, 6th-8th rev. W. van Maanen. Zwolle: W. E. J. Tjeenk Willink, 1932/1938/1944.)
*Books Anne may not have read.
**Book expressly forbidden for Anne to read.
INCOMPLETE REFERENCES TO AUTHORS/WORKS MENTIONED IN THE DIARY
Prayerbook in German belonging to Mrs. Frank
Forbidden book criticizing Mussolini and Hitler
Book about women that Peter read when forbidden to do so
Plays of Goethe and Schiller, including Don Carlos
Mary Bos, a book of drawings
Article on blushing by Sis Heyster, author of several books on child psychology
Nature book given to Anne's father from Kraler
Barnes, Ian. "Anne Frank Forty Years On." History Today Mar. 1985: 48-50.
Chapkis, Wendy. "The Uncensored Anne Frank." Ms. Oct. 1986: 79-80.
Frank, Anne. De Dagboeken van Anne Frank. Introd. Harry Paape, Gerrold van der Stroom and David Barnouw. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker, 1986.
——. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Trans. B. M. Mooyaart-Doubleday. Garden City: Doubleday, 1952.
——. Tales from the Secret Annex. New York: Washington Square, 1984.
Gies, Miep, with Alison Leslie Gold. Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.
Luns, Martijn. "The Anne Frank House Amsterdam." [English version]. Amsterdam: Anne Frank Foundation, n.d.
Margolis, Richard J. "'Yours, Anne.' State of the Union." New Leader 28 May 1984: 15-16.
Marxveldt, Cissy van. [Pseud. Setske van Beek-de Haan]. Joop ter Heul series. Amersfoort: Valkhoff, 1919/1946.
Pratt, Jane. "The Anne Frank We Remember." McCall's Jan. 1986: 72+.
Schnabel, Ernst. Anne Frank: A Portrait in Courage. Trans. Richard Winson and Clara Winson. New York: Harcourt, 1958.
Western, Richard D. "The Case for Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl." Celebrating Censored Books. Ed. Nicholas J. Karolides and Lee Burress. ERIC, 1985. 12-14. ED 264 600.
Wiesenthal, Simon. "Epilogue to Anne Frank's Diary," The Murderers among Us: The Simon Wiesenthal Memoirs. Ed. Joseph Wechsberg. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967. 171-83.
Sylvia P. Iskander (essay date 1988)
SOURCE: Iskander, Sylvia P. "Anne Frank's Changing Familial Relationship." In The Child and the Family: Selected Papers from the 1988 International Conference of the Children's Literature Association, edited by Susan R. Gannon and Ruth Anne Thompson, pp. 47-51. New York, N.Y.: Pace University, 1988.
[In the following essay, Iskander explores Frank's relationship to her family, her fellow inhabitants of the annex, and her friends in the outside world, utilizing passages from The Diary of a Young Girl.]
Anne Frank's family of fourteen is unique, encompassing three aspects of the term "family": blood relatives, household members, and providers of sustenance and nurture. Anne, the younger daughter of Otto and Edith Frank, was born into a family of four, but became the youngest member of a household of eight within the Secret Annex of house 263 on the Prinsengracht Canal in Amsterdam during World War II. In addition, the eight had an extended "family" of six outside the Annex who provided not only food, clothing, and shelter, but also love by daily risking their lives to maintain those in hiding. Anne's relationships to her "family" within and without the Annex can be categorized as developing or static: developing in terms of the intensive, stressful daily relationships with those within the Annex, static in terms of the rule for Anne's relationships with those outside the Annex. In each case Anne's growing maturity, budding sexuality, desire for independence, and search for self color her actions and reactions in the unparalleled situation in which she lived her last few years.
Within the circle of four, Anne's relationship with her parents changes during the volatile period between 1942 and 1944, when she is a maturing teenager, thirteen to fifteen years old. Her close relationship with her father becomes more independent and detached by Anne's fifteenth birthday. At thirteen, she says: "I adore Daddy. He is the one I look up to. I don't love anyone in the world but him" (40). Anne admires his calm, reassuring manner, so different from her combustible self, and shares his optimistic outlook. She and the other adolescents in hiding look to her father to teach and supervise their intellectual growth, as well as record their physical growth, by marking their heights in lines still visible on the Franks' bedroom wall. Anne flees to her father's bed on nights when bombs and planes frighten her (61). She seeks his advice about her blossoming romance with Peter Van Daan (198).
As Anne matures, however, she realizes that her father is fallible and that "Pim" cannot be everything to her; when he treats her like a child passing through "difficult phases," and makes her feel "sensible," he does not realize that "the fight to get on top [is] more important [to her] than all else"; she complains:
Pim always takes up the older, fatherly attitude. . . . But still he's not able to feel with me like a friend, however hard he tries. These things have made me never mention my views on life nor my well-considered theories. . . . I concealed from Daddy everything that perturbed me; I never shared my ideals with him. . . . I was pushing him away from me.
Anne faults her father for being a parent not a friend, but criticizes her mother for trying to be a friend and not a parent. In spite of this inconsistency, Anne obviously loves Pim, whereas her displeasure with, and even lack of respect for, her mother is but one reason for the later censorship of her diary. The unexpurgated Dutch diary, to appear initially in English in fall 1988, may further fuel that issue.
Anne complains frequently throughout the twenty-six month period covered in the Diary [The Diary of a Young Girl ] about her relationship with her mother and about her mother's failings. She bemoans the fact that her mother treats her like a baby (22), "lacks sensitiveness, real motherliness" (144) and cannot be confided in (61); she finds fault with her mother's "untidiness, her sarcasm, and her lack of sweetness" (40-41). She believes that she and her mother are opposites; for example, she disagrees with her mother's advice to depressed people to think of other misery in the world and be glad they have only their problems (146, 154); Anne's advice in this case is to think of the beauty in the world (154).
Another obstacle in the parent-child relationship is the quest for power manifested by Anne's feelings of superiority; she explains, "I know that I can discuss things and argue better than Mummy, I know I'm not so prejudiced, I don't exaggerate so much, I am more precise and adroit and because of this. . . . I feel superior to her over a great many things. If I love anyone, above all I must have admiration for them, admiration and respect" (161). The reader can only infer that Anne does not love her mother and that her mother is unaware of the lack of love when Anne states, "I believe Mummy thinks there could be no better relationship between parents and their children, and no one could take a greater interest in their children's lives than she" (123).
Anne's growing maturity is evident when she can see, albeit faintly, her mother's side in several situations. For example, one evening Mrs. Frank offers, in Mr. Frank's absence, to say Anne's prayers with her, but Anne refuses. Her mother replies tearfully, "I don't want to be cross, love cannot be forced. . . ." Anne responds, "I felt sorry for Mummy; very, very sorry, because I had seen for the first time in my life that she minds my coldness. . . . [S]he herself has pushed me away, her tactless remarks and crude jokes, . . . have now made me insensitive to any love from her side" (69-70). In reference to her relationship with Peter, she says, "Mummy is against me and I'm against her, . . . Mummy is sad, because she does really love me, while I'm not in the least bit sad, because I don't think she understands" (171).
Throughout the Diary Anne comments on her lack of dependence upon her mother, on her growing independence: "I have to be my own mother" (41); "I can't really love Mummy in a dependent childlike way—I just don't have that feeling" (115); and "I don't need a mother any more, for all this conflict has made me strong" (203). Although she is strong, Anne's lack of maturity leads her to such hyperbolic statements as "I have now reached the stage that I can live entirely on my own, without Mummy's support or anyone else's for that matter" (202). Her feelings are best illuminated by her desire to set for her future children a different example from that which her mother, Mansa, set. Anne wants a "'Mumsie' who doesn't take everything . . . so seriously, but who does take what I say seriously" (111). Anne's yearning for her idealized version of mother love never causes her to feel abandoned by her family, yet she earlier admits to feeling occasionally "that I would always be a bit of an outsider. Sometimes I used to pretend I was an orphan, until I reproached and punished myself, telling myself it was all my own fault that I played this self-pitying role, when I was really so fortunate" (123). Her ability to feel integrated and not detached from her family is a sign of her growing maturity and self realization, qualities visible in her relationship with her sister.
Margot loves and supports Anne, who clearly returns her love. Even though Anne says, "I'm not jealous of Margot, never have been. I don't envy her good looks or her beauty" (40), she must on occasion feel some jealousy, for Margot is openly declared to be the student in the family, serious, hard working, not frivolous like Anne often is. Anne, on the other hand, plays the role of family entertainer, clown, comedienne to mask her real feelings. Her introspective feelings, her belief that there are two Annes—the comic child and the serious adult—indicate Anne's increasing self awareness but inability to reconcile the two aspects of her personality.
Although Anne describes Margot as "brilliant [and] brainy" (11), "beautiful" (40), "sweet" (123, 155), "darling, . . . good and pretty" (155), and appreciates Margot's support of her friendship with Peter (164-65), she also claims, "I don't want to be in the least like Margot. She is much too soft and passive for my liking and allows everyone to talk her around, and gives in about everything. I want to be a strong character!" (59). Her relationship with Margot is relatively static during their turbulent teen years.
Familial relationships are, however, influenced by years of fear, lack of privacy, and deprivation. Anne writes to Kitty, her fictional correspondent, "Honestly, you needn't think it's easy to be the 'badly brought-up' central figure of a hypercritical family in hiding" (51). Further, Anne comments on "how little remains of the confidence and harmony that we used to have at home"; she attributes this lack to her and her sister being "treated as children over outward things, [when they] are much older than most girls of [their] age inwardly" (161). She resents the plethora of kisses and fancy nicknames as childish and indicative of her parents' failure to recognize her growing maturity (161). Yet a warm family feeling emerges in her vignette of the quiet, prevailing daily between 8:30 a.m. when the employees arrive in the building and the 9:00 o'clock breakfast hour as "a little bit of real family life [when the family reads or works]" (96).
Within the extended family, seldom is such quiet possible. Not long after the arrival of Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan and their son, Peter, and four months later the dentist Dussel, Anne finds the close quarters less exasperating than the conflicting personalities. She criticizes Mr. Van Daan, "Putti," for frequently fighting with his wife and being totally inflexible in his opinions (90). She respects Mrs. Van Daan, her mother substitute, for being "industrious and tidy" (56), but condemns "Kerli" "as being pushing, selfish, cunning, calculating, and . . . never content" (84). To these undesirable traits she adds Petronella Van Daan's moodiness (27), her flirtations (33), her lack of intelligence (224), and her desire to stir up trouble (90). Yet, Mrs. Van Daan surpasses Edith Frank in one respect, for Anne feels that she can communicate with her and even manipulate her; she says:
Despite all [Mrs. Van Daan's] selfishness, stinginess, and underhandedness, you can make her give in easily, as long as you don't irritate her and get on the wrong side of her. This way doesn't work every time, but if you have patience you can try again and see how far you get.
Anne's lack of maturity manifests itself when she is unable to manipulate Mrs. Van Daan and resorts to name calling, such as "stupid" (224), "jealous" (226), and "a foolish, blubbering specimen" (226), and when she questions whether the Franks were extra unlucky in their choice of a family with whom to share their hiding place (125). Anne's opinion of Mrs. Van Daan, never very high, remains virtually unchanged during their stay together.
Her feelings about Peter Van Daan, however, undergo a dramatic change from Anne's first appraisal upon his arrival when she describes Peter as "not sixteen yet, a rather soft, shy, gawky youth; can't expect much from his company" (20). Further, he is "frightfully touchy and lazy," "a real hypochondria[c]" (22), who can, however, be quite funny on occasion (33,60). Anne's budding sexuality provokes a deeper interest in Peter. She diagnoses him as having an inferiority complex (139) and worries about his failure to accept his Jewishness (139-40), his lack of character, will power, courage, and strength (197), his inability to stand on his own feet (229), and his neglect in setting goals (230). On the other hand, she claims, "Peter is good and he's a darling . . . a peace-loving person; he's tolerant and gives in very easily" (225). The realistic Anne concludes that she cannot marry him, however difficult it will be to let him go (197).
Anne's criteria for evaluating people usually include their flexibility in arguments and their reactions to food, points which illuminate the premium placed upon yielding to keep the peace within the confined space of the Secret Annex and upon food in a time of great shortages, the second point ironic in light of Anne's disdain for discussing food. She respects Mr. Frank's unselfishness as he waits until everyone else has something to eat and tries to save the best for his children. She is upset by Mr. Van Daan's taking large portions for himself, Mrs. Van Daan's chosing only the best for herself, Peter's never being full even after a large meal, Margot's dainty appetite, her mother's good appetite, and Dussel's concentration on his food to the expense of conversation (90-91).
Anne's opinion of Dussel changes swiftly from "a very nice man" (47), her comment two days after his arrival in the Annex, to "His Lordship" (50), her comment ten days after she begins sharing her cramped small bedroom (about 7 × 16 feet) with him. She seldom complains however, about the lack of space even though her bed is so short that chairs are added at the foot to extend the length; instead, she complains about Mr. Dussel's snoring (87), his quieting her with a "ssh-ssh" at night, and his bumping into her "bed" doing his exercises until she reaches the point of taking revenge by hiding his clothes (56). Dussel's most grievous faults are his refusal to shorten his "sitting times" in the bathroom no matter how desperate others might be (91), his refusal to allow Anne the use of the small writing table in their room two afternoons a week, a problem settled only by Mr. Frank's intervention (77-79), and his playing doctor when Anne has the flu by putting his greasy head on her naked chest, tickling and embarrassing her (109). Anne concludes Dussel is "pedantic and small-minded" (79).
