Thursday, January 31, 2013

Anne Frank's Diary

This weekend, I was telling my wife and a friend of ours, that I was going to start reading The Diary of Anne Frank. I told them that I have always avoided this book because it seemed odd to be reading someone's diary. My wife made the point that historians read people's diaries, all the time, as primary sources.Since I am not a historian, just someone interested in history, I still feel odd about it. After reading the Preface (or Introduction) to the edition of my paperback copy of the book, I don't feel so bad about it anymore. It is clear she wanted the public to read it.

When I start to read a work of literature, I always have to make a decision as to whether to read the Introduction.  Many of them wax on for pages, sometimes 20 or 30 pages, adding little to the text. If it is not longer than 10 pages and if it is the first time reading the work, I generally give it a try. In this particular printing of the book the Preface is only four pages long, so I read it and I am glad I did. I assume it is written by the editors Otto H. Frank (Anne Frank's father) and/or Miriam Pressler. They tell a story about how Miss Frank, in 1942, heard a radio broadcast from London. It was by Gerrit Bolkestein who at the time was the Dutch Minister of Education living in exile while the Nazi's occupied The Netherlands. In this address, he urged Dutch citizens to keep records of their suffering during the occupation. At this point, Miss Frank was 14 or 15 years old (just few a months older than my mom) and had been keeping her diary for two years.  She apparently was excited by this and decided to publish her diary after the war. She started editing it for publication. Her partially edited diary was found with her belongings in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Lower Saxony, Germany after the war.  Both Anne and her older sister,Margot, died of typhus just a few weeks before the camp was liberated.

After the war, Otto decided to honor his daughter's wishes.  Three editions of the diary exist which he refers to as (a), (b) and (c).  The (a) version is the unedited version without any of the edits that Anne or anyone else has made.Version (b) takes the edits into account. Version (c) is a shorter edition combination of the other two versions. This version was published as The Diary of a Young Girl which is the version I am reading. I also believe this is the only version to be translated into English.

If you are unfamiliar with this story, it is fascinating and a heart breaker. You should check it out (if not the book, at least check out one of the movies). I am just a few pages into it and I am already hooked. The Franks were a Jewish family in Amsterdam during the Nazi Occupation. In July, 1942 (just a few weeks after she started the diary), her Jewish family went into hiding from the Nazis in a secret annex behind Otto Frank's office for the spice company he worked for, the Dutch Opekta Company. A bookcase covered the entrance while the annex was hidden by the surrounding buildings. Only four employees knew they were there. The Franks lived there with another family, the van Pels, for over two years along with a dentist, Fritz Pfeffer. Their names were changed in the book.

Already, I noticed something very interesting. It starts on her 13th birthday and she writes about receiving the diary as a gift. She then describes her classmates. In a footnote, it states that those who did not give permission for the use of their names are referred to by their initials only. You really have to wonder why anyone wouldn't want their real name printed in this book. Ever if she bashes someone, she is only a kid. No one would care. Perhaps the editors just couldn't find everyone to get their permission.  Regardless, expect to read a few more blog posts from me about the Nazi Occupation of The Netherlands.

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