The Diary of a Young Girl

The Diary of a Young Girl (1947) is a non-fiction text by the world-famous Anne Frank. It is made up of Anne's diaries, which detail the horrors of living as a Jewish person in Europe during the Second World War.

The Diary of a Young Girl The Diary of a Young Girl

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Table of contents

    Content warning: the below explanation contains discussions of the Holocaust and anti-Semitic prejudices.

    The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank portrait, StudySmarterFig. 1 - A portrait of Anne Frank in school.

    The Diary of a Young Girl, content warning, StudySmarter

    Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl: summary

    Anne Frank is given a diary by her parents for her thirteenth birthday on 12th June 1942 and begins writing in it. Anne confesses that she has always wanted a friend she could confide in and hopes this diary will be that for her. She details that although her family are originally from Frankfurt in Germany, they have moved to Amsterdam in the Netherlands to escape the persecution of Jews in Germany. Even in the Netherlands, she and her older sister, Margot, must attend a school for Jewish students.

    Jewish people were persecuted in Germany (and Europe more widely) as Germany invaded more countries because of the regime of Adolf Hitler. Hitler had a plan known as the 'Final Solution'. He believed Jewish people were inherently inferior and dangerous and must be exterminated. He set about rounding up Jews and sending them to camps where they would either be killed in gas chambers or worked to death.

    Hitler believed that what he called 'pure' white Germans were the master race. Throughout the 1930s, anti-Jewish feelings had been gradually engineered in Germany through media, politics, and education. This dark and horrifying period in European history is known as the Holocaust.

    At first, Anne's diary records a relatively normal adolescence. She writes of school, friendships, and the boys she is interested in. However, the persecution of Jews by the Nazis gradually gets worse and current affairs sometimes creep into her writings. Everything changes when the SS calls Margot to report to a Nazi work camp.

    The SS was short for Schutzstaffel. They were a highly trained military group that acted as Hitler's bodyguards. During the Second World War, the SS became known for their immense cruelty towards the Jews.

    This was merely another word for a concentration camp. The Franks knew they were now in grave danger and went into hiding.

    Concentration camps became a haunting symbol of the Second World War. They were large camps run and built by the Nazis to house, abuse, and kill any groups of people they believed undesirable. This mainly included Jewish people, but there were also Romani people, LGBT+ people, Communists, and political critics of the Nazi party.

    The Frank family took refuge in a hidden annex that was part of the office building of Anne's father Otto Frank's company. They were joined by family friends Mr. and Mrs. van Daan, their teenage son Peter, and an acquaintance of Otto Frank, Alfred Dussel. The employees of Otto Frank's business helped those hiding in the Annex, bringing them food and supplies.

    On a personal level, Anne Frank struggles greatly in the Annex. Despite her complex and unique circumstances, she is still grappling with growing up, often clashing with the others she is living with. She is opinionated and admits that she talks a great deal. Some of the other adults, particularly Mrs. van Daan, dislike this.

    Anne matures throughout the text. She has her first period and begins considering issues of sexuality and identity. She grows closer to Peter, whom she initially had little interest in. The two develop a romantic relationship. Anne hopes she has found someone she can truly confide in. This closeness lasts for a while, but the two eventually drift apart, with Anne again feeling alone and isolated.

    On top of these typical teenage concerns, Anne also suffers greatly because of the war outside the Annex. Not only that, but the inhabitants of the Annex become increasingly irritated. There are many clashes due to living together in such close quarters. Anne also writes of her thoughts on being a Jew in Europe at this turbulent time. She cannot comprehend why her community are so persecuted. Anne does not know what country she truly belongs to as her German citizenship was revoked. Those living in the Annex gradually receive news of how the war is progressing, much of which depresses them.

    The Frank family moved to Amsterdam in 1934 to escape German persecution. However, in 1940, Amsterdam too was invaded by the Nazis despite the Netherlands' status as a neutral country in the war. This made it impossible for the Franks to leave the country or remain safe.

    Things seem to improve as the Allied war effort is making progress. Anne also hears that diaries like hers written during this time may be very valuable after the war is over. This gives Anne hope, and she decides she wants to be a journalist when she is older.

    'The Allies' refers to the nations fighting against the Nazi German invasion of Europe during the Second World War. The group consisted of Britain, France, the Soviet Union, America, and China.