Contrasting with her opinion about Dussel are Anne's feelings about the outside group, whom she calls our "protectors" (19), "helpers" (131), or "supply column" (231). Miep and Henk Van Santen, Elli Vossen and her father, Mr. Koophuis, and Mr. Kraler are the epitome of people who perform noble, unselfish deeds without complaint (131). They provide understanding, information, and entertainment, to say nothing of food, clothing, and presents for birthdays. Anne describes their contribution, "[A]lthough others may show heroism in the war or against the Germans, our helpers display heroism in their cheerfulness and affection" (132). In the early days in hiding, Anne desires to incorporate them further into the family by having them spend the night (38). Later as she gains perspective, she realizes how intertwined their lives are and requires no outward show from the extended family.
Any discussion of the outer circle must begin with Miep, a close friend and office employee of Mr. Frank, whom Anne describes as "just like a pack mule, she fetches and carries so much" (76-77). Miep's recent book, Anne Frank Remembered, details her substantial contribution, which Anne recognizes when she credits both Miep and Kraler for "carry[ing] the heaviest burden of the eight in hiding, Miep in all she does, and Kraler through the enormous responsibility" (217).
Anne portrays Elli Vossen, the young typist, as a non-picky eater, "easy to please, . . . cheerful and good-tempered, willing and good-natured," (91) and is grateful for the Latin and shorthand courses completed under Elli's name, as well as the rations Elli and Miep collect and the knowledge of Elli's feelings about her boyfriend Dirk (35), providing Anne with some insight in her later relationship with Peter. Elli's father, the builder of the bookcase/door to the Annex, whom Anne calls "our best helper and security adviser" (75) early in the Diary, is unable to help after his cancer is discovered. Henk, whom Anne first describes as a marvelous storyteller (158), later becomes "the hideout watchman" (218).
Mr. Koophius and Mr. Kraler use their acumen, along with daily consultations with Mr. Frank, to keep Otto Frank's two food-related businesses prospering. Furthermore, Koophius provides a variety of inventive, resourceful services from selling Mrs. Van Daan's fur coat (101), to spreading yellow powder for fleas (85), to claiming to have forgotten the key to the Annex when the building's new owner brings an architect to look at the house (60-61).
Basically Anne's relationship with the helpers remains static: a gratuitous one for the lifeline they provide. While the child Anne complains about the daily problems of the eight in hiding, the adult Anne grows in compassion for those less fortunate in the war. Her belief in God and the good Dutch people of her adopted country give her hope for the future until that fateful day in early August 1944 when the Green Police discovered them. Yet her hope was not entirely unfounded, for she and all her "family" continue to live through the Diary, in which she records her increasing maturation and progress toward adulthood.
Frank, Anne. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Trans. B. M. Mooyaart. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1953.
——. De Dagboeken van Anne Frank. Introd. Harry Paape, Gerrold van der Stroom and David Barnouw. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker, 1986.
Gies, Miep, with Alison Leslie Gold. Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.
Sylvia Patterson Iskander (essay date summer 1991)
SOURCE: Iskander, Sylvia Patterson. "Anne Frank's Autobiographical Style." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 16, no. 2 (summer 1991): 78-81.
[In the following essay, Iskander examines Frank's stylistic techniques and literary influences for The Diary of a Young Girl.]
Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl, originally entitled Het Achterhuis (The Secret Annex ), presents a self portrait that captivates most readers initially because of their foreknowledge of the tragic conclusion of this young girl's life and the other horrors of the Holocaust. Subsequently, Anne's revelation of her unique personality and her unusual circumstances rivet readers to the Diary, proclaiming it a classic.1 An examination of Anne's writing techniques reveals, in addition, a thoroughly professional style, which also contributes significantly to the book's merit. Anne's style, in fact, is so unusual for a thirteen to fifteen-year-old that her authorship has been questioned. Extensive handwriting analysis, however, has verified the Diary 's authenticity (Frank, [De Dagboeken van Anne Frank ] 121-86). Although sometimes censored for its politics or ideology, its attitude toward adults, and its revelation of sexual maturation (Western 13-14), the Diary, if excised only slightly as Otto Frank, Anne's father, has indicated and if accurately translated, is an achievement of rare and precious worth.
The complete, unexpurgated Diary, now available in Dutch, appeared in English for the first time published by Doubleday in June, 1989. I believe that it reveals more of her autobiographical talent, for Anneliese Marie Frank employed many and varied techniques, some acquired, no doubt, from her own reading.2 Under her father's tutelage, Anne studied several excellent histories and biographies, which probably influenced her style; she specifically mentions in the Diary : Karl Brandi's The Emperor Charles V, Zsolt Harsányi's biographies of Galileo and Franz Liszt, Karl Tschuppik's Maria Theresa, and others. Her reading—of books originally published in English, German, French, Hungarian, Swedish, as well as Dutch, of myths and legends, popular young-adult novels, articles on psychology, movie and theater magazines, a young people's annual, plays, and even the Bible—impressed Anne, whose assimilation of them with her own intuition enabled her to create her remarkable journalistic style.
Anne cannot be compared as a theorist to the eighteenth-century English masters of biography and autobiography, Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, whose innovations in the field established the still-current criteria, but she actually utilized most of their theories about style, perhaps absorbing them from the biographies that she read. Whether she developed her style on her own or from her reading of European writers following in the Johnson/Boswell tradition, we may never know. One possible explanation, however, is that she absorbed much of this tradition through her reading of Professor Brandi's biography of Emperor Charles V, over which he labored forty years while at Göttingen University in Germany. Göttingen, founded by George II of England and Hanover in 1734, certainly contained by the early twentieth century, most of Johnson's and Boswell's works, for its collection has long been noted for its rich English holdings. Brandi emulates Johnson's ideas in including not just the significant events, but also the minutiae of his subject's daily life; his stated goal is to paint not a hero's portrait, but a man's with frailties and virtues (12).
Anne also emulates the eighteenth-century biographers in various ways; her introspective method, for one, reveals her ability to view herself as an outsider, her awareness of a prospective audience, her desire to be a writer, and her abundant possession of the autobiographer's primary prerequisite: knowledge of self. Though sometimes confused by her own conflicting emotions, typical of the teen years, she possesses a relentless interest, curiosity, and objectivity which provoke her to examine her own activities and thoughts intimately, an examination which places her diary among the best of this century's with the distinction of being the most translated Dutch book (Notation in Anne Frank House, Amsterdam).
Although Anne "assimilate[s] external events" (Western 12), such as news of the war, in the Diary, her most unusual characteristic is her ability to view life as an outsider; for example, she speaks of her younger self on 7 March 1944, as "a different Anne who has grown wise within these walls" (151); she says, "that Anne [was] an amusing, but very superficial girl, who has nothing to do with the Anne of today" (152); and she continues, "I look upon my life up till the New Year, as it were, through a powerful magnifying glass" (153). Her introspection is evident also on 7 May 1944, when she has been chastised by her father; she comments, "It's right that for once I've been taken down from my inaccessible pedestal, that my pride has been shaken a bit, for I was becoming much too taken up with myself again. What Miss Anne does is by no means always right!" (204). This young woman admits to knowing her own faults (14 June 1944) "better than anyone, [she says] but the difference is that I also know that I want to improve, shall improve, and have already improved a great deal" (224). This statement is perhaps self-justification, perhaps a sincere attempt to present herself in a better light for the implied reader.
Doubtless Anne had a view of posterity reading her diary. On 29 July 1943, she writes in a postscript to her journal entry, "Will the reader take into consideration that when this story was written [about Mrs. Van Daan's bad qualities] the writer had not cooled down from her fury!" (85). Her awareness of potential readers is again divulged when she cross references a dream about Peter Wessel. In the 28 April 1944 entry, she urges herself or the implied reader to see "the beginning of January" for her first account of the dream (195). Further, her creation of Kitty, a stylistic stroke of genius, was influenced, I believe, by the epistolary style in the first book of Cissy van Marxveldt's Joop ter Heul series; Anne says on 20 June 1942, "I want this diary to be my friend, and I shall call my friend Kitty" (3). Joop, in the opening book of van Marxveldt's still popular series of adolescent novels, also writes to a fictitious friend "Net," and another in her school club is named "Kitty."3 Anne's imaginary correspondent is more than just a name for her diary; this "friend" presumably is a pseudo-interviewer; for example, the 6 April 1944 entry commences with this address to Kitty: "You asked me what my hobbies and interests were, so I want to reply" (178). Later she suggests to "Kits" that her diary with all its nonsense should be entitled "The unbosomings of an ugly duckling" (188). Regardless of title, Anne's awareness of audience extended even to a desire to publish her diary after the war. The version, unexpurgated by her father, from which a few excerpts were published in English prior to 1989 (see Chapkis) reveal Anne's adherence to Johnson's and Boswell's repugnance for panegyric in biography (Boswell 22). Otto Frank, perhaps not less aware than Anne of the audience's need for absolute truth in autobiography, was, however, more aware of the invasion of privacy of persons still living.
Anne incorporates many other autobiographical techniques expounded by Samuel Johnson and aptly illustrated by James Boswell. She not only adheres to Johnson's dictum that the autobiographer is the best biographer because he possesses knowledge of self (Boswell 19), but also her diary provides evidence of Johnson's beliefs as stated in The Rambler, No. 60, that any man is a fit subject for biography, that no detail is too minute to be included, and that biography should be didactic. To these dicta in his immortal Life of Johnson, Boswell added the results of his own phenomenal memory, his ability at recreating conversation and depicting dramatic scenes, his strong sense of personal pride, and his great confidence in his writing ability.
All of these qualities and characteristics describe Anne as well. Her knowledge of self is evident to herself (234) and to others as she questions her identity, like all teens, when she ponders her attractiveness to boys, her writing ability, and even her chances for surviving the war. No detail is too small for inclusion; for example, Anne's reading of Nico van Suchtelen's tale of a young girl from a small town, entitled Eva's Youth, in which Eva's monthly period is openly discussed may have been the impetus for her frank revelations about her budding sexuality. Anne enumerates other details, such as her birthday gifts, the food eaten on numerous occasions, even the order of the bathroom queue. In regard to the didactic purpose of autobiography, Anne's strong desire for peace and freedom evince in the reader a profound sense of injustice for Anne and the members of the Annex and a sense of horror for the atrocities of the Holocaust; the moral lessons are evident to the reader, even though Anne may not always have been conscious of them as she wrote.
Like Boswell, Anne recreates actual or at least typical conversations, sets dramatic scenes, and describes the various personalities in the Annex trying to live together harmoniously, such as the following brief but discerning description, which she labels, "the views of the five grownups":
Mrs. Van Daan:
This job as queen of the kitchen lost its attraction a long time ago. It's dull to sit and do nothing, so I go back to my cooking again. . . . Nothing but ingratitude and rude remarks do I get in return for my services. I am always the black sheep, always the guilty one. Moreover, according to me, very little progress is being make in the war; in the end the Germans will still win. I'm afraid we're going to starve, and if I'm in a bad mood I scold everyone.
Mr. Van Daan:
I must smoke and smoke and smoke, and then the food, the political situation, and Keril's moods don't seem so bad. Keril is a darling wife. . . .
Food is not very important, but I would love a slice of rye bread now, I feel so terribly hungry. If I were Mrs. Van Daan I would have put a stop to Mr. Van Daan's everlasting smoking a long time ago. But now I must definitely have a cigarette, because my nerves are getting the better of me. The English make a lot of mistakes, but still the war is progressing. I must have a chat and be thankful I'm not in Poland.
Everything's all right. I don't require anything. Take it easy, we've ample time. Give me my potatoes and then I will keep my mouth shut. Put some of my rations on one side for Elli. The political situation is very promising. I'm extremely optimistic!
I must get my task for today, every thing must be finished on time. Political situation 'outschtänding' and it is 'eempossible' that we'll be caught.
These thumbnail sketches describing the five adults in the Annex are a tribute to Anne's ability to capture in a few lines the essence of the characters with their differing and conflicting personalities.
In contrast, another scene depicts the kind-hearted Peter and the realistic Anne in a conversation typical of teenagers everywhere, interesting because it lacks the sophistication of the earlier description. Anne's writing style here matches the girl herself as she faces her boyfriend: immature, somewhat argumentative, a bit unsure:
Peter so often used to say, "Do laugh, Anne!" This struck me as odd, and I asked, "Why must I always laugh?"
"Because I like it; you get such dimples in your cheeks when you laugh; how do they come, actually?"
"I was born with them. I've got one in my chin too. That's my only beauty!"
"Of course not, that's not true."
"Yes, it is, I know quite well that I'm not a beauty; I never have been and never shall be."
"I don't agree at all, I think you're pretty."
"That's not true."
"If I say so, then you can take it from me it is."
