This Day In Literary History
On July 6th, 1942, the legendary German writer Anne Frank and her family went into hiding to protect themselves from the Nazis. 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.
The family was forced to flee when Margot Frank received a letter ordering her to report for transfer to a work camp. So, Otto Frank planted a note to fool the Nazis into thinking that the family had fled to Switzerland.
Instead, they remained in Amsterdam and moved into a hiding place, which was 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 company.
The Franks' new living quarters consisted of two small, adjoining rooms and a toilet on one level, one small and one larger open room on the second, and an attic that could be accessed from a ladder in the smaller room on the second level.
Thirteen year old Anne Frank called these quarters The Secret Annex. When the Franks 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. Bound in beautiful red and green plaid cloth, it was actually an autograph book, but Anne used it as a diary. She had seen the book in a store window.
In her diary, Anne Frank chronicled not only her daily life in hiding, but also her hopes, fears, dreams, and feelings. She adored her father, but her relationship with her mother was strained at best. She disliked Mr. and Mrs. Van Pels.
When another family friend, dentist Fritz Pfeffer, moved into the hiding place, Anne was forced to share a bedroom with him. She came to hate him. Stifled by his confinement and fearful of the Nazis, Pfeffer took out his frustration on his roommates, especially Anne.
As time passed, Anne wrote of her growing love for Peter Van Pels, news she heard of the war, (the Franks had a radio) 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), Opekta employees 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 that were bought mostly on the black market. All of them knew 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 Secret Annex. Then, someone - it's not clear who - betrayed them. On August 4th, 1944, the Secret Annex was raided by the German Security Police, and everyone was arrested.
Later, when Miep Gies came for a visit, she found the Secret Annex 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 through 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 - and just one month before Bergen-Belsen was liberated by the Allies.
Later that year, Otto Frank, who had survived the horrors of Auschwitz, returned to Amsterdam. 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 Dussel - Dussel being the German word for idiot.
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 experiences with puberty, but the cuts didn't weaken the strong theme of Anne's growing maturity.
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 (The Diary) 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.
An upcoming Broadway play adaptation of the diary was soon announced. The legendary playwright Lillian Hellman was the producers' first choice to write the play, but she passed on it, fearing that her adaptation would be too depressing.
The Diary Of Anne Frank, a stage play adaptation by Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett, (whom Hellman had recommended) 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 and Shelley Winters as Mrs. Van Daan, was released in 1959. More adaptations followed, including more than one TV miniseries.
Over the years, the book's popularity has grown exponentially. It has sold over 25,000,000 copies worldwide. It often appears on middle school teachers' assigned reading lists; I first read this amazing book in 1983, in eighth grade English class, at the age of thirteen.
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 Frank had given the pages to Suijk, who claimed the right to publish the previously deleted material 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 Anne's diary was her legacy, and it continues to inspire over 60 years after her death.
The diary is 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 - one of the most important documents 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
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!