The history of the diary

”I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support.”

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, 12 June 1942

Silent witness to a young girl’s life in a time of war

Shortly before the Frank family goes into hiding, Anne gets a diary for her birthday. This diary would become her friend and confidant in the hiding place. In the Spring of 1944 Anne makes a decision: after the war she wants to publish a novel about her time in hiding.

‘I am oh so glad’

‘Maybe one my nicest presents...’, Anne writes about the red and white checked diary she gets for her thirteenth birthday. The gift is not a surprise. Anne got to pick it out herself, probably in the bookshop close to her home.

The family goes into hiding in the rear section of Otto’s office building at 263 Prinsengracht a few weeks later. Anne realises very quickly how important her diary and writing are for her. ‘Oh, I'm so glad I brought you along!’ (Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl, 28 September 1942)

Kitty, the confidante

In her diary, Anne turns to Kitty. But who is this paper confidante? Anne really likes the books of Cissy van Marxveldt. She devours the adventures of the main character Joop ter Heul and her cheerful club of friends, all girls. A book from the series, De H.B.S. tijd van Joop ter Heul, is written partly in letter form and partly in diary form.

From 21 September 1942, Anne also pretends that she is sending letters to Joop’s club of friends. After a number of letters to Pop, Emmy, Pien, Conny, Lou, Jet and Marianne, Anne eventually settles on one 'friend': Kitty Francken. Anne likes writing to her the best. In the books by Cissy van Marxveldt, Kitty is ‘shrewd’, cheerful and funny. And according to the main character Joop, she is also a ‘nice singer, she has been taking singing lessons for a few years’.

Het originele eerste dagboek van Anne Frank.

The original first diary of Anne Frank. Photo collection: Anne Frank Stichting, Amsterdam.

Anne continues to write in notebooks

Anne’s red and white checked diary is almost full on 5 December 1942. Anne continues to write diary letters to Kitty in notebooks. Two of these have survived. Together they contain entries in the period from 22 December 1943 to 1 August 1944. This last entry is made three days before the people in hiding are arrested.

Unfortunately, more than a year of original diary entries written by Anne is lost: the period from 6 December 1942 to 21 December 1943. Anne does describe this period in the book that she decides to write about her time in hiding: Het Achterhuis.

Anne Frank, budding writer

Anne’s work consists of more than just the diary. She also writes short stories, starts a novel and keeps a book of ‘beautiful sentences’. In May 1944 Anne decides to write a novel, so that after the war people can read about what life as a girl in hiding was like. The title: Het Achterhuis.

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Short stories

During the Summer of 1943, Anne increasingly enjoys writing short stories. Some are completely made up, and others are based on events in the Secret Annex, at home or at school. Eventually, Anne feels that as many as thirty short stories are good enough for a place in a special notebook: ‘Tales from the Secret Annex’.

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Anne’s red and white checked diary

This is Anne’s most famous diary. She gets it for her thirteenth birthday, shortly before the family goes into hiding. Anne feels quite alone in the hiding place and pretends to send letters to a club of friends.
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Anne’s Secret Annex

Anne begins to work seriously on her ‘novel of the Secret Annex’ on 20 May 1944. She uses her diary as the source, but she is not satisfied with many of her original entries. Sometimes she leaves large sections out, sometimes she writes completely new texts. In a relatively short time - 76 days - she fills almost 200 coloured sheets of paper.

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Anne continues to write in notebooks

Anne’s red and white checked diary is almost full on 5 December 1942. Anne continues to write diary letters to Kitty in notebooks. Two of these have survived. Together they contain entries in the period from 22 December 1943 to 1 August 1944. This last entry is made three days before the people in hiding are arrested.
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A cashbook full of ‘beautiful sentences’

‘An idea from Pim’ notes Anne on the first page of this cashbook. ‘Pim’ is her personal name for her father Otto. He suggests that Anne transcribes the ‘beautiful sentences’ she comes across in the books she reads. Between August 1943 and July 1944, Anne transcribes all kinds of short and long pieces into this cashbook that she only uses for her ‘beautiful sentences’.

Short stories

During the Summer of 1943, Anne increasingly enjoys writing short stories. Some are completely made up, and others are based on events in the Secret Annex, at home or at school.

‘Blurry the Explorer’ is an example of a made-up story. It is about a little bear that wants to explore the world and eventually ends up back with his mother. In another story Anne writes about her memories of her first school day at the Jewish Lyceum. She still remembers just how relieved she felt when she saw her friend Hannah coming into the classroom. Anne eventually feels that as many as thirty short stories are good enough for a place in a special notebook: ‘Tales from the Secret Annex’.

A cashbook full of ‘beautiful sentences’

Between August 1943 and July 1944, Anne transcribes all kinds of short and long pieces into a cashbook. ‘An idea from Pim’ notes Anne on the first page of this cashbook. ‘Pim’ is her personal name for her father Otto. He suggests that Anne transcribes the ‘beautiful sentences’ she comes across in the books she reads. Enthused, Anne gets to work on that idea in the Summer of 1943.

‘Novel of the Secret Annex’

On 28 March 1944, the people in hiding are listening to a Radio Oranje radio broadcast from London. In this broadcast, Minister Bolkestein of the Dutch government in exile calls on Dutch people to keep diaries and documents, in order to have detailed and tangible memories of the occupation.

Anne also hears this appeal and makes an important decision: she will rewrite her diary, so that it can be published as a book after the war. She already has a title: ´Het Achterhuis'. Anne begins to work seriously on her ‘novel of the Secret Annex’ on 20 May 1944. She uses her diary as the source, but she is not satisfied with many of her original entries. Sometimes she leaves large sections out, sometimes she writes completely new texts. Anne also continues write in her diary in addition to this.

But Anne’s Het Achterhuis is never finished .... when the people in hiding are arrested on 4 August 1944, Anne has rewritten her diary until 29 March, exactly the date on which she wrote about the radio broadcast in her diary. In a relatively short time - 76 days - she filled almost 200 coloured sheets of paper.

In 1947, Het Achterhuis is published

Otto Frank is the only one of the eight people in hiding to survive the persecution of the Jews. He learns that Anne’s diary has been saved when he returns to Amsterdam. Helpers Miep Gies and Bep Voskuijl found it in the Annex after the group is arrested. Miep kept the diary in the drawer of her desk for all that time, in the hope that one day she would give it back to Anne.

Anne’s wish

Otto reads Anne's diary and all her other writings. He is surprised and realises he did not know his daughter at all. He had no idea of everything that had gone through her head. Otto decides to fulfil Anne’s greatest wish. Anne’s book Het Achterhuis is published on 25 June 1947.

Reconciliation and human rights

Until his death in 1980, Otto dedicates himself to working for a better world, which was Anne’s wish. He reflects on this in 1979, shortly before he died: ‘I am almost ninety now and my strength is gradually declining. But the task that Anne set before me keeps giving me new strength – to struggle for reconciliation and for human rights the world over.’