Anne exhibits a lack of confidence in her beauty when flirting with Peter and in her fear that she will never achieve her life-long dream to go to Hollywood; yet she exhibits a strong sense of confidence in her writing ability and her critical faculties. She says on 4 April 1944: "I know that I can write, a couple of my stories are good, my descriptions of the 'Secret Annexe' are humorous, there's a lot in my diary that speaks, but—whether I have real talent remains to be seen. . . . I am the best and sharpest critic of my own work. I know myself what is and what is not well written. . . . I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me. . . . [W]ill I ever be able to write anything great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? I hope so, oh, I hope so very much" (177-78). Her self-criticism and her desire for publication, perhaps encouraged by Dutch Minister Bolkesteim's appeal on 28 March 1944 over Radio Orange (the Dutch government's radio exiled to London) for diaries and letters written during the war, may have been the impetus for her to begin revising the Diary (Pratt 110) for later publication (Chapkis 79); these revisions on single sheets of paper, rather than the orange plaid diary proper, formed the basis for the first publication (Notation in Anne Frank House, Amsterdam).
Other techniques Anne employed are, to coin Samuel Richardson's phrase, "writing to the moment," creating a sense of immediacy; for example, she apologizes to Kitty saying "that my style is not up to standard today. I have just written down what came into my head" (163). She skips days even up to a month if nothing eventful happens, showing her selectivity of detail; she tells Kitty, "I have deserted you for a whole month, but honestly, there is so little news here that I can't find amusing things to tell every day" (19), a statement that also reveals her awareness of potential audience.
Anne's presentation of a typical day in her life (86-91, 95-97) suggests her objectivity and her awareness of an overall view of life in the Annex; her descriptions of people, such as Peter, events, ideas, fears, hopes, reveal the best in Anne's style. She says of Peter, "When he lies with his head on his arm with his eyes closed, then he is still a child; when he plays with Boche [the cat], he is loving; when he carries potatoes or anything heavy, then he is strong; when he goes and watches the shooting, or looks for burglars in the darkness, then he is brave; and when he is so awkward and clumsy, then he is just a pet" (172). Anne's ability to summarize salient points, such as the rules for Jews in Amsterdam (3-4), the rules under which the group in the Secret Annex lived (46-47), or even the summary of Anne's life itself about six months before she was arrested by the Green Police and taken to Westerbork, Auschwitz, and finally Bergen-Belson (153), is proof of her objectivity, both toward herself and others.
These stylistic techniques, coupled with the poignancy of the death of such a talented young fifteen-year-old girl and the horrors of the Holocaust, have justified the sale of over fifteen million copies, the book's translation into more than fifty languages, the play, film, and ballet based on the Diary, the Chagall lithograph and Pieter d'Hont statue, the 1978 exhibition in Japan and the exhibition "Anne Frank in the World, 1929-1945," which toured the United States in the late 1980s, the conversion of the home in Amsterdam to the Anne Frank Museum with its half a million visitors annually, the establishment of the Anne Frank Foundation in the Netherlands with its New York branch, the publication of Anne's other writings in a collection entitled Tales from the Secret Annex, and, last but not least, the enduring interest in Anne Frank and her writing.
- Anne's diary is unique, even though other diaries exist from World War II. The others are either written by diarists older than teenagers, such as twenty-seven-year-old Etty Hillesum's An Interrupted Life (about her life in Amsterdam from 1941 to 1943), or they are not yet available in English. Still others recollect life as a teenager, such as Jack Eisner's The Survivor (about his teen years in Warsaw), but these were either written, or revised, years after the war.
- For further information about Anne's reading as revealed in the Diary, see my article in CLQ 13 (1988): 137-41.
- For the translation of this book and other numerous Dutch phrases and expressions, I am indebted to Charles "Dutch" Spekschate, an Amsterdam native, now residing in Eunice, Louisiana.
Boswell, James. Life of Johnson. Ed. R. W. Chapman. New ed. J. D. Fleeman. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1970.
Brandi, Karl. The Emperor Charles V. Trans. C. V. Wedgwood. New York: Knopf, 1939.
Chapkis, Wendy. "The Uncensored Anne Frank." Ms. Oct. 1986: 79-80.
Eisner, Jack. The Survivor. Ed. Irving A. Leitner. New York: William Morrow, 1980.
Frank, Anne. De Dagboeken van Anne Frank. Introd. Harry Paape, Gerrold van der Stroom and David Barnouw. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker, 1986.
——. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Trans. B. M. Mooyaart-Doubleday. Garden City: Doubleday, 1952.
——. Tales from the Secret Annex. New York: Washington Square, 1984.
Gies, Miep, with Alison Leslie Gold. Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987.
Harsányi, Zsolt. Een Hemelbestormer: De roman van Galilei's leven [The Star-Gazer: The Story of Galilei's Life]. Trans. A. M. de Jong from Mégis mozog a föld. Amsterdam: A. J. G. Strenghold, 1941.
——. Hongaarsche rhapsodie [Hungarian Rhapsody]. Trans. Frans Schneiders from the Hungarian Magyar Rapszodia. 3 vols. Leiden: A. W. Sijthoff, 1941.
Hillesum, Etty. An Interrupted Life: The Diaries of Etty Hillesum, 1941-1943. Introd. J. G. Gaarlandt. Trans. Arno Pomerans. New York: Pantheon, 1983.
Johnson, Samuel. Samuel Johnson. Ed. Donald Greene. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1984.
Luns, Martijn. "The Anne Frank House Amsterdam." [English version]. Amsterdam: Anne Frank Foundation, n.d.
Marxveldt, Cissy van. [Pseud. Setske van Beek-de Haan]. Joop ter Heul series: Der H.B.S.—tijd van Joop ter Heul [The High School Years of Joop ter Heul], 1919; Joop ter Heuls problemen [Joop ter Heul's Problem], 1921; Joop van Dil-ter Heul [Joop of Dil-ter Heul], 1923; Joop en haar jongen [Joop and Her Baby Son], 1925; and De dochter van Joop ter Heul [The Daughter of Joop ter Heul], 1946. Amersfoort: Valkhoff, 1919/1946.
Pratt, Jane. "The Anne Frank We Remember." McCall's Jan. 1986: 72+
Schnabel, Ernst. Anne Frank: A Portrait in Courage. Trans. Richard Winson and Clara Winson. New York: Harcourt, 1958.
Suchtelen, Nico[lass Johannes] van. Eva's Jeugd [Eva's Youth]. Amsterdam: Maatschappij voor Goede en Goedkoope Lectuur, 1925.
Tschuppik, Karl. Maria Theresia: Biographie [Maria Theresa: Biography]. Amsterdam: Allert de Lange, 1934.
Western, Richard D. "The Case for Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl." Celebrating Censored Books. Ed. Nicholas J. Karolides and Lee Burress. ERIC, 1985. 12-14. ED 264 600.
Antony Kamm (essay date November 1994)
SOURCE: Kamm, Antony. "A Second Look: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl." Horn Book Magazine 70, no. 6 (November 1994): 706-08.
[In the following essay, Kamm details the history of Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl and comments on the book's seemingly universal appeal.]
In 1933 Otto Frank, the second son in a banking family, emigrated from Germany to Holland. He set up a business in Amsterdam selling pectin to housewives; eventually the business diversified into chemical and pharmaceutical products and herbs, particularly those used in the manufacture of sausages. He and his wife and two daughters lived in a modern apartment and had a wide circle of acquaintances, non-Jewish as well as Jewish, of whom many of the latter were members of the liberal Jewish community. On June 12, 1942, the younger daughter, Anne(liese), made the first entry in a diary which she had been given for her birthday. On July 9 the family went into hiding in the "Secret Annexe" constructed by Otto Frank in the building which his firm occupied, where they were joined by another family (of three) and a dentist.
Anne continued her diary during their enforced incarceration. In March 1944, after listening to a radio broadcast about making a collection of diaries after the war, she had the idea of writing a "romance of the 'Secret Annexe.'" On May 11 she wrote:
My greatest wish is to become a journalist someday and later on a famous writer. . . . In any case, I want to publish a book entitled Het Achterhuis after the war. Whether I shall succeed or not, I cannot say, but my diary will be a great help.
On May 20, in a passage that was not included in the published diary, she wrote: "At long last after a great deal of reflection I have started my Achterhuis, in my head it is as good as finished." She then began rewriting her original diary on loose sheets of paper, while keeping up regular entries in a notebook until the end of June and less regular ones in July; the last of all is dated August 1, 1944. On August 4, armed German police, accompanied by Dutch Nazis in plain clothes, raided the building and arrested the occupants of the office and the Annexe. The eight Jews were dispatched to concentration camps. Anne died of typhoid in Bergen-Belsen in March 1945, a few days after her sister.
Anne's diaries and other manuscripts (including some stories) were left on the floor of the Annexe, having been tipped out of the briefcase in which she kept them by one of the policemen, who wanted a container for the money and jewelry which he had ordered the families to hand over at gunpoint. The manuscripts were preserved under lock and key and given to Otto Frank when he returned after the war; he was the only one of the eight inhabitants of the Secret Annexe who survived. In a form transcribed by him from the loose sheets and diary entries, Anne Frank's Het Achterhuis was published in Holland in 1947 and, as The Diary of a Young Girl (Doubleday), in England and the United States in 1952. Although written by a girl of fourteen, the book approximates what she herself intended to offer for publication rather than being simply a collection of diary entries for private consumption. (An article in Het Parool on April 3, 1946, stated that the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation had acquired some two hundred of these private diaries.)
I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me.
(April 4, 1944)
That, through her diary, Anne Frank has become a symbol of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis is due to a combination of circumstances. The novelist and critic Frederic Raphael has suggested that the appalling nature of the Holocaust is such that language is incapable of describing it. One of the survivors, Elie Wiesel, historian, novelist, and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, stated in a Paris Review interview in 1978:
If I moved away from the theme of the Holocaust it was to protect it. I didn't want to abuse words; I didn't want to repeat words. I want to surround the subject with a fence of kedushah, of sacredness. To me the sanctuary of Jewish history is there; therefore I wrote other things in order not to write about that.
The Italian novelist and poet Primo Levi was preoccupied with the predicament of those, such as himself, who "felt innocent, yes, but enrolled among the saved and therefore in permanent search of a justification in my own eyes and those of others. The worst survived, that is, the fittest; the best all died." Anne Frank did not survive. It is the freshness as well as the innocence of her diary, cut off at the point beyond which life became unbearable, that have ensured its appeal to many who cannot bring themselves to read about or even contemplate what happened thereafter.
By the end of the 1980s, nearly sixteen million copies had been sold worldwide. It has been and continues to be read by generations that were born and have grown up since the events it describes. The Diary of a Young Girl is, however, not only an extraordinary record of events which are rendered more immediate by the diary format and more dramatic by the unities of place and time imposed by the unnatural circumstances. It also reveals the uninhibited inner thoughts and feelings of an intelligent, articulate, self-critical teenager, and methodically and faithfully charts the development of her personality through various changes until she can say to her alter ego:
I know what I want, I have a goal, an opinion. I have a religion and love. Let me be myself and then I am satisfied. I know that I'm a woman, a woman with inward strength and plenty of courage.
(April 11, 1944)
She has in the course of her unique exposition, as the poet and critic John Berryman pointed out, portrayed "the conversion of a child into a person."
In what she calls her "religion" lies a further key to the universal appeal of the diary. The Franks were not Orthodox Jews; they were assimilated Jews of liberal inclinations, as happy to celebrate Christmas with their gentile friends as Hanukkah with fellow Jews. Many young people today want to believe in God, without being shackled to a particular doctrine. Anne Frank, with her uncomplicated, universal brand of teenage theology, speaks for them, and to them.
Fifty years after Anne Frank finished her diary, it continues to speak to the young—and to all of us.
Linda Irwin-DeVitis and Beth Benjamin (essay date fall 1995)
SOURCE: Irwin-DeVitis, Lina, and Beth Benjamin. "Anne as a Role Model for Other Adolescents." In Readings on "The Diary of a Young Girl," edited by Myra H. Immell, pp. 30-9. San Diego, Calif.: Greenhaven Press, 1998.
[In the following essay, originally published in the fall 1995 issue of Alan Review, Irwin-DeVittis and Benjamin assert that contemporary young women can related to Frank's sense of strength and self-identity in The Diary of a Young Girl.]
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Judy Wieder (essay date 23 December 1997)
SOURCE: Wieder, Judy. "Onstage: Who Censored Anne Frank?" Advocate, no. 749 (23 December 1997): 55.
[In the following essay, Wieder discusses the controversy surrounding the censorship of certain passages in The Diary of a Young Girl, noting that since Frank herself was unable to complete the work, it is impossible to determine what the final form of her text would have been.]
The December 4 opening of James Lapine's new Broadway production of the 1955 award-winning play The Diary of Anne Frank has renewed interest in an old controversy. For many years questions have circulated about certain edited passages in Frank's real-life diaries. The answers lie in Amsterdam, the city in which Frank hid from the Nazis—and where The Advocate was finally able to get to the bottom of the mystery.
"Wednesday, January 5, 1944 . . . Once when I was spending the night at Jacque's, I could no longer restrain my curiosity about her body, which she'd always hidden from me and which I'd never seen. I asked her whether, as proof of our friendship, we could touch each other's breasts. Jacque refused. I also had a terrible desire to kiss her, which I did. Every time I see a female nude, such as the Venus in my art history book, I go into ecstasy. Sometimes I find them so exquisite I have to struggle to hold back my tears. If only I had a girlfriend!"
