The Anne Frank House announced on Tuesday the discovery of “hidden text on two pages” of the world-famous diarist’s original notebook. The revelation follows a two-year image-processing investigation into pages that Anne had covered over with brown paper while in hiding from the Nazis.
Given to her blank by her father, Otto Frank, the diary is a long-time standard on adolescent reading lists. It is fitting that the recovered texts are of an adolescent nature, including sex jokes and Anne’s account of the birds and the bees. The diarist wrote about women having protected sex for the sake of their own pleasure, and she implied that her Uncle Walter was gay.
Since the publication of the diary 70 years ago, readers around the world have been introduced to the Holocaust through Anne’s candid account of hiding from the Nazis in occupied Amsterdam. Along with seven other Jews, she hid for more than two years in the back-house, or annex, of her father’s office building. Except for Anne’s father, none of these hidden Jews survived the Nazi camps in Poland and Germany.
Following the war, Otto Frank published his daughter’s diary in the Netherlands, setting off the process in which her name eventually became emblematic of the Holocaust. Although Anne died before turning 16, her writings are used to teach about human rights in dozens of countries. Hundreds of international schools, films, books, parks, trees, and other projects bear her name.
In 2016, during a “regular check on the condition of the diaries” conducted by the Anne Frank House, it was decided to examine “two whole pages [that were] covered up with brown gummed paper,” according to the museum. Although parts of a few words were legible beneath what Anne had pasted over, image-processing technology was needed to decipher the texts fully.
“They photographed the pages, back-lit by a flash, and then used image-processing software to decipher the words, which were hard to read because they were jumbled up with the writing on the reverse sides of the pages,” according to the Anne Frank House, which sometimes displays Anne’s original diary — the red checker-covered notebook she named “Kitty.”
According to the museum, Anne wrote the recovered texts on September 28, 1942, when she had been in hiding for three months. They include four off-color jokes Anne had heard, along with a few sentences on what she called “sexual matters.”
Imagining how she would respond if someone asked her about the inner workings of sex, Anne wrote about intercourse, menstrual cycles, and prostitutes. She notes the “cravings” had by men and women, and draws from her father’s account of a pre-war trip to Paris. She also seems to imply that her maternal Uncle Walter was gay.
“All men, if they are normal, go with women, women like that accost them on the street and then they go together,” wrote Anne. “In Paris they have big houses for that. Papa has been there. Uncle Walter is not normal. Girls sell this.”
After referring to the “rhythmical movements” of sexual intercourse, Anne notes that “a man considers this cohabitation to be a pleasure and also has a craving for it. A woman has too, but less.”
Fans of the diary will recall that Anne’s entries are not without occasional sauciness, including when she describes her crushes on the two Peters — Peter Schiff of her pre-hiding days, and then Peter van Pels, her eventual attic boyfriend. During their final months in hiding together, Anne and Peter developed a burgeoning romance tracked closely in her diary.
“Anne Frank writes about sexuality in a disarming way,” said Ronald Leopold, executive director of the Anne Frank House. “Like every adolescent she is curious about this subject. She also writes about it on other, uncovered pages,” according to Leopold.
Among the four off-color jokes transcribed by Anne, one is about an “ugly wife” and her forlorn husband.
“A man had a very ugly wife and he didn’t want to have relations with her,” wrote Anne. “One evening he came home and then he saw his friend in bed with his wife, then the man said: He gets to and I have to!!!!!”
One of the jokes recorded by Anne is similarly predictable: “Do you know why the German Wehrmacht girls are in Holland? As mattresses for the soldiers.”
This is not the first time that sensitive material has been “returned” to the diary for publication. During the process of compiling his daughter’s writings, Otto Frank removed texts about — for instance — Anne’s account of puberty, and of the frosty marital relations between himself and Edith Frank. In later, so-called “definitive” publications of the diary, these texts were restored.
Although Anne’s diary depicts the horrors of war and hiding from the Nazis, it is not without light moments. There are many comical accounts of life in the “Secret Annex,” and quite a few puns and jokes were recorded. Anne also wrote a collection of short stories while in hiding, and they are peppered with whimsical humor.
By all accounts, the recovered texts published on Tuesday should not change people’s views of Anne Frank. Instead, say the experts, the discovery should help give the most famous Holocaust victim — who would have been 89 next month — more of a real presence in people’s minds.
“Anyone who reads the passages that have now been discovered will be unable to suppress a smile,” said Frank van Vree, director of the National Institute for War Documentation. “The ‘dirty’ jokes are classics among growing children. They make it clear that Anne, with all her gifts, was above all also an ordinary girl.”