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
Anne, Annelies, Amy

 

Find out more at  annefrank.org

In Our Own Secret Annex

Annelies
Annelies in her school photograph, 1941

Anne Frank’s diary was first published in English in 1952 and is known as Diary of a Young Girl. The first edition was first published in Dutch in 1947, under the title Het Achterhuis. which is translated as “the house behind,” “the annex” or “the secret annex.”

I read the book when I was between 13 and 14 which was the same age that she was writing it. It was only recently that I discovered that Anne Frank had two versions of her story.  The first version is her spontaneous journal entries. The second version is a revised version by Anne herself started when she was thinking about her writing being published.

I did the same thing myself in my own teenaged-years journals. I changed how I wrote though my initial idea of “publication” was it being found by my family and then later by a wife or my children. At 13, I know even thought about being a famous writer one day and having my biographers reading it.

I also think that we all have our secret annexes where we sometimes hide. And some of us write there and write about there.

Anne was her nickname. Annelies was her birth name. I like that name better than Anne.  Annelies Marie Frank was born June 12, 1929, and when I saw her birthday on the almanac last Saturday I decided to get a copy of that revised diary if I can and (re)read it this week.

We know that after the war, Anne’s father, Otto Frank, was given the diary, along with some other papers, which had been left behind when the family was taken to concentration camps in 1944.

He said that at first, he couldn’t bear to read it. When he finally read it, he believed that Anne wrote it with the intent of trying to publish it one day and he worked at getting it into print. We know he edited it himself combining parts of the two versions together.

Though it is a perennially read book, 16 American publishers rejected the English translation before Doubleday picked it up in 1952.

There are now a number of newer editions with parts restored and annotated versions.

At 13, I think I had a crush on Annalies. It may have been that I wanted to save her. Anne probably died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. To add to that sadness, it was about two weeks before the camps were liberated in spring 1945.

I wrote on another blog about a poem by Andrew Motion (“Anne Frank Huis“) that was written immediately after his visit to the Anne Frank museum/house (huis) in Amsterdam. I finally got to Amsterdam in 2019 and I had mixed feeling about visiting the Secret Annex. I read online that it is very small and very spare. It didn’t feel like it would be similar to when I visited writers’ homes before. It felt like it would be sad. The poem set me thinking about how houses are “haunted” by those who lived in them. Not in a ghost or poltergeist way, but supernatural in the dictionary sense of “relating to an order of existence beyond the visible observable universe.”

It turned out that we couldn’t get tickets for the time that we would be there, so the universe decided for me. My wife and I did walk by the place. They call it a house but they lived in rooms above her father’s place of business attached to a warehouse. The front doors were painted a very somber black. I think Annalies would prefer that we read the words she wanted us to read rather than visit a place she never wanted to be.

ane frank house door

Further Journeys: River Horse

William Least Heat-Moon is best known for the now modern classic Blue Highways, a book I wrote about earlier here.

Since then, I read about another of his journeys that he chronicled in River Horse. This time he starts out from New York Harbor aboard a boat he named Nikawa which means “river horse” in Osage. 

His plan is to reach the Pacific Ocean near Astoria, Oregon. He has a companion this time, a First Mate he calls Pilotis, as he attempts a 5000 mile water journey. 

This trip would be more miles than any other cross-country river traveler. He follows the path of some other famous inland explorers, such as Henry Hudson and Lewis and Clark. 

In some ways, this voyage is similar to his truck trip around the country. He runs into more real battles with nature (floods, submerged rocks, dangerous weather) but he also meets interesting and helpful people with tales of their own.

The landscapes of Blue Highways become riverscapes as they take the small motorized boat down rivers, lakes and canals from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The book also carries more of an ecological story about our lands and waters.

I still have a few other Heat-Moon books to read. I think my next one will be PrairyErth: A Deep Map. In that book, he sets off on foot. It is a big book (624 pages) and from reviews I have seen, it is quite different from Blue Highways and River Horse

PrairyErth is a term that Heat-Moon found in an old taxonomy to describe prairie soils. In this book, he does not attempt to walk across the country, but instead he picks a specific area of prairie. In the same way that Thoreau “traveled a good deal in Concord” and how Annie Dillard became a Pilgrim at Tinker Creek in Virginia, Heat-Moon attempts to explore every bit of the 774 square miles of Chase County, Kansas in the geographical center of our country.