Initially the above entry was edited out of Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl, the compelling first-person account of what life was like for a Jewish teenager hiding from the Nazis. When the famous diaries, written in Dutch and translated into 55 languages, were published again in 1986, the passage—articulating Anne's feelings for another girl's body—was restored. What happened?
For years rumors circulated that it was Anne's father, Otto Frank, who, upon returning from Auschwitz as the sole survivor of his family, edited his daughter's diaries before they were published. This particular passage was just one of the revelations he allegedly censored.
However, according to Dineke Stam, an out lesbian who has worked at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam for seven years, these rumors about Otto Frank are false. "It was actually Anne herself who did this," Stam explained in an exclusive interview in Holland. "While she was in hiding, Anne heard a 1944 radio broadcast by the exiled Dutch prime minister, who asked that people keep all their personal diaries and letters so that the world could get an impression of what life was really like for them during the war.
"Anne had already been writing in her red-and-gray diary since getting it as a gift on her 13th birthday," Stam says. "After the broadcast she got the idea to rewrite her diary with an eye toward publication one day."
What resulted are three versions of the diary. There's the original version, before Anne rewrote it. There's Anne's own edited version. And there's Otto Frank's restored version. Stam generously showed The Advocate copies of pages from all three versions. And, indeed, the original version, never published, contains the passage about Jacque's body. The version Anne edited makes no mention of Jacque's body. "She cut it out," Stam notes, pointing to Anne's own edited entry for January 5, 1944. Then there's the third version for the same day, restored by Otto Frank after Anne's death. "Otto put it back in because he thought, 'This is so essential for her.'"
Stam believes Anne went through her diaries and changed entries she thought were silly or not written well: "You'll read where she says, 'I feel so much shame when I read these pages because, although I can still remember my feelings then, I would never have written them down so bluntly now.'"
In the end Stam is sure of only one thing: "Whatever Anne would have eventually done will never be known. She couldn't finish her work because she was arrested. She was a German Jewish girl hiding in Amsterdam. In the end she was killed simply because she was Jewish. It's so important to keep her in her historical context."
Hedda Rosner Kopf (essay date 1997)
SOURCE: Kopf, Hedda Rosner. "The Diary as Literature." In Understanding Anne Frank's "The Diary of a Young Girl": A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents, pp. 1-10. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997.
[In the following essay, Kopf characterizes the genre of the literary diary as a continual "work in process" and compares different editions of Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl.]
Unlike memoirs and autobiographies which recollect and report at some later time in the subject's life, a diary records events and feelings as they are happening to the writer or very shortly after they occur. Therefore, the diary is a more immediate and often more accurate account of events and the writer's responses to them. Diary entries, however, do not have the benefit of the writer's understanding of how those events were resolved or what they would come to mean in the writer's life. For the most part, diary entries are made up of the raw material of the self.
Many diaries, especially those written by men before the nineteenth century, were meant to record the public lives of their subjects, and therefore were written with a large audience in mind. Diarists often wrote with the intention of leaving behind a chronicle of their accomplishments for posterity.
Since the nineteenth century, the diary has evolved into a more personal account of the self, and often is written with the expectation that its contents will remain a secret. Many diarists write about subjects they are unwilling to share with others, and so the diary becomes a record of the diarist's most intimate and honest thoughts. At the same time, the diary is always a constructed text, and its author continually makes choices about what to include, leave out, emphasize, and repeat. Most of all, the diary is a work in process. Unlike the writer of the memoir or autobiography, the diarist never knows for sure what the next chapter will be about. Instead, the subject of the diary unfolds with each new day and moves toward an unknown future that the writer observes, records, and responds to within the private pages of the diary.
ANNE FRANK'S DIARY
Anne Frank's diary [Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl ] combines the elements of a public document with those of the outpourings of hidden feelings and thoughts. It is a factual document about the effects of the Holocaust on a young girl and her family, but it is also a chronicle of an adolescent's psychological and spiritual development. Anne began her diary as a private relationship between herself and her imaginary friend Kitty. Yet, as the months in hiding accumulated and she began to recognize the incredible circumstances under which she continued to write, Anne Frank consciously began to shape her diary into a public document as well. She thought about her intended audience, readers after the war, and she paid careful attention to the information she provided about the conditions she and the others endured.
Although her diary tells us about what happens to a real person, it also has many of the elements of the finest works of fiction: fully developed characters, vivid and acutely observed scenes, careful attention to language, and increasing suspense about the fate of the protagonist and the other seven Jews hidden with her in the secret annex. Above all, like all great literature, the diary has a "voice"—a distinct and vivid storyteller who speaks openly about her most private feelings and who endears herself to us as we get to know her fears, her joys, her anger, her dreams.
Anne received a red and white checked diary for her thirteenth birthday on June 12, 1942. In the first entry she listed a number of other birthday presents, but she tells her diary that the first gift "to greet me was you, possibly the nicest of all." Her second entry is dated June 20, 1942. During the week that elapsed between the first and second entries, Anne thought about what form her diary should take and what its purpose would be. She decided that she wanted her diary to be a place where she could "bring out all kinds of things that lie buried deep in my heart." Although Anne had a loving family and knew many people "whom one might call friends," she did not feel that there was anyone in her life to whom she could reveal herself fully.
The diary would be the friend "Kitty" to whom Anne could tell everything. It also became a mirror in which Anne could see her own reflection more objectively. Fortunately for readers of Anne's diary, the "letters" she wrote required her to include information that her friend Kitty did not know. Thus, we learn about daily life in the annex as well as about the private thoughts and feelings Anne wanted to share with Kitty.
Writing to Kitty assumed a sympathetic "reader," a friend for whom Anne had "waited so long." Anne felt safe to tell Kitty everything, even the unpleasant truths about herself and her family. She could whine, complain, and have temper tantrums because her friend would accept and forgive her inadequacies in a way that Anne did not believe her family and friends would. Most of all, Kitty was "patient" with Anne, in contrast to the grown-ups, who constantly scolded her for her cheekiness and high spirits.
There is a particularly poignant aspect to the letters Anne wrote in her diary, because they did not reach anyone (although eventually, after her death, they reached across the entire world). Also, Anne never got a response to her beautifully written messages. Perhaps in choosing the letter form Anne was unconsciously insisting on keeping herself connected to the world beyond the secret annex, a world where mail was delivered and answered, and where a young girl's life mattered to someone.
PRACTICING HER CRAFT
Anne used her diary as a place where she could practice her writing skills, both because she found it easier to express herself on paper than through speech, and, more important, because she hoped to become "a journalist someday and later a famous writer." Her diary was her apprenticeship, or what she refers to over and over again as her "work." Deprived of her normal work life—school—Anne created a focus for the countless silent hours, days, weeks, and months during which she was trapped in the annex by writing her letters to Kitty.
Anne's literary ambitions for her diary were fortified when she heard a Dutch News radio broadcast from London in which a Dutch official said "they ought to make a collection of diaries and letters after the war" (March 29, 1944). Inspired by visions of her diary being published, Anne began rewriting and editing it. She went back to earlier letters to Kitty and revised them, adding details, changing words, or rearranging the order of her material. This process validated her image of herself as a writer, as someone who works at her craft. It also gave her a reason to go back and think about what she had written in terms of both its content and its style.
A vivid example of Anne's process of revision is her entry on January 12, 1944. The first version reads:
Isn't it odd, Kitty, that sometimes I look at myself through someone else's eyes? I see quite keenly then how things are with Anne Frank.
Her revised version reads:
I have an odd way of sometimes, as it were, being able to see myself through someone else's eyes. Then I view the affairs of a certain Anne Robin at my ease, and browse through the pages of her life as if she were a stranger.
Although the inherent meaning of the two entries is similar, the changes suggest how thoughtful Anne was about her writing. For example, in the first version she asks Kitty, "Isn't it odd . . . ?" as if she needs Kitty's opinion or agreement on the matter. In the second version she simply states how she is "able to see myself through someone else's eyes." She takes responsibility for describing herself without depending on Kitty's support. Interestingly, Anne changes her name to Anne Robin, an indication that she was thinking of her writing as material that might be published in the future under a pseudonym. She also made a list of pseudonyms for the other inhabitants of the secret annex for the same reason. The Van Pels family became the Van Daans, and Fritz Pfeffer became Alfred Dussel.
Finally, the second version is much more "literary." Anne uses language that connects her feelings of looking at herself "through someone else's eyes" with the idea of being a character in a book. She adds, "I view the affairs . . . and browse through the pages of her life as if she were a stranger."1 In fact, this is just what Anne did as she reread her diary entries and analyzed them objectively both as a young girl who was changing psychologically and as a writer who was improving her skills and nurturing her talent.
PUBLICATION OF THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL
After his liberation from Auschwitz in January 1945, Otto Frank made his way back to Switzerland to see his mother and to recuperate from his ordeal in the concentration camp. He returned to Amsterdam in June 1945, hoping to find his daughters alive. He already knew that his wife had perished in Auschwitz, but he tried to be optimistic about the fates of Margot and Anne, who had been young and relatively healthy when they were transferred from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen, a labor camp. Otto Frank immediately went to Miep and Henk Gies and lived with them while he tried to find news of his daughters. After many inquiries, he finally received a letter from a nurse who had also been an inmate in Bergen-Belsen. She verified that Margot and Anne had died in the "Schonungsblock no. 19 in Bergen-Belsen prison camp."
Only after Anne's death had been confirmed did Miep give Anne's diary and her other papers to Otto Frank. She herself had never read Anne's private writings, but she had fervently hoped to return them to her young friend when she returned after the war. Instead, Otto Frank now had the enormous pleasure and pain of discovering his daughter's private joys and fears. Over the next several weeks Otto Frank translated sections of Anne's diary into German and sent them to his mother in Switzerland. Later, he transcribed the several versions of Anne's diary, editing out sections he thought might offend living persons or that he found too critical of his wife. Eventually, Otto Frank's manuscript of Anne's diary reached a prominent Dutch historian who was so impressed with the remarkable diary that he wrote an article about it for an Amsterdam newspaper. On April 3, 1946, Het Parool printed "A Child's Voice," in which the historian declared:
To me the fate of this Jewish girl epitomizes the worst crime perpetrated by everlastingly abominable minds. For the worst crime is not the destruction of life and culture as such . . . but the throttling of the sources of culture, the destruction of life and talent for the mere sake of mindless destructiveness.
If all signs do not deceive me, this girl would have become a talented writer had she remained alive.
With this review, Anne Frank's diary became the subject of much interest. An edition of 1,500 copies was published as Het Achterhuis (The Secret Annex ) in June 1947, and by 1950 the book was in its sixth printing in Holland. It was soon published in Germany and France, and the English version appeared in the United States in 1952. Although Anne's Diary [The Diary of a Young Girl ] had been turned down by a dozen publishers who did not believe people would be interested in reading about the sufferings of a young girl during World War II, the book was an immediate success. Its popularity continues; more than 25 million copies in fifty-five languages have been sold all over the world.
THE CRITICAL EDITION OF THE DIARY
In 1989 the English version of the critical edition of The Diary of Anne Frank, prepared by the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation, was published in the United States. This edition meticulously recreates all of the diary entries and revisions found strewn on the floor of the secret annex on August 4, 1944, the day Anne and the others were discovered by the Gestapo. Readers of the critical edition can compare three versions of many of the diary entries: Anne's original entry (a version), her revised entry (b version), and the version published as The Diary of a Young Girl (c version). This third version evolved out of a combination of Anne's a and b versions as well as her father's editing and the translator's judgment about word selections.
Although many of the differences between Anne's two versions and the published version seem minor, some of the changes reveal important stylistic or psychological subtleties. For example, on May 26, 1944, Anne's diary entry ends: "for them [their protectors] the suspense is sometimes lifted, even if it is only for a short time, but for us it has never lifted for a moment, not for two years now and how long will it still keep bearing down on us with its almost unbearable, ever more oppressive hand?" The published version reads: "For them the suspense is sometimes lifted, even if it is only for a short time, but for us it never lifts for a moment. We've been here for two years now; how long have we still to put up with this almost unbearable, ever increasing pressure?"
Anne's version is one long, nearly breathless sentence. It duplicates the feeling she has of the ongoing suspense, which "never lifted for a moment." In contrast, the published version breaks her words and feelings into sentences that stop and start again, conveying a different sensation than the one she describes. More dramatically, Anne feels that an "ever more oppressive hand" is "bearing down." She means exactly that—human hands create the misery she and the other victims of the Holocaust suffer. Hands hold the guns, hands drive the cattle cars to the concentration camps, hands tear children away from their parents, hands fill the gas chambers with Zyklon B. The published version pales in comparison.
Some of the changes and omissions suggest that Otto Frank was not comfortable with his daughter's forthright opinions and ideas. In order to "protect" some of the people Anne wrote about, and especially in order to protect the memory of his wife, he changed some of Anne's harsher words. In addition, on the advice of publishers, Otto Frank entirely omitted several entries, including two in which Anne writes about sex and describes her genitals in graphic detail, and a feminist essay which is remarkably contemporary.
