Research Position Paper – Samantha Kovnat

­­ Anne Frank, Novelist

Within misfortune, blossoms inspiration, and brilliance. The story of, and behind the creation of Anne Frank’s diary is one often misinterpreted and overshadowed by the sheer span of tragedy surrounding the Holocaust.

Anne Frank was a 13-year-old Jewish girl living in hiding in Amsterdam during World War II. Anne, her sister, parents, and four other Jews were kept hidden in a secret annex from the Nazis from around July 6th 1942 to August 4th 1944. During this time, Anne kept a diary beginning on June 12, 1942, to August 1st, 1944. Her journaling began with a red and white-checkered photo album, turned diary that Anne received on her 13th birthday. What began as innocent diary entries from an upbeat, and precocious young girl, quickly becomes a thoroughly enticing novel about an incredibly gifted adolescent maturing through unfortunate circumstance of confinement paired with the constant loom of near certain death.

Anne was a gifted writer that carefully crafted her so-called “diary” into a literary work of art. Defying the expected simple immature level of writing for her age, Anne displays an arguably genius quality within her novel that came about due to stress induced brilliance.

Up until the past 7 years, no one outwardly expressed the need to give Anne Frank the credit she deserved as an artist for fear of damaging the pedestal of martyrdom that the history books, and Jewish community had placed her on. Francine Prose, author of Anne Frank; The Book, The Life, The Afterlife expresses that “It’s time that Anne Franks’ diary was appreciated as literature, not just a historical record, a book written with craft and skill by a great writer who died at the age of fifteen.” It was this “call to” by Prose in her 2009 novel that began sparking interest within many to seek more within the pages of Anne’s famous diary. By revealing the delicate, seldom touched upon layers within Anne’s story, one can grasp a better understanding of the true scope of her brilliance, and the incredibly unfortunate circumstance that evoked the mature quality of writing within her soul soaked book.

The piece of art that Anne created is most commonly referred to as a “diary,” but with close examination, it seems Anne herself muddled that term and has made us question if that is truly applicable to the famous book her name is printed on around the world. In today’s day and age, her name is unarguably synonymous with the word diary. One could define the word “diary” as any longstanding record of personal reflections, feelings, log of events, activities, or otherwise. These documents are often times found to have some sort of format or structural pattern commonly containing a header, date, “dear, so and so,” or even signing of each entry. Besides having a structure and personal content, most diaries contain the author’s unedited, unselfconscious voice that is often times brutally honest since they do not have intentions of others viewing what they write. This could be considered an accurate description for Anne’s writing up until March 29th 1944; the day Anne heard the broadcast that influenced her begin to edit her diary so that it could be published after the war. From that point on, the word “diary” does not seem quite accurate.

The underlying spine, and most of the fat within Anne’s book could most certainly be defined as a true diary, since it began that way, and its core still rings innocently. But the last fourth of it is where things begin to get a bit murky, since she begins to rework, and edit previous entries so that it has a similar voice, flow, and structure as the later installments. Because the last fourth of the book technically is written in a conscious manner, which in a way breaks the true sense of a diary, one begins to question whether or not her novel is still applicable for definition under the category of a “diary.”

Diaries are secret friends you can confide in shamelessly, and not fret over anyone judging, or getting upset over your thoughts. Anne began writing with this innocent mentality that holds strong for much of the book, but once you are aware of how she went back and ferociously edited, deleted, added, reworded, and rewrote her previous entries, it makes one question the integrity of her initial pages. But Anne is not to blame for any misconceptions of her writing, it is the publishers, and her father that took her writing and labeled her work as a “diary.” Anne never got to finish her real goal, she had planned to write a novel “inspired” by her diary, meaning that one of her reasons for going back and editing pervious entries was so that later on it would be easier to understand herself, and her young thoughts. Anne edited her journal so that it could one day be viewable by others; she wanted to leave a legacy that withstood tarnish of any kind. She edited so that if she never got the opportunity to write that novel, there was at least the most intimate of back up plans, her personal account of it all, dripping with private thoughts that she knew may end up one day be shared with many. One understands that she cared so much about leaving an impact on this world that the thought of editing her journal into something of true worth and quality just seemed right to her, altering the integrity of her voice as a narrator was never the intention of this genuine human being. The pen was her friend, it aided in her self-expression, it aided in her happiness, it aided in her in being immortalized through page.

