Anne Frank: Wise and Mature Beyond Her Years

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

The two years Anne Frank spends in hiding with her family during the Nazi occupation of Holland are an intensely self-analytical time for the young teenager. When her family goes into hiding, she has just turned thirteen years old, and her early entries testify to the fact that her personality and disposition are very typical of a young teenager. She is brimming with confidence to the point of self-centeredness, she is chatty and anxious, and she is intolerant of those who do not accept her. Over the next few years, however, the reader watches a new Anne emerge. This Anne is wiser, more patient, and astonishingly insightful. The intensity of her experience in hiding clearly accelerates her personal development. Anne's maturity is evident in all aspects of her life, including her relationship with her family, her relationships with the other inhabitants of the Secret Annex, her views of herself, her views on religion, and her perceptions of humanity and the world.

Anne's relationships with the members of her family change as she comes to accept each person by seeing him or her more clearly. Anne gets along much better with her father than she does with her mother, but this relationship undergoes a change, too. As part of her adolescence, she must assert her independence from her parents, and that includes her father. In an early entry, dated September 27, 1942, Anne writes, ''Even though our family never has the same kind of outbursts they [the Van Daans] have upstairs, I find it far from pleasant. Margot' s and Mother's personalities are so alien to me. I understand my girlfriends better than my own mother. Isn't that a shame?'' Although Anne and her mother never develop a loving, intimate relationship, Anne progresses from hatred and intolerance to acceptance of her own role in the breakdown of their relationship. On January 2, 1944, she writes:

It's true, she didn't understand me, but I didn't understand her either. Because she loved me, she was tender and affectionate, but because of the difficult situations I put her in, and the sad circumstances in which she found herself, she was nervous and irritable, so I can understand why she was often short with me.

Anne concludes that she and her mother are too different to ever really connect on a meaningful level, and while she is disappointed, she accepts this truth. Further, she realizes that it is better for her to write ''unkind words'' about her mother in the diary than to hurt her mother by saying them aloud.

Initially, Anne thinks of her sister with resentment. She feels that her parents hold Margot up as an example for Anne to follow, but Anne does not feel that she and her sister are much alike. For this reason, Anne maintains a distance from her sister until she is old enough to see that a relationship with her sister can be satisfying. Anne has no older female to whom she can relate until she develops a healthy relationship with Margot.

Anne's relationships with the other hideaways also change as she matures. Anne was the youngest person in the hiding place and therefore had the most changes to undergo. She realizes that she is still in the process of changing and growing but that the adults are generally set in their ways. Writing about Mr. Dussel on July 13, 1943, Anne observes, ‘‘Anyone who's so petty and pedantic at the age of fifty-four was born that way and is never going to change.'' Although she never befriends Mr. Dussel, Mr. Van Daan, or Mrs. Van Daan, she makes peace with their differences. One of the important social skills she learns that enables her to get along with the others in such a cramped space is tact. On July 11, 1943, she notes, ‘‘It's not easy trying to behave like a model child with people you can't stand, especially...

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Writing from the Secret Annex: The Case of Anne Frank

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Ever since the Gestapo entered into the rooms where eight people had been hiding for almost two years, the so-called Secret Annex in the center of Amsterdam has become one of the most famous and visited hiding places of Jews persecuted during the Second World War. Anne Frank's diary, begun in 1942 as a confidential correspondence to an imaginary friend and then revised with an eye to future publication, now counts as the most widely read document of the Holocaust. The diary has appeared in several edited and unedited editions since it was first recovered from the floor of the evacuated Annex. A comparison of these versions reveals how Anne's voice has been shaped, some even say censored, by different editorial hands. This fact was again brought to the fore with the recent discovery of five previously unpublished pages which Anne's father had withdrawn from the manuscript before his death in 1980. By request of the extended Frank family, these were again excluded from the otherwise unedited, critical edition published in 1986. The missing pages have sparked discussion about authorial intention, posthumous control, familial privacy and discretion in the public domain. When the Austrian journalist Melissa Müller published her biography of Anne Frank in 1998, she was allowed to use only paraphrases of these deleted passages while issues of copyright were being fought out in the Swiss courts. A Dutch newspaper, however, did get away with posting them on the Internet, and future editions of the diary will include the entries that have caused so much controversy. The question remains whether we should be allowed to read material that was either deliberately excluded by the author herself or that compromises the family involved. Are private hiding places meant to be fully uncovered for the public eye?

