Saturday, March 22, 2014

Censoring Anne Frank's Diary

In 2013 Gail Horaleck, American citizen and mother of a 7th grader, made international headlines when she demanded that Anne Frank’s diary not be taught in her daughter’s school and that it should be removed from the school library on the ground that it was pornographic. Her demands were downcried, even by right wing groups, but it is of interest in highlighting that the diary mostly read is an expurgated verson of the original.

Some interesting facts and trivia:

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Anne Frank, pictured in May 1942

Annelies "Anne" Marie Frank (1929 – 1945) was a Jewish victim of the Holocaust, best known as being the author of her wartime diary “The Diary of a Young Girl”. Although born in Frankfurt, Germany, she lived most of her life in Amsterdam, Holland, her family having moved there in 1933 when the Nazis gained control. In 1942 they went into hiding to escape the increasing Nazi persecution of the Jewish population. For 2 years the family, plus others, lived in some concealed rooms in the building where Anne’s father had worked. Betrayed by someone whose identity remains subject to conjecture, the group was transported to concentration camps. Anne and her sister Margot died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen in March 1945. The camp was liberated in mid April 1945, the liberators finding 53,000 emaciated and bruatlised inmates, plus 13,000 unburied corpses. The only survivor of the family was Anne’s father, Otto, who had been sent to Auschwitz. On returning, he was given Anne’s papers and diary by Miep Gies, who had safeguarded them. His efforts resulted in Anne’s diary being published in 1947. 

Otto Frank

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Anne’s diary had been given to her as a blank book when she turned 13. Her entries chronicle her life from 12 June 1942 until 1 August 1944. Anne and her family went into hiding on 6 July 1942.

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From Wikipedia:

In her writing, Frank examined her relationships with the members of her family, and the strong differences in each of their personalities. She considered herself to be closest emotionally to her father, who later commented, "I got on better with Anne than with Margot, who was more attached to her mother. The reason for that may have been that Margot rarely showed her feelings and didn't need as much support because she didn't suffer from mood swings as much as Anne did." 
The Frank sisters formed a closer relationship than had existed before they went into hiding, although Anne sometimes expressed jealousy towards Margot, particularly when members of the household criticised Anne for lacking Margot's gentle and placid nature. As Anne began to mature, the sisters were able to confide in each other. In her entry of 12 January 1944, Frank wrote, "Margot's much nicer ... She's not nearly so catty these days and is becoming a real friend. She no longer thinks of me as a little baby who doesn't count."
Frank frequently wrote of her difficult relationship with her mother, and of her ambivalence towards her. On 7 November 1942 she described her "contempt" for her mother and her inability to "confront her with her carelessness, her sarcasm and her hard-heartedness," before concluding, "She's not a mother to me." Later, as she revised her diary, Frank felt ashamed of her harsh attitude, writing: "Anne, is it really you who mentioned hate, oh Anne, how could you?" She came to understand that their differences resulted from misunderstandings that were as much her fault as her mother's, and saw that she had added unnecessarily to her mother's suffering. With this realization, Frank began to treat her mother with a degree of tolerance and respect.
Most of Anne's time was spent reading and studying, and she regularly wrote and edited her diary entries. In addition to providing a narrative of events as they occurred, she wrote about her feelings, beliefs, and ambitions, subjects she felt she could not discuss with anyone. As her confidence in her writing grew, and as she began to mature, she wrote of more abstract subjects such as her belief in God, and how she defined human nature.
Frank aspired to become a journalist, writing in her diary on Wednesday, 5 April 1944:
"I finally realized that I must do my schoolwork to keep from being ignorant, to get on in life, to become a journalist, because that's what I want! I know I can write ..., but it remains to be seen whether I really have talent ... and if I don't have the talent to write books or newspaper articles, I can always write for myself. But I want to achieve more than that. I can't imagine living like Mother, Mrs. van Daan and all the women who go about their work and are then forgotten. I need to have something besides a husband and children to devote myself to! ... I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I've never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that's why I'm so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that's inside me! When I write I can shake off all my cares. My sorrow disappears, my spirits are revived! But, and that's a big question, will I ever be able to write something great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer? "
She continued writing regularly until her last entry of 1 August 1944.

Age 12

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Anne’s diary was not just one book.

It began with a red checked autograph book given to her on her 13th birthday, which she converted to a diary, intending it to record her most personal feelings and thoughts. It was intended for her eyes alone, she writing in the first entry on June 12, 1942: "I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support." 

