Anne Frank

The story of the young diarist.

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In early April 1946 (after several Dutch firms turned it down), the Amsterdam newspaper Het Parool printed on its first page an eloquent article by the historian Jan Romein, praising the diary as a strikingly graphic account of daily life in wartime and a revelation of the "real hideousness of Fascism," which had destroyed the life of a talented, endearing young girl. Uitgeverji Contact published Het Achterhuis in an edition of 1,500 in June 1947, and it received uniformly positive reviews.

Publishers in other countries were at first skeptical that there would be a market for what some saw as the mundane jottings of a little Dutch girl and a bleak reminder of the recently ended war, but French and German translations appeared in 1950.

The turning point in the history of the diary was its remarkable reception in the United States in the summer of 1952. Thanks mainly to a brilliant review by the novelist Meyer Levin on the front page of The New York Times Book Review, Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl (after having been rejected a dozen times) was an immediate best-seller, providing an intensely personal experience for tens-of-thousands of readers.

Adapted for the theater by Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett in 1955, The Diary of Anne Frank induced tears in large audiences, many of whom felt as if one of the unknown Jewish dead in Europe had risen from a mass grave and taken on a distinctive identity. Honored by the Pulitzer prize and the Tony and Drama Critics awards, the play was soon staged in many other countries.

A film version by George Stevens in 1959 further popularized the heart-rending, yet in these versions, reassuring story of the child, her fate, and her book. In America a broad public found it easier to relate to a romantic rendering of the victimization of a real/fictional child than to the almost unimaginable number "six million." Dozens of translations followed and sales reached into the many millions.

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Lawrence Graver

Lawrence Graver is Professor Emeritus at Williams College, and author of An Obsession with Anne Frank, and other books.