When young Anne Frank had to go into hiding, she took her diary, a birthday present from her parents, to their secret annex on the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. The diary “quickly turned out to be a great support to her.”
This video from the Anne Frank House shares the story behind Anne’s diary, what writing meant to her when she was 13 years old, and what she hoped it would become.
“From 20 May 1944 onwards, Anne rewrote a large part of her diary. She planned to publish this book about her time in the Secret Annex after the war. For a title, she came up with Het Achterhuis or The Secret Annex…”
Since it was published in 1947, Anne Frank’s diary has been translated into more than 70 languages. The Anne Frank House shares some of the changes she made to the passages as she became a stronger writer at age 15:
“An example: On 6 July 1942, Anne and her parents left for the hiding place. In Het Achterhuis, Anne wrote: ‘So we walked through the pouring rain, Daddy, Mummy and I, each with a school satchel and shopping bag filled to the brim with all kinds of things thrown together anyhow. We got sympathetic looks from people on their way to work. You could see by their faces how sorry they were they couldn’t offer us a lift, the gaudy yellow star spoke for itself.’ (9 July 1942, B-version).
“This passage does not occur in her first diary: there are no people on their way to work. In her diary, Anne just wrote that she and her mother had each carried a school bag.
“The question is what Anne Frank remembered of that day two years later, when she worked on Het Achterhuis. If she really had seen the workers? Either way, the rewritten version is much more evocative.”
“Another example. On 29 March 1944, Anne wrote about the heavy bombing of the port of IJmuiden, north of Amsterdam. The people in hiding had had to wait helplessly and hope the annex would not be hit by a stray bomb.
“In her diary, Anne wrote: ‘Although I tell you a lot, still, even so, you only know very little of our lives. How scared the ladies are here sometimes (for instance on Sunday they used 350 planes to drop 500,000 kg on IJmuiden) how the houses shake from the bombs, (…).’
“In Het Achterhuis, Anne changed this to: ‘Although I tell you a lot, still, even so, you only know very little of our lives. How scared the ladies are during the raids. For instance on Sunday when 350 British planes dropped ½ million kilos of bombs on IJmuiden, how the houses trembled like a wisp of grass in the wind, (…).’
“In this case, the diary version and Het Achterhuis do not actually differ in content, but Anne did make stylistic adjustments to the text and reinforced the image of the bombing.”
The Anne Frank House has a wonderful website full of educational in-depth videos and stories.
Watch this next: A day in the Secret Annex, an Anne Frank House video.
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