How did a diary—abandoned in a fragmentary state, and for five years known to exist by only a few people—become one of the world’s most widely read books? And how did its author become a figure of international renown, despite having died two years before the book was first issued? As remarkable as Anne Frank’s diary is, the story of its publication and its engagement by millions of readers around the world over the past seven decades is equally powerful.
Writing her diary
Anne began her diary in June 1942, when she turned thirteen years old, just weeks before her family went into hiding in the annex behind the business office of her father, Otto, at 263 Prinsengracht, in order to escape the persecution of Jews in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam.
She continued keeping her diary during the following two years while in hiding with her parents, her sister, and four other Jews. Responding to an appeal by the Dutch government-in-exile to people in the Netherlands to document the Nazi occupation, Anne started rewriting her diary during the spring of 1944.
Envisioning it as a work for publication, she transformed her original entries into a kind of epistolic novel. Anne’s reworked diary remained incomplete at the time of her arrest, together with the other Jews with whom she was hiding, by the SD (Sicherheitsdienst) on August 4, 1944.