A fine wine is one that sits, corked, contained for years, allowed to do nothing but mature slowly, biding the time before it is opened; the uncertain deadline that it knows will one day come. Anne Frank’s story is relatedly similar to that bottle of wine. Both were, not by choice, confined within a relatively small space, with nothing to do but follow the internal motivations present within their being (for the grapes, it was a bit of a simpler realization process), each without understanding of when their deadline would approach, when they would be uncorked. In the case of Anne though, having the stopper pulled from her meant life or death. Who would belong to the footsteps marching through the annex door? Would they be there to kill, or free her?

The inhabitants of the building at Prinsengracht 263 were trapped; stuck within the secret annex, hiding to stay alive, yet causing themselves much sickness in the process. The amount of time that Anne and the other annex residents were going to spend in hiding was unknown to them. They holed themselves up to be camouflaged from “certain death,” only to realize that they had sequestered themselves for “uncertain, ever looming, slippery as a snake” death that could come knocking at any moment. They were stuck in a situation that could be compared to walking barefoot on eggshells 24 hours a day.

When most people endure this kind of stressful, high-pressure level of confinement and anxiety, many who do not have an outlet for their pain and fear could go mad; But Anne Frank had an outlet. Anne Frank had a diary that began as a simple “Friend,” someone to make her feel like someone in the world connected to, and understood her. She had started the project of journaling her deepest desires, disappointments, and frustrations for herself only, and then, after a year or so of applied writing, one radio broadcast changed everything. It was Wednesday March 29th, 1944, Anne writes:

“Dearest Kitty,

Mr. Bolkestine, the Cabinet Minister, speaking on the Dutch broadcast from London, said that after the war a collection would be made of diaries and letters dealing with the war. Of course, everyone pounced on my diary. Just imagine how interesting it would be if I were to publish a novel about the Secret Annex. The title alone would make people think it was a detective story.

Seriously, though, ten years after the war people would find it very amusing to read how we lived, what we ate and what we talked about as Jews in hiding. Although I tell you a great deal about our lives, you still know very little about us.”

This entry continues on to give immense detail about the current situation outside the Secret Annex, and how much chaos the rest of Amsterdam was going through. This entry is the turning point for Anne. One can see within this entry the cogs beginning to turn inside her head and how it is within this letter to “Kitty” that Anne came to realize that what she had in her possession was quite possibly the greatest writing material ever found. It is around this time that she begins to feel the pressure and responsibility to tell the story unfolding around her, to share her voice with the world. With that, She began funneling her creative powers into editing, and “shaping” her once innocent diary into a piece of art that flowed seamlessly, chronicling the everyday life of those struggling to survive in the Secret Annex.

By the beginning of April, 1944, regardless of her positivity and hopefulness about the future on the pages, deep down Anne knew that the diary was her one shot at becoming a writer, she could no longer look towards the future and hope that becoming a writer or journalist was a future goal; she must become a writer now. The radio broadcast she had heard made her realize that she had in her possession quite possibly the greatest writing material ever found, Anne felt the pressure and responsibility to tell this story, to share her voice with the world.

Many creative people flourish within environments fueled by the ever-shifting sandbags of stress, and impending deadlines. These conditions cause them to constantly produce work of high quality, and even have strokes of genius within their creative endeavors. We see it in writers, struggling to meet deadlines for their publishers; we see it in artists, pushing themselves to the brink, staying up all hours of the night to finish the paintings for a gallery exhibit a week away; we see it in Anne, a girl with a constant deadline, but no said date to work up to, no definite day of stress relief on the horizon. She was an artist with enough stress for 20 people, the constant loom of certain death, and a creative mission that became her “lifeboat.” This framework became the catalyst that induced Anne’s brilliant literary mind power to magnify and help her to undergo the project of writing, editing, and intelligently shaping her Diary into what we (generally) know it as today.

