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A Study of the Diary of Anne Frank

by Y. G.

A student essay from Dr. Elliot Neaman's History 210 class (historical methods - spring 1997)

© Elliot Neaman / PHDN
Reproduction interdite par quelque moyen que ce soit / no reproduction allowed

The authenticity of Anne Frank's diary has been challenged ever since its publication in 1947. Since its publication, 24 million copies have been sold. The diary is simply a thirteen year old girl's musings about life, yet for countless people it has become a symbol of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. The diary is used in hundreds of schools as an introduction into the Holocaust.

The diary's popularity and impact particularly on the young, has made bringing its authenticity into question crucial. The diary is unique in that it is not seen as a war document but as a diary of an adolescent girl who has become a symbol of those who shared her fate. Yet, she is "not a symbol in an abstract sense, far away from reality: no, she is a symbol because she reflects reality, because she was just a girl of fourteen, fifteen years old.

She made the incomprehensible story of the Second World War comprehensible. She brought abstract statistics down to a human level; and everybody understands that the story of the Second World War is the story of six million individual human tragedies, six million dramatic personal life stories at least." (1).

Anne Frank began her diary on June 12, 1942, at the age of thirteen. The diary covers the period from June 12 to December 5, 1942. In addition to this first diary, Anne also filled a series of albums, loose sheets of paper and an account and exercise book. During the course of her entries, she confided to her diary that her aspiration was to publish a book entitled Her Achterhuis (The Diaries) after the war. For this purpose, Anne rewrote her first diaries on loose sheets of copy paper, thereby leaving a second version in her handwriting.

In this second edition, Anne changed, rearranged and occasionally combined entries of various dates. In addition, she drew up a list of changed names for some of the principal characters. All the aspects of life in the Annexe (Anne's name for the family's hiding place) were described by her on the loose sheets. The last entry on these loose sheets recorded the events of March 29, 1944. Anne must have reached this point of her rewriting early in August 1944. It was on August 4th of that year that the Sicherheitsdienst raided the Annexe. After the Gestapo had taken away the eight inhabitants of the Annexe, Miep Gies, a friend of the Franks, managed to gathered up Anne's diary and loose sheets of paper. The Gestapo had failed to destroy them.

The war ended in May of 1945. Months later, Otto Frank returned to Amsterdam. When it was learned that both Anne and her sister were dead, Miep handed Anne's writings over to Otto Frank. After reading the materials, Otto prepared a typed edition of the diary for the benefit of relative and friends. He included only those passages he felt were essential to the diary. Next, Otto typed out a second copy based on Anne's loose sheets. In this typescript, which we shall refer to as Typescript 1, Otto also selected items which struck him as important. Since Anne was not able to rewrite her experience in the Annexe after March 29, 1944 onto the loose sheets, Otto had no option but to use the first version for that period. He also added four "events" Anne had recorded in her account book.

Those who attack the authenticity of the diary cite the different versions and different copies of the typescript that arose in order to support their claim that there is no original diary. However, understanding what was omitted and why is essential before any such assertion can be made.

Upon examining Typescript I, we notice that it was indeed complied from the loose sheets, supplemented with some items from the first diary and some from the account book. While Anne's second version was his guide, Otto used his judgment in editing certain parts of the diary. The passages omitted were of little importance and included such events as a description of the home of one of Anne's friends, and an argument with the Van Pels family; again, he left out passages that displayed Anne's stormy relationship with her mother. At the same time, he omitted some incidents that he felt were duller entries, including for instance, a report about Anne's Ping Pong Club (2).

Typescript I was thus compiled directly from the writings of his daughter. Although he omitted certain passages, the sections he did use from his daughter's manuscript were copied with great accuracy. The emendations were of a limited nature and varied from a single letter to a few words. For example, he changed the word "North America" into "U.S.A." and "forwarding address" into "redelivery address".

