Published on Tuesday, 24 June 2014 00:00
Annelies Marie "Anne" Frank wrote one of the most discussed war memoirs in history, The Diary of a Young Girl, which chronicles her experiences hiding from the Germans during the Holocaust from 12 June 1942 until 1 August 1944. The Jewish girl was born a German national but lost her citizenship during the war. Her acclaimed diary serves as a powerful and painful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit. You might have read the book, but do you really know what went on behind the scenes?
1. The diary Anne Frank received for her 13th birthday was an autograph book
Anne decided to use it as a journal instead. She switched to two notebooks after she ran out of space to pen down her thoughts in the autograph book, and finally resorted to about 360 pages of loose leaf paper.
2. Anne Frank wrote her diary entries in the form of letters addressed to a person named “Kitty”
Her diary entries do not start off with the typical “Dear Diary”, instead it is written like letters to "Kitty," "Pop," "Phien," "Emmy," "Marianne," "Jetty," "Loutje," "Conny," and "Jackie." Anne initially wrote to all of them but later on just started writing only to Kitty. So who exactly is Kitty? There have been much debate between scholars and a definite conclusion has not yet been reached. Some believe Kitty refers to Anne’s prewar friend, Käthe "Kitty" Egyedi. Others disagree, believing that Anne borrowed the name from her favorite book series, Joop ter Heul, in which the title character’s best friend was named Kitty. Egyedi, who survived the Theresienstadt concentration camp, later said that she did not believe the letters were meant for her.
3. Anne Frank and her family were betrayed by an anonymous person who revealed where they were hiding
German officers raided the building and made arrests on August 4, 1944. The arresting officer, Karl Silberbauer, later said he vividly remembered arresting the Franks, and even told Otto Frank, Anne’s father, “What a lovely daughter you have.” When Silberbauer was found guilty after the war in 1963 for war crimes, he was suspended from his job at the Viennese police force. He is quoted as saying, “Why pick on me after all these years? I only did my duty. Now I am suspended and I have just bought some new furniture and how am I going to pay for it?" After an investigation, he was allowed to return to his job. Silberbauer also later admitted that he bought a copy of The Diary of a Young Girl to see if he had been featured. He wasn’t. “Maybe I should have picked it up off the floor,” he joked.
4. Anne Frank died in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, but not in the gas chambers
Anne lost her mother to starvation and her sister from typhus while in the concentration camp. She believed her father to be dead but could not confirm it as he was separated from them when they got arrested. Three days after her sister’s death, Anne succumbed to typhus in March 1945. If she hung in there a little longer, she could have been saved by the British who liberated the camp only a few weeks after her death and lived to see herself get famous.
5. Of Anne Frank’s entire family, only one person survived
Otto Frank, Anne’s father, was more fortunate than his wife and children. He survived Auschwitz and was liberated by Soviet soldiers in January 1945. By summer, he learned that his daughters and his wife were all dead. Watch a video of Otto talking about Anne’s diary here
6. Otto Frank was given Anne Frank’s diary and he had it published
Miep Gies, one of the Dutch citizens who helped hide the Franks, collected the diaries and paper from the basement where they have been hiding after the soldiers left with the Franks in custody. She hoped to return it to Anne one day but found out that she died, so she handed them over to Otto instead and Otto submitted them for publication knowing that that was what Anne has intended to do. The first edition of the diary was called Het Achterhuis, “The Back House.”
7. Had Miep Gies looked through the diary, the book would have never been published
Gies later said that if she had known the contents of the book, she would have destroyed the writings because the writings incriminated everyone who helped hide the Franks, the van Pels, and Fritz Pfeffer. Otto Frank finally persuaded her to read it when the book was in its second printing.
8. The Diary of a Young Girl is often on the controversial book list for surprising reasons
No, Anne’s diary is not labeled controversial because of how horrific the war was. There are passages in the book where Anne expressed curiosity in her anatomy, which is completely normal for a girl in her teens to do. Some think that it is disgusting while others find it amusing, such as this paragraph:
"There are little folds of skin all over the place, you can hardly find it. The little hole underneath is so terribly small that I simply can't imagine how a man can get in there, let alone how a whole baby can get out!"
9. The sexual content was not even the reason why people tried banning the book in schools
In 1983, a school in Alabama tried to block Anne’s diary from schools simply because it was “a real downer.” Basically they wanted to ban the book because it was too depressing.
10. Some people think that Anne Frank’s diary is fake
There are some people who do not believe that the Holocaust happened. These Holocaust deniers believe that the Holocaust is a hoax arising out of a deliberate Jewish conspiracy to advance the interest of Jews at the expense of other peoples. They thought that Anne Frank’s diary is forged and in an effort to put these rumours to rest, the original documents were analysed for handwriting, glue and binding methods, and the types of ink and paper. Nothing was found that would even remotely point to the diary being a fake.