On March 28, 1944 Anne heard a speech on the radio given by the Dutch Cabinet Minister Gerritt Bolkestein who stated: "History cannot be written on the basis of official decisions and documents alone. If our descendants are to understand fully what we as a nation have had to endure and overcome during these years, then what we really need are ordinary documents -- a diary, letters from a worker in Germany, a collection of sermons given by a parson or priest. Not until we succeed in bringing together vast quantities of this simple, everyday material will the picture of our struggle for freedom be painted in its full depth and glory." 

This inspired Anne to want to have her diary published after the war and to rewrite her whole diary. This she did on loose sheets of paper, adding to entries in some cases and shortening them in others.

Her diary actually consists of the original diary, two further notebooks and additional loose material.

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Life in the Secret Annexe was not much fun, especially when it was occupied by 2 families. 

In one poignant and striking passage on 29 October 1943 she describes the depression and melancholy she was experiencing:

"Outside, you don't hear a single bird, and a deathly, oppressive silence hangs over the house and clings to me as if it were going to drag me into the deepest regions of the underworld.... I wander from room to room, climb up and down the stairs and feel like a songbird whose wings have been ripped off and who keeps hurling itself against the bars of its dark cage."

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Anne wrote in her diary:

‘I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death! And that’s why I’m so grateful to God for having given me this gift, which I can use to develop myself and to express all that’s inside me!’

So what then is the issue about alleged pornography?

The answer is that the various editions of her diary, for which her father Frank (who died in 1981) has been the editor, have omitted certain passages. In 1995 on the fiftieth anniversary of her death, a new version was published: The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition. This version contains 30% more material, including passages in which the developing adolescent records observations and comments about her body, her erotic feelings, her curiosity about sex and her wonderment at the physicality of female genitalia:

‘There are little folds of skin all over the place, you can hardly find it. The little hole underneath is so terribly small that I simply can’t imagine how a man can get in there, let alone how a whole baby can get out!’

Other passages that were edited out by father Frank, some of which have also been the subject of the above pornography allegations, are quoted in the following passage, a review of the 1995 book by The Independent:

The new Diary presents a less forgiving author. "Father has a friend, a man in his mid-seventies, who's sick, poor and deaf as a post. At his side, like a useless appendage, is his wife, 27 years younger and equally poor, whose arms and legs are loaded with real and fake bracelets and rings," she wrote in a restored entry for September 1942.
The following month she remarked irritably: "Everybody teased me quite a bit yesterday because I lay down on the bed next to Mr van Daan. `At your age!' `Shocking!' and other remarks along those lines. Silly, of course. I'd never want to sleep with Mr van Daan the way they mean."
A November entry about her impending period was seen as too shocking to print in the 1940s. "PS. I forgot to mention the important news that I'm probably going to get my period soon. I can tell because I keep finding a whitish smear in my panties."
In January 1943, Anne reported a confidential chat with Peter van Pels, with whom she was falling in love. " `Peter, the German word Geschlechtsteil means `sexual organ' doesn't it? But then the male and female ones have different names.' `I know that.' "The female one is a vagina, that I know, but I don't know what it's called in males.' `Hmm.' `Oh, well,' I said. `How are we supposed to know these words?' "
The following month she wrote about another talk with Peter. "He said he'd never be able to feel like a Christian, but that after the war he'd make sure nobody knew he was Jewish. I felt a momentary pang. It's such a shame he still has a touch of dishonesty in him."
Anne was open-minded about sex, but her father felt the morality of the day would not tolerate her views.
He removed a comment she also made in March. "It's not wrong for a man to bring a little experience to marriage. After all, it has nothing to do with the marriage itself, does it?"
Her frank remarks about her body were also seen as too shocking. "Until I was 11 or 12, I didn't realise there was a second set of labia on the inside [of the vagina], though you couldn't see them. What's even funnier is that I thought urine came out of the clitoris. I asked Mother one time what that little bump was, and she said she didn't know. She can really play dumb when she wants to!"
By April she had become closer to Peter. "I told him all about girls, without hesitating to discuss the most intimate matters. I found it rather amusing that he thought the opening in a woman's body was simply left out of illustrations. He couldn't imagine it was actually located between a woman's legs. The evening ended with a mutual kiss, near the mouth..."

One further item about Otto editing out some passages:

With understandable vanity, Mr Frank also censored a comment about himself. "All those cute nicknames seem so affected," Anne wrote of her parents in March 1944, "and Father's fondness for talking about farting and going to the lavatory is disgusting."

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