Anne Frank Unearthed
The Holocaust Museum's new Anne Frank exhibit displays some of her never-seen-before writings and paints a fuller picture of the famous girl.
12:00 AM, Jun 19, 2003 • By ERIN MONTGOMERY
THE U.S. HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM is celebrating its 10th anniversary with the exhibit "Anne Frank the Writer: An Unfinished Story." It's a moving testament to Anne's literary talents, which go far beyond her famous diary. Some of the featured writings, what Anne liked to call her "pen-children," have never been displayed; none of the writings have been shown before outside the Netherlands.
The exhibit features three of Anne's original notebooks and hundreds of loose pages from the edited diary she dubbed "Kitty." (The original red-plaid diary, which would be just the first of three volumes, remains on permanent display at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.) Visitors are treated to a fairytale named "Eva's Dream," essays, and short stories. Another notebook, titled "Anne's Book of Nice Sentences," is filled with quotations from her literary idols--Shakespeare, John Galsworthy, Goethe--as well as sentences from the biographies of Florence Nightingale and Peter Paul Rubens. There's an original photo album enclosed in glass as well as enlarged, reproduced photos of the girl.
A 1996 video interview with Miep Gies, the woman who brought the Frank family supplies and news from the outside world, plays on three television screens in the hallways. Gies speaks of how she kept Anne's writings before turning them over to Anne's father, Otto, on the fateful day he discovered that his daughters Anne and Margot had perished at Bergen-Belsen.
Anne's essay "Give!"--her eloquent plea to end poverty--is narrated and projected onto a small movie screen in another room. Amidst these audiovisual effects, the best way to really see Anne at the exhibit is to take the time to read her. The never-before-seen material is indeed exciting, but it is the carefully chosen diary excerpts that best show Anne's personality and her longing to be a respected writer: "Will I ever be able to write anything great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? I hope so, oh, I hope so very much, for I can recapture everything when I write, my thoughts, my ideals and my fantasies."
She began her diary a couple of days after her 13th birthday in June 1942, one month before she went into hiding. On March 28, 1944, a radio broadcast by the Dutch government-in-exile in London urged Dutch citizens to keep diaries, letters, and anything else that would document life under German occupation. It was then that Anne began to edit her diary with the intention of publishing it after the war. Her writing also became more mindful of the future: "I know that I can write, a couple of my stories are good, my descriptions of the 'Secret Annex' are humorous, there's a lot in my diary that speaks, but--whether I have real talent remains to be seen." Before her arrest on August 4, 1944, she transferred nearly two-thirds of her diary from original notebooks to loose sheets of white, pink, and blue paper, making various revisions in the process.
At one point in the exhibit you can crouch down to examine the original, third volume of Anne's diary, open to the final entry dated August 1, 1944, three days before she and her family were taken in by German and Dutch police officials. She would die in March 1945, at the age of 15, only a few weeks before her camp was liberated by the Allies.
Anne once wrote, "There is a saying that 'paper is more patient than man.'" Fortunately, the Holocaust Museum is rewarding Anne's patience and our own by telling us more of her extraordinary story.
Erin Montgomery is a staff assistant at The Weekly Standard.