AUTHENTICITY OF THE DIARY
Only a few years after The Diary of a Young Girl was published, articles began to appear in Sweden, Denmark, and Germany that questioned its authenticity. In 1959 criminal charges for "libel, slander, insult, defamation of the memory of a dead person and anti-Semitic utterances" were brought against two of the most outspoken critics. Otto Frank and, later, Bep (Elli) Voskuijl and Miep and Jan (Henk) Gies were called to testify on behalf of the diary. In addition, the diary was analyzed by experts for consistency of style and the authenticity of the handwriting. The experts concluded that the diary was definitely written by Anne Frank.
The controversy over the diary did not end, however. In the United States, pamphlets, essays, and letters have been published over the past few decades that not only question the diary's authenticity, but go so far as to claim that it is a forgery. In 1978 Anne Frank Diary—A Hoax? appeared in Sweden and used a different tack in denouncing the young author. Anne Frank's character was criticized in such chapters as "Drug Addict at Tender Age" (a reference to her use of valerian pills) and "Teenage Sex."2
Finally, in 1985 the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation requested that the diary be analyzed by the State Forensic Science Laboratory. Additional handwriting samples produced by Anne Frank were scrutinized by experts and found to be absolutely consistent with the diary writings. Every aspect of her handwriting as well as the kinds of paper and ink used were studied. The experts concluded that the diary and all of the additional entries were written by Anne Frank.
THE DEFINITIVE EDITION
In 1995 a new English translation of the diary was published [The Diary of Anne Frank: The Definitive Edition ] and immediately made its way onto the New York Times best-seller list. This Definitive Edition expands the old edition familiar to most readers (c version) by adding passages from Anne's a and b versions. The new translation also adds a level of intricacy to reading the diary. Suddenly, Anne's "voice" is more contemporary and colloquial. Instead of telling us, "All goes well with me on the whole, except that I have no appetite" (October 29, 1943), the "new" Anne says, "I'm doing fine, except I've got no appetite." Many readers will not care how Anne tells her story, which words she uses, or how she constructs her sentences; yet by comparing the translations, just as by comparing Anne's own a and b versions, readers can gain a much greater appreciation for the way in which particular words written in a particular order affect how we feel about what we are being told.
In the c version of the diary (the one we have been referring to throughout) Anne writes of her walk from their home on Merwedeplein to the secret annex:
So we walked in the pouring rain, Daddy, Mummy, and I, each with a school satchel and shopping bag filled to the brim with all kinds of things thrown together anyhow.
We got sympathetic looks from people on their way to work. You could see by their faces how sorry they were they couldn't offer us a lift; the gaudy yellow star spoke for itself.
(Thursday, July 9, 1942)
The new translation changes the emphasis by rearranging the order in which we get the information:
So there we were, Father, Mother and I, walking in the pouring rain, each of us with a schoolbag and a shopping bag filled to the brim with the most varied assortment of items. The people on their way to work at that early hour gave us sympathetic looks; you could tell by their faces that they were sorry they couldn't offer us some kind of transportation; the conspicuous yellow star spoke for itself.
(Thursday, July 9, 1942)
Instead of "the pouring rain" and "sympathetic looks" catching our attention at the beginning of each paragraph, we have to search for this extremely important information within one longer description of their flight. The focus has subtly shifted away from the conditions under which they made their escape (pouring rain). We also lose the impact of their Dutch neighbors' unspoken support (sympathetic looks). The new translation diminishes the drama of this extraordinarily painful yet understated scene.
While all of the diary versions tell Anne's story, readers can use the different versions now available as tools for reading Anne Frank's text as literature. The different translations and editions confirm the importance of language and style in Anne's writing and provide readers with vivid examples of the varying effects of word choice and syntax.
At the conclusion of her April 14, 1944 letter to Kitty, Anne writes, "'The unbosomings of an ugly duckling' will be the title of all this nonsense. My diary really won't be much use to Messrs Bolkenstein or Gerbrandy" (members of the wartime Dutch Cabinet-in-Exile in London, which planned to publish diaries and letters after the war). The diary is, in fact, a remarkably useful document for students of the Holocaust. Readers of Anne's diary can come to know the absolute depravity and horror of the Nazis' "Final Solution to the Jewish Question" by trying to understand what was lost with each death. Since it is impossible to comprehend the loss of 6 million voices, it is in contemplating the loss of Anne Frank's voice, only one voice, that we can begin to confront the endless abyss of that event.
Anne's diary does not take the place of history books and documents that explain what happened politically during World War II. Nor does her diary describe the unimaginable atrocities that Anne herself would see and suffer in Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen. Nevertheless, everything she wrote about happened to her as a direct result of the Nazis' intention to implement the "Final Solution." We must acknowledge that The Diary of a Young Girl is about the effects of the Holocaust when we try to imagine how different her diary would have been if Anne Frank had lived in freedom and safety.
- Anne Frank, The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition prepared by the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation (New York: Doubleday, 1986), 455.
- Ibid., 92.
Thomas Larson (essay date winter 2000)
SOURCE: Larson, Thomas. "'In Spite of Everything': The Definitive Indefinite Anne Frank." Antioch Review 58, no. 1 (winter 2000): 40-54.
[In the following essay, Larson reviews Susan Massotty's translation of Frank's diary—The Diary of Anne Frank: The Definitive Edition—which includes passages that were omitted from earlier versions. Larson states that the additional text will not change the basic response of readers to Frank's story, but it does reveal a literary work that commands respect for its author's artistic merits.]
The definitive edition of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, published in English in 1995, restored her original entries which her father, the diary's compiler in 1947, had deleted from the first edition. Many of the new edition's reviewers (Or is it readers? Can one "review" Anne Frank's diary?) have expressed the standard adoring praise. In fact, one writer noted that even the reborn diary's 30 percent more material "does not alter our basic sense of Anne Frank." I didn't know we shared the same "basic sense" about her. What is meant, I suspect, is that despite the additions Anne remains a victim par excellence, whose afterlife must forever gather together—and give thanks to—the penitent rememberers of the Holocaust. But studied carefully, away from Anne's iconolatry, the new edition disrupts this putative notion of her goodness. This version, in Susan Massotty's brilliant translation, is an even more incisive and tangled human document than the text that preceded it. True, Anne's anger with her parents and confusion with her own feelings were in the original diary. But now the definitive edition accumulates and intensifies so much more about her inner life that Anne's self-scrutiny dissuades us from enshrining her "goodness" and challenges us to love her honesty. (Which is what all teenagers seem to want!) This complete text discloses an author whose artistic subtlety and autobiographical truth-telling alone can command reverence.
Philip Lopate has written a penetrating essay, "Resistance to the Holocaust," in which he disputes the claim that the slaughter of the Jews must have a "privileged status in the pantheon of genocides." While he concedes that the Holocaust was indeed "dreadful," he takes issue with its commemoration as "uniquely dreadful." "What surprises me," Lopate writes, "is the degree to which such an apocalyptic, religious-mythological reading of historical events has come to be accepted by the culture at large." I find the same has occurred by those who've fetishized Anne Frank's writing. But here the coin's flipped over. The diary's privileged status is now fixed as the uniquely hopeful document against Nazi—and all—atrocities. And this portrayal has a long record of boosters. If we recall the expurgated diary's dissemination for junior high students beginning in the 1950s when Americans first read the book, or the robust optimism of the 1955 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich (screenwriters of It's a Wonderful Life), in which Anne's references to Jews as victims and Germans as killers were removed, or even the most "beautiful" Anne of all, Millie Perkins, and her maudlin forgiveness in George Stevens's 1959 film of the play, it is clear we've been bequeathed a child star of major proportions.
That was then—fifties' kitsch lacking the (current) politics of memory. Today, the wheel of Anne's glory rolls on, though the road is by no means smooth. Most notable is the documentary-rich but hagiographic-intended Anne Frank Remembered, whose director, Jon Blair, won the Oscar for best documentary film in 1996. While Blair's portrait achieved power with the stirring memories of Miep Gies, the courageous secretary who helped the Franks survive, and Janny Brandes Brilleslijper, who knew Anne at Bergen-Belsen where she died in 1945, some have criticized Blair for evangelizing Anne's precocity. One writer believed Blair had gone too far in "recreat[ing] and elevat[ing] Anne as some sort of commentator with absolute powers of perception" regarding the course of the war and the barbarity of the camps. In late 1997 a new version of the play opened on Broadway but to a ho-hum reception (it has since closed). The refurbishers folded in the new Anne, drawing out Jewish ethnicity, German culpability, and Anne's quarrels with her mother. But, even with more lines, Anne remained sapped of ego by the play's simplistic dialogue and saccharine emotion. The chief critic of Anne's marbled statuary is Cynthia Ozick whose 1997 New Yorker article "Who Owns Anne Frank?" castigated those who've exploited the diary in non-Jewish ways, sidestepping German evil as yet another anti-Semitic ploy.
Anne's glorification continues at 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, the site of the secret annex where she and seven others hid. Now a museum, it attracts over a half-million visitors a year. The Anne Frank Center USA promises to "educate the public, especially young people, about the causes, instruments, and dangers of discrimination and violence through the story of Anne Frank." AFCUSA gives out its "Spirit of Anne Frank Awards" each year and, with other groups, sponsors touring exhibitions that teach schoolchildren about the Jewish genocide through the more accessible video, photographic, and "hands-on" displays of life in the Franks' annex.
You can find Anne served up at several sites on the web, for example, the Virtual Anne Frank House. With a screen backdrop of torn sackcloth and ashes, and a "comprehensive" list of Anne Frank links, the Virtual House contains this opening gambit: "If you thoroughly explore this old business building . . . you may then be fortunate enough to stumble upon the hidden entrance to the secret annex, where the True Anne is hiding; however, DO NOT expect it to be easy, as the portal has been hidden as well as the Franks hid theirs! Happy Hunting!" What an odd come-on, as naive as it is distasteful, which asks the site's visitors to adopt the role of Nazis searching for Jews in hiding! Lest we think this beyond the pale, consider that caricaturing the hunt for Jews at the Frank house may tell us just how untarnishable the "True Anne" is.
The True Anne bears an intolerable burden: her visage—that clear smiling face amid the facelessness of mass killing—must balance on its own the overtold horror of the Shoah. How distant the diarist is from the icon! It is time to get away from the noble and poisonous appropriation her writing has suffered. It is time to understand how and why the author Anne Frank created, altered, edited, and then re-invented the character Anne Frank long before the euphemizers in theater and film had their say. Anne's "true" struggle with herself and how others should see her is evident only in the diary, in the written universe of her ego, that coarse contour of an embattled self which permeates the definitive edition.
So be warned: this new Anne is no longer one-dimensional. Her divided and divisive self presses out, especially in the longer entries of 1944 and the final three months of hiding, often with a vituperative tongue a bit like a pet snake. Now, returned to foil her popular cast, Anne is as contrarian as she was wise, enigmatic as she was forgiving. And though lowering her halo will be labeled "revisionist" (as if it were an unkind or dirty thing to do), Anne's diary, I think, can withstand any critical wringing. Her peevishness, her vitality, her conscience—cascading from an inspired pen, ages thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen when she wrote entries approximately twice a week during her two years in a cage—is inexhaustible, much like the endless problems we face with representing the Holocaust itself as messy truth instead of easy exaggeration.
The first edition of The Diary of a Young Girl appeared in Holland, in 1947. For that edition Anne's father, Otto Frank, carefully chose the least offensive parts of his daughter's diary, in which she wrote from her thirteenth birthday, June 12, 1942, to August 1, 1944. Otto Frank was the sole surviving member of the Frank family: Anne, her older sister, Margot, and their mother died in concentration camps as did the van Daan family, Petronella, Hermann, and young Peter (with whom Anne fell in love) and Albert Dussel, a dentist, the eighth person to hide with the Franks and the van Daans in the Secret Annex. At the time, Frank sanitized Anne's diary for several reasons. One, his Dutch publisher wanted the diary as part of a series of war remembrances, so cuts were necessary. Two, Otto Frank was wary of offending the memory of anyone in the Annex whom Anne had profiled unflatteringly, including himself. (Anne gripes often at her mother, the van Daans, and Mr. Dussel, less often at her father.) Third, Frank removed the more impudent and excessive self-indulgence that Anne at times revels in. He emphasized less her selfish desires as a young teenager and more her sacrifice to her family's needs. This is the book that was published in 1952, in its English edition, and universally cited as the most purchased, read, and admired secular book in history. As noted, millions of American teens, in the 1950s and 1960s, read the book in their English classes or else saw film or play versions of the diary. With good reason, the postwar generation wanted this noble, softer, innocent portrait to counter the horror—especially after the dispersal of newsreel footage of the concentration camps' liberation—of history's most concentrated genocide.
Otto Frank's 1947 diary (called diary c by Frank scholars) is a shorter version of two other documents that Anne actually wrote. Papa Frank produced his version from Anne's two diaries—an original unedited version (diary a) and her (not her father's) edited version (diary b), which she rewrote in 1944 and hoped to have published after the war. This diary b, which Anne developed by rewriting and fictionalizing her own earlier entries, began in early 1944 when she heard on a radio broadcast from the exiled Dutch government in London that a cabinet minister wanted to collect and publish "eyewitness accounts" of the war in the form of letters and diaries following Holland's liberation. According to the foreword of the definitive edition, an excited Anne "began rewriting and editing her diary, improving on the text, omitting passages she didn't think were interesting enough and adding others from memory."
