Friday, June 12, 2009

Notes for June 12th, 2009

This Day In Writing History>

On June 12th, 1929, Anne Frank was born. She was born Anneliese Marie Frank in Frankfurt, Germany. Her father, Otto Frank, was a Jewish businessman and decorated veteran of World War 1, where he served as an officer in the German army. In March of 1933, municipal council elections were held in Frankfurt, and Adolf Hitler's Nazi Party won control. Anti-Semitic demonstrations began, and the Frank family feared for their safety. Anne Frank, her older sister Margot, and their mother Edith went to stay with Anne's grandmother in Aachen. Later, after receiving an offer to start a company in Amsterdam, Otto moved the family to the Netherlands.

In February 1934, Edith and the girls arrived in Amsterdam. Anne Frank was enrolled in a Montessori school, where she showed advanced aptitude in reading and writing. Her friend, Hanneli Goslar, later recalled that Anne started writing in early childhood, but kept her writings a closely guarded secret and would not discuss them. In 1938, Otto Frank started a second company, Pentacon - a wholesaler of herbs, spices, and pickling salts used to make sausages. His spice adviser was Hermann Van Pels, a Jewish butcher who had also fled Germany with his family.

Edith Frank's mother came to Amsterdam to live with the family in 1939. The Franks' quiet life would change forever when the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in May of 1940. After defeating the country, they set up an occupation government and enacted discriminatory laws requiring Jews to register themselves and be segregated from the non-Jewish population. In April of 1941, Otto Frank took steps to keep Pentacon from being confiscated as a Jewish-owned business, enabling him to earn a small income with which to support his family. Otto had the company liquidated and the assets transferred to his employee, Jan Gies. Jan and his wife Miep were close friends of the Frank family.

On June 12th, 1942, Anne Frank received a diary from her father as a gift for her thirteenth birthday. She had seen the handsome book, bound in red and green plaid cloth and with a small lock on the front, in a shop window. It was actually an autograph book, but Anne used it as a diary. In July, her sister Margot received a letter from the Central Office for Jewish Emigration ordering her to report for relocation to a work camp. On July 6th, The family fled their apartment (Otto planted a fake note implying that they went to Switzerland) and moved into a hiding place - a three-story space located above the offices of Otto Frank's previous company, the Opekta Works. They called it Het Achterhuis - The Secret Annex.

A week later, the Franks were joined by Hermann Van Pels, his wife Auguste, and their 16-year-old son, Peter. In November, Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist and Frank family friend, moved into the Achterhuis. In her diary, (which she called Kitty, after the main character in her favorite series of novels) Anne wrote about the Van Pelses and Pfeffer, and their daily lives in the hiding place. She described Hermann Van Pels and Fritz Pfeffer as self-centered, Auguste Van Pels as foolish. She became friends with Peter Van Pels, developed a crush on him, and experienced her first kiss, but her affection for him waned as she questioned her true feelings, wondering if she really did love him or if it was because there was no one else.

While in hiding, the Franks' only connections to the outside world were Jan and Miep Gies, and Otto's former employees Victor Kugler, Johannes Kleiman, Bep Voskuijl, and Bep's father, Johannes Hendrik Voskuijl. These contacts provided the Franks and their roommates with information, food, and supplies, all of them knowing that if they were caught, they would be executed for helping to hide Jews.

Anne continued to write in her diary, expressing her feelings about her family and their roommates. She came to hate Fritz Pfeffer, with whom she had to share a room. She had a difficult relationship with her mother and sister - especially her mother. And she always wrote about what it was like to be confined and hidden and always in fear of discovery. In August 1944, two years after they went into hiding, someone - it's not clear who - betrayed the Franks. On August 4th, the Achterhuis was raided by the German Security Police, and everyone was arrested. When Miep Gies came for a visit, she found the Achterhuis vacant. She discovered Anne's diary and other writings (in notebooks and on looseleaf paper) and saved them, hoping that Anne would survive.

