Anne Frank Diary of a Young Girl: an extraordinary document of adolescence.

This Book is Banned_ Cover of first U.S. edition

This Book is Banned_Scarlet Alphabet -Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl is a classic work of Holocaust literature. But it’s also the coming or age story of a young girl, albeit in extraordinary circumstances. This aspect of this book is often forgotten, despite the statement on the original cover describing it as  an extraordinary document of adolescence.

While the term “diary” suggests raw, unedited writing, Diary of a Young Girl is an amalgamation of literary processes. And, it’s been translated into more than 70 languages, to become one of the most read books in the world.[1]

Anne Frank requested a diary for her thirteenth birthday. And it was one of the first things she packed when her family went into hiding two weeks later, on July 6, 1942.[2] Most people assume this single diary is all that exists of Anne’s writings, but it isn’t. She also wrote in notebooks she’d receive from her sister Margot and those helping to hide the family.  And these writings are included in what became the book Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl.

But that isn’t the only version of Anne Frank’s diary that has been published. Anne hoped to one day become a journalist, or famous writer.[3] And she was inspired to publish a book after the war about her time in the Secret Annex by an address on the radio from Gerrit Bolkestein, Education, Cultural Affairs and Science Minister of the Dutch government, in exile in London.

Bolkestein urged the Dutch people to collect “vast quantities of simple, everyday material…[4]

This Book is Banned_Scarlet Alphabet

History cannot be written on the basis of official decisions and documents alone.[5]

If future generations are to realize to the full extent what we as a population are going through and what we are experiencing in this time of war, then it is clear that we will need simple documents: a diary, letters from a laborer forced to go to work in Germany, […] sermons spoken by a clergyman...[6]

Only with such writings could the “picture of Holland’s struggle for freedom be painted in its full depth and full glory.”[7]

Anne already had her title: Het Achterhuis, or The Secret Annex. She revised a large part of her diary, describing the period from June 12, 1942 to March 29, 1944. But the second draft of her revise omitted a couple of things. She eliminated notes about her crush on Peter van Pels, son of the family who shared their hiding place. And, she deleted irascible remarks about her mother, those typical of a thirteen-year-old.[8]

Cover of Het-Achterhuis

Anne’s father, Otto Frank, was the driving force behind the publication of her diary, which was first published in book form as Het Achterhuis on June 25, 1947.[9] He didn’t simply publish Anne’s revised version, however. Otto reinserted some of the passages from Anne’s original diary texts that she omitted in her rewrite. He also included some of Anne’s short stories. Otto also corrected the language errors in young Anne’s writing.[10]

After Het Achterhuis’ success in the Netherlands, Otto looked for publishing opportunities in other countries.  In 1950, a French edition was published, followed by one in German. And in 1952, two English versions were published under the title Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, one for Great Britain and the other for the U.S. which included an introduction by Eleanor Roosevelt.[11]

Otto Frank willed the original documents to the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation.[12] And in 1986, the Institute produced a “Critical Edition” of the “Diary.” Intended for academic research, this edition draws a meticulously detailed comparison between Anne’s original diary texts, her rewritten version, and Otto’s rendition. It also includes exhaustive scientific examinations of the original documents confirming that this is indeed the work of a girl named Anne Frank.[13]

anne frank the diary of a young girl- the definitive edition

In 1995, The Definitive Edition was published in English. This edition contains 30% more material than the original edition, including much of the previously omitted sexual content. The additional material includes passages revolving around menstruation and sexual organs, as well as mentions of contraception. Not surprisingly, this version is the one most often banned and challenged.[14]

Most notable challenges include one in 2010, when a parent in the Culpepper County Public School district in Virginia complained that the book contained “explicit material and homosexual themes.”[15] The school district ultimately kept this edition of the book in its library. But, the curriculum was changed to use an earlier version of the work.

And in 2013, a formal complaint was filed by a Michigan parent, calling the book “pornographic.” They also characterized it as “too explicit for middle-schoolers,” clearly losing sight of the fact that it was written by a middle-school-aged author.[16] In fact, the cover of the original edition describes the book as “an extraordinary document of adolescence.” Unfortunately, many parents have forgotten what concepts, issues, and questions they were working through when they were thirteen.

