Anne Frank Revises Her Diary

In the early part of 1944, Annelies Marie “Anne” Frank decided to rewrite her diary as an autobiographical novel/memoir. She had been writing for two years. Her parents had given her a red-and-white-checkered diary as a 13th birthday present and it was just a few weeks later that her sister, Margot, received a notice to report for a forced labor camp. The family went into hiding the next day, moving into rooms above the business office of Otto Frank, Anne’s father.

I read her diary when I was 13 and this past week reread The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition which was published 50 years after the original edition. This new edition has diary entries restored that were omitted from the original edition. It comes to a significant thirty percent more material. The restored entries that her father had edited out are ones that perhaps embarrassed him and he wanted to make Anne seem more innocent. But after all, she was a teenaged girl who wrote about her sexuality, argued with her parents, and tipped between the little girl and young woman. But it turns out that Anne also did some editing.

Otto’s business partner’s family, the Mr. and Mrs. van Pel and their son Peter, went into hiding with them. The eighth person was a friend, Fritz Pfeffer, who was a dentist.

From the beginning, Anne recorded her daily thoughts and feelings in her diary, which she nicknamed “Kitty.” Once she filled the original checkered Kitty diary, she wrote in black-covered exercise books given to her by the non-Jewish friends who brought food and supplies to the families in hiding.

On March 28, 1944, the group gathered around a contraband radio to hear a news broadcast from London by the Dutch Government in Exile. The Education Minister, Gerrit Bolkestein, encouraged ordinary Dutch citizens living under the Nazi occupation to preserve documents for future generations.

Bolkestein said: “If our descendants are to understand fully what we as a nation have had to endure and overcome during these years, then what we really need are ordinary documents — a diary, letters from a worker in Germany, a collection of sermons given by a parson or priest. Not until we succeed in bringing together vast quantities of this simple, everyday material will the picture of our struggle for freedom be painted in its full depth and glory.”

The next day Anne wrote in her diary: “Of course, they all made a rush at my diary immediately. Just imagine how interesting it would be if I were to publish a romance of the ‘Secret Annex,’ the title alone would be enough to make people think it was a detective story. But, seriously, it would be quite funny 10 years after the war if people were told how we Jews lived and what we ate and talked about here.”

Anne went back through two years of entries and started to rewrite them. She assigned pseudonyms to her family and the other members of the Secret Annex. She edited the original diary and notebooks for clarity, to add character development, and to give more background for potential readers.

She had decided that after the war she would write a memoir called Het Achterhuis, which translates as “the house behind,” or “the annex.” She would use the diary as its basis.

“I know that I can write, a couple of my stories are good, my descriptions of the ‘Secret Annex’ are humorous, there’s a lot in my diary that speaks, but whether I have real talent remains to be seen.”

She had the intention to become either a journalist or novelist, but she was not without doubts about her writing and her story.

“Everything here is so mixed up, nothing’s connected any more, and sometimes I very much doubt whether anyone in the future will be interested in all my tosh. ‘The Unbosomings of an Ugly Duckling’ will be the title of all this nonsense.”

She was rewriting the old pages but also adding new content. When she ran out of composition books, she started writing on loose sheets of paper. In the spring and summer of 1944, she filled more than 300 pages of loose paper and she was still working on it when the Nazis raided the secret annex in August of 1944. All of the inhabitants were sent to concentration camps.

Anne died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. Of the eight members of the Secret Annex, only Anne’s father, Otto Frank, survived.

Miep Gies was one of the Franks’ friends who had helped them during their years of hiding. She and her husband were active in the Dutch resistance. After the annex was raided, Miep Gies found Anne’s writing and kept it, hoping to return it to Anne herself one day. When she learned that Anne had died, she passed it on to Otto, who edited and eventually published his daughter’s story.

In Het Achterhuis (The Secret Annex) Anne omitted a lot of the first diary. (The first version is referred to as “A” and the revised version as “B.”) For example, while writing A, she was very much infatuated or in love with Peter van Pels. They had intimate conversations.

“We told each other so much, so very very much, that I can’t repeat it all, but it was lovely, the most wonderful evening I have ever had in the Secret Annex.” (March 19, 1944, A-version).

But by the time she was revising, her relationship with Peter was far less intimate and her “love” had waned and so she left out some of the earlier relationship passages.

The matured 15-year-old took a critical eye to what she had written about having her period, love, and sexuality when she was 13 years old and she cut much of that. While I had assumed that her father censored his daughter’s writing, Anne also practiced self-censorship in her revising.

I wrote last week about wanting to reread Anne‘s (or Annelies’, as I prefer) diary in its complete version and also that I too had kept a teen diary that became a journal which I have continued to this day. If I had a thought to ever publish any of it, I know that I would also do some serious revision to improve the writing and also to omit and “revise the history” there.

