Monday, July 6, 2009

Notes for July 6th, 2009

This Day In Writing History

On July 6th, 1942, the Franks, a German-Jewish family living in Amsterdam, went into hiding to protect themselves from the Nazis. Father Otto Frank, his wife Edith, and their teenage daughters Anne and Margot, were joined by some friends - Hermann and Auguste Van Pels and their teenage son, Peter. Although Otto had planted a note at home to fool the Nazis into thinking that the Franks had fled to Switzerland, they and their friends had actually moved into a living space located above the offices of the Opekta Works - a company that manufactured pectin, a fruit extract used for making jam. Otto Frank was the former director of the Opekta Works.

The Franks' new living quarters consisted of two small, adjoining rooms and a toilet on one level, a small and larger open room on the second, and an attic that could be accessed from a ladder in the smaller room on the second level. 13-year-old Anne Frank called these quarters Het Achterhuis - The Secret Annex. When she and her family fled, they could only take a few meager possessions with them. One of Anne's belongings was a diary she had been given as a birthday present less than a month before.

In her diary, Anne Frank chronicled not only her daily life in hiding, but her hopes, fears, dreams, and feelings. She had a difficult relationship with her mother and older sister, and disliked Mr. and Mrs. Van Pels. When another family friend, dentist Fritz Pfeffer, came to stay at the Achterhuis, he shared a room with Anne and she came to hate him. She wrote of her growing love for Peter Van Pels, news she heard of the war, and fears for the safety of all her Jewish friends. She wrote of her and the others' frustrations at being confined, and their fears of being discovered.

On the outside, the Franks were helped by a circle of friends that included Johannes Kleiman (current director of the Opekta Works), Victor Kugler, Jan and Miep Gies, secretary Bep Voskuijl, and her father, Johannes Hendrik Voskuijl. They provided the Franks and their roommates with food and supplies bought mostly on the black market, all of them knowing that if they were caught, they would face execution for helping to hide Jews.

For over two years, Anne Frank, her family, and their roommates lived in the Achterhuis. Then, someone - it's not clear who - betrayed them. 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 to reclaim them.

Anne, her sister Margot, and their mother Edith were eventually 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 sickness brought on by 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 Alfred Dussel - Dussel meaning idiot in German.

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 sexual awareness 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; I first read it in 1983, in eighth grade English class, at the age of 13. 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 "definitive 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

"Who would ever think that so much went on in the soul of a young girl?" - Anne Frank

Vanguard Video

Today's video is The Anne Frank We Remember - a 57-minute lecture on Anne's legacy given by noted Holocaust scholar Alvin H. Rosenfeld. Enjoy!

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