Technically speaking this doesn’t qualify as a new edition, but in 2018 researchers announced they uncovered the text beneath two pages of the diary Anne had pasted over with brown paper.[17] Due to advances in image processing technology, The Anne Frank House, together with the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands, as well as the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, were able to decipher the text on the hidden pages.[18

The content of the text, bawdy jokes and Anne’s version of material that approximates the sex education of the day, isn’t significant in itself. She explores such topics in other parts of the diary – very often in more explicit terms than they’re addressed here. As Peter de Bruijn, a senior researcher at the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands maintains, they’re important because they indicate Frank’s first foray into writing in a more literary tone.[19]

anne frank's diary: the graphic adaptation

Finally, there’s Anne Frank’s Diary the Graphic Adaptation, published in 2018. As the title explicitly states, this book is not a new edition, but an adaptation. That said, this telling of Anne Frank’s story is faithful to the Definitive Edition, and has been authorized by the Anne Frank Foundation in Basel.[20]

Anne Frank’s Diary the Graphic Adaptation has been making headlines lately for being yanked from school curriculums, most recently in Florida and Texas. Why was this version of Anne Frank’s diary banned? Like challenges revolving around The Definitive Edition, it’s been challenged for sexual content, and labeled “pornography.”[21]

The Anne Frank House even felt compelled to issue a statement on the recent firing of a schoolteacher in Texas for reading a passage in class. Understandably, it’s pointed out that this turn of events is not about Anne Frank’s diary itself, but an illustrated adaptation of her diary. Be that as it may, the Anne Frank House’s response is right on target:

This Book is Banned_Scarlet Alphabet

According to the school, the passages about Anne Frank’s development from girlhood to womanhood and her curiosity about her sexuality are offensive. 

As a 13-year-old girl, Anne Frank had to go into hiding from the Nazis. For two years she wrote in her diary about her life, feelings and thoughts from her hiding place, the Secret Annex, against the background of the persecution of the Jews. She also wrote about her development as a woman and her ambition to become a writer. She did this in a frank manner. Anne Frank’s diary appeals to people worldwide.

Graphic biographies or novels are very suitable for reaching young people. Banning books, in this case the graphic adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary, because of certain passages is a missed opportunity to introduce young people to Anne Frank’s life story and the history of the Holocaust.[22]

On one level, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl is nothing less than an iconic piece of Holocaust literature. On the other hand, it’s the story of a thirteen-year-old girl coming of age, albeit in extraordinary circumstances.

This combination of historical significance, and insight into the personal development of a young girl into womanhood makes this work doubly relevant. Because as Minister Bolkestein astutely pointed out, history is about more than official decisions and documents. It’s about people, and what they were experiencing during the period in question. If we’re going to truly understand it… that is.

#Banned Books     #Holocaust       #Celebrations     #published 1950s         #graphic novels


[1] “The Diary.” Anne

[2] Müller, Melissa. Anne Frank: the biography. London: Bloomsbury, 2013. Pg 190.

[3 The Diary.” Anne

[4 Pampl, Patricia. “The Whole Anne Frank. March 5, 1995. The New York Times.

[5] Pampl, Patricia. “The Whole Anne Frank. March 5, 1995. The New York Times.

[6] War Diaries > Historical background. The Memory

[7] Müller, Melissa. Anne Frank: the biography. London: Bloomsbury, 2013. Pg 226.

[8] “The Diary.” Anne Frank

[9] “The Diary.” Anne

Noonan, John. “On This Day: Anne Frank’s Diary Published.” Finding Dulcinea.

[10] “The Complete Works of Anne Frank.” Anne Frank

[11] “The Publication of the Diary.” Anne

Tikkanen, Amy. “The Diary of a Young Girl.”

[12]   Lee, Carol Ann. The Biography of Anne Frank –  Roses From the Earth. London: Viking, 2000.     Pg 233.

[13] Pampl, Patricia. “The Whole Anne Frank. March 5, 1995. The New York Times.

[14] Culker, Emily. “Happy Birthday, Anne Frank.” Intellectual Freedom Blog. June 12, 2022.

[15] Chandler, Michael Alison. “School system in Virginia won’t teacher version of Anne Frank book.” January 29, 2010. The Washington Post.

[16] Culker, Emily. “Happy Birthday, Anne Frank.” Intellectual Freedom Blog. June 12, 2022.

[17] Siegal, Nina. “Researchers Uncover Two Hidden Pages in Anne Frank’s Diary.” May 15, 2018. The New York Times.

[18] “New texts from diary of Anne Frank revealed.” The Anne Frank House.

[19] Siegal, Nina. “Researchers Uncover Two Hidden Pages in Anne Frank’s Diary.” May 15, 2018. The New York Times.

[20] The Jewish Museum Shop.

[21] Lapin, Andrew. “A new version of the famous Holocaust diary is being called ‘Anne Frank pornography’ and getting banned from schools.” June 23, 2023.  Heritage Florida Jewish News.

Bella, Timothy. “Texas teacher fired after assigning graphic novel based on Anne Frank’s diary.” September 21, 2023. The Washington Post.

[22] “Statement: banning of Anne Frank graphic adaption in Texas.” The Anne Frank House.


Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Cover of first English edition. Doubleday & Company Inc published the First Edition, First Printing in Garden City, New York, 1952.

Het Achterhuis (The Secret Annex) – Front cover. First edition, 1947.

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. The Definitive Edition. Cover. New York: Bantam, 1997.

Anne Frank’s red checked diary. The Anne Frank House. A_AFrank_I_039

Anne Frank’s Diary the Graphic Adaptation. Cover. New York: Pantheon Books, 2018


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