Hidden for 75 years

Hidden pages deciphered

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Two pages of Anne Frank’s first diary, with its red checked cover, are covered up with brown gummed paper. Thanks to new digital technology the text under the covered pages has been revealed, and it has been discovered what is on them: five crossed-out phrases, four “dirty” jokes and 33 lines about sex education and prostitution.

“I’ll use this spoiled page to write down ‘dirty’ jokes”, wrote Anne on 28 September 1942. She had then been in hiding in the secret annexe for barely two months. In an attempt to save what she saw as the “spoiled” page of her beloved diary, she first listed four “dirty” jokes.

Paris

From these jokes Anne moves on to the subject of sex education, which she pretends she has to give to someone else. In this way she can show what she knows about it. At the end she explicitly names her father, who had been in Paris and saw houses with prostitutes. Incidentally, it can no longer be discovered when and how often Otto Frank was in Paris, but his brother Herbert and his wife did live there from 1932.

A busy writing day: 28 September 1942

In the afternoon of Monday 28 September 1942 workmen were busy removing the office toilet, immediately below the secret annexe, so any sound from the hiding place was dangerous and had to be avoided at all costs. Anne was writing. In her diary Anne pretended that she was corresponding with a number of imaginary friends, and that day she wrote a total of four “diary letters”: to her whole circle of imaginary friends, to Kitty, to Pien and to Loutje.

On that day she also leafed through her entire diary and added comments to no less than 18 earlier “diary letters”. She wrote additions to photo captions, to a letter from her father and to a letter from her friend Jacqueline van Maarsen that she had earlier stuck into her diary. What is more, Anne also wrote of how afraid she was that the people in hiding would be discovered, and how much support her diary gave her. She made a list of twelve signs of beauty and assessed the extent to which she lived up to them. It all goes to show that on that day Anne was closely scrutinising herself, her own sexuality and the world around her.

“Dirty” jokes

Jokes, even “dirty” jokes, were no exception in Anne’s diary and in the secret annexe. Anne often recorded jokes that she heard from her father, from Hermann van Pels or on the radio. After a few jokes from Hermann van Pels and a “dirty” joke from her father she wrote: “They’re good, hey?” [22 October 1942, A-version]. What is exceptional is that she listed four of these jokes after each other on these pages. It can no longer be discovered if she had heard the “dirty” jokes on that Monday or earlier. Jokes were an effective means of breaking the constant tension in the hiding place.

Sex education

Anne’s diary texts show that she had gleaned information on the subject of sexuality from her parents, especially her father, from her friend Jacqueline and from books. Anne did not let go of the subject. Over eighteen months later she emphasised the important of good and thorough sex education, and she didn’t understand why adults were so secretive about it. 

Not unusual

The “dirty” jokes and the passage on sex education are not exceptional in Anne’s texts as a whole. She also recorded “dirty” jokes or wrote openly about sexual subjects, such as her periods and conversations she had with Peter van Pels about sex and sexuality, on other dates. In March 1944 she included a detailed description of her own body in her diary.

The symbol of the Holocaust and the girl

The covered pages do not alter our image of Anne. She regularly recorded “dirty” jokes or dealt with sexuality in her diary. Over the decades Anne has grown to become the worldwide symbol of the Holocaust, and Anne the girl has increasingly faded into the background. These - literally - uncovered texts bring the inquisitive and in many respects precocious teenager back into the foreground.  

Read more

Go to the press release about the hidden pages from the diary of Anne Frank.

To the press release

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