01 July 2022

75 years later, a new
generation needs to know
about Anne Frank’s ‘Diary’

Anne Frank’s ‘Diary of a Young Girl’ was first published 75 years ago in 1947

Patrick Comerford

Last Saturday (25 June 2022) marked the 75th anniversary of the publication of Anne Frank’s diary, Het Achterhuis, or The Secret Annex, in 1947. Otto Frank, the only member of the Frank family to survive World War II, posthumously fulfilled his daughter’s wish to publish a novel about her time in hiding based on her diaries.

Later, Otto Frank wrote about the publication of The Secret Annex: ‘How proud Anne would have been if she had lived to see this.’

Anne Frank wrote on 11 May 1944: ‘You’ve known for a long time that my greatest wish is to be a journalist, and later on, a famous writer. We’ll have to wait and see if these grand illusions (or delusions!) will ever come true, but up to now I’ve had no lack of topics. In any case, after the war I’d like to publish a book called The Secret Annex. It remains to be seen whether I’ll succeed, but my diary can serve as the basis.’

‘This is the legacy of your daughter Anne,’ Miep Gies told Otto Frank when she handed him Anne’s diary and documents on 18 July 1945. Otto had just heard that his daughters Margot and Anne had died in Bergen-Belsen.

At first, Otto could not bear to read Anne’s diaries, but one month later, he changed his mind and found himself unable to put them down. Otto decided to copy excerpts for the family in Basel and started working on a translation into German.

Reading her diary, Otto realised that he had not known his daughter as well as he once thought. ‘The Anne that appeared before me was very different from the daughter I had lost. I had had no idea of the depth of her thoughts and feelings.’

Otto’s excerpts were read by his family and friends. They felt Anne’s writings were ‘an important human document’ and that Otto should not keep the work to himself. But it was some time before Otto agreed with them.

Two historians Jan and Annie Romein helped Otto Frank find a publisher. Jan Romein had wrote a short piece, ‘A Child’s Voice,’ for a Dutch newspaper Het Parool. This stirred the interest of Contact, an Amsterdam publishing house, and the book was first published in 1947, five years after Anne’s 13th birthday, when she received her first, red-checked diary.

The Dutch edition received positive reviews, such as ’a war document of striking density,’ and ‘Parents and educators are strongly advised to read this diary.’ Three editions had been published by the following February, and this success encouraged Otto Frank to look for publishers abroad. Soon there were editions in French (1950), German (1950) and English (1952). Today, Anne Frank’s Diary is available in over 70 languages.

Otto Frank was tireless in his efforts to make the world a better place. He died in 1980.
I was in my early teens when I first read Anne Frank’s Diary, a little more than a decade after it was first published in English, and just two decades after the end of the Holocaust and the end of World War II.

As I reflect this Friday evening on the impact of my first reading of Anne Frank’s Diary, I am taken aback to realise how a recent survey shows that almost two-thirds (63%) of young American adults are unaware that six million Jews were killed during the Holocaust, and that more than one in 10 believe Jews caused the Holocaust.

According to the survey, nearly half (48%) of the respondents could not name one of the more than 40,000 concentration camps or ghettos set up during the Holocaust, and nearly a quarter (23%) said they believed that Holocaust is a myth, exaggerated, or were unsure of the response. Ten percent answered either that they did not believe the Holocaust or were unsure if it happened. About 12% admitted to not knowing about the Holocaust.

Another report this week shows that there are over 20,000 Holocaust survivors living in New York alone today, almost half of them at the federal poverty level.

Perhaps last weekend’s anniversary will help to introduce a new generation to Anne Frank’s story, awaken a renewed interest in the Holocaust and its horrors, and remind us that the Holocaust continues to take its toll on the lives of its survivors.

Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, winner of the International Booker Prize (2020) has written a poem, ‘Swimming freely,’ to mark last week’s anniversary, translated by Michele Hutchison:

While interpreting my breaststroke as unrestrained,
my self-inflicted suffocation affords a sense of life,
the other side, the sunny destination, always in sight,
sometimes I’m a pike, other times an ornamental fish,
I realize afresh what freedom of movement, what value!

Coots paddle past me like feathered cargo vessels,
their instinct to lie low, to hide from birds of prey, from air raids,
I let them pass, contemplate their chicks for a moment, then myself;
in wartime one thinks too much of one’s self or too much of the other,
save those you love, the way the coot sends its babies into the reeds.

Sometimes I suspect that history is repeating itself, it is stupid,
its conscience is shaped by humanity, but it is oh so forgetful,
and all this described, filmed, and so many lessons learned,
why do we keep on selling war cut-price,
a weapon, a battle, foisted upon us for a trifle.

