The impact of the diary

”Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl.”

Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, 20 June 1942

Still inspiring after 70 years

Anne aspired to mean something to others after the war. Now, 70 years later, her diary is one of the most translated books in the world. She has inspired millions of readers, from children to world leaders.

More than 70 translations in 70 years

Otto fulfils his daughter's wish on 25 June 1947. This is the day that Anne Frank’s Het Achterhuis: Dagboekbrieven 12 juni 1942 – 1 augustus 1944 (The Secret Annex: Diary letters from 12 June 1942 to 1 August 1944) is first published. 3,000 copies of the first edition are printed. In the Netherlands, the book receives favourable praise. The first Dutch print sells out very quickly. The second edition is published just six months later, in December 1947.

'Not enough interest'

In the United States, ten publishers initially turn down the manuscript. A publisher from New York writes: ‘I do not believe that there will be sufficient interest in this country to be able to sell enough books to make publication here profitable’.

Favourable review

In 1952 The Diary of a Young Girl is published in the United States and England after all, by publishing company Doubleday. A modest number of 5,000 copies are printed in the United States. A favourable review appears in the New York Times, and a second edition of 15,000 copies is published. A third edition of 45,000 copies quickly follows a few days later.

25 million sold copies

More translations appear over the following years. The book has been translated into more than 70 languages. Worldwide over 25 million copies have been sold making The Diary of a Young Girl one of the most sold books in the world.

Distribution throughout the years 1947 First edition in the Netherlands
Distribution throughout the years 1950 First editions outside of the Netherlands

West Germany
France

Distribution throughout the years 1952 First editions in English and outside of Europe

Argentina
Canada
Denmark
Japan
Norway
United Kingdom
United States

Distribution throughout the years 1953-1969 First editions are published in 34 new languages
Distribution throughout the years 1970-1989 First editions are published in 11 countries, in 6 new languages
Distribution throughout the years 1990-2009 First editions are published in 17 countries, in 18 new languages
Distribution throughout the years 2010-now First editions are published in 6 countries, in 5 new languages
70 translated languages
> 25,000,000 x sold
1 of the most read books in the world

Why is Anne Frank’s diary so famous?

Visitors to the Anne Frank House often ask why Anne Frank's diary became so famous. After all, many other diaries have been published. Experts and prominent people have tried to answer the question as to why this book specifically is so inspirational.

  1. 1

    The diary is hopeful and positive.

    In a letter to Cara Wilson, an American girl with whom he exchanged letters regularly, Otto Frank wrote:
    'When I returned from the concentration camp alone, I saw that a tragedy of unexpressible extent had hit the Jews, my people, and I was spared as one of them to testify, one of those who had lost his dear ones. It was not in my nature to sit down and mourn.'

    'I had good people around me and Anne’s Diary helped me a great deal to gain again a positive outlook on life. I hoped by publishing it to help many people in the same way and this turned out to be true.'
    Letter from 16 June 1968, from Cara Wilson’s book Love, Otto. The Legacy of Anne Frank.

    Otto Frank in the attic of the Secret Annex a few hours before the official opening of the Anne Frank House (3 May 1960). Photo collection: Anne Frank House, Amsterdam / photo: Arnold Newman.
  2. 2

    Anne was a good writer

    On 25 July 2005, Laureen Nussbaum, Professor Emerita at Portland State University, Foreign Languages and Literature Department, and childhood friend of Margot Frank, said:
    ‘In the Spring of 1944, Anne decides to compile her spontaneous notes that she recorded in the Secret Annex from her 13th birthday onwards into a book for publication. The book was intended to reflect her life in the Annex, her developments, her thoughts, her hopes and her aspirations. I think she did this extraordinarily well. And she worked really hard at it too, because in a few short weeks, she wrote 327 pages containing truly stylistic literary content, which I think is exceptional for someone that young.’

    Laureen Nussbaum at her desk in Seattle, in the spring of 2016. Photo: Jennifer Wing. Source: KNKX Public Radio.
  3. 3

    An honest account of puberty

    Mirjam Pressler, writer and editor of the revised edition of The Diary of a Young Girl in 1991:
    'The diary of Anne Frank is the most honest documentation of a puberty I know, full of feeling, smart, open, and not coloured and corrected by later events and insights, and that, I believe, is something young readers feel today and will continue to feel in the future.'

