I was interested in this book for two reasons-- 1) I saw some claims of it being a forgery, and 2) it is a key document in popular holocaust history. I therefore obtained a copy of the book from my local library and read it. Overall, it is a moving book, very intimate and touching. There are some nice human insights, and it is all the more impressive as being the product of a 13-15 year old.
The basic story is that 8 Jews-- the Frank family of two parents and two daughters (Anne being the youngest), along with another family, the van Daans, and an elderly man named Dussel-- went into hiding from the Nazis, in the top part of a warehouse in Amsterdam ("The Secret Annex") for 25 months. In August 1944, they were reported to the police and taken away by the Nazis. They were eventually sent to Auschwitz, then to another camp, where Anne and her sister died of typhoid fever. The mother died in Auschwitz in the hospital, and the father was the only one to survive the war. Supposedly Mr. van Daan was the only one of the 8 who was actually gassed to death.
In any case, after the war, Mr. Frank went back to Amsterdam, to the building where they hid, and met the people who had assisted them while they hid, and these people presented him with the diary fragments, which he put together and got published.
As I read the book, there were four main oddities:
1) the noise discrepancy-- early on, Anne says they need to be very quiet in their hiding place to avoid detection, yet throughout the diary, there is constant noise -- arguments, shouting, vacuum cleaning, all the domestic noise you would expect from 8 people in a small space.
2) the window discrepancy-- early on, Anne says they have to keep the windows shut or covered with curtains so people outside can't see them, yet in the rest of the diary, they are constantly looking out the windows and opening them to get air, etc
3) the amount of food-- the 8 people consume a huge amount of food, a very healthy and varied diet that must be trucked in by their helpers at the same time Anne describes how Amsterdam is lawless and with poor people all over; only later in the diaries is there a mention of food shortages.
4) the lack of concern about being cooped up for two years in one small apartment space-- this is probably the most striking thing to me. There are supposed to be 8 people literally imprisoned in a small apartment-like "annex" for 25 months, yet there is almost no mention by Anne of claustrophobia, being tired of staying inside this small space for 25 months! It is quite unbelievable, especially for someone as sensitive and expressive as Anne is supposed to be.
5) narrative details-- parts of the "diary" are written in a manner that is too "novel-like", descriptions of things are a bit too perfect for a spontaneous diary from a 14-15 year old; there is third person narrative in a spot or two.
All these things cast real doubt upon this work being a bona fide diary of a Jewish girl in hiding from the Nazis as the story alleges.
Robert Faurisson, the noted holocaust revisionist, has written what must be the definitive critique of the diary. He also has done some research -- interviewing Otto Frank and the Dutch people who were supposed to have helped the Franks while they were hiding in the annex. Faurisson's piece is extremely long, but quite interesting if you have read the diary. Basically, it boils down to the idea that the diary is a complex fabrication, and that the family never really hid out for any significant period in the Amsterdam annex. Mr. Frank had a lot of incentive to promote the story, and it seems to have have become a major source of fame and probably wealth.
I don't doubt that Anne and the Franks were real people and that they were persecuted and in hiding in some way, and that Anne and her sister and mother died in camps, and that Mr. Frank had a tragic life. Nonetheless, the diary seems to be highly fabricated.
I suspect that Anne trly had some personal notes-- a diary of sort-- and that the family was also in hiding for some time from the Nazis. When Mr. Frank survived the war while his family died, he decided to memorialize Anne through the diary. And it seems as though Mr. Frank took great liberties in expanding the diary -- embellishing scenes, editing it, adding narrative about the annex, etc. While I don't think at this point, anyone will ever really know the full truth about the Franks' life during the war, all together, it is an interesting lesson in how propaganda is constructed. Because there is no doubt the diary is powerful propaganda, used in schools to teach children about the Jewish holocaust at the hands of the Nazis.
Oct 29, 2012