Otto Frank then preceded to give this typed manuscript to an old friend, Albert Cauvern, who also made grammatical corrections to the typescript. The typescript produced by both Otto Frank and Albert Cauvern, was then retyped (Typescript II). Encouraged by friends, Otto attempted to have the diary published but was repeatedly turned down. Most publishers felt that some items contained in the diary would not be well received by its readers. Therefore, like Typescript I, Typescript II was also emended. Typing errors were corrected and changes were also made in the choice of words: "spice room, middle room, front room" were all combined into "storeroom" and "two days" became "a few days". Altogether there were several dozen such changes.

Some lines were also rearranged. For instance, the line " I steer by my own compass" became "I am my own skipper". Also in addition to these editorial changes, the typescript was shortened; twenty five passages were crossed out. Most of the deleted passages dealt with such matters as a book by Jo van Ammers-Kuller, the comedies of Karl Theodor Korner, French irregular verbs, washing of hair, Anne hurting her toe, the vacuum cleaner being broken and so on (3). The length of these cuts varied from two lines to a complete diary entry. At the same time, two references to menstruation were omitted, together with a reference to two girls touching each other's breasts.

These deletions in Typescript II were made by the publishing company, in order to assure acceptance into their series of publication. Otto Frank agreed to these emendations. It is by no means unusual for a publisher to make changes and this is precisely what occurred. As a result, the reader is left with the diary as we know it today. The diary was an immediate success. Otto Frank had succeded in carriying out his daughter's wishes.

There were, however, those who questioned Anne Frank as the author of so well written a book. The earliest attacks on the authenticity of Anne Frank's diary date back to two articles published in November 1957 in the Swedish paper Fria Ord (4) under the title "Judisk Psyke-En studie kring Anne Frank ach Meyer Levin" (Jewish Psyche-A Study Around Anne Frank and Meyer Levin). Their author was Harald Nielsen, a Danish literary critic, who alleged that the diary owed its final form to Meyer Levin.

Levin, after having read the diary, wrote several reviews of it. In these he argued that a play and film should be made of the book. Anne Frank's diary was to dominate a large part of his life and he later wrote a book on the entire matter which he appropriately called The Obsession (5). Levin was extremely interested in writing the script for the play and in 1952, Otto Frank granted his permission. However, Levin wrote a script that was turned down repeatedly by producers. After several such rejections, Otto Frank finally granted Kermit Bloomgarden the production rights. This time the play went into production and was an overwhelming success.

In the meantime, Meyer Levin was still determined to produce his version. In 1956 he took his case against Otto Frank and Kermit Bloomgarden to the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Levin contended that he had been chosen to write the play and he was the victim of fraud and breach of contract. He further claimed that his materials and ideas had been plagiarized. Otto protested that Levin was wrong on both accounts and therefore his claims for damages should be dismissed. It was determined by the court that since both Levin and the MGM playwrights had relied on Anne's diary, similarities were unavoidable. However, the court also ruled that the contract between Otto Frank and Meyer Levin must stand, in part, because Levin had made no attempt to terminate it.

A new lawsuit seemed inevitable and after two years of attempting to negotiate with Levin, Otto Frank finally agreed to pay him $15,000 who in turn agreed to drop all his claims to royalties and the rights to the dramatization of the play.

An unforeseeable effect of the court case was the misuse to which it was put several years later. Pamphlets and other publications appeared with allegations that following the decision of the jury in New York, Otto Frank had to pay $50,000 to the Jewish writer Meyer Levin in connection with the writing of the diary. That the case concerned a play and not the diary itself, and that Otto had finally paid $15,000 for Levin's rights in the play, have been completely ignored by journalists in the years to follow.

In the summer of 1967, a journalist named Teressa Hendry, challenged the diary's authenticity in the magizine, American Mercury. In an article entitled, "Was Anne Frank's Diary a Hoax?" she claimed that the diary's real author had been Meyer Levin and that a massive fraud had been perpetrated. She also quotes a summary of the Fria Ord articles which were allegedly published in the Economic Council Letter on April 15, 1959.

