Anne Frank's diaries have appeared in at least three versions since her death in 1945. That even the latest "definitive" edition may not be so definitiveby Nicolas Walter / August 20, 1997 / Leave a comment
Published in August 1997 issue of Prospect Magazine
The diary of Anne Frank is claimed to be the most widely read non-fiction book after the Bible. The latest British edition, which appeared in hardback last winter and in paperback this summer, will be widely read. Is it worthy of her?
Anne Liese Frank was born in Frankfurt in 1929, moved with her family to the Netherlands in 1933 and lived in hiding in Amsterdam for two years during the occupation; she was arrested and deported to Germany, survived Auschwitz, but died in Belsen just before the end of the war. She might have been forgotten (like so many others), but for her diary. Since it first appeared 50 years ago, it has been translated into more than 50 languages and has been read by more than 25m people. Through it she achieved the immortality she craved, whereas her murderers perished as though they had never been. But her fame has become something of a nightmare. She began as an icon; she is now an industry. Thousands of items by and about her have been produced-articles and books, plays and films, portraits and sculptures, exhibitions and websites. The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and the Anne Frank Foundation in Basle are rival organisations, respectively preserving the site of her refuge and exploiting the copyright of her writings. Her refuge on the Prinsengracht has become a shrine, and her birthday, 12th June, is international Anne Frank Day.
What about the diary itself? This is a more complex subject than is generally realised. Most of the manuscripts she wrote while in hiding survived, and were handed to her father when he returned to the Netherlands after the war. She had kept the original version of her diary from her 13th birthday, in June 1942, until her family’s arrest, in August 1944. This is known as A (the year December 1942-December 1943 is missing). From March 1944, following an appeal on the ?migr? Dutch radio for such documents to be preserved, she made a revised version in a more formal style. This is known as B (it cove…