THE STORY OF THE DIARY "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 (June 12, 1942).
On June 12, 1942, Anne Frank's parents gave her a small red and white plaid diary for her thirteenth birthday which she named "Kitty." More than fifty years later, this diary has become one of the most widely read personal journals of all time.
The Diary became a way for Anne Frank to express her feelings and dreams, to explore how she felt about becoming a woman, and her evolving identity. Through writing she gave voice to her inner self. She records the fear and trauma of living during World War II and the 'hunting' of the Jews.
On June 26, 1942, Anne and her family were forced to go into hiding. She wrote on July 8, 1942:
"Margot and I started packing our most important belongings into a school bag. The first thing I stuck in was this diary...Preoccupied by the thought of going into hiding, I stuck the craziest things into the bag, but I'm not sorry. Memories mean more to me than dresses."
For over two years, Anne wrote about her life with seven other people in hiding, her parents, her sister, the van Pels family, Mr. Pfeffer, the helpers, the war going on around her, and her hopes for the future.
On March 29, 1944, Anne heard over the radio that the Dutch government wanted people to save their wartime diaries for publication after the war. Mr. Bolkestein, the Cabinet minister, speaking on Dutch broadcast from London, said that after the war a collection would be made of diaries and letters dealing with the war. She decided to rewrite her diary entries as a novel that would be entitled Het Achterhuis, or The Secret Annex. "Of course, everyone pounced on my diary. Just imagine how interesting it would be if I were to publish a novel about the Secret Annex. The title alone would make people think it was a detective story."
As Anne re-worked whole sections of her diary on loose sheets of paper, she gave pseudonyms to the residents of the annex: Mr. Pfeffer became Albert Dussel, Mr. and Mrs. van Pels became Mr. and Mrs. van Daan, and Peter van Pels became Peter van Daan.
On August 4, 1944, the Nazis raided the Secret Annex and arrested the residents. Anne's entire diary including the red plaid book, notebooks and loose sheets of paper, remained behind in the Annex.
Otto Frank survived Auschwitz and returned to Amsterdam after the war ended. After Otto found out that Anne, Margot, and Edith had died, Miep Gies gave him Anne's diary. As he read the entries, he was deeply moved by his daughter's descriptions of life in the annex, and her feelings about her family as well as and the other residents. He decided to publish the diary to honor his daughter's wish to be a writer, and to educate against discrimination and war.
Publication of the Diary
It was not easy for Otto to find a publisher for Anne's work. He was told that no one wanted to read about what happened to the Jews. Finally, a newspaper called "Het Parool" printed a story about Anne's diary that captured the interest of Contact, a Dutch publishing house. In June, 1947, Contact published 1,500 copies of the first Dutch edition of the diary. Within a few years the Contact edition was translated into German, French, and English.
The first edition omitted almost thirty percent of Anne's original diary. Otto Frank deliberately excluded sections where Anne expresses negative feelings about her mother and others in the annex, believing that Anne would not want such views made public. Additionally, Contact was a conservative publishing house and was uncomfortable printing Anne's entries concerning her sexuality.
Authenticity of the Diary
Otto Frank bequeathed the diary to The Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (Rijksinstituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie). RIOD received the original document after Otto's death in 1980. Scholars associated with RIOD were particularly interested in refuting the accusations, by neo-Nazi Holocaust deniers, that the diary was a hoax. To prove it was written during the 1940's, RIOD performed tests on the paper, ink, and glue used in the diary. Tests were also performed on Anne's handwriting, comparing samples from the diary with her other writings, which included letters with dated stamp cancellations.
In 1986 RIOD published the "Critical Edition" of Anne's diary. This edition is often used as the scholarly, research-oriented version of the diary. It contains all of the entries Otto and the Contact publishers had removed from the original 1947 edition. Entries that Anne rewrote after March 1944 are placed next to the original entries to show Anne's development as a writer. The 1986 edition also includes transcripts of the tests verifying the authenticity of the diary as well as some of Anne's short stories and sketches written in the annex.