Within the novel Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, Gladwell writes “In fact, researchers have settled on what they believe is the magic number for true expertise: ten thousand hours.” If we apply his concept to what we can assume Anne’s work schedule in the annex was, we can make a relatively educated guess that from the start of her writing in her diary on June 12 1942, to August 3rd (the day before the annex was discovered) Anne had been keeping a diary for 753 days, which translates into 18072 hours. Knowing the amount of time Anne had to edit, and write in her diary, it can be safe to say that by the time she had made a conscious decision to publish her diary in late March 1944, she had already spent 10,000 hours just writing alone, and once she kicked herself into overdrive, and began editing, rewriting, and engrossing herself fully into her work, the high level of intensity and stress caused her skill-set to mature far rapidly than an average 14-15 year old writing level at this time.

Often times creation is the only medicine one has, and so one dives into it with back arched, arms above their head piercing through the cool surface, breath held, until they reach the other side and come to the surface, healthy, proud, goal achieved. They do not always know how long they will be submerged for, but they chance it in hopes of greatness. Anne joined those artists, creators at the edge of the deep end. She dived arms first into the water, she began to create, tweak, improve, and smooth over. She worked, and worked, but the edge of the pool was not in sight before her, only in the back of her mind did she see the loom of greatness. Anne did not have a deadline for her project; everyday could be her final, but her toil was unfinished, and so on one breath, she pushed forward. It was under this surface, consumed by her artistic endeavor, with massive amounts of stress to push her onward, which sped up, and condensed her gift with the pen. Her ability was reached far sooner than her inner time clock anticipated. Giving her the genius to edit the most innocent of thoughts and entries without altering the integrity, or genuine humanistic quality behind her writing. This is a feat that is NOT easily accomplished.

Anne mastered the art of uninhibited editing. A remarkable achievement for someone of her age, especially since the work she edited was her own thoughts and feelings. Being able to revise work so intimate and personal, yet not alter the voice or perspective of those earlier uninhibited thoughts; with ones more educated and burdened is remarkable. Anne truly had a gift.

The choice of confinement within the annex, over confinement within the concentration camps, was a choice made by Otto Frank, Anne’s father. Unknowingly, he made the counterintuitive decision to escape confinement, by being confined in the Secret Annex, which inadvertently helped to make his daughter the “Jewish martyr” she so often is labeled as today. In fact, The Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Women’s Biography puts “Jewish Martyr” as the first sentence under the section labeled “Anne Frank.”

Anne Frank was a gifted writer that because of environmental factors grew into her talent at a very young age. When Anne Frank’s story is taught in schools however, she is only ever acknowledged as a victim. A young girl who just so happened to be writing a diary about her daily struggles in hiding during the Holocaust, and after being murdered behind the concentration camp walls, had her novel/diary/best-friend published for all the world to see. Students believe that what they are reading and discussing is completely innocent, unaltered, and unedited (for the most part, ignoring Otto having chose some entries to be kept out).

Teachers and administrators choose to focus on how Anne’s story can educate students, and expose them to things they may know little to nothing about. They feel that by ignoring giving Anne the credit she deserves as a writer, they are giving students a better-rounded education, hitting all of the objectives those above them require. On The Anne Frank Center USA’s website they provide a link to a PDF document for teachers to use as a guide when educating students about the Holocaust and Anne Frank, it reads:

“Teachers will find these books helpful in achieving the following objectives:

▪   Students will be able to place the Holocaust in its historical context.

▪   Students will gain an understanding of how it felt to live during that period.

▪   Students will gain an appreciation of and a sense of responsibility for living in a democratic society.

▪   Students will be able to articulate an explanation for the act of genocide, i.e., it occurred because individuals, organizations, and governments made choices that not only legalized discrimination but also allowed prejudice, hatred, and, ultimately, mass murder to occur.

