“It’s twice as hard for us young ones to hold our ground, and maintain our opinions, in a time when all ideals are being shattered and destroyed, when people re showing their worst side, and do not know whether to believe in truth and right and God”- Anne Frank
The Diary of a young girl written by Anne Frank is one of the most compelling reads describing the Jew experience during the Holocaust. Written in a span of 2 years, between 1942 and 1944, the text has been translated into 60 languages and sold more than 31 million copies worldwide making it one of the most read books of all time.
The diary written by Anne Frank reveals the plight of the Frank family that had to go on a hiding from the Jew extermination by Nazis during the Second World War. On 8 July 1942, The Frank family went into hiding when Margot Frank gets a notice for deportation. The entire family had been shifting their belongings secretly to a warehouse which would be soon become their “Secret Annexe”. On 1942, a week later they are joined by the Mr Van Daan, a business associate of Otto Frank and his family comprising of Mrs Van Daan and his fifteen year old son, Peter. Later they also invite Albert Dussel to stay with them. The diary reveals the system that the secret annex would follow. The diary is referred to as Kitty and is personified as a friend who would listen to her. The pages reveal Anne’s own views on war, religion and the people around her. Being the inquisitive girl that she was, she was always questioning and hated having her voice taken away or behave in a certain manner. The text puts Anne extremely aware of her surrounding changing politics and her political identify. Anne’s diary is revered for her cutthroat honesty about not just of her own views but also of her own work. Anne reveals consciousness about herself as a girl growing up, about her body and sexuality, herself as having knowledge and herself as a writer.
Anne’s self consciousness also comes from her awareness. The diary truly addresses the experience of a teenage girl going through puberty. She writes about her changing body and experimenting with sexuality. On Wednesday 5 January 1944, she writes “I have a terrible desire to feel my breasts”. She also writes about “I go into ecstasies every time I see the naked figure of a women, such as Venus”. Reading this novel in the twenty first century reveals the way in which children sought answers to questions society called improper. Sigmund Freud writes that “we see how interest in sex-life first arises vaguely and then takes entire possession of the growing intelligence, so that the child suffers under the load of secret knowledge but gradually becomes enabled to shoulder the burden”.The diary transgresses from the mother – daughter relationship being the ultimate relationship of comfort and it shows from not only Anne’s discomfort and cold relationship with her mother but also from getting sexual education from her father. One can read this with Freud’s Electra complex connotation using Anne’s love for her father and her longing to kiss Peter the same way she kisses her father. Taking this argument further and flipping it over, one notices Peter’s own hesitance and inexperience of kissing his own parents. This reveals various psychological and well as historiography evidence of how masculinity and femininity worked during the early 1940s as well as how family structures both remained and crumpled in the changing era disrupted and fragmented by violence and war which makes men ascribe to certain notions of masculinity.
Anne is also aware of herself as a woman with opinions. This is an issue that Anne constantly battles with. She argues whenever she finds something objectionable or problematic. She argues with Mrs Van Daan and their dislike for each other becomes evident when she is constantly compared with Margot and falls shortly in front of her quiet and studious sister. She also finds her mother rather shrewd and unloving because she fails to understand the way Anne feels, her father understands her. She is also ectremely aware of herself as a writer and professionally aspires to be one. Also in a manner which many call feminist, Anne writes in 4 April 1944, that “I can’t imagine that i would have to lead the same sort of life as Mummy and Mrs Van Daan and all the women who do their work and are forgotten. I must have something besides a husband and children, something that i can devote to!” Anne’s string opinions of herself as a “women with inward strength and plenty of courage” which contradicts with Peter’s “not having enough character yet, not enough power, too little courage and strength”. At one point she does ardently loves him but then she also writes about how she has created an image of Peter that could understand and listen to her heart as a friend. Anne writes that she is therefore disappointed in him because although both long to be loved, she knows that they could never achieve a spiritual understanding knowing how she can never talk to him about subjects she really wants to talk about.
The Diary as a text
The history behind the text reveals that the Diary is not only written but also rewritten by Anne Frank and later by her father, Otto Frank after her death. Anne was sure that she was going to publish her works after the war ends and imagines a literary audience. On Friday 28 April, 1944 while describing her dreams about Peter Wessel, she suggests her readers to refer to the diary entry at the “beginning of Jaunary”. Jeffrey Shandler while describing the epistolary format of the text writes that “the diary being addressed to an imaginary friend called Kitty is actually a revised version of Anne’s original diary which features entries from various imaginary friends – Conny, Jetty, Emmy, Marianne and Kitty. The description of Kitty in the June 20, 1942 entry is Anne own omitting in her rewritten diary. When she rewrites the diary, she consciously intends it to be both historical and literary value.”
Anne knew that she would title her published text as “Het Achterhuis” meaning “Secret Annexe”. Shandler writes about how Anne wrote about pseudonyms to be used in her published version about the other members who went hiding with the Franks. So the Van Pel family became Van Daans and Fritz Pfeffer became Albert Dussel. She also wanted to change her own family’s name into Robins but Otto Frank wanted it to keep their actual names. Otto Frank also edited certain passages which he writes ‘nothing essential, just passages about Anne’s physical development and nasty remarks about her mother.’
In the end, we get a text which critics have called “an open text”. It is an unfinished text symbolizing the abrupt end of her life at the age of fifteen. The diary with Anne’s aspirations of herself as a writer and her diary as a literary work are met with reader’s discovery of Anne’s death seven months after the last pages of her diary was written. Therefore a gap is formed. Critics have written about this gap being filled by readers either “through recollections of holocaust survivors who had saw her in various camps where she was held, by recounting her sufferings as a tale of morally charged redemption, or by imagining her surviving the war and starting a new life.”
Following the popularization of Anne’s diary due to widespread publication and dramatization in the 1950s, the text was key figure in coming in terms with the Nazi era. Robert Faurisson, a Holocaust denier, when he examined the diary he said; “It’ll be very difficult to prove that the diary is a forgery.”Interestingly, Anne’s diary were published and distributed differently in East and West Germany. West Germany published the first book that chronicled Anne’s life in its entirety, including her last months following her arrest: Erst Schnavel’s Anne Frank’s Spur eines Kiendes: ein Berichd in 1958. In East Germany, Anne’s text was used as a way to address the larger narrative of the legacy of the Nazi era.
Shandler, Jeffrey. “From Diary to Book: Text, Object, Structure”. Anne Frank Unbound: Media, Imagination, Memory. Ed. BARBARA KIRSHENBLATT-GIMBLETT and JEFFREY SHANDLER. Indiana University Press, 2012
Frank, Anne. “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank Edited by Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler Translated by Susan Massotty – Book – EBook – Audiobook – Random House.” Random House – Bringing You the Best in Fiction, Nonfiction, and Children’s Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.
Pritha Mallick, Section B, Roll No- 1081