In reading the definitive edition and doing some research on all of her writing, I realized that her diary has rarely been taken as very serious writing, or as a memoir, It seems that is in part because it was written by a young girl. There are other memoirs written by survivors, mostly as adults, that tell similar stories. But there is something about that 13-year old’s diary and about the 15-year-old’s very polished revision that is still very appealing.

The novelist Phillip Roth was also intrigued by her story and included her in his novel The Ghost Writer. In that novel, the protagonist is Nathan Zuckerman and it is the 1950s. He is a new writer and gets to spend a night as a guest in the New England farmhouse of his idol, E. I. Lonoff. There he meets Amy Bellette, 27 years old, a former student of Lonoff’s and who may also have been his late-in-life mistress.

Nathan is fascinated and attracted to the enigmatic and mysterious Amy and begins to suspect that she is Anne Frank and has been living in the United States anonymously, having survived the Holocaust.

I suspect that Roth, like myself, read the diary as a youth and wanted to somehow save Anne from her Fate. The only way to do that is to write about her.

Anne, Annelies, Amy


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Nature’s Notebook

The crocuses bloomed three weeks earlier this year in Paradelle.

Things are blooming in Paradelle, so I have started recording them in my garden notebook. Have you noticed any changes in when things sprout or bloom in your neighborhood? Maybe flowers tend to bloom a little earlier in the year or birds that used to migrate are hanging around your yard through the winter?

In some ways my garden notebook is a nature notebook as I find myself also recording first and last frosts, snow storms, the appearances of birds, insects and wildlife. Some of those things I report here, both seriously and also as a kind of weather lore. My posts about predicting the weather based on signs in nature seem to get a lot of hits, so I am not alone in my interest, scientific or not.

Most people have never heard of phenology. but if you have ever paid attention to the timing of natural events, like blooming flowers and migrating animals, you have been practicing this -ology. Phenology is the study of the timing of recurring plant and animal life cycle events.

If you want to make those observation to be more “official,” you can become a citizen scientist by connecting with groups like Nature’s Notebook. It  is an online project sponsored by the USA National Phenology Network. Americans can practice phenology in their own habitat and share their observations with other members and have their data shared with scientists who will use the data for research and decision-making.

It saddens me how disconnected people are to the natural world of plants, animals, the earth and sky. s a lifelong teacher, it really saddens me to see how disconnected kids become as they get older. The interest is always there in very young children, so it is something that is lost.

We may not all be as observant as Sara Schaffer of Nature’s Notebook who suggests that we notice the “slightest blush on a maple leaf that foreshadows the coming fall” or the “new, more vibrant feathers warblers put on days before mating.”

robin-pixabayDo you see the appearance of the first robin on your lawn as a sign that spring has arrived? I grew up hearing and believing that. But I have observed and recorded robins every winter. Once I saw four of them sitting on my fence in a February snowstorm. Robins as indicators of spring is a good example of weather lore.

Most robins do migrate south, but some are probably still around your neighborhood all winter – no doubt better protected in the woods than on your bare lawn. The robins that do migrate to the South in the fall, return in the spring, so then we see many more of them on that soggy lawn and field in search of food.

Geese flying south in Paradelle is a daily occurrence. They fly from the reservoir south to a pond. They never migrate and leave any more. What does that indicate? Perhaps some of it is climate change, but it is also the prime water and grass we provide them in parks, golf courses, school fields and corporate settings. Why leave?

Though thinking a captive groundhog can predict the end of winter is certainly weather lore, paying attention to events like true bird migrations can help us understand long-term trends and predict future events. That is why many observers may be reporting small changes that can help more accurately predict the long-term impacts of climate change and shorter-term events in the near future.

And observing when the smell of smoke from fireplaces changes to the smell of barbecue smoke is a definite indicator of suburban seasonal change!

The First Blogger

Statue of Marcus Aurelius in the Musei Capitolini in Rome.

Philip Greenspun suggested online that perhaps Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor from 160 AD to 180 AD, might have been the first blogger.

Marcus kept a journal during a military campaign in central Europe (171-175).

Do not disturb thyself by thinking of the whole of thy life. Let not thy thoughts at once embrace all the various troubles which thou mayest expect to befall thee: but on every occasion ask thyself, What is there in this which is intolerable and past bearing? For thou wilt be ashamed to confess. In the next place remember that neither the future nor the past pains thee, but only the present. But this is reduced to a very little, if thou only circumscribest it, and chidest thy mind, if it is unable to hold out against even this.

Greenspun conjectures that:

This was preserved because the author had been Emperor. How much ancient wisdom was lost because the common Roman citizen lacked TCP/IP? By 1700 BC, the Minoans were trading with Spain, had big cities with flush toilets, a written language, and moderately sophisticated metalworking technology. Had it not been for the eruption of Thera (on Santorini), it is quite possible that Romans would have watched the assassination of Julius Caesar on television.