It seems ironic that once carefully guarded places of refuge and hiding—the Annex and the diary—have now been exposed to the world many times over. One cannot help but feel like a voyeur, privy to the thoughts of a thirteen-year-old girl who never wanted all of her schoolgirl ''musings'' to be revealed beyond the version she explicitly edited for posterity. For decades, Anne's diary stood in and spoke for, but perhaps also eclipsed the individual stories of thousands of other Jewish children who were forced into hiding places during the Second World War. Amidst public rhetoric of the postwar years that relegated children to silence by casting them in a paradoxical, no-win situation as either ‘‘too young to remember’’ or ‘‘old enough to forget,’’ the success of the diary was a remarkable exception. In fact, for many readers today, it remains the first, sometimes the only, introduction to the Holocaust. This essay explores the various manifestations of hiding in and surrounding Anne Frank's diary. It engages the ongoing dynamic between hiding and exposure, refuge and vulnerability, secret and public personae. Hiding takes on multiple meanings, both literal and metaphoric. Within the confines of the Annex, we observe how Anne carves out a private, secret space for herself through writing. As with most diaries, hers functions as a place of refuge, a safe niche in which to construct and explore her various, but carefully hidden, selves. The marked difference from other adolescent diaries is that Anne writes within a historically specific context that has forced her into hiding. The typical teenager's need to salvage a private space for herself is magnified in this claustrophobic, constantly threatened hiding place. As readers, we are witnesses to the twofold hiding—physical and psychological—of a hidden self in actual hiding. The life of the diary since its first publication in 1947 also exemplifies different forms of hiding, including censored, screened, and missing memories and voices.

The Secret Annex

Faced with the bestial hostility of the storm and the hurricane, the house's virtues of protection and resistance are transposed into human virtues.... Come what may, the house helps us to say: I will be an inhabitant of the world, in spite of the world.

—Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

The Annex which Anne first describes resonates with this archetypal, universal image of the house as shelter and fortress that both protects against and resists the world outside. Otto Frank had spent months transforming the rooms, attic, and loft into a comfortable hiding place. With furniture, decor, and supplies from the family's former life, he sought to preserve the illusion of order, normalcy, and continuity. Anne dedicates many pages of her diary to the description of the Annex as both physical and metaphoric place. When the diary was first published in Holland, it was called Het Achterhuis (The House Behind) rather than The Diary of a Young Girl, foregrounding the spatial over the autobiographical dimension. At first, Anne experiences the Annex in benign terms as part of an adventure or an interlude from reality: ‘‘I don't think I'll ever feel at home in this house, but that doesn't mean I hate it. It's more like being on vacation in some strange pension.’’ In her writer's imagination, it gets transformed into a ''unique facility for the temporary accommodation of Jews and other dispossessed persons'' with strict rules and regulations she describes in a characteristically playful manner: ‘‘Diet: lowfat. Freetime activities: None allowed outside the house until further notice.'' Irony functions as the house does: it is a protective screen that blocks off or hides the anxiety associated with matters of life and death. By choosing to laugh about the absurdity of the situation, she resists its power to defeat her. The Annex is a world away from the world, existing in spite of the world.

The resilience of this miniature, hidden world is continuously tested from the inside and the outside. Drawing her metaphor from the restricted view of the external world she has through the attic window, Anne describes the Annex's increasingly uncertain function as shelter:

[We are] a patch of blue sky surrounded by menacing black clouds. The perfectly round spot on which we're standing is still safe, but the clouds are moving in on us, and the ring between us and the approaching danger is being pulled tighter and tighter. We're surrounded by darkness and danger, and in our desperate search for a way out we keep bumping into each other. We look at the fighting down below and the peace and beauty up above. In the meantime, we've been cut off by the dark mass of clouds, so that we can go neither up nor down. It looms before us like an impenetrable wall, trying to crush us, but not yet able to.

The encroaching external menace and constant terror of discovery corrode and suffocate life on the inside. The Annex, once seen as a safe haven, an adventure, a self-contained and sheltering world, is transformed into a prison. She feels like a ‘‘songbird whose wings have been ripped off and who keeps hurling itself against the bars of its dark cage.’’ Circumscribed by safety measures, the days follow the same monotonous routine with long hours of oppressive silence and sluggish movement. Anne describes how, after more than a year in hiding, everyone has almost forgotten how to laugh and that she takes daily doses of valerian to help combat anxiety and depression.

