Her work was presented as a child’s wartime diary rather than the edited memoir she had planned. Through this process, his identity as a writer was diminished while his image as a young victim was symbolized.
Now, 75 years after her story first became widely known, it is high time that Anne was recognized as an important literary figure whose distinct voice, perspective and craftsmanship remain relevant to our understanding of the ‘Holocaust.
Anne kept her diary from June 12, 1942 – weeks before she and her family (and possibly four others) hid in a “secret annex” to her father Otto Frank’s office building in Amsterdam – until August 1, 1944, three days before she and the other illegal immigrants were arrested by Nazi forces. Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl, employees of Otto Frank’s company who helped the illegals, saved the red and white checkered volume and the additional notebooks in which Anne wrote her diary (version A) and other writings , as well as the hundreds of sheets” on which she wrote her revisions (version B) until March 29, 1944.
After the confirmation of Anne’s death in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, Gies handed over these documents, then unread, to Otto Frank – the only survivor of the secret annex. He selected, edited and combined entries from both versions of the diary to shape the published diary, which appeared as “Het Achterhuis” (The Secret Annex or the House Behind) in 1947 in the Netherlands, over two years after Anne’s death. In 1952, the first American edition appeared under the title “The Diary of a Young Girl”. The book remained in print and was translated into over 70 languages during these decades.
While Otto Frank’s editing, along with that of other editors, made possible the journal’s publication at the time, some aspects of Anne’s intentions were compromised in the process. For example, the published diary begins with lists of his unfiltered comments about his classmates instead of his opening thoughts on journaling and the possibility of a wider audience: “Writing in a journal is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I have never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the thoughts of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. Well, that’s okay. I want to write and I need even more to get rid of all sorts of things.
Anne repeatedly wrote in her diary about her desire to be a writer. His explicit attention to remaking his diary for publication was prompted by a radio broadcast from London on March 28, 1944 in which a Dutch government official, Gerrit Bolkestein, mentioned the value of collecting diaries and other stories at the first person describing the experiences of the Nazi occupation. . On March 29, 1944, Anne’s diary entry indicates her realization that she already had an audience for her project: “Of course, everyone threw themselves at my diary. Imagine how interesting it would be if I published a novel about the Secret Annex. The title alone would make people think this is a detective story.
That spring she returned to the beginning of her diary, diligently rewriting and make a version of it (version B) intended for a public audience. Publishing the diary in 1947 involved undoing aspects of Anne’s editorial work and restoring parts of the original diary that the 15-year-old had deleted, such as details of her brief romance with Peter van Pels.
The result bends her work into an odd text with multiple lead voices, with words and ideas from younger and older Anne intermingling with the priorities of Otto Frank and other adult editors.
The published diary makes Anne more of a child victim and less of a writer with intent and purpose, as evidenced by the English title “The Diary of a Young Girl”.
This effect was amplified by the many adaptations of Anne’s diary into other cultural forms, including plays and films, which began very early with the dramatization by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett which debuted on Broadway. in October 1955.
As Cynthia Ozick, Alvin Rosenfeld and others have argued, this popular play directed by Garson Kanin intentionally diminished or whitewashed Anne’s ethnic heritage and Jewish identity, as well as her power as a writer. She became more generalized as a child victim, more clearly a child that many others could identify with – and less clearly a Jew.
Since the late 1950s, the authenticity of Anne’s paternity has been repeatedly questioned. Claims that she did not write the diary herself are based on anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and disbelief that a young person can write in a sophisticated way.
After the Dutch Institute for War Documentation bequeathed the diary manuscripts after Otto Frank’s death in 1980, they undertook an exhaustive study of the handwriting and original diary documents and concluded that they were authentic. These results have been included with other background documents and the multiple versions of the journal in “The Critical Edition,published in Dutch in 1986 (1989 in English). A “definitive edition” of the diary followed in 1991 (1995 in English), which restored the missing passages of the diary entries, included many more entries from the edited B version of Anne in a new translation, and became widely available as text standard.
Since then, the range of Anne’s writings has been collected in comprehensive editions. The “revised critical edition” in Dutch appeared in 2001 (2003 in English), which also included Anne’s short stories or “tales”, known as “Tales from the Secret Annex”. Published in English in 2019 (2013 in German), “all known texts of Anne Frank”, including several versions of the diary, poetry, stories, letters and other compositions, appeared in a large volume “Collected Works”, which recognizes Anne as a writer with a body of work that spans multiple genres. In 2019, a German edition titled “Liebe Kitty” (Dear Kitty) appeared based on version B, with an afterword by Laureen Nussbaum, a scholar and childhood friend of Anne who advocated for Frank to be considered a writer. An online scholarly edition of his manuscripts was launched in 2021 but is still unavailable in the United States due to copyright restrictions.
Academics and critics continue to focus on Anne’s legacy, with recent examples including At Oren Stier take on her as a “Holocaust icon” drawing symbolic significance through literary and visual modes and At Dara Horn consideration of his cultural value as a “dead Jew” in a milieu which, according to him, is more interested in dead Jews than in those who are alive.
At the same time, adaptations – or appropriations, as Ozick argues – continue apace. Recent efforts include a series of “video diaries” produced by the Anne Frank House and Ari Folman’s animated film, “Where’s Anne Frank?” The film follows Folman’s graphic adaptation, illustrated by David Polonsky, and places a personal diary at the center of a contemporary drama.
The energy and audience of these adult-authored and adult-produced adaptations draw people’s attention to Anne’s Diary. Yet we still lack an accessible English edition of the version of the journal that she reviewed and edited herself.
There is therefore another version of Anne’s diary which deserves to be published separately and widely distributed in English: version B, the version which she prepared for publication.
The published diary and cultural adaptations present Anne as a child deprived of a future rather than someone who has achieved something in her life. Reading her revised version of her own diary will allow us to recognize Anne as a skilled and socially, culturally and politically conscious writer, who struggled in her writing with her intertwined identities as young, female and Jewish. .