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The Diary of Anne Frank
Shortly before going into hiding Anne had begun keeping a diary. On June 20th, 1942, she wrote down what her reasons were for doing so:
Anne wants to do more than write a story:
Anne was to live on, not only thanks to her talent or because of the feelings of indignation and guilt which she evokes, but especially because she herself is proof of the hope for a world which will bring the end of oppression for all people.
On August 4th, 1944 when the Allies were nearing the Dutch border, a German policeman entered the office of Otto Frank and located the attic which had been a hiding place for two years, with four Dutch accomplices. It was clear from their purposeful behavior that betrayal was involved. They demanded that the movable bookcase placed before the staircase be pushed aside. While the arrest took place, the five men looked around for things they took a fancy to. In order to stash their loot, they grabbed Mr.Frank's bag and emptied the contents out on the floor. All that time the bag had been the place where Anne had kept her diary. Her father had accepted the responsibility for making sure that no one would look in her notebooks, including himself. Now they lay like worthless papers on the ground. Mr. and Mrs. Frank, Margot and Anne, Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan, Peter and Mr. Dussel were taken in a Black Maria to the police station on Euterpestraat, together with Mr. Koophuis and Mr. Kraler. A few days later the first eight were transported to Westerbork, the transit camp for Jews. They were in the last transport to Auschwitz (September 2nd 1944). It has never been discovered who the traitor was.
In late October, Anne and Margot were "selected" for Bergen-Belsen. Mrs. Frank was killed by the hardships of Auschwitz. Mr. Van Daan died in the gas chambers. Peter was taken along by the SS when the concentration camp had to be abandoned because of the approach of the Russians. Mr. Dussel died in the concentration camp of Neuengamme. Mrs. Van Daan died at Bergen-Belsen. Only Mr. Frank lived to see the liberation of Auschwitz by the Russian troops.
In Bergen-Belsen there was practically no food or shelter for the prisoners. Nevertheless, during the last months of the war, train loads full of SS victims arrived in Bergen-Belsen nearly every day. Together with people of all different nationalities, among them many Russian prisoners of war, 30,000 Jews were killed.
What we know about Anne's last months is that in spite of the cold the hunger and the misery, she continued to be courageous and ready to help others. Both Anne and Margot contacted typhus. When Margot died, Anne could not go on any longer, and she died in March 1945. Someone who was with her during her last days, recounts that she died peacefully, with the feeling that no evil had overcome her (cf. Schnabel, A Portrait in Courage, p. 174).
Miep and Elly were not arrested. When the group had been taken away, they were the only ones left behind. Since Miep had an extra key, she was able to enter the Annex, which the German police had locked behind them. Five hours after the arrest, she and her husband, together with Elly and the oldest shop assistant, went back upstairs.
There they found all sorts of papers, books, photos and so forth lying scattered on the floor. Under these were various notebooks and loose sheets on which Anne had written her diary. The first time they didn't dare stay long, but a week later they returned to remove the furniture, at which time all the remaining papers were gathered up.
So it was that Anne's writings were preserved. Miep decided not to read it; in her own words, she might have been shocked by the text, which would have incriminated her as well, had the Germans found it. She feared she would have been forced to destroy the document. Unread, it posed less danger.
When Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam in the summer of 1945, Miep handed the papers over to him. Weeks later, he began to type out part of the diary and to translate it into German, with the idea of showing it to his old mother, who had escaped to Switzerland. Anne herself had already rewritten her diary once and left out parts of the first text in the process. Mr. Frank used this second, unfinished version as basis for the manuscript, and added parts of Anne's first diary, excluding certain sections wanting to guard his wife's memory and Anne's modesty.
It was originally not Mr. Frank's intention to publish the diary. A good friend was given the manuscript to read, however, and passed it on to the Amsterdam historian Jan Romein to read. He wrote about it in the daily newspaper "Het Parool," in a moving article, "A Child's Voice."
The Contact publishing company was willing to accept the book for publication. On May 11th, 1944, Anne had written in her diary:
The Diary has gone through countless editions, been the source of a play and movie and been translated into more than fifty language. Nevertheless the authenticity of the diary has been a bone of contention with neo-Nazi groups and revisionists doubting the diary's genuineness. This year, on the anniversary of the day Anne Frank would have turned sixty, an authoritative, authenticated edition of Anne Frank's diary was published.
Prepared by the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation, a comprehensive forensic study was prepared proving once and for all the authenticity of the diary. This documentation is included in the new, critical edition along with the original diary, unabridged with Otto Frank's revisions.