Secret Selves
Anne transforms the privations of everyday life into amusing anecdotes, fear into an interesting adventure story, longing and loneliness into a romance plot. The narratives allow her to distance herself from the situation at hand through irony or retrospective analysis, rather than being submerged by it. They also allow her to explore alternative, more assertive or honest roles she wished she had played. In the claustrophobic context of the Annex, the diary becomes a world into which Anne retreats. Here she can fully express the feelings she must otherwise contain. One can read the diary in spatial terms as a safe place for her real, but still hidden self. It can also be understood in functional terms as a performative sphere in which Anne tests out different versions of herself, giving them a voice and watching them grow. She secures this private domain for herself in direct response to the relentless scrutiny and evaluation of her character by other members in the Annex. These confined quarters where people's moods, thoughts, and fates are so closely intertwined allow very little room for personal enfolding. The diary, like her own person, is under constant threat of being discovered and must therefore be carefully guarded. ‘‘Daddy is grumbling again and threatening to take away my diary. Oh horror of horrors! From now on, I'm going to hide it.’’ To assuage the curiosity of the Annex members and to provide them with much-needed comic relief, Anne occasionally reads passages aloud. These readings also serve the purpose of gathering critical feedback on her success as a writer. For the most part, however, Anne considers the diary her own private business and writes under the assumption that it will remain completely confidential. Those from whom she must protect her diary are not the Annex members alone, but also the outside world. Two months after arriving in the Annex, Anne rereads her first diary entries about this initially ‘‘ideal place’’ and adds that she is terrified that the hiding place will be revealed and its inhabitants shot. This fear explains why she omits the name of the man who supplies the Annex with potatoes. She knows that, if discovered, the diary could potentially be used as incriminating evidence against their helpers. Later, when she begins revising her diary for a future audience, she uses pseudonyms to protect the real identities of the Annex members. This coded language reveals yet another level of hiding.

On one level, the diary offers a classic, almost textbook example of the process of individuation from childhood into adolescence, away from externally imposed definitions and parental expectations. Generations of young girls searching for, slowly discovering, and eventually affirming their ''true'' selves have found a positive role model in Anne. Critics applaud her feminist qualities and trace her development from a girl who has her ''own ideas, plans and ideals, but is unable to articulate them yet’’ into a young woman who shows a quickly developing talent as a writer. What distinguishes Anne's situation, of course, is that this process of self-discovery and adolescent rebellion takes place within a context that allows very little room to test out this evolving self. While her body and self-image are radically changing and she carries within her a new ‘‘sweet secret,’’ others still treat and judge her according to the child she once was. Being this former childish self, however, is no longer possible in the Annex, with its long hours of silence and necessity of constant self-control. Anne is also tired of playing the family...

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Review of The Stolen Legacy of Anne Frank

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

A Globe and Mail article, August 27, 1998, reports the discovery of several missing pages of Anne Frank's diary. The subtitle of the article quickly moves from the "sadness" of the excerpts to the real news, that is, the possible violation of copyright. For the article observes that the Anne Frank Fund has called in its lawyers to examine this apparent violation. In turn, the Amsterdam daily Het Parool, which published the excerpts on its front page, responds that their lawyers are ready and waiting. The Diary of Anne Frank is, as it has been for much of its history, big business. So much for Otto Frank's hope that publishing his daughter's diary, albeit in an edited form, would help change the world.


(The entire section is 1938 words.)

The Dead Child Speaks: Reading The Diary of Anne Frank

(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

No single document written during the Holocaust riveted the attention of the Western reading public more than the diary kept by Anne Frank and published in extract by her father, Otto, in 1947. Translated from the original Dutch into French in 1950, these extracts were initially read by a relatively small audience. Even the 1950 German translation had no resonance. It was only with its publication in the United States in 1952 that the diary was brought to the attention of a wider reading public. The English stage adaptation in 1955 inspired a republication of the German translation by the house of S. Fischer, and this caught the imagination of the German reading public. The German critic Philip Wiebe, writing in the socialist World...

(The entire section is 7007 words.)