▪   Students will be inspired to think critically and to grow emotionally and intellectually.

▪   Students will learn that people had different roles during the war: victims, helpers, bystanders, and perpetrators.

▪   Students will understand some of the dilemmas of the victims, helpers, bystanders, and perpetrators.”

All of the above mentioned objectives are important for children to learn and understand when being educated about the Holocaust. The educational system only has time to enlighten students on so much, the fact that they even include Anne’s story within their short time frame for the Holocaust is fantastic. Even though Anne is held in such warm regard when taught about, it seems that she is being used to express the inner voice of all of the Holocaust victims, her own is being read, but not truly analyzed, appreciated, and understood. Society has turned her into a Martyr of the Jewish voices lost during this time, and as absolutely inspiring, and moving as that is, it leaves Anne’s true underlying brilliance unexpressed and unappreciated.

Although the story of Anne Frank, and her infamous diary is known by most, the full story behind its creation, and of Anne Frank’s true talent as a writer is often grazed over. Massive amounts of stress, coupled with confinement were the catalysts that caused Anne Frank to reach her full literary potential at such a young age. Giving her the skills needed to sew her heart within every page of her diary, making sure everything fit right, sounded right, flowed right. She has been a martyr for the lost voices of the Holocaust for almost 66 years, since the first publication of her book in 1947, it is time that her true intellect was recognized, and appreciated. Anne perfected her Diary for us; the least we can do is acknowledge her hard work and true craftsmanship. If nothing else, at least this gifted young girl was able to achieve her life goal of truly making a mark on the world through her writing. She will forever live within the pages of her diary, within the hearts of millions.

Works Cited

The Anne Frank House. “About Anne Frank.” Teaching the Holocaust: A Guide to Anne Frank. The Anne Frank Center USA, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013. <http://annefrank.com/about-anne-frank/&gt;. The Anne Frank center USA has a small biography on Anne Frank that states the common knowledge one should know on the subject, but they also have PDF files of material for teachers to use when teaching about the Holocaust and Anne Frank. This material shows their neglect to acknowledge Anne as an artist, but only as a victim.

Basu, Moni. “Swiss man reintroduces his cousin: Anne Frank.” CNN U.S. Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc, 27 May 2012. Web. 16 Apr. 2013. <http://www.cnn.com/2012/05/27/us/anne-frank-letters/index.html&gt;. This is an article discussing a cousin of Anne Frank’s who cam across over 6,000 letters and documents about the frank family in their attic. The article gives you a bit of a broader view of the Franks, and their family as a whole. It also expresses how the entire Frank family (Buddy Elias is Annes cousin), extended family included were gifted writers, and all loved to keep letters and things from each other.

“Francine Prose Explores Anne Frank’s Literary Genius.” Hosted by Scott Simon. Perf. Francine Prose. NPR. Hosted by Scott Simon. NPR. 25 Sept. 2009. Print. Transcript.

Frank, Anne. The Definitive Edition: The Diary of a Young Girl. Ed. Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler. Trans. Susan Massotty. Definitive ed. New York, New York: Bantam Books, 1997. Print. The Definitive Edition: Diary of a Young Girl, is the most recent, and unedited version of Anne Frank’s diary. This book chronicles her time spent hiding from the Nazi’s in the “secret annex” in which she is known for. It begins a few days after her 13th birthday in June of 1942, and ends August 1st 1944. This is the best source any researcher of Anne Frank could get a hold of, it is her thoughts, dreams, and story all neatly bound and in the palm of ones hand. “The Definitive Edition” means that this book is the most recent of the three or so versions to be published, and contains much of the previously edited material that Anne wanted to share. Readers are no longer skimped of Annes little “side notes” here and there, are allowed to see how she truly fought with her mother, and how she really felt about Peter.
The Definitive Edition: Diary of a Young Girl is an invaluable source due to the fact that it is documented material that is straight from the fountainhead; Anne herself. The concept of having an original document at ones fingertips, such as Annes diary, is an incredible opportunity for any researcher to hold. Having this source is incredibly important so that one can first handedly explore Annes writing style, and examine the flow over time, witness her progressing over the course of two years, from 13 to 15. It is direct evidence to support the claim that Anne went back and edited her diary, since the sophistication in writing style begins, and ends fairly the same, give or take on content and complexity of thought. The Definitive Edition also directly states places in which more material had been added in, and side notes that Anne had made on particular entries as well, thus supporting the proposed claim of her being more than just a young girl seeking a confidant within the pages of her Diary. This supports the idea that Anne wrote with a purpose, and knew others besides “Kitty” would one day read her story.