There have been many attempts to analyze Anne Frank's development from child to woman based on the diary. We neither need nor can add anything to that. But we do want to consider how Anne experienced the events taking place in the world and how she reacted to them.
On June 20th, 1942, even before going into hiding, she wrote:
At the time, Anne was still going to a Jewish college-preparatory school. All her attention was concentrated on the question: Will I pass this year? But the day of the final exam, was at the same time the last day of relative freedom (July 5th). On Monday, July 6th, they moved into the Annex. The Van Daan's came on July 13th. Much later, on November 16th, Mr. Dussel joined them, making a total of eight.
In the first two months, Anne wrote about everyday matters, relationships, small fights and unavoidable friction between people who are forced to live close to each other for an indefinite length of time.
On October 9th, Anne looks further than her little world:
About forced labor in Germany and the fare of the hostages:
In these months, Anne was especially concerned with herself, with her attitude towards the others and towards her mother in particular. She had already chosen for complete independence:
That is not to say that Anne was exclusively and continuously concerned with herself. She made a choice for herself, for independence from others, but for precisely this reason she takes the outside world seriously.
Upon his arrival, Mr. Dussel brought bad news (November 19th):
November 20th, 1942:
Did Anne mean by this a lack of understanding on the part of the adults? Or was she astounded by the unimaginable brutality to which the Jews fell prey? At any rate, she was concerned with what was happening to others, and in her thoughts about this she felt lonely.
It was no doubt not always easy for the others to live with Anne. There were painful moments when she let her temper go and told the others exactly what she thought of them. She herself said in her diary on April 2nd, 1943:
Just before that, she wrote in response to her mother's question:
This was how Anne saw through a fictitious world. But that creates tensions. What she wrote on January 30th, 1943, shows how difficult this was for Anne:
Even though she stood alone, Anne did not shut herself away in a dream world. On January 13th, 1943, she wrote:
And still she writes of other things, too (February 23rd, 1944):
With the entry dated April 11th, 1944, Anne finished the first part of the diary. The second part was to cover only three and a half months. It was not Anne's intention to begin a new chapter. The story simply continued about the fear of a police raid during Easter. Also remarkable is Anne's fear that her diary will disappear. In spite of this the tone of the second part of the diary is more hopeful.
This is when Anne discovers in herself her love for Peter. Although it becomes clear from the text that Peter will disappoint her, this experience of love is so deep that she can feel unreservedly happy. Of course, she received more response from Peter than from the others. In the long run, he was unable to answer Anne's emotional and intellectual needs. One could say that Anne fell in love with an ideal, a projection of her own longings, which in those circumstances took concrete form in Peter.
Perhaps it doesn't matter that Anne's Peter never existed. July 15th, 1944:
The most important thing is that thanks to her relationship with Peter, Anne was able to experience and acquire her stream of feelings and emotions, her road to adulthood, her new insights into the others.
Amazement about herself, intense experience of the forces within her, outspoken courage to be an individual human being, all of this determined her attitude during the last months of confinement, and stayed with her after she had realized that she "had conquered Peter instead of he conquering her" (July 15th. 1944).
The Franks were not orthodox Jews, but religion was a fact of life for them. Anne states explicitly that for her religion is something that keeps people on the right path and which does not stem from fear. A very real part of her Jewish inheritance is the question of why the Jewish people suffer, and the manner in which she poses this question: Tuesday, April 11th, 1944:
In her letter of May 3rd, 1944, Anne recounts how time and time again the discussions reach an impasse at the doubt expressed in the questions:
Anne does not claim to have an answer, but she doesn't want to continue this doubtful questioning.
Sometime Anne doubts whether the Dutch people will undergo such a metamorphosis. When liberation is approaching in the summer of 1944, she is clearly more and more worried about the growing anti-Semitism. News has penetrated to the people in the Annex that even among the Resistance fighters there is grumbling about the Jews. Anne is astonished that the mistakes of individual Jews, who apparently let their tongues run away with them in the presence of the enemy, or under torture by the Gestapo, might threaten all Jews.
On August 1st, 1944, Anne writes about her reputation for being a "little bundle of contradictions." Actually, she accepts the label, not so much because she is so fond of contradicting but because this nickname touches her own secret:
It is her struggle to make the real Anne apparent to others:
The arrest takes place on August 4th. The incomplete diary is left behind because the papers are regarded as useless. Yet one of Anne's last entries, remains as a shining legacy of her innocence and optimism: