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The two versions of Anne’s diary

From 20 May 1944 onwards, Anne rewrote a large part of her diary. She planned to publish this book about her time in the Secret Annex after the war. For a title, she came up with ‘Het Achterhuis’ or ‘The Secret Annex’. What are the most striking differences between the two versions?

The love has cooled

In ‘Het Achterhuis' (‘The Secret Annex’) Anne left out much she had written about in her first diary. The most striking example was her love for Peter van Pels.

On 19 March 1944, Anne wrote in her diary about an intimate conversation with Peter: ‘We told each other so many things, so awfully much, that I can’t repeat it all here, but it was lovely, the finest evening I’ve ever had in the Back House.’ [19 March 1944 (A-version]. In the rewritten version, she left out this entire letter.

By the time Anne was busy rewriting her diary, her love for Peter had cooled considerably and she was a little disappointed with him. He had not become the friend she had hoped for.

“[...] I’ve become wiser and Mother’s nerves have calmed a bit.”

Kinder about her mother

The relationship between Anne and her mother was problematic. Their personalities were incompatible, and they often clashed.  But they could not avoid each other in the Secret Annex. In her diary, Anne had often written harshly about her mother. Leafing through her diary, she was sometimes taken aback by her own harsh words.

In the rewritten version, Anne was kinder, and some passages were omitted altogether. On 2 January 1944, Anne wrote a new passage for ‘Het Achterhuis’: ‘The period when I condemned Mother with tears in my eyes is over, I’ve become wiser and Mother’s nerves have calmed a bit. I usually keep my mouth shut when I’m irritated and she does too, and that makes things seem to go better.’

A text from 6 January was left out altogether: ‘What I need is to take my mother as an example and respect her and my mother is in most things an example to me, but then an example of precisely how I shouldn’t do things.’

Less explicit about sexuality

15-year-old Anne looked with amazement at the things she had written about sex and sexuality when she was 13 years old. Most of the references and passages on the subject were omitted from the rewritten version. In her diary, Anne wrote about her period several times, and these passages did not make it into ‘Het Achterhuis’ either.

Anne also left out diary letters from a later period, March 1944. In those diary letters she had written about her conversations with Peter, about sexuality, and what they had shared about the subject.

Developing as a writer

Some texts in 'The Secret Annex' differ from the original diary texts for reasons unknown to us. They probably have to do with the fact that Anne was developing into a literary writer, who was critical of what she wrote.

The day they go into hiding

An example: On 6 July 1942, Anne and her parents left for the hiding place. In ‘Het Achterhuis’, Anne wrote: ‘And so we walked in the pouring rain,{!!note.1} Father, Mother and I, each with a book bag and a shopping bag, full to overflowing with the most tossed-together things. The laborers on their way to work so early looked at us pityingly; on their faces you could clearly see the regret that they could not offer us any transportation whatsoever, the gaudy yellow star spoke for itself.’

This passage does not occur in her first diary: there are no workers. In her diary, Anne just wrote that she and her mother had each carried a school bag.

The question is what Anne Frank remembered of that day two years later, when she worked on ‘Het Achterhuis’. If she really had seen the workers? Either way, the rewritten version is much more evocative.

Evoking an image of a bombing

Another example. On 29 March 1944, Anne wrote about the heavy bombing of the port of IJmuiden, north of Amsterdam. The people in hiding had had to wait helplessly and hope the annex would not be hit by a stray bomb.

In her diary, Anne wrote: ‘Even though I tell you a great deal, still you know only a little bit about our lives. How fearful the ladies are when the bombing starts, on Sunday for example when 350 English flying machines dropped ½ a million kilos of bombs on IJmuiden, how the houses shake.’

In ‘Het Achterhuis’, Anne changed this to: ‘Even though I tell you a great deal, still you know only a little bit about our lives. How fearful the ladies are when the bombing starts, on Sunday for example when 350 English flying machines dropped ½ a million kilos of bombs on IJmuiden, how the houses shake then like a blade of grass in the wind, all the epidemics going around here, about all these things you know nothing and if I were to describe all the minor details I would have to go on writing all day.’

In this case, the diary version and ‘Het Achterhuis’ do not actually differ in content, but Anne did make stylistic adjustments to the text and reinforced the image of the bombing.

The girl is becoming a writer

There are numerous differences like these between Anne's original text and her rewritten version, especially when it comes to the first six months in hiding, from July to December 1942. 15-year-old Anne made many changes to the letters from this period. By the spring of 1944, the thirteen-year-old girl with the diary had grown into a real writer.