75 years “Het Achterhuis” – The Dairy of a young girl

75 years ago, probably the best-known book about the persecution of Jewish people during World War II was published under the title „Het Achterhuis,“ known in English as the „Diary of a young girl“. It contains the records of a young girl in the form of diary entries from June 12, 1942 to August 1, 1944, during which time she lived in hiding with her family in the back of the building at Prinsengracht 263 (today’s „Anne Frank House“) in Amsterdam from July 6, 1942, in order to escape deportation and murder. On August 4, 1944, the hiding place was discovered, the family was arrested and deported to Germany.
After the arrest of the Frank family, their helper Miep Gies saved the diary from the Gestapo’s grasp. After the war, she handed it over to Anne’s father Otto Frank, the only member of his family, who survived the war and the Holocaust. A first version was published on June 25, 1947. In later editions, omissions made by Otto Frank for personal reasons were reinserted. In 1986, the Netherlands Institute for War Documentation (Nederlands Instituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie, NIOD), to which Otto Frank had bequeathed the rights, even published a historical-critical edition. The book achieved worldwide recognition. It has been translated into over 70 languages.
Of particular interest is the diary from July 6, 1942, when the Frank family went into hiding in the back house at Prinsengracht 263, where Otto Frank had previously managed the Dutch branch of the Opekta Company. The longer the stay in hiding lasted, the more tense the situation became. The monotony of everyday life and restrictions caused increasingly intense conflicts among themselves. Since Anne was not allowed to have any contact with her real friends, the diary developed as a medium to which she confided everything. It became an important companion during the difficult time.
At first, Anne wrote about experiences in her unusual everyday life – the confinement of the hiding place, nice surprises like at the Hanukkah celebration, and the conflicts with her fellow residents, especially Fritz Pfeffer and her mother. She often felt misunderstood when the others criticized her for being cheeky and immodest. In the revised introduction, she expressed her desire for a true friend, a person to whom she could confide her most intimate thoughts and feelings. She noted that she had several „friends“ and as many admirers, but (by her own definition) no true friend. Thus, her diary remained her closest confidant. During the 25 months in hiding, she confided all her fears and hopes to the diary. Thus, it becomes clear how the girl, who sometimes lost herself in her dreams, matured into inner solidity. Anne Frank’s last diary entry is dated August 1, 1944, three days before her arrest. Miep Gies, who had always helped those in hiding, found the sheets in Prinsengracht and hid them, returning them to Anne or her family after the war.

Neo-fascist historical revisionists began denying the authenticity of the daybook as early as the 1950s. Such attacks were mostly made in the context of Holocaust denial. When in 1991 Robert Faurisson and Siegfried Verbeke published a pamphlet entitled The Diary of Anne Frank: A Critical Approach, in which they claimed that Otto Frank had written the diary himself, a lawsuit ensued. On December 9, 1998, an Amsterdam court confirmed the authenticity of the diary and criminalized its denial. The Amsterdam Court of Justice confirmed this in the last instance on April 27, 2000.

Nevertheless, the book remains a hate object of neo-Nazis. In 2006, several men in Germany publicly burned a copy at a solstice celebration. The event became a scandal when police officers did not want to take up charges of incitement of the people because they were allegedly unfamiliar with the „Diary of Anne Frank“.

The FIR remembers this impressive literary testimony of the attempted rescue of Jewish people in the Netherlands and welcomes the fact that this book was included in the World Documentary Heritage by UNESCO in 2009.