We know that power multiplies in heads suited to it,
and though we are years further, have a diary filled with wisdom,
we strike lines through words like rule, regime,
there's always someone who thinks his talk is the best,
who wants the highest grade, applause, and authority, of course.

I suspect, too, there are people who never pick up a watering can,
who don’t know how a thing grows or what it needs to grow,
you don’t just flatten a life, tear it from the ground or kill it,
they shun the garden of life, spit on it, see rain as the enemy,
I want to hand out watering cans, say that evil grows only in dark places.

One thing we never lose: the taste of freedom,
our great heroes who paved the way for us,
so that we know what we are fighting for, or swimming away from,
who can make us boldly proclaim: never again!
Though war is on special offer, sometimes hope costs more than battle.

Shabbat Shalom

Praying with the Psalms in Ordinary Time:
1 July 2022 (Psalm 128)

‘Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house’ (Psalm 128: 3) … a fruitful vine in the walled garden at the Hedgehog Vintage Inn in Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

In the Calendar of the Church, we are in Ordinary Time. Before today begins, I am taking some time this morning to continue my reflections drawing on the Psalms.

In my blog, I am reflecting each morning in this Prayer Diary in these ways:

1, Short reflections on a psalm or psalms;

2, reading the psalm or psalms;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Psalm 128:

Psalm 128 is the ninth in a series of 15 short psalms (Psalm 120-134) known as the ‘Songs of Ascents.’ These psalms begin with the Hebrew words שיר המעלות‎ (Shir Hama’a lot). In the slightly different numbering system in the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, this is counted as Psalm 127. It is sometimes known by its opening words in Latin, Beati omnes qui timent Dominum.

Many scholars say these psalms were sung by worshippers as they ascended the road to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals. Others say they were sung by the Levite singers as they ascended the 15 steps to minister at the Temple in Jerusalem.

The Mishnah notes the correspondence between the 15 songs and the 15 steps between the men’s court and the women’s courtyards in the Temple. A Talmudic legend says King David composed or sang the 15 songs to calm the rising waters at the foundation of the Temple.

One view says the Levites first sang the Songs of Ascent at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple during the night of 15 Tishri 959 BCE. Another study suggests they were composed for a celebration after Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem in 445 BCE. Others suggest they may originally have been songs sung by the exiles returning from Babylon, ascending to Jerusalem or individual poems later collected together and given the title linking them to pilgrimage after the Babylonian captivity.

These psalms are cheerful and hopeful, and they place an emphasis on Zion. They were suited for being sung because of their poetic style and the sentiments they express. They are brief, almost like epigrams, and they are marked by the use of a keyword or repeated phrase that serves as a rung on which the poem ascends to its final theme.

Psalm 128 may date from the post-exilic period, after the year 539 BCE. It was probably a pilgrimage song, sung as people walked to Jerusalem for a major festival.

This is a short psalm only six verses, and discusses the blessed state of those who follow God.

Those who hold God in awe will be joyful; they are those who follow God’s ways. If we do so, we will be prosperous, enjoying the results of our hard work and living in harmony with God.

The promises of large families and the guarantee of heirs was a blessing in an age of high infant mortality. Verses 5-6 form a blessing, perhaps pronounced by a priest. The prosperity of Jerusalem was fundamental to the happiness of the people, who prayed that God would bless the people in the community from Zion, his dwelling place in the Temple.

These concluding verses also include a well-known blessing at traditional weddings in rural Ireland: ‘May you live to see your children’s children.’ The Book of Proverbs celebrates the same idea: ‘Children’s children are the crown of old men’ (Proverbs 17: 6).

The concluding prayer for peace upon Israel also appears in Psalm 125 and is a ‘detached clause.’

‘Your children will be like olive shoots’ (Psalm 128: 3) … the olive tree is an essential part of life in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Psalm 128 (NRSVA):

A Song of Ascents.

1 Happy is everyone who fears the Lord,
who walks in his ways.
2 You shall eat the fruit of the labour of your hands;
you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.

3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your children will be like olive shoots
around your table.
4 Thus shall the man be blessed
who fears the Lord.

5 The Lord bless you from Zion.
May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
6 May you see your children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel!

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) is ‘Ethics and Leadership.’ It was introduced on Sunday by Andy Flannagan, Executive Director of Christians in Politics.

Friday 1 July 2022:

The USPG Prayer Diary invites us to pray today in these words:

Let us pray for the work of Christians in Parliament as they support MPs, peers and the many parliamentary staff who work in the Houses of Parliament.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org