With a little more luck, Anne Frank might have lived to see her 90th birthday on June 12, 2019. She might have celebrated among her family in Amsterdam, or in her hometown of Frankfurt, or somewhere in the US had she escaped. Peter, with whom Anne Frank shared a hiding place in an Amsterdam backhouse, and shared a first kiss, might also have been one of the well-wishers.
Anne Frank will forever be the 15-year-old girl who used her diary as a conversation partner and a replacement for a friend. It also symbolized her one great wish: To live as a writer. "I'd like to publish a book called The Secret Annex," she wrote on May 11, 1944. "It remains to be seen whether I'll succeed, but my diary can serve as the basis."
Less than three months later she was deported along with seven other hidden persons. She died in February 1945 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp of typhus, exhaustion and malnutrition.
But 75 years later, a new version of her celebrated diary is being published — for now only in German — under the title Liebe Kitty (Dear Kitty), a reference to her imaginary epistolary friend. It is being called "an incomplete manuscript of a girl who wanted to become an author," according to the Anne Frank House.
It is thanks to Otto Frank, Anne's beloved father and the only family member to leave the concentration camp alive, that this material has been preserved. After the war he maintained his daughter's legacy by editing her diary — in addition to writings on numerous loose leaf paper sheets, and notes on the back of receipts and accounting books.
Two years after the end of the war, The Annex: Diary Notes 14 June 1942 – 1 August 1944 was published in June 1947. The first edition was quickly sold out in Germany. An English version, Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, was published in 1952 and has since sold more than 30 million copies.
The diary inspired a Pulitzer Prize-winning play in 1955, which in turn inspired an award-winning 1959 film adaptation, The Diary of Anne Frank, which saw Shelley Winter in the role of fellow hidden person Petronella van Daan win an Oscar.
With Liebe Kitty, Anne Frank's notes on her life in the backroom hideout are once again at the top of the independent bestseller list — including publications from 160 independent publishers worldwide. Twenty years ago, the last five pages were discovered and added to the book. So what is new this time?
In March 1944, the Dutch education minister Gerrit Bolkestein called, via an illegal BBC station, for people to give up their letters and diaries to document the Nazi occupation. "Imagine how interesting it would be if I published a novel about the Secret Annex," Anne tells her imaginary diary friend Kitty on March 29.
After that she must have been a writer possessed. By the fateful day of August 4, 1944, when she was discovered by police, Frank had written 215 pages in order to create a first novel version for publication on the basis of her diary entries. The result was not a copy, but a rigorous and self-critical revision of her letter-formulated observations and thoughts. This manuscript, together with the other original documents, the diary and a loose-leaf collection of writings, formed the basis for all later editions, including Dear Kitty.
Anne's hopes and ambitions
The fact that this novel version is being published for the first time as a stand-alone manuscript and in a new translation, shortly before her 90th anniversary, acknowledges Anne Frank's promising literary talent.
"I did not know that my little Anne was so deep," said Otto Frank years after her death. Her diary records include 779 days of life, 753 of them in the hiding room behind a file cabinet in her father's office building. Dear Kitty covers the period from June 12, 1942 to March 29, 1944.
"Will I ever be able to write something big, will I ever become a journalist and a writer? I hope so, I hope so much!" Anne Frank asked her diary on April 5, 1944. On her 90th birthday, her writerly ambition is coming ever closer to being realized.