I shared that with my colleague, the very erudite Professor Jenkins, who disagreed, as he often does with my ideas.

Marcus Aurelius kept a journal, not a blog. I think, by definition, a blog is an initial journal entry in which it is anticipated and expected that there will be timely reader responses which will cause the discussion of the topic to evolve.

From that perspective, I would say that medieval monastic scribes were the first bloggers. In the production of a manuscript “text”, wide margins were deliberately left on each page so that future users could gloss the text. Once completed, a product of a monastic scriptorium was frequently lent out to other monasteries whose readers would leave glossed comments in the margins. The manuscript often circulated in “round robin” fashion with several requested borrowers (“ye olde listserve”) before returning to its original home.

Yeah, bloggers of the ancient world is probably not a good dissertation thesis topic (or even a good thesis sentence) but it’s a nice conversation starter over coffee.

Professor J. did conclude by saying:

Marcus Aurelius died of some kind of intestinal problems. So maybe you don’t mean “first blogger” but rather “burst flogger”?

Emperor Marcus Aurelius as a boy. ...

I’ll allow Marcus to have the last words:

“Confine yourself to the present. Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”

And Marc on the life of the body:

“The sexual embrace can only be compared with music and with prayer.”

The Gratitude Journal

I have been a journal keeper since I was 14 years old. I say journal rather than “diary.” To me, a journal is not a daily activity. It’s also not a book of secrets to hide away from family and friends. In fact, although some of my entries are lists and quite informal, I usually think of an entry as being more like an essay and I would have no problem with others reading most of the entries. (Future biographers take note.)

Recently, I encountered the idea of keeping a “gratitude journal.”

Gratitude is a word we use quite a bit, perhaps without much thought about its meaning. We use it rather loosely to mean thankfulness, gratefulness, or appreciation. Some definitions say that it is a feeling, emotion or attitude in acknowledgment of a benefit that one has received or will receive.

Gratitude is a part of several world religions and has been considered extensively by moral philosophers such as Adam Smith.

The study of gratitude within psychology is a much more recent one, beginning around the year 2000. It may be part of what is called the “positive psychology” movement that was a kind of reaction to the traditional focus on understanding distress rather than understanding positive emotions.

Gratitude is not the same as indebtedness. Both of those emotions occur after we receive following help,but indebtedness implies that we are under an obligation to make some repayment of compensation for the help.  “I feel indebted to you for what you did for me” means I owe you something in return.  Gratitude for help given might motivate me to improve my relationship with someone.

An online search on gratitude journals in Amazon turned up a good number of guides, examples and even blank books designed to encourage your writing.

This post actually started after I heard Dr. Andrew Weil speaking on the radio and he just mentioned gratitude journals. I started searching.

Andrew Weil is a well known doctor, speaker and author. He is best known as a pioneer in the field of integrative medicine. ,That is a healing-oriented approach to health care which encompasses body, mind, and spirit. I found his 2011 book, Spontaneous Happiness interesting to read.

He suggests strategies from Eastern and Western psychology to counteract low mood and enhance contentment, and emotional balance. The books includes a number of concepts that are often disparagingly classified as “New Age” such as psychotherapy, mindfulness training, Buddhist psychology, nutritional science, and mind-body therapies. But, more and more I hear more mainstream doctors talk about “wellness” which is really a different way of looking at health.

There are any number of techniques for managing stress and anxiety or for changing mental habits that keep us stuck in negative patterns. Some of these enter the realm of spirituality.

A gratitude journal is one of those techniques.

Dr. Weil received both his medical degree and his undergraduate AB degree in biology (botany) from Harvard University and actually spent years studying natural medicines including hallucinogenics. I think he has seen wellness from both ends of the medical spectrum, and found the answers more in what we might call non-traditional medicine, while not ignoring traditional approaches that work.  (There is more about him at )

I see a gratitude journal as a diary (if done on a daily basis – which is the recommendation) or occasional journal entries of things for which one is grateful. It is a way to simply focus attention on the positive things in your life. It sounds too easy, right?

An empirical study in 2003 (Seligman, Steen, Park, Peterson, “Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410-421) showed that people who used gratitude journals felt better about their lives, and reported fewer symptoms of illness.

And so, gratitude journals may be one treatment used to alleviate depression. Studies that have shown long lasting effects from the act of writing gratitude journals were ones that asked participants to write down three things they were grateful for every day. The greatest benefits were usually found to occur around six months after treatment began and this “exercise” was so successful that many participants continued to keep the journal long after the study was over.

The spiritual or religious aspect is also there, if you feel that connection. Gratitude is viewed as a prized human propensity in the Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu traditions. Gratitude to someone who has helped you can extend to gratitude to God.