“Will i ever be able to write something great?”

Books about Anne Frank at the exhibition "Anne Frank" in Belgium © Elisabeth Schomaker (KNA)

At first, she didn’t think anyone would be interested in "a schoolgirl’s heartbreak". But Anne Frank was wrong. The diary of the Jewish girl murdered by the Nazis became world famous.

Actually it was a poetry album. Almost square, with a red-and-white checkered cloth cover and a clasp at the front. The diary of Anne Frank. The Jewish girl had made it to 13. Birthday received as a gift from his parents. 75 years ago, on 12. June 1942, she wrote her first entry: "I will, I hope, be able to entrust you with everything, as I have never been able to do with anyone, and I hope you will be a great support to me."

Anne Frank emigrated from her hometown of Frankfurt am Main to the Netherlands in 1934 with her parents and sister after the Nazis seized power in 1933. In Amsterdam, the family went into hiding when Anne’s sister Margot received a call in July 1942 for deportation to the Westerbork camp, a transit camp for Jews in Holland. For a good two years, together with the van Pels family and the dentist Fritz Pfeffer, they hid in the back of Anne’s father Otto Frank’s company building at Prinsengracht 263.

At first, no ambitions as a writer

What Anne confided to her diary there is among the most harrowing accounts of persecution of Jews during the Nazi era. Addressee is an imaginary friend: "Dear Kitty! Between Sunday morning and now seem to be years. So much has happened, as if the world had suddenly turned upside down," wrote Anne Frank on 8. July 1942. Her last entry – some two years later – dates from 1. August 1944. On 4. August 1944 the hiding place was tracked down, all those in hiding there were arrested. Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in early 1945 – at just 15 years old.

Anne Frank must be imagined as a very fun-loving, not at all well-behaved girl. She questioned everything and everyone, observed and described the people around her closely, with wit and a sharp tongue. She wrote about her dreams, her longings, about love. At the same time, she reflected on the contradictory nature of her own character: There was, on the one hand, her "exuberant cheerfulness" and her "mockery of everything," but on the other hand, a more hidden side, "which is much more beautiful, purer and deeper".

At first, Anne did not have any great ambitions as a writer, as she revealed on 20 September. June 1942, a Saturday: "It’s a strange feeling for someone like me to write a diary," Hildegard Knef once sang. Not only have I never written, but I think that no one, neither I nor anyone else, will later be interested in the heartfelt emotions of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl."

Suggestion by the radio

But in the spring of 1944 she heard on the radio from London a speech by the Dutch Minister of Education. He advised to publish after the war everything about the difficult time of the Dutch people during the German occupation, such as diary entries. As a result – historians say – Anne decided to publish a book after the war. On 5. April 1944 she wrote: "… Will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist and writer?? I hope so, I hope so much! With writing I can express everything, my thoughts, my ideals and my fantasies."

Their father Otto was the only family member to survive the Nazi terror. He published his daughter’s diary in 1947 after a long period of reflection. In one of its latest entries from 15. Anne describes a kind of premonition of death in July 1944: "I see how the world is slowly being turned more and more into a desert, I hear the approaching thunder louder and louder, which will also kill us, I feel the suffering of millions of people with."But she continues defiantly: "And yet, when I look up to the sky, I think that everything will change for the better, that this hardship will also end, that peace and quiet will return to the world order."

A work of world literature

Anne Frank herself was no longer able to actively work on it. But their diary has become a work of world literature. It has been translated into more than 70 languages and sold 30 million copies. Her stash is now a museum, which saw a record number of visitors for the seventh year in a row in 2016. Last year, 1.29 million people came to the house where a Jewish girl once began writing her diary.

Norbert Demuth

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