The Diary of Anne Frank 5.0, an update

According to legend, Otto Frank recovered his daughter’s diary from Miep Gies, the woman who hid the Frank family during World War II. Frank published the diary under Anne’s name in 1947. In response to skeptics, Otto Frank angrily insisted that he had not authored the diary. He claimed that while he may have edited out a few embarrassing details, the diary was ‘penned’ entirely by his daughter.

In 1980, Otto Frank sued Hamburg resident Ernst Roemer for spreading the accusation that Otto Frank had written his dead daughter’s diary. Relying on the testimony of handwriting experts that all of the diary’s pages had been written by one person, the court upheld the authenticity of the diary. An appeal by Roemer was unsuccessful.

Roemer appealed again, and this time the court asked for the technical services of the official German forensic bureau, the Bundes Kriminal Amt (BKA) that performed a careful analysis of the original manuscript of the diary with microscope and ultraviolet illumination in order to confirm its authenticity — in particular, to determine when it was written.

The BKA found that large portions of the alleged “diary” were written in ballpoint pen — of a type that was not manufactured prior to 1951.The German magazine, Der Spiegel, summarized the report as follows: some editing postdated 1951;Experts had held that all the writing in the journal was by the same hand; and thus – the entire diary was a postwar fake.

In April 2000, a Dutch court held that while the authenticity of “The Diary of Anne Frank” may be questioned, any such questions must properly respect victims of the Holocaust. In doing so, the court affirmed  Siegfried Verbeke’s conviction for publishing Robert Faurisson’s 1978 work questioning the authenticity of the Diary. The court stated that, “By raising doubts as to the authenticity of the diary within the context of REVISIONISM …the brochure far exceeds the limits of what is acceptable within the framework of freedom of espression.”

So, despite proof from Germany that the Diary was written after the war, the state of the law in Holland is that one may not improperly question the veracity of Anne Frank’s Diary, the iconic tome of an innocent victim of World War II.

And then, in November 2015, the Anne Frank Foundation almost lost the European portion of its copyright of the Diary. Most European copyright protections extend for 70 years after the author’s death.  Anne Frank famously died in 1945. Otto Frank lived until 1980, and the copyright for his work could continue until 2050.

On its website the foundation claims that Anne had originally written two diaries, one personal and one intended for publication. According to the Foundation, Otto combined the diaries and had done so much work on the most widely published version that he had “earned his own copyright.” The foundation claimed to be protecting “Anne Frank’s original writings, as well as the original in-print versions [that] will remain protected for many decades”.

In the New York Times, French attorney Agnes Tricoire disputes their claim on rationale if not on facts stating: “If you follow their arguments, it means that they have lied for years about the fact that it was only written by Anne Frank.” 

Also ignoring the authenticity of the diary, Isabelle Attard, a French MP  worries that the foundation’s claim will dilute the impact of the diaries. “Many revisionists, people who want to deny the extermination camps existed, have tried to attack the diary for years. Saying now the book wasn’t written by Anne alone is weakening the weight it has had for decades.”

The Foundation won its copyright claim, but it lost the war and the diary is now widely available online.

My question is, why, after the book has been shown to be a likely forgery is ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ still relevant? In a survey conducted in 1996 at the University of Michigan, The Diary was named as the predominant source of Holocaust education: the text was required reading in high school for over half the students surveyed.

In an interesting piece on The Atlantic, Eleanor Barkhorn argues that the Diary is one of several widely assigned books that are not difficult enough to meet the new common core requirements. There is no shortage of alternative books relating the plight of civilians in World War II. I hope that we can allow Anne Frank to rest in peace and provide our schoolchildren with the best history as we now understand it.