“Anne’s brilliant prose and sadly unrealised potential proved extraordinarily appealing”
Anne Frank has been both a blessing and a curse for Holocaust studies. There’s a risk that she is made somehow saintly, yet many people are not even aware of her tragic death.
Anne was a historian of sorts. She was very much aware of the catastrophe unfolding across Europe and took pains to document its effects. She edited her diary for publication, even choosing a title for her future book: The Room Behind the House.
After her death, Anne’s words were edited again by her father, who removed more personal details from the text – not least Anne’s arguments with her mother.
But the diary proved hard to publish and had a small initial print run. It was only when translated into English, and given a new title, The Diary of a Young Girl, that it really took off. The combination of her brilliant prose and her sadly unrealised potential proved extraordinarily appealing: so much so, indeed, that some have been tempted to write sequels, telling the story of an Anne who didn’t die.
Now translated into more than 60 languages, the diary has become a sort of literary classic, celebrated not least because it seems to make the Holocaust human and to offer a story of hope. But it is important to remember that the same girl who would write, “I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart”, went on to die in a concentration camp.
Dr Zoë Waxman is research associate at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. Her most recent book is