This Day In Literary History
On June 12th, 1929, the legendary German writer 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 I, where he served as an officer in the German Army.
In March of 1933, municipal council elections were held in Frankfurt, and Adolf Hitler won dictatorial control, becoming Chancellor of Germany. 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 Dutch army, the Nazis 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.
The following month, Margot Frank received a letter from the Central Office for Jewish Emigration ordering her to report for relocation to a work camp. So, on July 6th, the family fled their apartment after Otto planted a fake note to trick the Nazis into thinking they went to Switzerland.
The Franks moved into a hiding place - a three-story space located above the offices of Otto Frank's previous company, the Opekta Works. Anne called it the Secret Annex. A week later, they 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 Secret Annex.
In her diary, (which she called Kitty, after the main character in her favorite series of children's 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 and Auguste Van Pels as foolish. She became friends with Peter Van Pels, developed a crush on him, and experienced her first kiss. Anne's affection for Peter 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, and 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. The food and supplies had to be purchased on the black market.
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 wrote of her strained relationships with her mother and sister, (her relationship with her mother was especially strained) and she wrote about what it was like to be confined, hidden, and always in fear of discovery.
In August of 1944, two years after they went into hiding, someone - it's not clear who - betrayed the Franks. On August 4th, the Secret Annex was raided by the German Security Police, and everyone was arrested.
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 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 - and just one month before Bergen-Belsen was liberated by the Allies.
In 1945, having survived the horrors of Auschwitz, Otto Frank returned home to the Netherlands. 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; she'd 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 their roommates. The Van Pels family became the Van Daans, and Fritz Pfeffer's name was changed to Albert Dussell - Dussell 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 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 (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.
In October of 1955, The Diary Of Anne Frank, a stage play adaptation by Francis Goodrich and Albert Hackett, premiered on Broadway 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 a TV miniseries.
Over the years, the book's popularity has grown exponentially, selling over 25,000,000 copies worldwide. It often appears on middle school English and social studies teachers' assigned reading lists. I first read this amazing book in middle school, 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.
Suijk claimed that Otto Frank had given them to him and claimed the right to publish the missing pages. He 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 nearly 75 years after her death. It's a profoundly moving testament to the courage of an ordinary teenage girl trapped in extraordinary circumstances and a testament to the evils of racism and fascism - one of the most important documents of the Holocaust.
The Secret Annex in Amsterdam where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis and wrote her famous diary was turned into a museum called the Anne Frank House by the Dutch government. First opened to the public in 1960, it was rededicated by the Netherlands' Queen Beatrix after its second renovation in 1999.
In 2007 alone, over a million people visited the Anne Frank House. If you go there, you can still see the pictures of movie stars that Anne tacked up on her bedroom wall.
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 neither I, nor anyone else, will care for the outpouring of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl." - Anne Frank
Today's video features a complete reading of the 70th Anniversary Definitive Edition of The Diary of Anne Frank, performed by Helena Bonham Carter. Enjoy!