Using all three—Anne's unedited diary a, her edited diary b, and diary c which her father had printed in 1947—the 1995 definitive edition restores Anne's original work without its fictional elements and with all of its intense personal revelations. As noted, 30 percent is new, focusing on Anne's emerging sexuality, her passion for—and awkwardness with—Peter, and her snapping anger at her fault-finding mother as well as the histrionic Mrs. van Daan. The result is, the more her desires are shown (and the sexual ones are the least emphatic), the more her disarming honesty counters her self-sacrificing "goodness." The definitive diary reads as an act of discovery and of confusion, a journey that inevitably opens her "contradictions." By the end we're never sure if she's the author of or a character in the drama. But, despite her postmodern self, we feel her with all the hiss and bite and regret of a Thomas Hardy heroine.
Eventually the diary centers upon the intolerable proximity of confinement, but it begins as a flight, one might say a comfortable flight to safety. The Franks, the van Daans, and Mr. Dussel go into hiding with a large cache of money and, although the black market grows during their incarceration, they are able to buy most necessities. They have ample food because at least four people know where they are and regularly supply them. They have access to a toilet, a full kitchen, sleeping quarters (some with private rooms), a breeze and a view through uncurtained windows at night. They listen to the radio every night and have a small library. The three young people take correspondence courses and keep up with their studies as if they were in school. Each person's birthday is celebrated complete with gifts and a cake. Miep Gies, Otto Frank's secretary, does whatever she is asked, to keep the eight in essentials and occasional luxuries. On December 24, 1943, Anne writes, "I'm 'on top of the world' when I think how fortunate we are and compare myself to other Jewish children."
I realize comfort should not lessen Anne's integrity. But she is given the time and space to write about herself in a cocoon around which a very distant war will rage. It is ironic that the Franks' confinement feels liberating enough for Anne to lay out her deepest fears and joys in her diary and, at the same time, the proximity of the Annex becomes Anne's main gripe, not the Nazis, not her fear of being discovered, not maintaining goodness in the face of impending evil. Because we get more of Anne's emotional analysis—especially the lengthier "negative" ones—the 1952 edition feels like a recollected romance of adolescence (how an adult would remember it) instead of a harsh account of a young girl's desperation in the 1995 edition.
What the added material underscores is how the outer world—the war, anti-Semitism, the internment camps, families being rounded up on the streets of Amsterdam, the nightly bombings, memories of her friends, the radio talk of invasion which arrives on June 6, 1944, two months before they are discovered—is subordinated in the first third of the diary to the claustrophobia of Anne's social life and is slowly turned inward by Anne, on Anne. She worries about starving children her age on the outside, yet complains about having to eat potatoes. She lectures herself about acting more responsibly around the adults, then fulminates at their intrusion on her privacy. She is curious about politics, which the adults usually argue at dinner, yet leaves off the discussion of war to lash out at her parents' favoritism of her sister. She knows the war hits the streets nightly, she fears betrayal and discovery, yet her venom stings and cuts at the adults in her midst whose neuroses have brought the war on in the first place. She is angry, at one time or another in the diary, at everyone, for they are complicit in ending the devil-may-care attitude of the young, her own in particular.
Doesn't Anne know early on that what's happening outside is more important than her adolescent rumblings? Yes and no. Yes, because she is told about it often. When Mr. Dussel joins the Annex in late 1942, he brings news of the Jews' deportation to the camps: "The sick, the elderly, children, babies and pregnant women—all are marched to their death." Anne responds to Dussel's news with compassion. She feels that the Jews' misery on the outside is far greater than anything she has had to suffer. She feels guilty, "wicked [for] sleeping in a warm bed." She writes, "It's a disgrace to be so cheerful." After Mr. Dussel arrives, Miep Gies often tells the eight in the Annex of further deaths and deportations of friends. This makes the two mothers cry openly.
And no, because the increasing intensity from the war closing in on them makes Anne more conflicted in herself; as a consequence, she becomes more honest. Thus, Anne confesses something that, up to now, the first six months of confinement, she has been reluctant to admit. "Added to this misery there's another, but of a more personal nature, and it pales in comparison to the suffering I've just told you about. Still, I can't help telling you that lately I've begun to feel deserted. I'm surrounded by too great a void. I never used to give it much thought, since my mind was filled with my friends and having a good time. Now I think either about unhappy things or about myself. It's taken a while, but I've finally realized that Father, no matter how kind he may be, can't take the place of my former world. When it comes to my feelings, Mother and Margot ceased to count long ago."
Fear liberates honesty. And Anne records her despair with such impact that its fundamental selfishness is easy to miss. She compares the "unhappy things" she thinks about to "myself," that is, makes self-sorrow equal to the bad that is happening outside. She feels abandoned by her family in the context of both personal and Jewish suffering. From this entry on, for eighteen months, Anne's isolation will torment and counsel her, for she is trapped between being protected and being abandoned by her family. Once that paradox becomes too much to bear, she will be trapped similarly by her surrogate parent, Peter.
For me, the great ignominy done to Anne Frank's diary arises from memory's oversimplifying those two "noble" sentences which she wrote near the end of their confinement, on July 15, 1944. "It's a wonder," she notes, "I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart." For years, most diary readers have taken this admission unequivocally, a bald indication that goodness will triumph over evil. Why dispute it? Well, for one, it is not obvious at all who Anne is referring to by "people." Her parents? The Nazis? What are Anne's "absurd and impractical" ideals? And why does she insert that phrase—in spite of everything (what everything?)—as that which labors against those ideals?
Anne's "absurd and impractical" ideals are self- and family-related—being a good and loyal daughter, being a team player, thinking about the needs of others over her own. These are the ideals she cannot live up to (nor could anyone, under the circumstances). Anne's "everything" then is her experience alone, that is, the pressures of confinement that exacerbate the disapproval of those around her. Voiced by her mother and Mrs. van Daan, this disapproval of Anne's spontaneity is so excessive (i.e., truthful) that Otto Frank felt this was the easiest excision to make for that first edition. But there are two problems with such editing. One, it gives a false balance between the outer and inner voices of her personality; and two, Anne's exaggeration contains much of the honesty that she may, in other passages, be trying to dress up or squelch. To excise the very honesty that Anne is most embarrassed by is to rob Anne of herself.
Consider this barrage: "Everyone thinks I'm showing off when I talk, ridiculous when I'm silent, insolent when I answer, cunning when I have a good idea, lazy when I'm tired, selfish when I eat one bit more than I should, stupid, cowardly, calculating, etc., etc. All day long I hear nothing but what an exasperating child I am, and although I laugh it off and pretend not to mind, I do mind. I wish I could ask God to give me another personality, one that doesn't antagonize everyone." In this and other invectives, the way Anne should act begins to grate on the Anne who, unseen, is acting as honestly as she can in her diary.
The problem with "everything" referring to the "ideals" of a benevolent humanity is that, as Anne indicates many times, though she may believe in the goodness of others, she certainly does not believe it about herself. After eighteen months of diary writing, Anne re-reads her entire work, and she is "shocked" at the force of her "anger and hate" at her mother. "Anne, is that really you talking about hate?" she writes on January 2, 1944. "Oh, Anne, how could you?" This entry, six months before discovery, opens her up more than at any time to a writer's mystery of self, the reason her memoirist's pen is such a "friend." She discovers that there are (at least) twin "Annes" in the diary, Anne's bad self and Anne's reasonable being. She is apologetic, telling Kitty, her diary's other persona—as if taking it back will resolve it—that the Anne of the diary's first half was merely overcome by the pressures of hiding and whose disregard is extreme, false. "I was furious at Mother (and still am a lot of the time). It's true, she didn't understand me, but I didn't understand her either." Anne actually believes that it is her own "insolent and beastly" attitude toward her mother that caused her mother's unhappiness! And this: "Those violent outbursts on paper are simply expressions of anger that, in normal life, I could have worked off by locking myself in my room and stamping my foot a few times or calling Mother names behind her back." In other words, freedom and a normal adolescence would have produced an outlet for her anger to be directed—in the comfort of her own room—away from her mother. But in the Annex, the hiding from the world has produced a surfeit of honest responses in Anne for which she now feels shame. "I soothe my conscience," she ends the entry, "with the thought that it's better for unkind words to be down on paper than for Mother to have to carry them around in her heart."
Anne's self-psychologizing and her dislike of what she finds internally is perhaps her greatest revelation. Her guilt and shame that she has been too unforgiving with her mother are important. But what's crucial for knowing her totally are these emotional flip-flops. She is the sort of diarist who one minute writes, "Because she [her mother] loved me, she was tender and affectionate, but because of the difficult situation I put her in, and the sad circumstances in which she found herself, she was nervous and irritable" and, the next minute, "But there's one thing I can't do, and that's to love Mother with the devotion of a child." It's this agonizing complexity of a daughter's being that once it was born in the diary no doubt signaled Anne's father to deemphasize it. Cutting out that overintense self gives rise to Anne's "universality," her one-dimensionality. But I like the feisty liberator of self—the more Anne says she'll be more tolerant with Mom, the more such an admission only makes the stakes greater, the conflict sharper between who she is and what she "should be." Being the good Anne over the selfish Anne, perhaps her main ideal, is impossible to achieve. And, sure enough, the remainder of the diary belies her self-nobility, a fact she knows and reveals.
Peter, two years her senior, also meets the twin Annes. Anne seeks Peter out because he is easy to confide in; a few such meetings between them assures her that Peter can give Anne the uncritical support that her mother cannot and that her father seems to be increasingly withdrawing. Heightening Peter's accessibility are her dreamy memories of another Peter, a boy she knew during sixth grade whom she describes as "my one true love." She recalls how handsome he was, how much she pined for him when he moved away. She admits that the recollection of this boy has kindled her understanding of sexual desire.
Enter Peter van Daan who replicates in the Annex this other Peter—he too is handsome and soft and, best of all, present. Fantasizing about never seeing the old Peter again, she pursues the soft, kind, shy, unforward Peter in her midst. As the diary transforms the old Peter into the new one, so too does it separate the selfish, honest Anne from the diplomatic, considerate young girl. The split occurs in desiring Peter, and Anne delineates for the first time her internal break. "Suddenly," she writes, "the everyday Anne slipped away and the second Anne took her place. The second Anne, who's never overconfident or amusing, but wants only to love and be gentle." Anne sees, for now, her "true" self as the less honest being, the dutiful daughter to a mother she hates, the girl who must always be strong and never waver. For me, Anne's "true" self—which she will eventually recognize—is the teenager in love, breaking apart, repairing, breaking apart, truth-telling and fabricating.
The first Anne releases the second Anne and the latter falls for Peter, is enraptured by their sitting "in each other's arms" every night until Peter kisses her, awkwardly on the ear, which she prizes. But now, with Anne lost in love, the diary scuttles back and forth, sometimes within the same paragraph, between author and character, between the everyday Anne and the Anne who wants only to love. The character Anne writes, "Peter's reached a part of me that no one has ever reached before, except in my dream!" Which is followed by the author, thinking aloud about marriage. "What would my answer be? Anne, be honest! . . . Peter still has too little character, too little willpower. . . . He's still a child, emotionally no older than I am. . . . Am I really only fourteen? Am I really just a silly schoolgirl? . . . I'm afraid of myself, afraid my longing is making me yield too soon."
When the adults see the pair getting too close, they first warn then forbid them to retire to the divan in the attic. Here Anne reaches her lowest point. Persisting every evening to "neck" with Peter upstairs, she writes her father a letter that tests his forbearance. The letter is a passionate claim for her independence; cooped up in the Annex for nearly two years, she's entitled to make her own decisions. She writes that, of course, "you [want me] to act the way a fourteen-year-old is supposed to. But that's where you're wrong!" She tells him "there's only one person I'm accountable to, and that's me." She says that she's been "putting on an act" for two years, having never revealed her true feelings: "I was overconfident to keep from having to listen to the voice inside me." To cap it off, Anne doesn't destroy the letter (as she later says she should have) but gives it to him!
His reply is a swift beheading of her independence. "I've received many letters in my lifetime," he says to her, in tears, "but none as hurtful as this. . . . No, Anne, you've done us a great injustice!" Her father's pain is her worst moment in the Annex: "What I'm most ashamed of is the way Father has forgiven me." To be independent of her parents when they have given her so much now becomes anathema for Anne, and it's all because her ideals over loving Peter got in the way of her duty.
Once Anne's dalliance with Peter and her attack on her father causes everyone pain, Anne discovers to her fear that she herself is more interesting and more split than anyone in the Annex. Even at fourteen, she realizes the import of her doppelganger nature. She wakes up to her paradoxical character largely because she has documented its growth. This conflict between author and character, first and second "Anne"s, is in the nature of diary-writing. The shadow-play of self-disclosure when recording experiences always inhibits and releases honesty. The indefiniteness occurs as the writer stumbles to get down what has happened and how she feels about it. We err to think Anne Frank's diary is merely "what happened" to her, mere events that contextualize the Holocaust. Her diary—any good diary—is primarily the deepest, most uncensored self-wringing through which any event or context comes to be recorded in the first place.
The possibility of the diary, to reveal Anne completely to herself, now seems like an abyss for her, and she pulls back after the incident with her father. She drops Peter and the Anne who loved him. She hastens back to dutifully recording the family's struggles in the Annex. It is now May 1944 and the talk of the Allied invasion as well as noticeably fewer supplies take over the diary's content. In the lacunae, Anne's fear of fulfilling herself with Peter or with her own desires to be independent are swept under the surface of these practical entries. It's good, she seems to say, to be back in the comfort of family and worldly matters.
