Although I’ve taken two classes and read more than three dozen books on the subject, I have never read the diary of the most famous victim of the Holocaust. I’ve seen the movie version of her diary several times, and Frank is a constant source of discussion in my two classes. But her diary was never assigned reading for me (unlike most people, it seems), and my professors seem to seek out the journals, diaries, and memoirs of lesser known victims (probably because they assume I have read it).
The diary covers Frank receiving the diary on her thirteenth birthday in June 1942 through their time in hiding in the “Secret Annexe” to August 1, 1944, right before her family and the people hiding with them were betrayed to the Gestapo.
“It’s an odd idea for someone like me to keep a diary; not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I — nor for that matter anyone else — will be interested in the unbosoming of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl.” (pg. 2)
The most surprising aspect of Frank’s diary was the muted role Miep Gies seems to play out in the diary. This is not meant to disparage her role, and we have her to thank for preserving Frank’s diary until her father, Otto, returned. But one particular young woman, Elli Vossen, was a constant source of entertainment and support for Frank while in hiding. Yet, I’ve never even heard of Vossen and she has never taken center stage (in terms of the hiders) in any adaptation of the diary I’ve seen.
There are moments when the reader is reminded that this just a young girl concerned about boys and school work and movie stars, and then there are other moments when she sounds so incredibly mature and insightful. There are also moments that made my stomach clinch. For example, on page 117 in my edition, Frank is discussing the cremation of her pen and remarks that is “just what I want later”. I just felt sick after reading that small sentence. And I wonder, if she had lived, would she cringe at the things she wrote about her family, particularly her mother?
The diary was edited by Otto Frank; pages were removed including ones in which “Anne picks apart her parents’ strained marriage, analyzes her own difficult relations with her mother, Edith, and vows to keep the diary out of her family’s hands as ”none of their business”. The pages have since been added back into the diary, but my edition was published in 1993 and I missed these 2007 additions.
The diary also paints a very atypical existance in hiding, which I think most readers of this diary do not realize. Even those lucky enough to be in hiding were not as luck as Frank’s family when it came to space, food, education, and entertainment. Most families were also unable to hide together unlike the Franks and Van Daans.
Ultimately, though, I did not love Frank’s diary. I really have no great reason why. But I can understand why it is such a widely read account of the Holocaust, and I am glad I read it.
- Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl. Translated from Dutch by B. M. Mooyaart-Doubleday. New York: Bantam Books, 1993. Originally published 1947. Print. 283 pgs. ISBN: 0553296981. Source: Purchased.