The Diary of Anne Frank

"Our many Jewish friends and acquaintances are being taken away in droves. The Gestapo is treating them very roughly and transporting them in cattle cars to Westerbork, the big camp in Drenthe to which they're sending all the Jews....If it's that bad in Holland, what must it be like in those faraway and uncivilized places where the Germans are sending them? We assume that most of them are being murdered. The English radio says they're being gassed."
Anne Frank - October 9, 1942

First published in 1947 I read Anne's diary for the first time when I was fourteen. It was so very memorable to think of the helplessness and horrors she faced daily. Yet there was the also the day to day life that went on in spite of the terribleness of war while she and the others spent 25 months during World War II in an annex of rooms above her father’s office in Amsterdam. It appealed so much to my imagination that I often dreamed of her in the Secret Annex becoming the very best of friends, confidants, making up stories together and allaying her fears because I already knew how all terribly it would come to a tragic end for her.

A red plaid book meant to collect autographs she named Kitty, the diary was given to her by her mother for her thirteenth birthday. In the course of the two years she spent in hiding she filled several notebooks. Near the end of the hiding period Anne rewrote her diary notebooks with the intention to make a book from them to be published after the war had ended. In 1947, Otto Frank, her father and sole survivor from the group (another couple and their son Peter, Anne, her sister, her parents and another adult man) had the diaries of his deceased daughter published, The Diary of Anne Frank.

After about a year of keeping a diary Anne decided to write short stories based on real events that she wrotes in a separate Story Notebook all of which were published after the war. In March of 1944 on the Dutch Free Radio Oranje broadcast from England there was a call for citizens to provide their diaries for collection after the war for historical purposes.

-March 29, 1944-

Dear Kitty,

Mr Bolkestein, the Cabinent Minister, speaking on the Dutch broadcast from London said that after the war there would be a collection of diaries and letters dealing with the war ..... Just imagine how interesting it would be if I was to publish a novel about the Secret Annex.

On August 4th, 1944 the Secret Annex was raided, the suitcase Anne kept her diaries in was emptied onto the floor and her fathers's company secretaries Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl, collected the now 324 pages for safe-keeping hoping to return them to Anne. Upon hearing of her death of typhus and starvation in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in the spring of 1945, Miep gave the dairies to her father Otto commenting:

"Here is your daughter Anne's legacy to you."

Of "The Secret Annex" 1500 copies were published in the Netherlands in June 1947. All in all it was translated into 60 languages. In 1955, the successful stage version "The Diary of Anne Frank" premiered, followed by a film adaptation based on the play in 1959. Prepared by the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation "The Diary of Anne Frank", The Critical Edition was published in 1986. The Definitive Edition was published in 1995 on the fiftieth anniversary of Anne Frank's death and contained entries that both Otto Frank and the first publishers omitted from the 1947 edition. By restoring sections from the original diary, I became more deeply aware of the complexity and sensitivity of Anne Frank, a teenager struggling to discover who she was in the midst turbulent and uncertain times.

"...but the minute I was alone I knew I was going to cry my eyes out. I slid to the floor in my nightgown and began by saying my prayers, very fervently. Then I drew my knees to my chest, lay my head on my arms and cried, all huddled up on the bare floor. A loud sob brought me back down to earth..."--April 5, 1944

There has been an ongoing debate as to the authenticity of Anne's diary. Some Neo-Nazi groups have frequently targeted the diary, hoping that by doing so it might deny the full implications of the Holocaust. After allegations that the diary was a hoax, both in the United States and in Europe, Otto Frank bequeathed the diary to the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation which received it after his death in 1980. To establish its validity, the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation performed tests on the paper, ink, and glue used in the diary, proving that it was written during the 1940's. More testing was also performed on Anne's handwriting by comparing samples from the diary with her other writings, which included letters with dated stamp cancellations. This scientific study has been conclusively accepted that Anne Frank's diary was indeed written by Anne Frank during the Holocaust.

The newest edition of Anne Frank's diary was released this week in the Netherlands with five previously secret pages decribing her parent's loveless marriage and troubling relationship with her mother. Handwitten and secreted for over 40 years they deepen the image of Anne struggling through the normal growing pains of adolescence. She writes of her mother as having "cold eyes" and agonizes that she cannot talk to her--perhaps the reason she turns to her beloved dairy as confidant. She laments that her parents marriage so seemingly perfect on the outside is nothing more than a union of convenience. Her last entry was August 1, 1944 three days before she was arrested. Otto Frank had never concealed the fact that he had deleted some pages 'that didn't concern anyone else' and the original diary was incomplete. He gave the pages to Cor Suijk in 1980 with instructions to publish them after he and his second wife were deceased.