Another factor bringing her back is her decision, in April 1944, to make her diary publishable per the radio request of the Dutch cabinet minister. This means fictionalizing, editing, shaping—perhaps exaggerating?—what she has written so that the diary reveals more than just the record of their enclosure. In the last months Anne both keeps and rewrites her diary. Whether writing or editing, Anne senses that revealing her inner conflicts will make her document live and become published, preserved, known. Now it seems the first Anne, that "difficult" author-genie, will not go back in her bottle. And so the entries of the last three weeks in hiding grow more mature, complex, and daring. She can't get her "contradictions" onto paper fast enough once she sees that her inner life—not the latter-day purported cause of a degraded and ennobled humanity—is the diary's subject.
First Anne discovers that her own "self-reproaches" are where her wisdom lies. She now analyzes herself with the skill of a Viennese shrink. "What's so difficult about my personality is that I scold and curse myself much more than anyone else does." She hates it that others, her mother in particular, meet Anne's self-criticism with criticism, isolating Anne even more. "Then I talk back and start contradicting everyone until the old familiar Anne refrain inevitably crops up again: 'No one understands me.'" In one of her only post-romantic entries about Peter, she writes that his comfort used to help her with her trials of self but she admits that "he's disappointed me in many ways." He hides his "innermost self" from her and won't let her in. "He's much more closed than I am, but I know from experience . . . that in time, even the most uncommunicative types will long as much, or even more, for someone to confide in." With sudden maturity, Anne recognizes her personality conflicts as well as how they affect her and others. Seasoned diarist that she is, she is realizing that self-disclosure is her life.
Anne next trumpets the cause of women's liberation! She labels women who keep silent and go along with men's dominance, "stupid." "Fortunately, education, work and progress have opened women's eyes. . . . Modern women want the right to be completely independent!" She is also clear that women need not change into men-like beings—stop having children, fight wars, etc. She sees the historical problem, male ignorance, as key. "What I condemn are our system of values and the men who don't acknowledge how great, difficult, but ultimately beautiful women's share in society is." What has occasioned these remarks is the book Men against Death, which argued that women "suffer more pain, illness and misery than any war hero ever does." A reader senses with this entry in particular that the honest and complaining Anne, whom others and Anne herself have tried to censure, is now fearlessly saying what she believes.
Her final bloom, which for me solidifies what John Berryman called Anne's "conversion of a child into a person," at first seems to go her nascent self-analysis and feminism one better. She announces her "most outstanding character trait": "I have a great deal of self-knowledge. In everything I do, I can watch myself as if I were a stranger. I can stand across from the everyday Anne and, without being biased or making excuses, watch what she's doing, both the good and the bad. This self-awareness never leaves me." Anne is so sure of herself that she declares, "Ultimately, people shape their own characters." A remarkable statement this is, in the context of Nazi occupation! Indeed, in the Annex cage, how else but through self-examination and willfulness would Anne's character have been shaped and discovered?
Anne's final power comes in realizing not her goodness but her regret. She regrets that her father "failed to see that this struggle to triumph over my difficulties was more important to me than anything else." She wanted what he couldn't give her: "To be treated . . . as Anne-in-her-own-right." She regrets that he has forced her to be someone she wasn't. "I've hid anything having to do with me from Father, never shared my ideals with him, deliberately alienated myself from him." Anne regrets having led Peter on, for doing so has been her "greatest disappointment." "I made one mistake," she writes. "I used intimacy to get closer to him, and in doing so, I ruled out other forms of friendship. . . . Our time together leaves him feeling satisfied, but just makes me want to start all over again."
With herself, finally, her regret sloughs through despair and confusion in the final diary entry. She blisters herself one last time by staying in her "contradictions," talking about how "I'm split in two." The one unpleasant Anne is the one she's known for, while the truer Anne "is my own secret," her "better side," which no one knows. As for her flippant side, the "exuberant cheerfulness," she writes, "You can't imagine how often I've tried to push away this Anne, which is only half of what is known as Anne—to beat her down, hide her." The reason, she says, is that others will ridicule her serious side, which is an incredible irony for it is this serious side that the diary exposes and for which she is beloved! And here, the great dilemma that all people face, aside from what their lives must represent, "I know exactly how I'd like to be, how I am . . . on the inside. But unfortunately I'm only like that with myself. And perhaps that's why—no, I'm sure that's the reason why—I think of myself as happy on the inside and other people think I'm happy on the outside. I'm guided by the pure Anne within."
The final two paragraphs of the diary end, perhaps arbitrarily, in this "who is Anne?" puzzlement. When things go bad or wrong, she ends up "turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside," even though she is "trying very hard to change myself, but that I'm always up against a more powerful enemy." That enemy is the public persona which for Anne is so misunderstood, which stands in the way of "what I'd like to be and what I could . . . if only there were no other people in the world."
Martyr to the Jews, so be it. But martyr to the unbridled adolescent self—this is undeniable. In fact, that last sentence contains a frightening admission—"no people" sounds genocidal, maybe suicidal. What has caused Anne the most pain is people, her coterie in the Annex who, she says, have never known her and have never, through their and Anne's fault alike, allowed the "pure Anne" out. People stifle us, the expectations of our parents, the unrequited love for another's hidden self that will not show itself. And yet, to be rid of people physically is not a literal idea. It is, instead, a metaphor for what the diary accomplishes: the removal of people so that her self, true and false and in-between, is allowed its freedom.
I don't think Anne ends in hatred of kin and romance; nor do I see her praising humankind, chattering on Churchill-like for decency and courage. I think the diary does what no film, play, traveling memorial exhibition, or preservation of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam can ever accomplish—show us the intractable self, intractable from the beginning, all the way to the end, becoming even more intractable.
Those final entries I have come to love—the rough, irreverent, stormy, disputatious Anne Frank, adulthood birthing itself in girlhood faster than girlhood can bear. The tragedy is that this voice, this emerging patchwork self-perhaps, had she lived, another witness of self-turmoil inside the Jewish nightmare, as honest as Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi—is silenced.
Too suddenly the diary ends when the two families and Mr. Dussel are discovered and taken first to Westerhof to be sorted and transferred, and then shipped to concentration camps which, by the end of 1944, were actually shutting down, obliterating the evidence of the crematoria during the war's end-game. Anne with her older sister, Margot, dies of typhus in Bergen-Belsen in late February or early March 1945, six weeks before the camp is liberated by the Allies.
When Otto Frank read Anne's diary after the war, he said he was "surprised" by Anne's "self-criticism. It was quite a different girl than I had known as my daughter. She never showed these kind of inner feelings." This one statement, for me, almost wipes away the distortion of the first edition. His admission says that he understood the honesty and complexity of her writing; he didn't want the world to see and understand it as well. So we need not blame the father for missing his daughter's inner life. Rather, we are reminded of just how private we are, despite the openness of self-disclosure when others read our thoughts and feelings. It is a fact of the best diaries: they convince us that our hidden selves are our truest selves but, like Mr. Frank, we didn't notice it in the other, so busy were we hiding in our own privacy.
To date, history has asked that we contextualize Anne Frank in her time—Jewish victim, recorder of one family's ultimately futile attempt to hide from the Nazis, precocious girl whose insights about prejudice and hatred we still learn from. And yet, it seems the more we contextualize Anne in her historical condition, the purer she becomes. Or, put differently, the result of the world's remembering her seems only to have purified her of herself.
No one can recast with new limbs and troubled heart the Holocaust's child; it may seem treasonous even to suggest it. But, by emphasizing this unknown, complicating, courageously individualizing person, who does emerge with arguably more horns than hopes in the definitive edition, we begin to acknowledge her multiplicity, begin to juggle and judge several "Annes": the pure and forgiving Anne of remembrance; the mother-conflicted feminist Anne; the writerly self-editing Anne; the self-reproachful and self-loathing Anne (easily the most unpopular one); the philosophical, contradictory, at times repressed, at times vindictive Anne; and Anne the Not So Innocent, who differs with us, I believe, about her further canonization, the Anne who is—perhaps—most like us.
Richard Covington (essay date October 2001)
SOURCE: Covington, Richard. "Forever Young." Smithsonian 32, no. 7 (October 2001): 70-6.
[In the following essay, Covington discusses his visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and recounts the publication history of The Diary of a Young Girl.]
I am standing in Anne Frank's narrow bedroom in front of yellowing, meticulously restored fan magazine photographs of 1940s Hollywood film stars Norma Shearer and Greta Garbo, and Princess Elizabeth of York, the young, fresh-faced future Queen of England. I have brought my daughter Billie, 10, to the Anne Frank House.
It was here in this four-story brick office building, a 17th-century canal house, that Anne, her sister, parents and four other Jews hid in the rear secret annex for 25 months during the Nazi occupation. It was here that Anne wrote the diary [Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl ] that has given tens of millions of readers around the world the impression that they were living through the fearful, tedious, trying, occasionally funny experience with her.
I imagine her at her desk grappling with algebra, so frustrated with the impenetrable textbook that she was "ready to tear the blasted thing to pieces." Only her father Otto's threat to take away her diary scared her enough to keep slogging through the detested stuff. I see her huddled silently with the others, dreading discovery as burglars ransack the offices below. I picture Anne laughing in the kitchen when her father's business partner, Hermann van Pels, tries to make sausages and succeeds only in making "a glorious mess," as she so gleefully puts it.
By the end of our visit, I'm as shaken and inspired by Anne's indomitable spirit and effervescent wit as my daughter is. What would we have done in similar circumstances? Rereading Anne's diary after decades, I'm struck again by what a terrific writer she was. I have no doubt she would have become the formidable journalist and author she aspired to be had she not died—a few months shy of her 16th birthday—of typhus in the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen.
Anne was a tirelessly searching, sharp-tongued, cheerfully exuberant and doubting adolescent. Despite the many privations, she could still look on her time in hiding as an "amusing" adventure. "Why, then, should I be in despair?" she writes. Her know-it-all arrogance would have driven me crazy at times, but by the end of the diary, you love her, respect her wisdom and grieve as if you have lost a fiercely talented daughter, sister or friend. As the Italian author Primo Levi, himself a Holocaust survivor, once put it: "One single Anne Frank moves us more than countless others who suffered just as she did, but whose faces have remained in the shadows."
The diary came as a revelation, giving the world a window into life in hiding, an ordeal few people outside Europe had any inkling of whatsoever. The diary reached profoundly into people's lives. Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, credited it with giving him and his fellow Robben Island political prisoners spiritual nourishment.
Overlooking one of Amsterdam's picturesque canals, the Anne Frank House has become a place of pilgrimage. Although a short introductory video depicts the rise of Nazism, there is very little horror here. The annex is utterly ordinary, its 538 square feet awkwardly cramped for eight residents but a home nonetheless. "What we're trying to do is reach people emotionally so that they feel personally involved in what took place on this spot," says executive director Hans Westra.
The genial Westra has spent the past 27 years preserving the legacy of Anne Frank. After a four-year face-lift and expansion, the museum, first opened in 1960, now has space for changing exhibitions, a cafe with reading tables, and computer kiosks that allow visitors to explore an award-winning CD-ROM detailing the house, relationships among the residents and their daily routines.
By the time the Franks went into hiding in the summer of 1942, Amsterdam's Jews were being rounded up and packed off into freight trains to concentration camps in Germany and Poland. The Franks had fled Frankfurt to Amsterdam in 1933, hoping to escape the Nazis and the rising tide of anti-Semitism. They were among the 25,000 Dutch Jews who went into hiding in attics, cellars and barns.
For more than two years, the office building where Otto had sold herbs and spices for sausages, and pectin for making homemade jam, proved an ideal hiding place. He asked his four office employees if they would help bring food and supplies. They said yes without hesitation, knowing that they were risking their lives.
Otto had been secretly preparing the annex for a year when, on July 5, 1942, Anne's 16-year-old sister, Margot, was ordered to report for transport to a labor camp in Germany. Very early the next day, the Franks took refuge in the annex. A week later, Hermann van Pels, his wife, Auguste, and 15-year-old son, Peter, joined them. Fritz Pfeffer, a middle-aged dentist and Frank family friend, arrived a few months after on November 16.
Anne's parents had given her the red plaid diary on June 12, for her 13th birthday. In her first entry, the seemingly lighthearted, flirtatious class clown wrote that she hoped to confide in it as she had never been able to confide in anyone before. After filling this book, she continued her musings in school exercise tablets until August 1, 1944, three days before the annex was discovered. Writing in Dutch (occasionally peppered with German phrases and quotations), she confessed her innermost thoughts, desires and fears. At first, she had no intention of publishing it, but when the exiled Dutch minister of education broadcast an appeal in March 1944 for "simple" writings by ordinary people during the occupation, Anne started feverishly revising her entries on loose-leaf sheets of paper, giving the residents pseudonyms and paring away embarrassing parts, confidently transforming what had been a somewhat childish, rambling monologue into a polished narrative suitable for publication.
As Miep Gies, one of the four "helpers," says to an interviewer in the museum video, "Anne had eyes that sparkled and was completely spontaneous. She bristled with life." Try as Gies might to gloss over the beatings and arrests going on outside, she could never fool Anne. The insatiably curious teenager always got the truth out of her.