"A noteworthy decision of the New York Supreme Court confirms this point of view, in that the well known American Jewish writer, Meyer Levin, has been awarded $50,000 to be paid him by the father of Anne Frank as an honorarium for Levin's work on the "Anne Frank Diary" (6).

However, neither the judgment of the court nor the sum mentioned appeared in the two Fria Ord articles. The American Mercury article is the typical format in which those who attack the authenticity continue to use. They refer to earlier publications and quote them in such a way as to suggest what has merely been alleged is actually true. Several years later the article in the Economic Council Letter was again used, in the pamphlet called Did Six Million Really Die? The Truth at Last by Richard Hardwood (7).

Again in 1978, Teressa Hendry's article was reprinted in the Washington Weekly, The Spotlight (8).In 1975, David Irving, the well known British historian, wrote in his introduction to his book, Hitler und seine Feldherren (Hitler and His Generals):

"Many forgeries are on record, as for instance that of the "Diary of Anne Frank " (in this case a civil lawsuit brought by a New York scriptwriter has proved that he wrote it in collaboration with the girl's father). (9).

Otto Frank protested to the publishers, and the passage was later omitted when the book was reprinted.

Also in 1975, a book entitled, " The Hoax of the Twenty Century" by Arthur Butz, contained a short paragraph in one of his chapters which claimed that:

"The question of the authenticity of the diary is not considered important enough to examine here; I will only remark that I have looked it over and don't believe it. For example, already on page 2 one is reading an essay an why a 13 year old girl would start a diary, and then page 3 gives a short history of the Frank family and then quickly reviews the specific anti-Jewish measures that followed the German occupation in 1940. The rest of the book is in the same historical spirit." (10).

In 1976, Anne Frank's diary became the subject of a court case in Frankfort, Germany. In 1975, Heinz Roth, an architect from Odenhausen, who issued neo-Nazi brochures, began to distribute pamphlets entitled, Anne Franks Tagebuch-eine Falschung (Anne Frank's Diary-A Forgery). Quoting Irving, he referred again to the story that Otto Frank had written the diary with the help of a New York playwright. When asked to revoke his allegations, he refused and was then taken to court by Otto. Roth defended himself by citing Arthur Butz, who had declared the diary to be fraudulent and by submitting the expert opinion of Robert Faurisson.

Faurisson, of the department of Literature at the University of Lyons, produced his expert opinion in 1978. It was published two years later under the title, Le Journal d'Anne Frank est-il authentique? (The Diary of Anne Frank-Is It Authentic?) Among his arguments to prove the diary fictitious was the noise within the Het Achterhuis. He used his findings in order to demonstrate that it must have been impossible to hide in the Annexe and therefore the diary could not have been written by Anne Frank. For example, he stated that it was improbable that:

"Mrs. Van Daan should have been in the habit of using the vacuum cleaner at 12:30. (August 5, 1943). Vacuum cleaners at that time were exceptionally noisy. I must ask: Is this credible?...That question could be followed by forty others concerning noise. The use is an alarm clock needs explanation. (August 4, 1943). ...There is almost the constant noise of the radio, the slamming of doors, the incessant shouting (December 9, 1942)....Anne is not in the least anxious about the screams and the roars of laughter. Instead she says, "It was rotten of us, because I for one am quite sure that I should have screamed even louder." (11).

These are some of the examples illustrated by Faurisson to back his arguments, however he failed to quote his segments in their entirety. For example, the fact that Mrs. Van Daan used the vacuum cleaner daily at twelve-thirty (August 5, 1943) is mentioned by Anne on that date, but the sentence preceding it states: "The warehouse men have gone home now," Again on November 9, 1942, Anne record that a sack of brown beans had burst open and that "the noise was enough to wake the dead." Faurisson however failed to mention the next sentence: ("Thank God there are no strangers in the house.)

