Today marks 67 years since the first publication of The Diary of a Young Girl, now known more commonly as The Diary of Anne Frank. Given to Anne on her 13th birthday, her diary recorded daily the deepest thoughts and fears of a German teenager hidden in Amsterdam during World War Two. You may not have read the book, or even seen the film, but you’re likely to know at least part of her story. The name Anne Frank is now synonymous with not just the Second World War and the Holocaust, but with oppression, persecution and the loss of childhood innocence generally. She is a symbol of a generation.
Anne came to love her diary so much she thought of it as her best friend, but she couldn’t have known it would come to mean so much to the rest of the world as well – that it would become one of the most widely read books in the world, or spawn both a Pulitzer Prize winning play and Academy Award winning movie – but she certainly intended for it to be a record of life under Nazi occupation. At the time of her capture she had started redrafting it, and hoped that it would be read as a novel in the future. I remember reading a quote on the wall of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam when I visited years ago:
“I know I can write. A few of my stories are good, my descriptions are humorous, much of my diary is vivid and alive, but… it remains to be seen whether I really have talent.”
I had also been given a diary for my 13th birthday, and I clearly remembered writing something similar. It was funny then to think that I had anything in common with this girl whose life was so totally different to mine. I still occasionally wonder whether my writing will ever be discovered for the happy accident it is; I guess had Anne lived she would sporadically wonder it too. The very real horrors of her short life were vastly different to mine, but I suppose there are some things that all girls worry about.
Luckily for us her father Otto, the only survivor of the Frank family, fulfilled Anne’s wishes and had her diaries published after the war. For a while there were rumours they had been fabricated, but their authenticity was never really in question. Too many people had similar stories. Only one little girl created such a beautifully heartbreaking narrative though.
Anne said in her diaries she didn’t want to have lived in vain like most people, that she wanted to go on living even after her death and it’s the one wish she had fulfilled. The Nazis may have caused her death in 1944, but the rest of the world refuses to let her die.