Terrified that the hiding place would be discovered, Anne resorted to taking daily doses of the sedative valerian to control bouts of anxiety and depression. "I wander from room to room, climb up and down the stairs and feel like a songbird whose wings have been ripped off and who keeps hurling itself against the bars of its dark cage," she wrote in October 1943. "I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle, look at the world, feel young and know that I'm free." She wondered if in time people would "not worry about whether or not I'm Jewish and merely see me as a teenager badly in need of some good plain fun."
Occasionally, she did cut loose. "I'm currently going through a dance and ballet craze and am diligently practicing my dance steps every evening," she wrote in January 1944. Pressing the more restrained Margot to dance along with her in the front office, Anne fashioned "an ultramodern dance costume" out of her mother's lacy lavender slip.
"Mad on books and reading," as she put it, she adored mythology and genealogy and spent hours charting family trees of European royalty. Music was another passion; listening to Mozart on the radio "stirs me to the very depths of my soul," she wrote. Anne was also an uncommonly busy, if sometimes balky, student. Under Otto and Margot's tutelage, she plunged into history, geography, art history, Bible studies, French, English, German literature and shorthand.
Although she could be lacerating about the self-absorbed Mrs. Van Pels, she saved her sharpest barbs for her dentist roommate Fritz Pfeffer (called Alfred Dussel in the diary).
She constantly fought with her mother, Edith, whose reproaches, Anne fumed, pierced her "like arrows from a tightly strung bow." Eventually, Anne tried to accept some of the responsibility, blaming herself for being "insolent and beastly." She remained close to Otto despite her anger over his admonition not to carry her crush on Peter too far. The rapidly maturing Anne was nothing if not opinionated, unafraid to sound off about war, politics and the inequality of women. "One of the many questions that have often bothered me is why women have been, and still are, thought to be so inferior to men," she reflects.
Like the rest of the annex residents, Anne also spent a good deal of time planning for the day when she could walk out the front door in freedom. She dreamed of spending a year in Paris and London, learning languages and studying art history. In her final entry, Anne struggles to come to grips with a personality that she admits is "split in two"—the amusing clown and the side that is "purer, deeper, finer" that she's afraid to expose to ridicule. "What I say is not what I feel, which is why I have a reputation for being boy-crazy as well as a flirt, a smart-aleck and a reader of romances," she writes. "The happy-go-lucky Anne laughs, gives a flippant reply, shrugs her shoulders and pretends she doesn't give a darn. The quiet Anne reacts in just the opposite way." She then admits that "I'm trying very hard to change myself, but that I'm always up against a more powerful enemy." Three days after she wrote these words, the secret residents of 263 Prinsengracht were arrested and Anne's diary lay scattered on the floor.
For many Americans, the diary was their literary introduction to the Holocaust. Of the 25 to 30 million copies in 60 languages, at least a quarter were sold in the United States. More than half of the nation's high school students have read it.
Since the renovation of the museum, personal belongings are now on display. Billie and I looked at some of the Cinema & Theater movie magazines the office manager faithfully brought for Anne, who was crazy about film stars and even fantasized about going to Hollywood. There's a postcard implying that the Franks had fled to relatives in Switzerland, intended to throw would-be pursuers off their track.
Climbing steep stairs to the third floor, my daughter and I thread past a hinged bookcase and emerge into the secret annex. In the bedroom that Margot shared with her parents, Edith Frank's prayer book is on display, a witness to the devout Orthodox faith she tried and failed to instill in Anne. Otto's well-thumbed edition of Dickens' Sketches by Boz rests nearby. On one wall, a map of Europe bristles with pins marking the progress of the Allied invasion that kept the residents glued to banned BBC broadcasts in the summer of 1944. As early as July 1942, the station reported on the gassing of prisoners in camps in Poland. Later, the occupants rejoiced at the news of Italy's capitulation in September 1943. Faint pencil lines on the wall trace how quickly Margot and especially Anne grew in hiding.
Around the corner from Anne and Fritz's bedroom is the annex's bathroom, a source of frequent friction among the residents. At certain times of the day, particularly when the warehousemen below might hear them, absolute silence reigned. "No running water, no flushing toilet, no walking around, no noise whatsoever," she writes. In the evenings and on weekends, the residents slipped out of the stifling annex into the empty building. Apart from dancing and calisthenics, Anne and Margot took turns bathing in a wooden tub in the darkened front office overlooking the canal.
The room that served as combination kitchen, common room and the Van Pelses' bedroom is on the fourth floor. Next door is the tiny room beneath the annex attic stairs where 17-year-old Peter gave Anne, then nearly 15, her first kiss, in April 1944. By then, Anne's resilient optimism was ebbing away. Though she continued to maintain that "I still believe that people are really good at heart," she soon writes that "I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness."
Less than four months after Anne's chaste kiss with Peter, someone tipped-off the Nazis. After being arrested and hustled away to a local prison, the eight residents were transported to Westerbork, a transit camp in northeastern Holland. In September 1944, the eight were herded onto the last train from Westerbork to Auschwitz. Despite two investigations following the war, just who betrayed them remains a mystery.
In the front attic, where Anne and Peter sought refuge from the prying eyes of their parents, the faded red plaid diary is on display alongside a telling quote from it: "To be a person, you must have flair." It could serve as Anne's epitaph. The diary has undergone numerous adaptations, beginning with a Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play in 1955. A Hollywood film, starring Millie Perkins as Anne and Shelley Winters in an Oscar-winning role as Mrs. Van Daan, the pseudonym Anne gave Auguste van Pels, followed in 1959. Last May, a TV adaptation aired on ABC, and a remake of George Stevens' 1959 film is currently under way.
It was a miracle the diary was published at all. After the arrest, a grieving Miep Gies gathered it up along with the schoolbooks and loose sheets of Anne's revised version off the annex floor and locked them away unread in her desk drawer. After Otto returned to Amsterdam on June 3, 1945, and the Red Cross informed him that Edith, Anne and Margot had died, Gies gave Otto the diary. Though he thought he knew his daughter, Otto was astounded by the depth of her thought. Drawing on both the first version of the diary and the revised pages, he typed up a manuscript that was largely faithful to Anne's text, omitting some of the more stinging criticisms of her mother, and reinstating passages she had cut about her infatuation with Peter. Friends were so moved by the manuscript that they urged Otto to find a publisher. A sympathetic historian gave the manuscript a glowing account in a local newspaper, prompting a Dutch publisher to publish the book in June 1947. It was an immediate sensation. Although German and French editions followed, the diary encountered rejections in the United States. One publisher confidently wrote Otto, "I do not believe that there will be enough interest in the subject" to make a profit. But when an impressed Eleanor Roosevelt wrote an introduction to Doubleday's 1952 edition, it went through three printings.
Otto Frank bequeathed Anne's writings to the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation. Last spring an updated Dutch edition was published, and an English edition is in the works. It reinstates the five pages that Otto cut from the original, including Anne's speculation that a premarital love affair with someone else kept her father from truly loving her mother. "Ultimately, the additional pages don't change much because Anne shows throughout the whole book that she loves her Daddy very much and dislikes her mother," says David Barnouw, editor of the new edition.
"I see Anne's diary as a kind of testament, as a positive factor against racism and anti-Semitism and for a higher level of tolerance," Otto explains in an interview for the museum video. These days, the Anne Frank House staff of 100 monitors racial attacks and tracks Web sites spouting neo-Nazi propaganda. Anne Frank: A History for Today and Anne Frank in the World, ongoing traveling exhibitions about Anne's life in hiding and the groundbreaking outreach programs of the Anne Frank House, have so far visited a staggering 900 cities in 42 countries.
Despite the overwhelming mass of evidence documenting the Holocaust, the number of extreme right-wing groups and anti-Semitic Web sites that continue to deny that it happened is growing. Anne Frank's diary is a prime target. If the diary is a forgery, claim these hate groups, then the Holocaust is nothing more than a myth.
Typically, the revisionists maintain that it was Otto, not Anne, who wrote the diary and that he wrote it after the war. In 1981 a Dutch government laboratory carried out a painstakingly thorough analysis of the diary's handwriting, ink, paper and glue and confirmed that it was genuine. As recently as last year, the Anne Frank House was fighting to block a Belgian group from distributing pamphlets that brand the diary a hoax. "We won that battle and will continue to be very firm in opposing groups that challenge the diary's authenticity," Westra insists. In this determined plea for tolerance, I heard the echo of Anne Frank. "Surely the time will come when we are people again, and not just Jews," she wrote in April 1944. "We can never become just Dutch, or just English, or representatives of any country for that matter, we will always be Jews as well. But then we'll want to be."
Nigel A. Caplan (essay date January 2004)
SOURCE: Caplan, Nigel A. "Revisiting the Diary: Rereading Anne Frank's Rewriting." Lion and the Unicorn 28, no. 1 (January 2004): 77-95.
[In the following essay, Caplan emphasizes the importance of The Diary of a Young Girl to the canon of children's literature of the Holocaust and the literature of atrocity.]
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Hurwitz, Johanna. Anne Frank: Life in Hiding. Philadelphia, Pa.: Jewish Publication Society, 1988, 56 p.
Detailed juvenile biography of Frank that includes a chronology of important dates and historical events.
Johnson, Emma. Anne Frank, 1929-1945: From Schoolgirl to Voice of the Holocaust. Franklin, Tex.: Raintree Steck-Vaughn Publishers, 2002, 112 p.
Biography of Frank, including a critical evaluation of her impact on future generations.
Johnson, Marilyn. "The Unknown Anne Frank." Life 16, no. 7 (June 1993): 66.
A biographical portrait of Frank as a girl growing up in the Netherlands, which notes that, despite the travails of her life, Anne was very similar to many other girls of her generation.
Müller, Melissa. Anne Frank: The Biography. New York, N.Y.: Metropolitan Books, 1998, 330 p.
Thorough biography of Frank, including an introductory note by Miep Gies.
Pressler, Mirjam. Anne Frank: A Hidden Life. New York, N.Y.: Dutton's Children's Books, 1999, 176 p.
Biography of Frank that includes commentary by her step-sister Eva Schloss.
Berryman, John. "The Development of Anne Frank." In The Freedom of the Poet, pp. 91-106. New York, N.Y.: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1976.
Explains that Frank's Diary of a Young Girl is significant because it provides an engaging account of a child's maturation into adulthood.
Brenner, Rachel Feldhay. "Writing Herself against History: Anne Frank's Self-Portrait as a Young Artist." In Anne Frank: Reflections on Her Life and Legacy, edited by Hyman Aaron Enzer and Sandra Solotaroff-Enzer, pp. 86-93. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
Comments on the manner in which The Diary of a Young Girl reflects Frank's sense of self.
Goertz, Karein K. "Writing from the Secret Annex: The Case of Anne Frank." Michigan Quarterly Review 39, no. 3 (summer 2000): 647-60.
Compares various editions of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.
Haviland, Jeannette M., and Deirdre A. Kramer. "Affect-Cognition Relationships in Adolescent Diaries: The Case of Anne Frank." Human Development 34, no. 3 (May-June 1991): 143-59.
Examines the relationship between emotional expression and cognitive development in Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.
Huttenbach, Henry R. "The Cult of Anne Frank: Returning to Basics." In Anne Frank in the World: Essays and Reflections, edited by Carol Rittner, pp. 79-83. New York, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1998.
Criticizes the commercialization of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and illuminates the human dimensions of Frank's words.
Rosenblatt, Roger. "The Diarist." Time 153, no. 23 (14 June 1999): 80.
Commends Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl as a powerfully articulated text that arouses fundamental questions of ethics and values in its readers.
Stern, G. B. "Introduction to The Tales from the House Behind." In Anne Frank: Reflections on Her Life and Legacy, edited by Hyman Aaron Enzer and Sandra Solotaroff-Enzer, pp. 81-5. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
Comments on the stories and essays from Frank's collection The Tales from the House Behind.
van der Stroom, Gerrold. "The Diaries Het Achterhuis and the Translations." In The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition, edited by David Barnouw and Gerrold van der Stroom, pp. 59-77. New York, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1989.
Traces the history of The Diary of a Young Girl, including its discovery, its restoration to Frank's father, and the events leading up to its eventual publication.
Waaldijk, Berteke. "Reading Anne Frank as a Woman." In Anne Frank: Reflections on Her Life and Legacy, edited by Hyman Aaron Enzer and Sandra Solotaroff-Enzer, pp. 110-20. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
Defends Frank's value as a writer for women.
Additional coverage of Frank's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Thomson Gale: Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. 12; Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults, Vol. 1; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 113, 133; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 68; DISCovering Authors ; DISCovering Authors: British Edition ; DISCovering Authors: Canadian Edition ; DISCovering Authors Modules: Most-studied Authors ; DISCovering Authors 3.0 ; Literature and Its Times, Vol. 4; Literature Resource Center ; Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, Ed. 2; Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults Supplement, Ed. 1; Major 20th-Century Writers, Eds. 1, 2; Nonfiction Classics for Students, Vol. 2; St. James Guide to Young Adult Writers ; Something about the Author, Vols. 42, 87; Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism, Vol. 17; World Literature Criticism ; and Writers for Young Adults.