One of the last entries describes her optimism and tenderness near the end of her two arduous years in seclusion:

"It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again. In the meantime, I must uphold my ideals, for perhaps the time will come when I shall be able to carry them out.
--Yours, Anne"


The Anne Frank Internet guide:

The Associated Press. "Anne Frank diary relate family woes." Arizona Daily Star, 13 March 2001, p. A10.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

Please refer to the above writeup for quotes from and historical information about this diary. I will merely be discussing the contents.

The beginning - June 1942 to July 1943

Anne begins her diary shortly before her family goes into hiding from the Nazis. You almost immediately get a sense of whom she is, but not really of who anyone else is. Anne is writing almost exclusively about herself at this point. You learn that she is popular with the boys and is quite a talker at school.

Soon Anne and her family go into hiding. They move into their "secret annex" which is a set of hidden rooms that are located in the office building that her father Otto Frank worked in. The Frank family (Anne, her parents, and her sister Margot) are soon joined by the Van Daan family and their son Peter. Eventually they are joined by a Mr. Dussel, but he plays little part in the story, aside from arguing with all the other people.

Now that everyone is together the quarreling can begin. This section of the book is filled equally with arguments and little details about their life in hiding. The arguments seem to dominate most of the text. For it seems that no one can get along with anyone else. Anne seems to think that everyone is against her, and doesn't really seem to realize that everyone is against everyone, not just her (at least she never makes the connection between the two ideas).

Even this early on in her diary you begin to get a sense of Anne's dislike for other women. She says very little of her older sister Margot, and is already giving hints that she feels very little in the way of love towards her mother. While Mrs. Van Daan fairs worst of all, Anne rarely has anything nice to say about her at all. Her father on the other hand can do no wrong in her eyes, and she usually has decent things to say about Mr. Van Daan (when she isn't ripping apart their whole family at once). Anne says little of Peter, except that he is quiet, and has a tendency to touch her cheek.

One thing I noticed almost immediately was how good Anne's writing really was. Although I soon realized that the copy of this diary I was reading was in English, so she may have had quite a bit of help from the translator. I would love to see anyone who has read the original Dutch comment on this.

Anne starts to grow up - August 1943 to December 1943

In this section of the diary Anne begins to withdraw from everyone else around her. She alternately praises and damns everyone. Her dislike for her mother grows and grows, and she barely mentions Margot at all. Anne is writing almost exclusively about herself and the Van Daans at this point. It has actually seemed that Anne has always written better descriptions about the people who were not in her family, than about the people who were. This is most likely due to the sheer familiarity of her family members.

Towards the end of this section it seems that Anne has decided that she is quite grown up, and is somehow different than everyone else around her. But she is continually frustrated by her inability to show others who she thinks she is.

This middle section may be the best part of the diary. But there is little I can really say about it, as it consists mostly of Anne's thoughts about life. There is very little action besides the occasional scare that they may have been discovered. But those scares are all over the diary, and not just here.

Anne's sexual awakening - January 1944 to August 1944

Beginning in January of 1944 Anne begins to write almost exclusively about love and her desires. This section begins with a recollection about a sleepover she once had, where she kissed one of her female friends and attempted to feel her breasts. This is followed by a brief admittance that she is fascinated with the nude female body.

Anne's thoughts soon turn from girls to boys. She actually speaks of Peter for the first time as if he might actually be interesting. The very next day she has a semi-erotic dream involving an old "boyfriend" of hers (the actual dream would only be considered "erotic" because of the attached emotions, as it was actually quite tame). That boy's name was also Peter, but he was not the same Peter that was sharing the secret annex with her.

Anne becomes fully obsessed with Peter very quickly, but she fears that the feelings are not mutual. She begins to spend a lot of time with him, seeing him almost every day. They grow closer and closer, and Anne becomes more and more attached to him. She goes from saying she isn't in love with him to saying she thinks she might be, to saying that she is in love with him.

Peter is very slow in responding to Anne's affections. This isn't because he doesn't like Anne (he does, it is very obvious to everyone but Anne), but because he is one of those guys who is just scared to death of girls. They do a lot of sitting together silently, as unsure young people tend to do. Eventually after months he makes his move and kisses Anne. This spurs a brief period of time where she is even more infatuated with him. But soon after her feelings toward him begin to dim somewhat (after all, she has achieved her goal).

The last few diary entries are more concerned with the war, and politics in general. The last entry (August 1, 1944) is a bit of a throwback to a year before. It is all about Anne, and how other people see her, and her fears of people seeing the "true Anne".

There is nothing more questionable than a few kisses here, despite the title I gave this section of the book. Anne was a very proper girl (for the time) when it came to such matters, and she rarely even mentioned anything other than kissing and handholding.

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