The Diary of a Young Girl | Study Guide

Anne Frank

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The Diary of a Young Girl | 10 Things You Didn't Know

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The Diary of a Young Girl was penned by Anne Frank, a Jewish teenager forced into hiding with her family and others in Amsterdam in 1942 to escape Nazi persecution during World War II. It was published in 1947 in Dutch, with the English version appearing in 1952. A massive best seller, the diary has become one of the most important works of Holocaust literature. Through Frank's diary, readers around the world have learned of the effects of the Nazi occupation on ordinary people.

Anne and her family, along with four other people, hid in an area just under 600 square feet called the Secret Annex. The small set of rooms was hidden within the walls of the office building belonging to Otto Frank, Anne's father. The residents lived there for two years until they were captured and sent to various concentration camps in Germany. Of the eight residents, only Anne's father survived. Anne died in early 1945 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in northern Germany. A friend made sure her diary was saved and gave it to her father. Otto Frank edited the hugely influential diary, which is now required reading in many schools throughout the world.

1. Frank's diary has been published in some 70 languages.

The Diary of a Young Girl has been translated into some 70 languages—more than any other Dutch book by the 2010s. These translations include Azerbaijani, Macedonian, Icelandic, and Khmer. It was first translated into German in 1950 and into English in 1952.

2. Anne Frank actually wrote her entries into an autograph book, not a diary.

Frank was given a red and white checked autograph book before she and her family went into hiding in Amsterdam. She began using it as a diary and went on to fill it and two more school notebooks with her writing while she was in the Secret Annex. The diaries are on display in the Anne Frank House Museum in Amsterdam.

3. Frank was originally going to call herself "Anne Robin" in her diary.

When Frank decided she wanted her diaries published, she changed the names of the people about whom she was writing, including herself and her family members. The name she chose for herself was "Anne Robin," and her sister, father, and mother were to have been "Betty," "Frederik," and "Nora Robin." When the diary was published, her father changed them back to the family's real names, but he kept most of the pseudonyms Frank had chosen for the others in her life.

4. In the original diary Frank addressed her entries to a variety of imaginary friends.

Most people who read Frank's diary note that she addresses many entries to "Kitty," an imaginary friend. In the first version of her diary, however, Anne addressed entries to a variety of different names, including Conny, Jetty, Emmy, and Marianne. Critics deduce that these multiple names helped Anne feel that she had a group of friends with her in her attic hiding place.

5. Frank's hiding place is now a museum.

The Secret Annex in which the Frank family hid was threatened with demolition after World War II. Anne's father bought the building but didn't have enough money to renovate it. He sold it, and again it appeared the house would be destroyed. In protest the people of Amsterdam established the Anne Frank House, a foundation that turned the building into a museum. The museum opened in 1960 and receives some one million visitors each year.

6. Frank decided she wanted her diary published after hearing a speech on the radio.

On March 29, 1944, the Frank family and the others hiding in the Secret Annex listened to a radio broadcast from London put on by the Dutch government in exile. They heard the Minister of Education, Gerrit Bolkestein, say:

If our descendants are to understand fully what we as a nation have had to endure and overcome during these years, then what we really need are ordinary documents—a diary, letters from a worker in Germany, a collection of sermons given by a parson or priest. Not until we succeed in bringing together vast quantities of this simple, everyday material will the picture of our struggle for freedom be painted in its full depth and glory.

Realizing that her diary fulfilled these specifications, Frank decided on the spot that it should be published.

7. The Diary of a Young Girl has been challenged in schools as "pornographic" and "a real downer."

In 2013 schools in Michigan tried to ban the Diary because it included a passage Frank had written describing her body parts. The mother of a girl whom the description made "uncomfortable" stated, "It's pretty graphic, and it's pretty pornographic for seventh-grade boys and girls to be reading." The other objections to the book have been on similar grounds, except for one in 1983 from Alabama, which stated that the book was "a real downer."

8. The officer who arrested the Franks felt no regret for his actions.

Karl Josef Silberbauer was the Gestapo officer who found and arrested Anne and her family as they hid in the Secret Annex. After the war, Silberbauer was employed by German intelligence services to spy on Communist and Nazi groups. Famed Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal found Silberbauer in Vienna some years later, and Silberbauer reportedly complained, "Why pick on me after all these years? I only did my duty." He was never arrested and got his job back shortly afterward. About the Diary, he said, "I bought the little book last week to see if I am in it. But I am not. Maybe I should have picked it up off the floor."

9. Anne Frank's father may have been blackmailed for war profiteering.

The author of a 2000 biography of Otto Frank suggested that Frank was blackmailed. Author Carol Ann Lee reported that Otto Frank's company was selling food and spices to the German army before the family went into hiding. According to Lee, in 1941 Anton Ahlers, a young, violent, Dutch Nazi informant, began blackmailing Otto Frank to make him keep quiet about this collusion with the Germans. After the war, Otto Frank was afraid his company would be confiscated if the wartime business with Nazis became public knowledge, and the blackmail went on until Otto Frank's death. According to Ahlers' son, who contacted Lee, his father claimed responsibility for turning the Franks in. The evidence, however, is all circumstantial, and the mystery is still unsolved.

10. Pages critical of Frank's parents were not included in the original published version.

The first edition of The Diary of a Young Girl was published in in 1947, under Otto Frank's strict control. Five pages of entries that were critical of Otto Frank and his wife's marriage didn't make it into that edition, including Anne Frank's observation that "'For a woman in love it cannot be easy to know that she will never occupy the first place in her husband's heart, and mother knew." Otto Frank gave the pages to a friend, Cornelis Suijk, in 1980 during an investigation by German police who were trying to authenticate the diary. Suijk gave the pages to Melissa Muller, an Austrian who was doing research for a biography of Anne Frank, in 1998.

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