Anne’s Diary is Not Anne

Anne Frank at school 1941


“I want to go on living even after my death!”, Anne Frank April 4, 1944 . Most everyone knows these famous words by Anne Frank and the impact she has created in history. The Diary of Anne Frank is one of the most well known Holocaust books. However, this leaves Anne to be formed into a book of roughly three-hundred pages. Anne’s diary is not Anne, this is not stating that Anne did not write the Diary, what it is stating, is that the diary is not a whole of who Anne was. Despite all the sources and mediums based on Anne, she still can not be known and compacted down into a three-hundred something page book. Anne’s diary became more than just a diary to her. There have been thirty-three different film adaptations on The Diary of Anne Frank yet, even through all the adaptations, she can not be fully known. Two film to draw attention to are the 1959 film The Diary of Anne Frank based on the play by Levin and the 2009 adaptation on The Diary of Anne Frank which is more accurate. There was also drama that ensued between Levin’s play and the Goodrich-Hackett play with accusations of plagiarism leaving Otto Frank to pay the price.

Pages of Anne’s diary

Annemarie Pabel’s article, “’I Want the Diary to Be My Friend’: The Imagined Friend in Anne Frank’s Diary” claims the diary was more than a diary, but an almost imaginary friend who Anne named Kitty. She claims that, “Kitty emerges as Frank’s primary confidante, listener, [and] equal”, and that the diary, Kitty, became Anne’s best friend. Even in that she had no intentions of letting anyone read her diary as she writes on Saturday June 20, 1942, “…it seems that neither I —nor for that matter anyone else— will be interested in the unbosomings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl”. Some argue that Anne was too young to be a Holocaust writer yet as Prose states in her book “Since this diary is emblematic of hundreds of thousands of murdered children, criticism is irrelevant”. Criticizing her diary and age does not change the fact her story should be shared.

Anne Frank’s Diary

There were two plays that caused drama leaving Otto Frank to pay thousands of dollars. In 1952 Levin, after months of working with Otto Frank, aired his play radio version of The Diary of Anne Frank. Everything went well until 1955 when Goodrich and Hackett aired their play The Diary of Anne Frank on the radio. It was then that Levin sued Goodrich and Hackett for plagiarizing his play. Because Otto Frank had helped Levin, he too was dragged into the mess. After several years of lawsuits and court cases Graver writes that, Otto “Frank’s main goal was to end both the lawsuit and the controversy: to get Levin to give up all his alleged rights to the book, play, and movie of the Diary, and to stop airing the subject in public”. In the end Mr. Frank ended up paying between fifteen and twenty-thousand dollars that was donated to Jewish charities. This moments needs to be paused. A man who survived Auschwitz concentration camp, allowed his daughter’s private diary to be essentially exploited, is dragged through years of court case to pay nearly twenty-thousand dollars? It is sad how even in his survival he still ended up paying so much because he wanted his daughters story shared.

Some of the film adaptations


There are thirty-four different mediums on The Diary of Anne Frank, that is, eighteen documentaries and sixteen dramas, not including Anne being referenced in twenty-three different pieces of film. Two that I drew my attention to were The 1959 film The Diary of Anne Frank based on Goodrich and Hackett’s 1955 play The Diary of Anne Frank that won a Pulitzer Prize, and the BBC miniseries The Diary of Anne Frank 2009 adaptation based on her diary. While most people would assume, because of it’s authentic black and white look, that the 1959 film is more accurate, this is incorrect. In fact, the 2009 t.v. miniseries was much more accurate because it used actual quotes from the book and they had the rights to the book. Listed below are some of the contrast of both films

1959 The Diary of Anne Frank Film:

  • Uses no quotes from the book
  • In black and white
  • Opens with Otto Frank after surviving the camp
  • Only see their life in hiding
  • Children look older & are portrayed as mini adults 
  • Ending is more upbeat as if they live
  • Secret Annex is crammed and looks like attic
  • Has the Van Daans arrive on July 9, 1942

2009 BBC T.V. Miniseries The Diary of Anne Frank:

  • Uses many quotes from the book
  • In color
  • Opens with date July 6, 1942
  • See glimpse of life before hiding
  • Children look their age & act their age
  • Ending is more realistic of what really happened
  • Secret Annex looks like a home & not hidden
  • Has the Van Daans arrive on July 13, 1942 
Millie Perkins played the 1959 Anne Frank


Another thing I want to point out is how differently the characters are portrayed. To start with Anne in the 1959 version she is more mature and grown up. She carries a sense of weight and maturity that she understands the adults view. Where as the 2009 versions she is a much more realistic young thirteen year old girl. Also Peter and Anne’s relationship gets translated very differently. In the 2009 it is probably more how it happened that it did in the 1959 version. One more character that is drastically different is the portrayal of Mrs. Van Daan. In the 1959 she is kinder and more loving to Anne. Yet, in the 2009 she crass and rude to Anne.

Most everyone knows the story of Anne Frank but has social media, time, and popularity taken away from The Diary of Anne Frank and her actual story to become something we sell rather than teach to students. Tim Cole’s book, Selling the Holocaust From Auschwitz to Schindler; How History Is Bought, Packaged and Sold, sets up a image of what we have made the diary and Anne’s story into today;“Two little girls who are clutching a copy of Anne Frank’s diary under their

Photo credits: Eye to Israel

arms pause and smile for their father who takes a photograph of them standing in front of the bookcase which hides the stairs into the Secret Annexe. We all pause”. This scene is conflicting and bothersome. These young girls who can be presumed to be around the ages of eight to thirteen stand there with the book of a murdered victim in their hand. They vist what is called “historical site” that once held the Franks, Van Daans and Mr. Dussel all prisoners until they capture. It was there they were dragged away to their fate to die. Yet these young girls hold their book on their “idol” smiling while taking a photo in their freedom. The point, is then, missed all together. It is no longer about Anne’s story but a cool instagram photo that they can remember. The society nowadays is so driven by money rather than educating the youth of its population. There are even pages on websites dedicated to how to avoid the lines when visiting her museum. 


How can this idea of selling history begin to shift to a teaching method once again? A new teaching method about the diary has been done in some schools. In some fifth grade classrooms they become introduced to her Anne’s story and the Holocaust as a whole. As a nanny, I was able to see this first hand. The young girl nanny is ten years old and she was to write her own “Dear Kitty,” letters about current life as if they were in hiding. While this could be a heavy subject matter for ten and eleven year olds, it was a reality for many children that age. Many believe that this could be too sensitive of a topic to discuss. Yet, better for them to understand the weight than to candidly take a photo with something from just a book and never truly comprehend the horrors of the Holocaust. This ensures the weight as not just a “bad moment in history” but rather a truly horrific event that must to taught to avoid a repeat of the past.

Anne Frank did go on living through her writing. With all the films available on just Anne Frank’s story alone it is important to be careful that we do not get caught up in selling her story but actually telling it. Both the 1959 film adaptation and the 2009 BBC edition on The Diary of Anne Frank tell her story but both look drastically different. After watching and comparing both films the 2009 version appears to be more accurate. Yet, this has not been about which film is more accurate. The essay is about how there are so many different versions of her story but all different. Which leads to the inevitable questions, “Can Anne ever be truly known and understood”? The answer is no, the world can never truly know or understand Anne Frank as a whole. If there are thirty-three different versions of her story it is because it is an attempt, that continues to fail, to accurately convey who Anne was and her life in the secret annex.