Gladwell, Malcolm. “Q & A With Malcolm.” Gladwell.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2013. <http://www.gladwell.com/outliers/index.html&gt;.

Jones, Jon, dir. The Diary of Anne Frank. Screenplay by Anne Frank and Deborah Moggach. Prod. Elinor Day and Polly Hill. Composed by Ian Moss. Perf. Ellie Kendrick. PBS Masterpiece Theater, 2010. Film.

Letters of Anne Frank’s Father Uncovered. By Margot Adler. National Public Radio. National Public Radio, 14 Feb. 2007. Web. 28 Mar. 2013. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7400998&gt;. The article and short radio broadcast called Letters of Anne Frank’s Father Uncovered by Margot Adler is a short article accompanied by a short broadcast talking about letters found recently showing Otto Frank’s attempts to get the entire Frank family out of Holland, and safely to the U.S. It discusses how he failed to act upon his options soon enough, leading to the families need to go into hiding in the secret annex. The connections he had with Mr. Nathan Straus, the son of an owner of Macy’s department stores in the United States was not enough to get the four of them out while they still had the chance. It gives readers familiar with Anne’s story insight into why exactly it was that the Frank family did not get out holland early on, and avoid having to go into hiding at all. It seems that all of Otto’s attempts failed due to lack of funds, and the odds leaning against him and his family.
Knowing about the existence of these letters gives one a more well rounded view, and understanding of the Frank families suffering during the years of 1941 to 1944, when they first made attempts to migrate, and then sought refuge from the Nazis. Like Anne’s Diary, the first hand account that is displayed in his letters to Mr. Nathan Straus illustrates the struggle of Jews during this time, not knowing when it was too late to find safety, struggling to stay alive, fight capture. A bitter struggle that only documents such as letters, diaries, and first hand accounts can truly encompass to a modern individual.

Merriam-Webster. “Diary.” Merriam-Webster. Ed. Merriam-Webster. © 2013 Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/diary?show=0&t=1366850068&gt;.

Prose, Francine. Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife. N.p.: Harper, 2009. Print. The novel Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife by Francine Prose is a new, and crucial source for the article i am writing. She, like i believes strongly in the fact that Anne was a person gifted with literary ability, rather than just a young girl writing about her life, uncensored and without thought. Anne chose each word with purpose, she knew that her diaries were something that was going to become crucial to history one day, and she did not want anyone to assume she was not a “true” writer. Prose’s book is full of information supporting this claim, and is crucial in the correcting many peoples misconception of who Anne was as a writer, and person.
This is one of the most crucial sources that will be incorporated into my essay. Francine Prose has many opinions that support, and enhance ones that will be incorporated into my final work.

Roth, Phillip. The Ghost Writer. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1979. Print.

Uglow, Jennifer S. “Frank, Anne.” The Palgrave Macmillan Dictionary of Women’s Biography. N.p.: n.p., 2005. N. pag. Credo Reference. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <http://www.credoreference.com/entry/macdwb/frank_anne&gt;. “Jewish martyr.”

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One Response to Research Position Paper – Samantha Kovnat

  1. davidbdale says:

    Lots of admiration for you, Sammy. After all I’ve said to this point, I don’t think I will burden you with more of my own language. Congratulations on a job well done.

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