Diary of a Young Girl (1947, 1952, 1995, 2001), by Anne Frank

Frank-DiaryI don’t think I need say much about the actual story; so much is already known, already discussed. What I find interesting is the editing process that produced the original 1947 version of the book and two important subsequent editions.

There are three main editions out there for popular consumption: the 1947 edition was edited by Otto Frank, Anne’s father, and was translated into English in 1952 with an introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt; the 1995 definitive edition is a new translation and includes some passages not in the original publication; the third format is the 2001 critical edition, which contains side-by-side manuscripts and published editions, and is impossible to read as a narrative, but lovely to study as an academic.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the editing of the original publication, but I still find that it is the better narrative; Anne’s young voice and personality seem fresher and more real—less like an adult interpreting a young girl—and the absence of those parts included in the second edition is not (to me) noticeable.

Anne Frank received a diary for her 13th birthday, 12 June 1942. She began writing in it two days later. On 6 July 1942, the family went into hiding and Anne continued to write in her diary. There were at least four different diaries: a plaid diary from 12 June 1942 to the end of Nov. 1942; a second diary containing entries from this date to 21 Dec. 1942 is lost; an exercise book from 22 Dec. 1942 to 17 Apr. 1943; a second exercise book from then until 1 Aug 1944, the last entry (Caplan 78). What is interesting is that on 29 March 1944, “Mr. Bolkestein, the Cabinet Minister, speaking on the Dutch broadcast from London, said that after the war a collection would be made of diaries and letters dealing with the war” (Frank, Critical 144), and at this point Anne appears to have gone back over previous pages (from 20 June 1942 to 27 March 1944) and edited them herself. The revised pages were written on “typing paper” (Caplan 78), or “loose sheets” (Frank, Critical 168). These revisions suggest strongly that Anne intended the diary ultimately to be published, altering the narrative voice—perhaps subconsciously—as the diary was now being written to an unknown, other, reader. The changes she introduces make the new version much less personal, and produce in her narrative voice a greater maturity and reasonableness than revealed in her 13-year-old rantings in the unedited version.

Anne Frank’s diaries were given to her father, the only surviving member of the family, after the war, and he fortuitously chose to publish them. Here, other hands than Anne’s step into the publication process. The Dutch publisher requested—and Otto Frank obliged with—the removal of information of a personal or sexual nature, such as that regarding negative family dynamics, and Anne’s desires and menstruation. The American publishers, again in conjunction with Otto Frank, felt that the 1952 translated edition was intended to deliver a message of hope and of the power of the human spirit in adversity, and so the language in translation was carefully chosen to deliver this message, as was Eleanor Roosevelt’s short introduction. The 1995 edition reinstated much of the information Otto Frank had excised, as well as adding in a few pages that were discovered subsequent to the original publication, thus restoring some of the more sexual content (this edition of the book has been challenged in some schools in the USA). The 2001 critical edition places side-by-side all of the known versions of the original text—Anne’s various hand-written pages—and compares them to other known published versions.

Anne’s voice is thus transformed through her own growing artistic and social sensibilities; the selection process of her editors, including herself; and the linguistic choices of her various translators. Apart from the Critical Edition, from which the reader can reconstruct Anne’s own choices, we do not have a truly definitive version of what Anne felt she wanted to say, ultimately, to her reading public: the world.

On 4 August 1944, the German police raided The Annex and arrested its occupants, who were all ultimately taken to various concentration camps. Anne and her sister Margot ended up in Bergen-Belsen, where they died of typhus in early 1945. Otto Frank’s publication of his daughter’s diaries gave the world a young, innocent voice narrating atrocities that few of us can imagine. David Russell has claimed that “art of the Holocaust is necessarily didactic art” (268), to which Adrienne Kertzer responded—in the tradition of “adult” writers such as Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, and Paul Celan—that there is no “why” in the Holocaust: “children’s books about the Holocaust seem to function primarily to explain what adult texts often claim is ultimately inexplicable” (239-40). Kertzer argues that memoir disturbs this model, because it is written without knowledge of the end, and therefore without “the consolation of shaping narrative order” (241) (Caplan 80-1). As retrospective spectators, though, we know the end of the diary—that which is not written—and it strengths the poignancy of Anne’s voice, already reconstructed twice to enhance narrative effect.

