The Diary of Anne Frank Introduction
In A Nutshell
The author? A fifteen-year-old girl named Anne Frank. The book? Her diary.
Yup. This is easily the most famous diary ever kept.
This diary is the story of Anne— a young Jewish girl and aspiring writer in hiding from the Nazis. When her family’s hiding place (the "Secret Annex") was raided, Anne and her family were imprisoned in concentration camps.
Anne’s diary, a devastating and relatable coming-of-age story, was left behind in the Secret Annex, but kept safe by a family friend, Miep Gies. Anne's father, Otto Frank, was the Secret Annex's sole survivor of the Holocaust. After Otto was liberated from a concentration camp, Miep gave him the diary. Otto Frank edited the diary and removed a few sensitive passages—some that weren’t so nice about Anne’s mom, other Secret Annex members, or parts that seemed too sexual for a teenager in the 1940's. However, the most currently printed versions are more complete.
It's impossible to overstate how phenomenally influential The Diary of a Young Girl is. It was first published in 1947 in Dutch as Het Achterhius (Secret Annex), but later became the most translated Dutch book ever—it's been translated into seventy languages in sixty countries. So far, it's sold 30 million copies. It's also been produced as a play and has been adapted into several films.
In 1960, the building containing the Secret Annex was made in to a museum called The Anne Frank House. Anne’s diary has also inspired numerous educational and human rights organizations in her name.
Anne Frank wanted to be a writer. And it's tragic, moving and life-affirming that she became a well-known writer around the world after her death in a Nazi concentration camp. But then again, the poignant mix of the tragic, the moving, and the life-affirming runs throughout The Diary of Anne Frank. It's what makes this book so incredible.
Why Should I Care?
It can be hard to wrap your head around the biggest horrors that the world has to offer. This is because these biggest horrors are, well, just too big. We can reel from the numbers of the Holocaust. We can be reduced to shivering tears at the stacks of boots and glasses left behind by those murdered at Auschwitz.
But while these images and figures are terrifying, they aren't intimate. Understanding the big picture allows us to grasp the scope of the horror of the Holocaust, but it doesn't allow us to grasp—with heartbreaking intimacy—the scope of an individual victim's life.
Enter The Diary of Anne Frank.
Fair warning: this book will bring you to tears. It's going to keep you up at night. It will give you all the feelings possible—you're going to laugh at Anne's biting wit and then be furious that her life was cut short by Nazism. You're going to feel her claustrophobia, her hope, and her fear. You'll want to strangle a few of her housemates (because we see their annoying qualities magnified through the lens of Anne's astute observation).
Oh yeah. And you're really going to like Anne. It's impossible not to.
And once you finish this book, you'll have seen a vision of history through the eyes of an incredibly eloquent teenager—and, what's more, an incredibly real teenager. We're not just talking about the fact that these words were actually written down by the actual Anne Frank in the actual Secret Annex during the actual monstrosity that was the Holocaust (although that blows our mind every time). We're talking about the fact that Anne is completely relatable.
She gets mooney-eyed over boys. She wonders about sex. She gets furious with her parents. She thinks her sister is a goody two-shoes. She loves movie stars. She's ambitious.
And that relatability is the real magic of The Diary of Anne Frank. That's the gut-punch. The fact that a girl who we can all relate to was senselessly murdered at age fifteen is as viscerally shocking and heart-wrenching as any other text on the Holocaust.
And it's also somehow the most profoundly hopeful. Thanks to Anne—her faith in humanity, her awesome humor, and even her consistent life-affirming lovesickness—we're left with the feeling that, while there is evil in the world, there is also tremendous goodness.
Welcome to The Diary of Anne Frank. Pack a few dozen tissues, and get ready to have your world changed forever.