    'These descriptions of the first uncertain steps in the area of awakening love and sexuality, the disorder and early sorrow of puberty are what set this book apart from other purely historical documents.'

    Mirjam Pressler and Amos Oz at the Leipziger Buchmesse in 2015. Photo: Heike Huslage-Koch. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Rights: CC0.
  4. 4

    The diary does not show any atrocities

    In 2004, Wolfgang Benz, historian and former director of the Center for Research on Antisemitism in Berlin, noted:
    'To what extent are the writings, which she left as the sum of her short life, representative, exemplary or instructive? What does her diary explain, other than the emotional world of a girl in distress?

    Basically not very much, and that is part of the success of the document: the transfer of the persecution onto the private level of the persecuted allows approaches to the text without the existential horror readers feel when they are faced with the memories of ghettos, concentration camps and extermination camps.'

    Wolfgang Benz in Hannover, 2013. Photo: AxelHH. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Rights: CC BY-SA 3.0.
  5. 5

    Plays, films and documentaries

    Over the years, numerous plays and films have been made about the life and diary of Anne Frank. Every year, countless actresses take on the role of Anne. The first play ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’, opened on Broadway in 1955, and the 1959 Hollywood and Oscar-winning blockbuster from George Stevens without a doubt contributed significantly to the worldwide fame of the diary.

    Millie Perkins as Anne Frank, and Joseph Schildkraut as Otto Frank in the movie The Diary of Anne Frank (1959). Collection: Twentieth Century Fox. Source: Wikimedia Commons. Rights: Public Domain

Anne Frank has reached millions of people with her diary. She hoped to convince readers to strive for equality and human rights. And this goal has been achieved, as is evident from a number of testimonials from prominent people.

Source of inspiration for many

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Source of inspiration for many

John F. Kennedy

15 September 1961

‘Of the multitude who throughout history have spoken for human dignity in times of great suffering and loss, no voice is more compelling than that of Anne Frank.’

Steven Spielberg

24 September 2008

‘Never Forget! In life and even more in death Anne Frank has held the world in the innocent spell of her truth and wisdom.’

Nelson Mandela

15 August 1994

‘On Robben Island, some of us read Anne Frank's Diary. We derived much encouragement from it. It kept our spirits high and reinforced our confidence in the invincibility of the cause of freedom and justice.’

Emma Thompson

1 February 2006

‘I think she would have had great courage, I think she would have spoken up for the dispossessed and I think that she would have tried to storm the invisible barriers that separate human beings and keep us in such conflict. So what I say, now, is that the only thing we have to remember is all her would-haves, are our real possibilities. All her would-haves are our opportunities. And the book’s a flame, a torch - we can light our own candles and take them and illuminate our hearts with the incandescence of her spirit.’

Jetteke Frijda

best friend of Margot Frank, 2002

Otto Frank was an unbelievably nice man (…) Anne’s diary took up so much of his time after the War… He was astonished of its impact on the world. I remember how he enthused over a letter from a Japanese girl.
But I also told him then: “I think it is wonderful what you are doing for Anne, but I think it’s a shame that Margot gets a little lost in it all. She is also very much worth being mentioned”.

Shimon Peres

former Prime Minster of Israel, in the guest book of the Anne Frank House, 29 September 2013

‘Anne belongs to the genesis of humanity, when human being begun to understand the difference between evil and right, between light and darkness. Her innocent, truthful voice will sing all over the world by many generations to come, so to understand the difference between being human and being satanic. It is the voice of the Jewish people who paid so much for their human commitment. They were murdered but the truth survived. The light of Anne defeated darkness.

Thousands of letters

Otto and his second wife Fritzi receive thousands of letters from readers of the diary from all over the world. In 1979 he writes about this: ‘Young people in particular are eager to know more and more about how such terrible events could ever have taken place. I answer them as best I can. And at the end I often write, “I hope Anne’s book will have a lasting effect on you in later life, so that you too will work for reconciliation and peace, as far as your circumstances will allow.”’ In: Anne Frank Stichting (ed.), Anne Frank, 1929-1979, (Amsterdam, 1979).