This was the study presented as expert evidence during Roth's appeal to the Frankfurt Oberlandesgericht (Higher Regional Court) against his sentence. Roth continued to insist that his doubts concerning the authenticity of the diary was justified. The court however did not feel that Roth had been able to substantiate his allegations and therefore his appeal was rejected.
Upon the death of Otto Frank in 1980, the diary was given to the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation. Because the diary had been attacked both frequently and vehemently, the Institute felt obligated to subject the diary to a series of tests in order to verify once and for all whether or not it was authentic.

If the diary was authentic then it would have been written in the period from 1942 to 1944 and the materials used (ink, paper, glue) would therefore have been manufactured before or during that period. In order to determine these things, the State Forensic Science Laboratory subjected the diary to both a handwriting examination and a document examination.

In order to discover whether the materials used were genuine, it was necessary for the document examiner to compare the document in question to a representative collection of reference material from the same period. The concept behind document examination is based on the discovery of possible anachronisms; for instance, whether the paper used includes whiteners not used in paper manufacture before 1952. If such materials are absent and if no other anachronism can be found, then forgery is increasingly unlikely.

The handwriting expert, on the other hand is concerned with the identification of the writer of the text rather than with dates. If he can show agreement between two handwriting samples, then he can conclude that the two samples were written by the same person. He must also form a picture of the kind of handwriting produced at the alleged time by someone whose age, education, etc. agrees as closely as possible with those of the alleged writer.

The results of the document examination found that none of the tests produced any indication that the dairies, the loose sheets of paper and the items submitted for comparison, together with the ink deposits found in them, are of a later date than the supposed period. Similarly, the overall conclusion of the handwriting analysis proved that the dairies were written by one person during the period in question (12).

The State Forensic Science Laboratory, at the request of the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation paid particular attention to the possible inclusion of the entries in the diary written with a ball-point pen. Therefore, all the handwriting was examined closely by the document examiner. It was found that the corrections were relatively insignificant; varying from a single letter to a couple words and amount to a total of twenty-six examples which did not in any way alter the meaning of the text.

Therefore the report of the State Forensic Science Laboratory convincingly demonstrated that both versions of the diary of Anne Frank were written by her in the years 1942 to 1944. The allegations that the diary was the work of someone else after the war or otherwise are therefore conclusively refuted. The complete results of the Institute's investigation appears in a 712 page critical edition of the diary which contains the original version, Anne's edited version, and the published version. Also included in the critical edition is a detailed report of the expert's findings.


(1) Address given at the presentation of the Anne Frank literature prize, September 5, 1985 by Ed van Thijn, Mayor of Amsterdam; cited in Gerrold Van Der Stroom, "The Diaries, Het Achterhuis and the Translations p.75.

(2) "The Diaries, Het Achterhuis and the Translations, p.63

(3)"The Diaries, Het Achterhuis and the Translations, p.70

(4) Fria Ord, November 9 and 11, 1957. Lubeck Landgericht, Stielaul Buddeburg dossier.

(5)Meyer Levin, The Obsession (NewYork; Simon & Schuster, 1973).

(6)Terressa Hendry, "Was Anne Frank's Diary a Hoax?" American Mercury (summer 1967) reprinted in Myth of the Six Million pp109-111.

(7) Richard Hardwood, Did Six Million Really Die? The Truth at Last (Richard[Surrey]: Historical Review Press, 1974), p.19 cited in David Barnouw, "Attacks on the Authenticity" p 91.

(8)The Spotlight, May 1, 1978

(9) David Irving, Hitler und seine Feldherren(Frankfurt-am-Main, Berlin, Vienna : Ullstein Verlag; 1975) pIII, cited in Barnouw, " Attacks on the Authenticity" p 91.

(10)Arthur Butz, the Hoax of the Twentith Century (Richmond [Surrey]: Historical Review Press, 1975), p37.

(11) Robert Faurisson, Het Dagboek van Anne Frank-een vervaling (Antwerp: Vrij Historisch Onderzoek, 1985).

(12) H.J.J Hardy, "Document Examination and Handwriting Identification of the Text Known as the Diary of Anne Frank", p.104.

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