Anne Frank is the most famous victim of Nazi oppression. Her diary has allowed millions of readers to feel they know a teenage girl who shared her thoughts and experiences in an honest way—a girl who died in a concentration camp simply because she was Jewish.

While the absolute horror of the Holocaust and the vast numbers of Jews murdered are beyond comprehension, readers know that once there was a girl named Anne Frank who hid with her family and four other people for more than two years. Their goal was to escape being murdered because they were Jews.

Frank and the others lived in a small space and could not go outside or even open the curtains for much of the time. They feared discovery and bombing and had little to eat as the war progressed. Readers know about the stress and deprivation of those eight people in hiding. Readers, however, also know that Frank thought about the everyday things that teenagers normally think about—friends, boys, hair and clothes, and parents who do not understand what being a teenager is like. Readers may never be able to fully comprehend the Holocaust, but Anne Frank is real to millions.

Frank began writing her diary as a forum for her own thoughts and feelings after receiving it as a gift for her thirteenth birthday. She named the diary “Kitty” and wrote to it as a best friend. Readers learn everything a girl would tell her best friend. The diary’s heartfelt and conversational tone makes readers feel like valued confidants.

A month after she started writing in the diary, her family went into hiding from the Nazis in a secret annex to a business in Amsterdam. As she extensively recorded the details of their lives in the annex and wrote short stories and poems, Frank developed an interest in writing professionally. After hearing Queen Wilhelmina say on the radio that she would like to see reports published about what happened during the Nazi occupation, Frank decided she wanted to publish her diary after World War II.

She revised sections written earlier to prepare the diary for publication once the war ended. As a result, the published version of the diary combines the candid observations and concerns typical of an adolescent with a literary style and polish that would not appear in writing solely for a teenager’s own use. While readers get a sense that an ordinary girl wrote the diary, Frank’s writing ability clearly sets her apart from the average teenager. Her talents for rendering realistic details and articulating her feelings have allowed millions of readers to share her experiences.

Frank wrote her last diary entry several days before the eight people hiding in the annex were captured. Miep Gies, one of the people who had provided the Franks with food and other necessities while they were in hiding, found the diary and protected it until the war ended. She gave it to Otto Frank after he returned from being imprisoned in a concentration camp.

Otto Frank followed his daughter’s wishes and had the diary published. He devoted his time to promoting the diary. The original edition, published in 1947, omitted some of the passages that deal explicitly with sexuality and that portray residents of the annex in a particularly bad light. Edits were made to keep the diary a readable length, and the passages were edited for grammar and spelling. For the most part, however, what was published was exactly what Frank had written. Every effort was made to maintain the diary’s accuracy as a historical document.

In 1991, following the discovery of several pages of the diary that had not previously been published, a definitive edition was released. It includes the newly found passages and the previously omitted diary entries that address sexuality and portray the annex residents in a negative way.

Since its original publication, the diary has been translated into more than fifty languages and has sold more than...

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