May 05, 2023

#08-308: The Diary of a Young Girl

Anne Frank's passport photo, taken two months before
she and her family went into hiding.(Wikipedia)

Note: A young girl's diary brings home the horrors of World War II in a way that few other books have.

Get Ready: Do you keep a diary (or have you ever)? Do you think it could be helpful to future historians?

On June 12, 1942, a young Dutch girl received a blank diary for her 13th birthday. She wrote one line in it that day: "I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support."

That diary was to become one of the most important books of the 20th century. The girl was Anne Frank, and an edited form of the book was published in 1947 as The Diary of a Young Girl (sometimes called The Diary of Anne Frank) after its author died of typhus in the infamous Bergen-Belsen concentration camp two years earlier.

The family of the German-born Frank moved to Holland when she was four-and-a-half to escape the influence of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in Germany. Unfortunately, six years later, in 1940, the Germans occupied Holland as well and in 1942 the Franks were forced into hiding in the "secret annex" of a house in Amsterdam.

Anne's father Otto ran a business in the front of that house, and was able to shelter himself, his wife and two daughters, and four other Jews in a 42-square-meter extension in the back which was entered through a moveable bookcase. It was surrounded by other buildings on four sides, concealing it perfectly. Of the eight residents, only Otto Frank survived.

Sadly, Anne herself died just a month or two before the liberation of the camp's internees by British troops on April 15, 1945.

The earliest pages of the book are somewhat disorganized, but after Anne heard a Dutch Minister for Education, Art, and Science call for the preservation of "ordinary documents," including diaries, she rewrote the early parts and took a more writerly approach to the subsequent pages. She consistently addressed herself to "Kitty," long believed to be an otherwise-unknown friend, but now thought probably to be a name she gave to the diary itself.

After Anne's death and the end of the war, two of the Dutch citizens who had helped the family hide gave Otto the diary, which they had found strewn on the floor after the family was arrested (but before the Nazis had a chance to search the place).

Anne had long wanted to be a writer, so her father "edited" (and perhaps added to) the diary and saw to its publication. Since then it has been translated into over 70 languages, and plays and films based on it have been produced several times.

It seems likely that parts of the first edition were written by Otto himself. Certainly he removed portions that he thought would be offensive to readers, such as Anne's thoughts on her budding sexuality. Since then the original writings have been used as source materials for more critical editions.

But it is the original edition published in 1947 and its translation (such as the first one into English in 1952) that have captivated generations of readers. Though written in unique circumstances, the topics are universal: Anne's relationship with her parents and sister Margot, her opinions of the other residents of the Annex, and her hopes for romance.

These never had a chance to come to fruition as she died at age 15.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. annex
  2. captivated
  3. confide in
  4. consistently
  5. fruition
  6. infamous
  7. occupied by
  8. typhus
  9. universal
  10. writerly

  1. common to everyone
  2. tell secret thoughts to
  3. later addition to a building
  4. without variation
  5. with greater style
  6. caught the attention of
  7. a serious infectious disease transmitted by lice and fleas; includes weakness, headache, and reddish spots on the body
  8. taken possession of; controlled by (a military force)
  9. fulfillment
  10. well-known for bad reasons

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for May 5, 2023

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. c; 2. f; 3. b; 4. d; 5. i; 6. j; 7. h; 8. g; 9. a; 10. e