Anne, her sister Margot, and their mother Edith were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, her father Otto to Auschwitz. At Bergen-Belsen, Anne developed a severe case of scabies. Her mother died from starvation after giving her food rations to her daughters. When typhus swept the camp, Margot contracted the disease and Anne cared for her until she died. Anne then contracted typhus herself. Believing that her father had also died, Anne lost her will to live. She died of typhus in March of 1945, just three months before her sixteenth birthday.

In 1945, Otto Frank returned from the war. After the Red Cross confirmed the deaths of Anne and Margot Frank, Miep Gies gave Anne's diary and other writings to her father. Impressed with Anne's writing talent, the depth of her thoughts and feelings, and the way she chronicled the family's life in hiding - and remembering how she longed to be a writer - Otto considered having the diary published. Anne herself had wanted to publish her diary, after she heard a radio broadcast in March of 1944 by Gerrit Bolkestein - a member of the Dutch government-in-exile - who planned (after the war ended) to create a public record of the Dutch people's oppression under Nazi occupation. Anne prepared her diary for future publication by editing, rewriting, and using pseudonyms for her family, and her roommates. The Van Pels family became the Van Daans, and Fritz Pfeffer's name was changed to Albert Dussell.

After Anne's death, Otto Frank edited her diary himself, restoring the Frank family's names, but retaining the other pseudonyms. He cut some sections, including Anne's harsh criticisms of her mother and biting comments about her parents' strained marriage. He also removed sections dealing with Anne's growing awareness of her sexuality and her experiences with puberty. Otto gave the edited manuscript to historian Annie Romein-Verschoor, and she tried, unsuccessfully, to get it published. When her husband Jan wrote an article about the diary titled Kinderstern (A Child's Voice), which was published in the Het Parool newspaper in April 1946, it attracted the attention of publishers.

Anne Frank's diary was published in the Netherlands as Het Achterhuis in 1947, then again in 1950. It was published in Germany and France in 1950, and then in the UK in 1952, though in the UK, it was unsuccessful and went out of print the following year. Surprisingly, the diary's first edition was most successful in Japan, where it sold over 100,000 copies. The first American edition was published in 1952 as Anne Frank: The Diary Of A Young Girl. In the U.S., the book was just as successful and critically acclaimed as it was in Germany and France. The Diary Of Anne Frank, a play by Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett, premiered on Broadway in October 1955 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A feature film adaptation of the play, starring Millie Perkins as Anne Frank, was released in 1959. More adaptations followed, including a TV miniseries.

Over the years, the book's popularity has grown and it has sold over 25,000,000 copies worldwide. It often appears on middle school teachers' assigned reading lists. In 1999, Cornelius Suijk, a former director of the Anne Frank Foundation and president of the U.S. Center for Holocaust Education Foundation, announced that he possessed the sections of Anne Frank's diary that had been deleted by her father, Otto, prior to the book's initial publication. Otto had given them to Suijk. He claimed the right to publish the missing pages and planned to use the proceeds to help fund his U.S. foundation. After a court battle, Suijk agreed to turn over the pages to the Dutch Ministry of Education in exchange for a $300,000 donation to his foundation. He did so in 2001, and the diary has since been republished in an uncut special edition.

A companion volume was also published - Anne Frank's Tales From The Secret Annex - a collection of short stories and an unfinished novel called Cady's Life, all written by Anne during her two years in hiding. It's a fascinating book that showcases her writing talent, which was considerable. But her diary was her legacy, and it continues to inspire over 60 years since her death. It's a testament to the courage of an ordinary teenage girl trapped in extraordinary circumstances. It's also a testament to the evils of racism and fascism - an important document of the Holocaust.

Quote Of The Day

"For someone like me, it is a very strange habit to write in a diary. Not only that I have never written before, but it strikes me that later I, nor anyone else, will care for the outpouring of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl." - Anne Frank

Vanguard Video

Today's video is a special presentation featuring Anne Frank, with pictures, voiceover narration of her diary, and music performed by Glenn Gould. Enjoy!

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