Allowing the diary of Anne Frank speak for itself is easier said than done, according to stewards of her literary legacy.
To honor the 90th anniversary of Anne Frank’s birth in Germany, two publishers are offering end-all versions of the Holocaust victim’s diary. One volume assumes that Frank would have wanted people to read her more “mature,” but incomplete loose-leaf “manuscript” version of the diary, while the other makes space for nearly every sentence left to posterity by its revered subject in her diaries, manuscript, and short stories.
First out was “Liebe Kitty” (“Dear Kitty”), the thinner of the two offerings, published last month in Europe. Backed by Amsterdam’s Anne Frank House museum, “Liebe Kitty” is the revised, or manuscript version of Anne’s original diary. On June 25, a much thicker and more exhaustive “Anne Frank: The Collected Works” will go on sale by Bloomsbury in partnership with the Anne Frank Fonds (Foundation) in Basel.
“Anne Frank: The Collected Works” includes dozens of photographs, original documents, and — most importantly — both versions of the diary penned by Anne. For decades, there has been confusion surrounding the diary’s different versions, including how they’ve been combined to create “definitive” and other such editions.
The first version, known as “Version A,” comprised Anne’s original, red-checkered diary, as well as four subsequent journals. “Version B” was the so-called manuscript, started by Anne toward the end of the hiding period. The manuscript filled 324 loose papers and was never completed, in that readers are only brought up to April of 1944. For events between April and the Nazis’ raid on the annex in August, we have only Anne’s diary to relay events.
After the war, Otto Frank mixed parts of “Version A” and “Version B” to form “Version C,” published in 1947 as “The Diary of a Young Girl.”
To make things even more complicated, readers of the diary born after the 1980s are usually familiar with “Version D,” printed in 1995 and called “The Definitive Edition.” Edited by German translator Mirjam Pressler, “Version D” included 30% more material than Otto Frank’s “Version C,” largely by including more of Anne’s content from the “Version B” manuscript.
With so many versions of Anne Frank’s diary on the market, there will also be an “academic edition” published within two years, Anne Frank Fonds head Yves Kugelmann told The Times of Israel. Some of the scholars working on the volume since 2012 have examined issues surrounding the versions of the diary published since 1947, when Anne Frank had not yet become a global household name.
‘Just the same as she was’
Publishers of “Anne Frank: The Collected Works” call their volume, “the complete, authoritative edition of Anne Frank’s writings,” including postcards, a famous quote list, and yearbook inscriptions.
“The goal of the Fonds is to make the diaries accessible to a wide audience,” said Fonds head Kugelmann in an exchange with The Times of Israel.
“As you know we are a charitable organization. Otto Frank decided to use all the income for education, charity, and research. That is why we have a volunteer working board,” said Kugelmann.
According to the long-time Fonds leader, the new volume’s juxtaposition of Frank’s short stories with her diary provides fascinating context for readers, Kugelmann told The Times of Israel.
Known as the “Tales from the Secret Annex,” Frank wrote at least three-dozen short essays while in hiding. Some of the early ones focused on the frustrations of life in the dusty annex, including, “The Battle of the Potatoes.” In that account, Frank described efforts by some annex residents to increase her and sister Margot’s daily chore-load:
“It all boiled down to the same thing: Margot and I were supposed to be pressed into maid service in Villa Annex,” wrote Anne. “In this case we might as well use the not-so-polite expression ‘stuff it,’ since it’s never going to happen anyway.”
Frank’s later tales, written in 1944, take a more serious tone. By that time, she had heard about the gassing of Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland from “Radio Orange” reports and elsewhere. She knew that most of her friends has been taken away and lived in constant fear of a Nazi raid on the annex.
In a series called “Cady’s Life,” Frank wrote about the dreadful situation through the fictional lens of a girl named Cady. As a Christian, Cady witnessed the humiliation of her friend Mary, who must hide from the Nazis because she is Jewish. While some of Frank’s earlier “tales” were whimsical, this one bore down on her perilous situation.
“Cady no longer knew what to say or think. There were no words to describe the suffering she could so clearly see before her. Doors kept slamming over and over again in her ears, she could hear the crying children, she could see a squad of crude, armed men, like the one who had tossed her into the mud, and in their midst, helpless and alone, was Mary, Mary who was just the same as she was.”
‘This version is the diamond’
Few people living today knew Anne Frank personally, but one of them — Laureen Nussbaum — believes Anne would have wanted her diary to be read in the “Version B” manuscript format. That document as a stand-lone text is what’s printed in “Liebe Kitty,” which was published on May 11.
Born Hannelore Klein, the 91-year Nussbaum lived close to the Frank family in Amsterdam’s River Quarter. Although she once rehearsed a play with Anne, Nussbaum was closer to Anne’s sister Margot, whose reserved personality was more to Nussbaum’s liking.
During the Holocaust, Nussbaum was saved from deportation because a German official named Hans Georg Calmeyer allowed some Jews to “rebut” their designation as “full-blooded Jews” on registration records. Nussbaum has written about her experience and been interviewed often, including for author Carol Ann Lee’s book, “The Secret Life of Otto Frank.”
Although Nussbaum had a long and close friendship with the late Otto Frank, she criticized him for having excessively edited his daughter’s writings for publication. In addition to removing some topics that were considered too sensitive for the times, Otto combined Anne’s original diary and her manuscript in ways that were not always literary, according to Nussbaum.
“If we stick to the version that Anne planned for publication — not the hotchpotch that has emerged, but her own selection which she very deliberately addressed to a wider public — the diary is eminently qualified to be described as literature,” Nussbaum told The Independent in 1995. “It shows remarkable astuteness of observation, sense of humor and an extraordinary style.”
Twenty-four years after giving that interview, Nussbaum fulfilled her vision of working with a publisher to release Anne’s manuscript as a stand-alone text.
“Otto Frank was not a literary expert, he actually hid the literary qualities of his daughter,” publisher Joachim von Zepelin of Secession Vertag told The Telegraph in May of this year. “From a literary point of view, this [manuscript] version is the diamond, it is the best of them all. It is the one that should be published because it is the one she wanted published.”
Due to copyright laws, “Liebe Kitty” was only published in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. To demonstrate the manuscript was what Frank would have wanted published, Nussbaum has long pointed to a diary entry written by the diarist one month before her 15th birthday:
“In any case, after the war I’d like to publish a book called, ‘The Secret Annex.’ It remains to be seen whether I’ll succeed, but my diary can serve as the basis,” wrote Frank on May 11, 1944.