If this big book seems too much to take on right now, consider William Least Heat-Moon’s collection of short-form travel writing. Here, There, Elsewhere has short pieces on trips to Japan, England, Italy, and Mexico and also to Long Island, Oregon and Arizona. He visits and writes about small towns, big cities, the shorelines of our country and places hidden inland.

Journaling Is A Moveable Feast

journals

I was trying to recall the details of something that happened to me almost 40 years ago, and my memory failed me. But I have kept journals since I was 16, which remember much better than I do. I say “journal” rather than “diary” because I never was able to do the daily entries. But I have been chronicling my life with entries that cover the past week or the past month (if I was busy with other things).

I was partially inspired by a diary my father kept while he was in the Navy in WWII (bottom left of the photo above) that recorded his travels and battles, including landing on Omaha Beach on D-Day. My own first journal was written in a notebook my father had from when he worked for Bell Laboratories in New Jersey (top left in photo). I found it after he died. I was 15, and I wanted to fill those empty pages.

Journals and diaries have a rich history and some actually get published, either because the writer becomes famous or because no one else has written about that time or place.

I went through a period when I was in junior high of reading a lot of adventure books and some of those were really journals. Herman Melville had two early best-sellers with his first book, Typee , and a follow-up narrative, Omoo, about his time in Polynesia and sailing the South Seas. Another one was Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana. The story of his 1834 sea voyage was a big hit and at the time was one of the few books that described California.

One of my favorite journals that was published almost didn’t exist. One day in 1956 when Ernest Hemingway was having lunch at the Hôtel Ritz Paris with his friend A.E. Hotchner. The chairman of the hotel, Charles Ritz, told Hemingway that there was a trunk in the hotel storage room that he had left there in 1930.

Hemingway didn’t remember leaving it. But he did remember a trunk that he had lost in Paris at some point. When Hemingway opened it, he found clothing, menus, receipts, memos, hunting, fishing and skiing equipment, racing forms, letters – and most importantly, a series of notebooks and journals.

But this was 1956 Hemingway. He had won the Nobel and the Pulitzer prize. People knew who he was even if they had not been one of the hundreds of thousands of people who had bought and read his books. He was a celebrity author.

But he had been in a car crash in 1945 and smashed his knee, and in two successive plane crashes, had a bad concussion, a broken skull, cracked discs, burns, kidney and liver ruptures and a dislocated shoulder. Plus, he had the remnants of WWI injuries, bad insomnia, high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, and was self-medicating with a lot of booze to deal with the pain.

Writing was not working for him. For someone who saw writing as what have his life meaning, no writing meant no meaning.

Hemingway had kept a detailed  journal when he lived in Paris with his first wife, Hadley, in the 1920s. He was a poor, young, struggling writer hanging out with other expat artists and writers. The writing he did in his notebooks is full of the people of that time and place – Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, James Joyce and Ford Madox Ford.

“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”

Rediscovering those notebooks and rereading them must have been wonderful. I know the feeling. I sometimes – not too often – go back to my journals looking for something I can’t quite recall. But I always end up reading more.

When Hemingway was rereading his journals, it was a time when he found it difficult to write. The journals gave him a starting place. He worked from those notebooks for the next few years calling the project his “Paris book.” He started writing the book in Cuba in the autumn of 1957, and continued working at home in Ketchum, Idaho, in Spain and in Cuba. He made some final revisions in the fall of 1960 in Ketchum, but he was in a lot of pain and fighting a deep depression.

It would be the last book he would work on, but it wasn’t published while he was alive. His publisher wanted to call the book Paris Sketches, but his fourth wife and widow, Mary, didn’t like the title and asked Papa’s 1956 Paris lunch companion, Hotchner, to suggest something. Hotchner recalled that Ernest had said “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.” That became the book’s title.

In the revised 2009 edition of A Moveable Feast, Patrick Hemingway included his father’s “last piece of professional writing.” It was a forward to the book that had not been used. It’s sad. No wonder it wasn’t used in the original published version.

“This book contains material from the remises of my memory and of my heart. Even if the one has been tampered with and the other does not exist.”

Early in the morning of  July 2, 1961, Ernest Hemingway took a shotgun from the rack in his home, loaded it, put the barrel in his mouth and committed suicide. A Moveable Feast was published three years later.

