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  • Writer's pictureNate Purdy

This Day In Writing History - June 25 - Anne Frank

Mere weeks after Anne Frank received an autograph book as a birthday present in June 1942, her Jewish family went into hiding in a secret suite of rooms above her father's business in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. They would remain there for over two years, and Anne would fill the book and two school exercise volumes with descriptions of her innermost thoughts and feelings. These would go on to form one of the most famous and gripping personal accounts of World War II, the work widely known as "Diary of Anne Frank".

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Framed as letters to a, most likely, imaginary friend, Anne delved into her emotions and built detailed profiles of those accompanying her in hiding. These included her parents Otto and Edith, her older sister Margot, her father's business partner Hermann van Pels, his wife Auguste and son Peter, along with a family acquaintance named Fritz Pfeffer who joined the group later on. Anne eventually developed a desire to prepare the diary for historical safekeeping, inspired by a broadcast from an exiled Dutch government minister imploring people to hold on to everyday documents to serve as testaments to posterity. With this in mind, she made a range of edits including adopting a standardized format and expanding or trimming entries to suit a broad readership. The work was completed in the last several months of Anne's seclusion, before her group was discovered, arrested, and deported to Nazi concentration camps. Only Otto Frank would go on to survive the war.

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

Upon his return to the Netherlands in the summer of 1945, Otto received the diary from Miep Gies, an employee and friend who had aided the group in staying hidden. She had collected it between the group's capture and the building's ransacking by police. Once he worked up the nerve to read the diary, Otto shared with relatives, who urged him to see that it was published. Otto then revised the diary into a single manuscript and began exploring possibilities for publication. Crucial help was provided by the Dutch historian Jan Romein, who extolled the diary's literary power in a newspaper review. This attracted the attention of Contact Publishing in Amsterdam, which oversaw the release of the diary's first edition on June 25, 1947, then carrying the title of Het Achterhuis (The Secret Annex).

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

That first edition sold out quickly, and was followed by five others over the next three years, along with translations to other languages. The English translation traveled an interesting road to publication, rejected by several houses before being rescued from another rejection pile by Doubleday employee Judith Jones. Similar to Romein, Jones was engrossed and inspired by the manuscript. She advocated for it vociferously to her superiors, and Doubleday went on to release the first English edition in 1952, with a foreword from Eleanor Roosevelt.

In subsequent years, various screen and stage adaptations of the diary were produced, raising Anne Frank and her story to the elevated place in the public consciousness they hold today. A portrait of the quiet triumph of humanity in the face of unimaginable adversity, Anne's diary simultaneously serves as a literary touchstone and a treasured primary source for historical study.



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