When Otto Frank published his daughter Anne’s diary on June 25, 1947, he did so with a first print run of just 3,036 copies. “Achterhuis” (German: “Das Hinterhaus”, ‘the back house’) was initially published only in Dutch in 1946. The German version followed in 1950, with an initial, also modest, print run of 4,600 copies. There was also a pocket version in German. But the book was not yet a bestsellereven in France or the United States, where it was published in 1952, the sales figures were very modest.
Everything changes when the story conquers the stage as a play in New York in 1955. Also in Germany, more than two million spectators come to see the play. It has won several awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Tony Award, and the New York Theater Critics Circle Award for Best Play. Then came a Hollywood movie that won three Oscars in 1959. The fame of the Diary of Anne Frank is unstoppable. To date, it has sold millions of copies and is available in 70 languages. This makes it one of the most translated books in the world.
Scene from the 1959 Hollywood movie: Millie Perkins (right) played Anne Frank. Here with Diane Baker as Margot
The diary as an “entry point” to the memory of the Holocaust
In her diary, Jewish girl Anne Frank describes the time she spent in hiding from the Nazis with her family in German-occupied Amsterdam.
A copy of Anne’s diary on display at the Anne Frank Center in Berlin
To this day, he tells about the horrors of the Holocaust to children and young people around the world. Veronika Nahm, director of the Anne Frank Center in Berlin, said in an interview with DW: “Anne Frank writes about things that are relevant to young people at this stage of their lives: the family, being in love, arguments with the mother. But also : Who determines who I am? What do I want to be when I grow up, what should the world be like in the future?
The Anne Frank Center uses the diary, says Nahm, to give young people an “introduction to the issues of the Holocaust and National Socialism.” The lives of Anne Frank’s family and friends also play an important role: Otto Frank lived through the book burning in Frankfurt, Anne’s aunt and uncle were arrested during the November pogroms (Night of Broken Glass) and her best friend, Hannah Pick-Goslar, survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and continues to bear witness to the Holocaust today.
In this photograph from the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, Anne (left) plays with her friend Hannah in May 1941.
A more diverse commemoration
A recent study shows that young Germans today are more concerned about the Nazi era and the Holocaust than their parents’ generation. Nahm also makes the point: “We see that young people are very interested in the Holocaust and the history of the Nazis,” he says. The number of visitors to the Anne Frank Center exhibition also proves this. “In times without coronavirus, every year we have more numbers.”
The approach to the past has diversified in the 21st century: Currently, young people from Turkey and Germany are working on a project about Turkish Jews in Berlin at the time of National Socialism, and also learning about those who helped the Jews at that time.
In this attic, Anne Frank dreamed of a life after the war as a novelist and journalist.
The starting point for all these projects is the diary of a Jewish girl who, after the war, wanted to become a novel. Anne Frank dreamed of being a writer and journalist. It was not like that: in 1944, the family’s hideout in Amsterdam was reported to the Gestapo and the family was deported. Anne Frank died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945.
(ee / lgc)