Some resources for studying Anne Frank

  • Bergen, Doris L. “Humanity in an Inhumane World.” Review of Politics 60.3 (1998): 588-91.
  • Bloom, Harold, ed.  A Scholarly Look at the Diary of Anne Frank.  Philadelphia, PA: Chelsea House, 1999.
  • Brenner, Rachel Feldhay. “Writing Herself Against History: Anne Frank’s Self-Portrait as a Young Artist.” Modern Judaism 16.2 (1996): 105-34. JSTOR. 21 July 2005.
  • Caplan, Nigel A. “Revisiting the Diary: Rereading Anne Frank’s Rewriting.” The Lion and the Unicorn 28.1 (2004): 77-95.  JSTOR. 21 July 2005.
  • Corr, Charles A. “An Annotated Bibliography of Death-Related Books for Children and Adolescents.” Literature and Medicine 21.1 (2002): 147-74. JSTOR. 21 July 2005.
  • Ezrahi, Sidra DeKoven. “After Such Knowledge, What Laughter?The Yale Journal of Criticism 14.1 (2001): 287-313. JSTOR. 21 July 2005.
  • Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl: Anne Frank.  The Definitive Edition.  1991.  Trans. Susan Massotty, 1995.  Ed. Otto Frank and Miriam Pressler.  New York: Anchor, 1996.
  • —.  Anne Frank’s Tales from the Secret Annex.  Trans. Ralph Mannheim and Michel Mok.  New York: Doubleday, 1984.
  • —.  The Diary of a Young Girl.  [Ed. Otto Frank.]  Trans. B.M. Mooyaart-Doubleday.  New York: Doubleday, 1952.  Trans. of Het Achterhuis, 1947.
  • —.  The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition.  Trans. Arnold J. Pomerans.  Ed. David Barnouw and Cerrold Van Der Stroom.  New York: Doubleday, 1989.
  • Goertz, Karen K. “Writing from the Secret Annex: The Case of Anne Frank.” Michigan Quarterly Review 39.3 (2000): 647-60.
  • Goldstein, Judith. “Anne Frank: The Redemptive Myth.” Partisan Review 70.1 (2003): 16-23.
  • Hasian, Marouf Arif. “Anne Frank, Bergen-Belsen, and the Polysemic Nature of Holocaust Memories.” Rhetoric & Public Affairs 4.3 (2001): 349-74. JSTOR. 21 July 2005.
  • Iskander, Sylvia P.  “Anne Frank’s Reading.” Children’s Literature Association Quarterly 13.3 (1988): 102-65.
  • Karolides, Nicholas J. and Donna Sova, eds.  “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.”  100 Banned Books: Censorship Histories of World Literature.  New York: Checkmark, 1999. 339-41.
  • Kertzer, Adrienne.  My Mother’s Voice: Children, Literature, and the Holocaust.  Peterborough, ON: Broadview, 2002.
  • —. “‘Do you know what “Auschwitz” means?’ Children’s Literature and the Holocaust.” The Lion and the Unicorn 23.3 (1999): 238-56.
  • —. “Saving the Picture: Holocaust Photographs in Children’s Books.” The Lion and the Unicorn 24.3 (2000): 402-31. JSTOR. 21 July 2005.
  • Kidd, Kenneth.  “’A’ is for Auschwitz: Psychoanalysis, Trauma Theory, and the ‘Children’s Literature of Atrocity.’”  Children’s Literature 33 (2005): 120-49.
  • Kremer, S. Lillian.  “Children’s Literature and the Holocaust.”  Children’s Literature 32 (2004): 252-63.
  • Larson, Thomas. “’In Spite of Everything’: The Definitive Indefinite Anne Frank.” Antioch Review 58.1 (2000): 40-44.
  • Lejeune, Philippe, and Victoria A. Lodewick. “How Do Diaries End?Biography 24.1 (2001): 99-112. JSTOR. 21 July 2005.
  • Leowy, Hanno.  “Saving the Child: The ‘Universalization’ of Anne Frank.”  Marginal Voices, Marginal Forms: Diaries in European Literature and History.  Ed. Rachael Langford and Russell West.  156-74.
  • McMaster, Juliet. “‘Adults’ Literature,’ By Children.” The Lion and the Unicorn 25.2 (2001): 277-99. JSTOR. 21 July 2005.
  • Morson, Gary Saul.  “How Did Dostoevsky Know?” New Criterion 17.9 (1999): 21-30. [about the dramatization]
  • Myers, Mitzi. “Storying War: A Capsule Overview.” The Lion and the Unicorn 24.3 (2000): 327-36. JSTOR. 21 July 2005.
  • Reiter, Andrea.  “The Holocaust as Seen Though the Eyes of Children.”  The Holocaust and the Text: Speaking the Unspeakable.  Ed. Andrew Leak and George Paizis.  New York: St. Martin’s, 2000.  83-96.
  • Russell, David L. “Reading the Shards and Fragments: Holocaust Literature for Young Readers.” The Lion and the Unicorn 21.2 (Apr. 1997): 267-80.
  • Stewart, Victoria. “Anne Frank and the Uncanny” Paragraph 24.1 (2001): 99-113.
  • Sullivan, Ed. “Beyond Anne Frank: Recent Holocaust Literature for Young People.” The New Advocate 15 (2001): 49-55.
  • Yanow, Dvora. “The Anne Frank Myth.” Judaism 49.2 (2000): 183-8.
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