A Memoir of Books

books

I only discovered in the past year a little genre of books that seem to be called bibliomemoirs. These are memoirs based on books read in a lifetime. They generally will talk about how a book was read at various points in time and how the reading reflects on the person at that time and shaped their life or character.

Some titles that were mentioned online include The Unexpected Professor by John Carey, How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis, My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead, Books for Living by Will Schwalbe and Maureen Corrigan’s in Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading. The better ones, for me, are not so much book lists but true memoirs where books offer a structure to the life stories.  That kind of book follows the often given advice to writers to find the universal in the particular.

I just picked up a copy of a new one in the genre, My Life with Bob: Flawed Heroine Keeps Book of Books, Plot Ensues. The author, Pamela Paul, looks like a college student but she is the editor of the New York Times Book Review and has four other books to her name already. Like myself 25 years earlier, she started recording what she was reading while in high school. She started with a basic Excel spreadsheet but lost it at some point and switched to a paper “Book of Books” (the Bob of her title). This new book doesn’t cover all the books she has read (thank goodness) but selects ones as chapter titles for parts of her life.

Bibliophiles will identify with this even if they don’t record all their reading or reflect in writing on them. These days I tend to just list titles in a journal and write about selected ones online (as I’m doing here). I wish I had kept a memoir of books in a kind of journal along the way, but I’m not sure that my reading has always mirrored or reflected on my life at the time.

For Pamela Paul, Swimming to Cambodia is the book that heads the section about her living and traveling in Asia for two years after college. She uses The Wisdom of the Body for the chapter about an assignment to work on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.  It’s a bit of a cheat on the idea that your life and reading run parallel. For example, she returns to the book A Wrinkle in Time as a chapter title in writing about reading with her three children and editing reviews of children’s books.

She gives all of us some credit for being writers, even if we don’t publish or publish in the traditional sense.

“Aren’t we all writers these days? We live through text. With our status updates and our e-mails, many of us spend our days writing down more words than we speak aloud. Anyone can write a book or post a story and find readers. Even those whose book reviews live exclusively on Amazon or Goodreads or in diaries or in the text of e-mails are still active creators of the written word.”

I enjoy looking back at my lists, but without commentary, the titles don’t mean as much. Looking at the posts I have written here about books, I have a much better sense of how the book fit into my life at the time. Some of those posts have some of “me” (as in memoir) in them, but some do not.

I’ve written a number of times about Moby Dick, a book I return to pretty regularly, but I don’t think I have really examined why I was reading or rereading the book at certain times in my life. That might an interesting experiment or post. Just this past week, I dipped into it again and the line that jumped out at me as relevant to this Trumpian time was “But shall this crazed old man be tamely suffered to drag a whole ship’s company down to doom with him?” 

Another book I return to is Walden. When I say “return” I don’t always mean “reread.” I sometimes only reread sections, and with a good number of books I love, like Walden, Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, A Confederacy of Dunces and others, I listen to them as audiobooks which is a very different experience (and one I now prefer). I first read Walden in high school and though it may have been for school work, I know it was at a time in my life when both the environment and the idea of getting away and writing were very much a part of my thinking.

I went through a Ray Bradbury period when I was in my early teens. I’ve written here about his Dandelion Wine as a book that certainly reminded me of earlier and more innocent summers. His novel Something Wicked This Way Comes is a novel about losing your youth and trying to hold onto it. It is a scary book I returned to when I shared it with my sons when they came to that point in their lives.

More recently, I came to the books by Marie Kondo on organizing and giving or throwing away the unneeded things in your life. Her books are mostly about real things, but her “Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” is something that appealed to me literally and figuratively. They appeared when I needed to clean out junk in the cellar and garage, get rid of stuff from previous jobs and also get rid of a lot of the mental junk I have been hoarding for years.

My “book of books” would contain, like Pamela Paul’s Bob, lots of titles that really don’t connect to my life at the time when I read them. I can’t see any connection to my life at the time recently when I read The Goldfinch.  I just read George Saunders’ highly praised novel Lincoln in the Bardo and I can’t draw any parallels to my life – and I’m glad about that.

I just finished the novel 4 3 2 1 and that very long story has many connections to my life – not my current life though, but my past.  I am still sorting this one out and will write about it here some day.

Of course, like many bloggers, I have imagined that it would be great to take all my blogging and turn it into a book, but unlike Ms. Paul, I haven’t gotten to that stage yet.