European studies blog

Exploring Europe at the British Library

14 April 2015

“I want to go on living even after my death!” Anne Frank and her Diary

15 April marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camp Bergen-Belsen by British forces. Today the British Library commemorates this event, in collaboration with The Anne Frank Trust’s #notsilent campaign, with public readings from Anne Frank’s diary. Anne and her sister Margot had died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen, only a few weeks before the camp was liberated.

Annelies Marie Frank (12 June 1929 - March 1945), known as Anne, became world famous for the wartime diary she kept while living in hiding from the rampant Nazi persecution of the Jews in the Netherlands.  From July 1942 until August 1944 the Frank family, the van Pels family and Dr. Pfeffer lived in the annex behind Otto Frank’s offices on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam, now the Anne Frank House.

Photograph of Anne Frank
Photograph of Anne Frank in May 1942. Image from Wikimedia Commons

On her 13th birthday Anne had been given a diary, which she filled with her thoughts and musings over a period of two years, from 12 June 1942 up to 1 August 1944.  Three days after the last diary entry the annex was stormed and those living there were arrested and deported. Only Otto Frank survived the war.

The diary reveals a strange normality within the horrific world Anne inhabited. Her observations on events ‘outside’ and the treatment of her community, as well as on events ‘inside’ - the people that surround her and her own emotions and feelings, her hopes for peace and her ambition to become a writer and publish her diary after the war are of a remarkable depth for a teenager.

Two secretaries at Otto Frank’s business, Hermine Santruschitz, better known as Miep Gies as she is called in Anne’s diary, and Elisabeth (Bep) Voskuijl saved the diary and most of Anne’s other papers  from the Germans and handed them to Otto Frank on the day he received the news that Anne and Margot were not coming back. The papers reveal that Anne had started writing a second version and Otto used both to compile Het Achterhuis: Dagboekbrieven 14 June 1942 -1 Augustus 1944 [‘The Annex: Diary notes 14 June 1942-1 August 1944’], published in 1947 in a run of only 1,500 copies. The British Library’s copy of this first editi0n is even more special, because of the inserted newspaper clippings relating to the people around Anne Frank.

Cover of the first edition of 'Het Achterhuis'
Above: Dustjacket of the first edition of Het Achterhuis (Amsterdam, 1957) British Library Cup.408.pp.29; below: some of the newspaper cuttings inserted in the book

Dutch-language newspaper cuttings relating to Anne Frank's diary

Anne Frank’s diary remains one of the most widely-read books in the world; to-date more than 30 million copies in 73 languages have been sold.  It has been adapted for theatre, television and cinema and has maintained its status as an international best-seller and the most famous diary of modern times. 

The British Library holds copies of Anne Frank’s diary in various editions and languages, as well as scholarly material about the diary and its compiler, dramatizations, journal articles and musical scores.  The first English language edition, in the translation of Barbara Mooyaart-Doubleday appeared in 1952 (012584.o.11),  followed by a second in 1954.  One of the British Library’s two copies of this (12585.a.47)  was conserved under the ‘Adopt a Book Appeal’  by Lakenheath Middle School in May 2009 (see below).

  Bookplate commemorating Lakenheath Middle School's adoption of a copy of an English edition of Anne Frank's Diary

Translated from the Dutch by Shmuel Schnitzer, the first Hebrew edition of Anne’s diary, Yomanah shel ne’arah [Diary of a young girl], was published in Jerusalem in 1953, whereas the first Yiddish translation titled Tagbukh fon a Meidel [Diary of a young girl] appeared in 1958  in Tel Aviv  in the translation of Yehoshua HaShiloni.  No copies of these editions are held in our collections, but we do hold a copy of a 1961 Yiddish edition which was  published in Bucharest  under the title Dos Togbukh fun Ana Frank (17108.b.43; below).

Cover of 'Dos Togbukh fun Ana Frank' (Bucharest, 1961)

Cover of a German translation of the dramatisation of Anne Frank's Diary

One of the early dramatizations, by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, was first published in 1956 (11791.t.1/1355). In a German edition of 1958, entitled Das Tagebuch der Anne Frank  (F10/1197; above) the play is supplemented by photographs of performances in Berlin, New York, Rome, Tel Aviv, Tokyo, and elsewhere.

Allegations that the diary was a hoax started in the early 1950s and continued until the early 80s, when the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation  commissioned a thorough forensic study of the original manuscripts. The resulting 250-page report concluded with ‘high probability, bordering on certainty’ that the diary was genuine. This research formed the basis for the Critical Edition, compiling all known writings by Anne and an extract from the report. The Library holds the English translation from 1989, published by Penguin. (YC.1989.b.6954)

One of the latest scholarly  studies to appear is Anne Frank’s Diary of Anne Frank, edited by Harold Bloom, Professor at Yale University and published in 2010 (YC.2011.a.7024 ), proof of the unwavering interest in this talented young writer and her diary. 

Apart from the nearly 400 books, magazine articles, music scores and websites about Anne Frank in the British Library’s collections, there is the bust of Anne. Commissioned by Mr and Mrs Sherrington on the occasion of Anne’s 70th birthday and sculpted by Doreen Kern, it is a tribute to a remarkable Jewish girl and her diary. When you visit the British Library’s site at St. Pancras in London you will find her at the entrance to our Learning Centre.

Marja Kingma, Curator Low Countries Collections & Ilana Tahan, Curator Hebrew  Collections


Anne Frank Bust
Doreen Kern’s bust of Anne Frank in the British Library


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