In 1995, fifty years after Anne Frank's death and the end of World War II, Bantam Doubleday Dell published the "Definitive Edition." This edition is based on a new English translation of the original Dutch text, and contains entries that both Otto Frank and Contact Publishers omitted from the 1947 edition. By restoring sections from the original unpublished diary, the 1995 edition makes readers aware of the complexity and sensitivity of Anne Frank, an adolescent struggling to find her own identity.
History of the Play (1955 production) In 1952, Doubleday published the first American edition of the Diary; this translation included cuts that Otto Frank and the original European publishers had made. The novelist, Meyer Levin, wrote a front page essay "The Child Behind the Secret Door" for the New York Times Book Review (proclaiming) the importance of the work: "Anne Frank's diary is too tenderly intimate a book to be frozen with the label 'classic,' and yet no other designation serves...Anne Frank's voice becomes the voice of six million vanished Jewish souls." The response was enormous and three printings, 45,000 copies, were sold within a short time.
With the instant success of the book, producers, theatrical agents and others were anxious to gain rights to produce a play or film based on Anne Frank's Diary. Meyer Levin, who had done so much to promote the book and its adaptation, early on worked with Otto Frank and Doubleday on negotiations. Through a series of complicated events which are still in dispute, Levin's play was turned down; he sued producer Crawford and Otto Frank and later producer Bloomgarten. For decades, Levin continued to write and talk about how unfairly he felt he had been treated and argue that his play in which Anne's Jewishness was central was a more authentic adaptation of the diary. (See Meyer Levin, The Obsession, 1973). For two differing analyses of this controversy and the role of playwright Lillian Hellman and others, see, An Obsession with Anne Frank, Meyer Levin and the Diary, Lawrence Graver, (Univ. of Ca. Press., 1996) and The Stolen Legacy of Anne Frank: Meyer Levin, Lillian Hellman, and the Staging of the Diary, Ralph Melnick, (Yale Univ. Press, 1997).
Doubleday, as Otto Frank's representative, gave producing rights to Kermit Bloomgarden who engaged the husband and wife team of Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, screenwriters of films such as The Thin Man, Easter Parade and It's a Wonderful Life to write the theatrical adaptation. Goodrich and Hackett were determined to present the story in a positive light, with an inspirational and universal message for audiences. Their first drafts emphasized the mischievous side of Anne's personality, but later emphasized her optimism and idealism. They consulted with director Garson Kanin and playwright Lillian Hellman about dramatizing the narrative structure of the Diary -- adapting narration into dramatic events. Goodrich and Hackett, along with Kanin, visited the Annex with Otto Frank; he answered their many questions about the Annex and those who had hid there.
On October 5, 1955, The Diary of Anne Frank opened on Broadway starring Joseph Schildkraut as Otto Frank and Susan Strasberg as Anne. Praise for the production was widespread. The play went on to win the 1955 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, as well as three Tony Awards, including Best Play of the 1955-56 season. The Diary of Anne Frank eventually played a total of 717 performances on Broadway, before being produced throughout America and the world, in professional and amateur theatre. In 1959, the film version starring Millie Perkins as Anne Frank was directed by George Stevens.
Brooks Atkinson in the New York Times called the play "A tender, rueful, moving drama. It's strange how the shining spirit of a young girl now dead can filter down through the years and inspire a group of theatrical professionals in a foreign land." New York Herald Tribune drama critic Walter Kerr wrote,..."Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett have fashioned a wonderfully sensitive narrative out of the real life legacy left us by a spirited and straightforward Jewish girl. A play that is--for all its pathos--as bright and shining as a banner."
Why in 1952 did the diary become an overnight bestseller? Why through play and film did America embrace a universal, optimistic Anne Frank?
"As bright and shining as a banner, "warm," "tender" these became descriptions not only of the play but of Anne Frank the words, "in spite of everything, I still believe that people are good at heart" (lifted out of context) confirmed the image of Anne Frank as a universal idealistic figure. The play was the first popularization of the events of the Holocaust. As such it was very much a product of its time; it embraced a sense of assimilation and universalism.