The Diary of a Young Girl

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The Diary of A Young Girl
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Original Title: Het Achterhuis
Written by: Anne Frank
Central Theme:
Synopsis:
Genre(s): Diary
First published: June 25, 1947
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One of the most famous and memorable accounts of World War II and the Holocaust, The Diary of a Young Girl or Het Achterhuis in the original Dutch, was the title given to the edited version of the Diaries of Anne Frank (1929 - 1945), a Dutch Jewish school girl living in Amsterdam. In 1942, Anne was given a diary notebook for her 13th birthday which is when the diary starts, by that point, Germany has already invaded and occupied the Netherlands for 2 years. At first, the Franks tried to live out the occupation, but as Adolf Hitler's genocidal intentions began to show, Anne's father Otto built a secret shelter in the business building where he worked (by that point, the borders are closed and travel for Jews is so tightly regulated that leaving Amsterdam would have been impossible). On 6 July 1942, Anne's sister Margot received relocations orders to enter a "work" camp, and the Franks, along with van Pels family and another Jewish friend immediately moved into the Secret Annex (as it was called).

The rest of the diary chronicles the next 2 years of Anne's life in the cramped Annex along with her 7 co-fugitives. The daily routine consisted of absolute silence during the day, since the business was still running below them, blissfully unaware. And relatively more freedom (but they still were not allowed to leave the building) during the night. Their only contact with the outside was a contraband radio and a few co-conspirators who brought them the weekly supplies.

As human nature would dictate, locking 8 people in half of a townhouse under such stressful situations meant that each of the occupants immediately proceeded to get on everyone else's nerves. The Diary abound with morbidly funny tales of the occupants arguing over rations, radio channels, people's cooking, and in one memorable story, a low scale campaign over bathroom privileges (note that any small mistake, like a toilet flushing at the wrong time, can get everyone killed).

On top of the domestic melodrama, Anne also poured into the diary the teenage rebellion that she can never act on, her confusion over puberty and budding sexuality, her deepest thoughts and philosophy and her romance with the handsome Peter van Pels. The diary sometimes can sound like the writing of any teenage girl (albeit a very insightful and interesting girl with very good diction and writing skills) if you forget the whole stranded-in-the-Nazi-heartland thing.

The last entry in the Diary was written on August 1, 1944. 3 days later, the Grüne Polizei stormed the Annex. Anne was sent to Auschwitz then Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where she died of typhus in 1945, 5 months before the camp was liberated.

Only Otto Frank survived Auschwitz and returned to Amsterdam. Miep Giles managed to save all of Anne's papers from the ransacked house. And it was published in 1950, and never left the public consciousness since. If you pull someone out of a crowd and ask them to name a Holocaust victim, you'll probably get Anne Frank.

Not just a Tear Jerker; the Tear Jerker.

The best known adaptation of the book is the play (1955) and movie (1959) The Diary of Anne Frank. There is also the 2001 miniseries Anne Frank: The Whole Story.

Tropes used in The Diary of a Young Girl include:
  • Apocalyptic Log: One of the most famous Real Life examples.
  • Bi the Way: The first several rounds of publishing excluded excerpts from when Anne admits to being excited by the female body, even going so much as to reveal she kissed a friend and asked to feel her breasts. The Squick factor of this being a young girl not even in her teens is a justified explanation. The sections had been Bowdlerised by her father, and weren't discovered until his death.
  • Bowdlerised: Up until the beginning of the 21st century, the diary as published was edited to leave out Anne's entries about her awakening sexuality and exploration thereof with (and without) Peter van Daan. See Bi the Way, above.
  • Captain Ersatz: Anne gave false names for some of the other residents of the Secret Annex: The van Daans were actually a family named van Pels -- Hermann, Auguste and Peter. "Albert Dussel" was a pseudonym for dentist Fritz Pfeffer.
  • Epistolary Novel: Many of the entries in the diary are framed as letters to an imaginary girlfriend named "Kitty". (Anne in fact knew a girl who went by the nickname "Kitty" -- Käthe Egyedi -- but Egyedi never felt that Anne was specifically thinking of her when she addressed her diary passages to "Kitty", and most Anne scholars and biographers agree, believing that Anne borrowed the name of a character from a favorite book series.) Other entries in the diary are actual letters to real persons, composed without any chance of actually sending them.
  • Genre Shift: The diary does not begin with her family hiding in the attic. It begins with a girl receiving a blank diary for her thirteenth birthday, having a party, attending school, describing her friends...
  • Misery Lit: An archetypical one.
  • The Pollyanna: Towards the end of her diary, where she has already been stuck in the annex for years and experienced much of the horrors of WWII, Anne writes that she stills believes that humans are generally good.