Literature: The Diary of a Young Girl
One of the most famous and memorable accounts of World War II
and the Holocaust, The Diary of a Young Girl
or Het Achterhuis
in the original Dutch, was the title given to the edited version of the diaries of Anne Frank (1929 - 1945), a German Jewish school girl living in Amsterdam. In 1942, Anne was given a diary notebook for her 13th birthday. By that point, Germany had already invaded
and occupied the Netherlands for two years. At first, the Franks tried to live out the occupation, but as Adolf Hitler
's genocidal intentions began to show, Anne's father Otto built a secret shelter in the building where he worked. (By that point, the borders were closed and travel for Jews was so tightly regulated that leaving Amsterdam would have been impossible.) On 6 July 1942, Anne's sister Margot received relocation orders to enter a "work
" camp and the Franks, along with the Van Pels family and another Jewish friend, immediately moved into the Secret Annex.
The rest of the diary chronicles the next two years of Anne's life in the cramped Annex along with her seven co-fugitives. The daily routine consisted of absolute silence during the day, since the business was still running below them, blissfully unaware. There was relatively more freedom (though they still were not allowed to leave the building) during the night. Their only contact with the outside was a contraband radio and a few co-conspirators who brought them the weekly supplies.
As human nature would dictate, locking eight people in half of a townhouse under such stressful situations meant that each of the occupants immediately proceeded to get on everyone else's nerves. The Diary abounds with morbidly funny tales of the occupants arguing over rations, radio channels, people's cooking, and in one memorable story, a low scale campaign over bathroom privileges (any small mistake, like a toilet flushing at the wrong time, could get everyone killed).
On top of the domestic melodrama, Anne also poured into the diary the teenage rebellion that she could never act on, her confusion over puberty and budding sexuality, her deepest thoughts and philosophy, and her romance with the handsome Peter van Pels. The diary sometimes can sound like the writing of any teenage girl (albeit a very insightful and interesting girl with very good diction and writing skills) if you forget the whole stranded-in-the-Nazi-heartland thing.
The last entry in the Diary was written on 1 August 1944. Three days later, the Grüne Polizei stormed the Annex. Anne was sent to Auschwitz, then the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died of typhus in 1945, about a month before the camp was liberated.
Only Otto Frank survived Auschwitz and returned to Amsterdam. Miep Gies managed to save all of Anne's papers from the ransacked house. It was published in 1950, and has never left the public consciousness since. If you pull someone out of a crowd and ask them to name a Holocaust victim, you'll probably get Anne Frank.
The best known adaptation of the book is the play (1955) and movie (1959) The Diary of Anne Frank
. There is also the 2001 miniseries Anne Frank The Whole Story
This novel provides examples of:
- All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": Most readers are told about what happens to everyone in the Secret Annex, even though they haven't read the diary.
- Anyone Can Die: As this is non-fiction, it holds true that anyone can die. Sure enough, most of them do.
- Bowdlerise: Otto Frank's publication of the diary removed much of the passages about her sexuality and arguments with others in the Annexe.
- Downer Ending: Only Otto Frank survived.
- Genre Shift: The diary does not begin with her family hiding in the attic. It begins with a girl receiving a blank diary for her thirteenth birthday, having a party, attending school, describing her friends...
- Misery Lit: An archetypal one.
- No Ending: Anne's diary ends abruptly, since she obviously couldn't continue it in the camps.
- The Pollyanna: Towards the end of her diary, where she has already been stuck in the annex for years and experienced much of the horrors of WWII, Anne writes that she still believes that humans are generally good.
- Who Would Want to Watch Us?: In an early entry (June 20, 1942) Anne writes: "it seems to me that neither I - nor for that matter anyone else - will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl."
- World War II