    Anne Frank's last diary entry is on 1st August 1944. It describes a relatively normal day in which nothing extraordinary happens. This is where her writing ends. An afterword tells readers that a few days after her last entry, the Frank family were betrayed to the SS and captured. Anne and Margot were sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Anne and Margot died of typhus in the spring of 1945, mere weeks before Allied soldiers liberated the camp.

    The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne and Margot Frank's tombstone surrounded by flowers, StudySmarterFig. 2 - Anne and Margot Frank's tombstone is believed to be in Bergen-Belsen.

    Characters in The Diary of a Young Girl

    These are the central figures in The Diary of a Young Girl. The people living in the Annex experienced unimaginable trauma during the Holocaust. This often led to interpersonal clashes and arguments.

    It's important to remember that the people in Anne Frank's diaries aren't necessarily characters. They were real people whom Anne recorded through her eyes.

    Anne Frank

    Anne Frank writes these diaries during the first years of her adolescence. She is an intelligent and talkative girl with many opinions. Her outgoing side frequently leads to clashes with others living in the Annex.

    Anne has a love for writing and deep creative talent. While in hiding, she uses writing as her solace, alleviating the loneliness she feels. As The Diary of a Young Girl progresses, Anne changes. Much of her writing seems mature beyond her years, but this is likely due to the horrendous situation she has found herself in. Anne has been forced to grow up while still a very young woman.

    Margot Frank

    Margot is not a significant focus of Anne's diaries. She is older than Anne, who sees her as quite sophisticated. Margot is also more reserved and proper than her younger sister. She obeys social conventions of the behaviour expected of young girls much more than Anne does. Anne also remarks that Margot is very pretty.

    Otto and Edith Frank

    Anne has very different relationships with her mother and father. Anne is close to her father, whom she sees as similar to her. Anne and Otto share a love of learning. Otto is a measured and pragmatic man who keeps the peace in the Annex. He cares deeply for his children and does his best for them despite the circumstances. Anne also attributes much of her self-confidence to her father's influence. They share a great affinity.

    Anne and Edith's relationship is markedly different. They clash constantly, and Anne blames her mother for many of these arguments. Anne believes her mother to be cold and uncaring. She often writes about her quite harshly. However, it is difficult to know how much truth there is to this. It is possible that Anne was merely a young teenager in one of the most strenuous situations imaginable and was lashing out as a result.

    Peter van Daan

    Peter is another young person caught up in the horrors of the Holocaust. He is shy and innocent, often finding refuge in childishness. Anne dislikes these traits about him and pays little attention to Peter when they first enter the Annex. After a period, she develops an interest in him, and they share a romantic relationship. This lasts for a time, but Anne eventually realises she was merely idealising Peter as he was the only hope of romance she had.

    Mrs. van Daan, Mr. van Daan, and Alfred Dussel

    These are the three other inhabitants of the Annex. The van Daans are Peter's parents. Mr. van Daan does not often feature in Anne's diaries. He seems a relatively opinionated man, but Anne has few run-ins with him. However, her relationship with Mrs. van Daan is very different. Anne and Mrs. van Daan do not get along, to say the least. Mrs. van Daan is a confident woman who isn't afraid to cause an argument. She and Edith have multiple clashes. Mrs. van Daan also disapproves of Anne's talkative and inquisitive ways. She further dislikes how close Anne and Peter become for a time.

    Alfred Dussel is a dentist who moves into the Annex later than the other inhabitants. Anne does not present a positive portrayal of him in her diaries. The two are forced to share a room and Anne finds him controlling and selfish. While there are difficulties between everyone in the Annex due to their stressful circumstances, Alfred seems to be genuinely unpleasant. He even hoards food despite supplies being very low for all involved.

    The Diary of a Young Girl, the doors of Anne Frank house in Amsterdam, StudySmarterFig. 3 - The door to the building that housed the Annex, which is today a museum.

    The Diary of a Young Girl: theme

    Below are key themes in The Diary of a Young Girl. However, it is important to remember that Anne Frank's book records the real experiences of a person suffering under an inhumane regime, and the reader should approach it as such.

    The Diary of a Young Girl: maturing

    Anne Frank grows and matures throughout her diaries. They capture a critical period in her early adolescence as she explores her identity and sexuality for the first time. She details the more innocent interactions she had with boys as a young girl. Readers can see this develop into more serious attraction as Anne ponders her feelings towards Peter in the Annex.

    Anne's maturing also comes from her growing awareness about issues of identity. She is certain of her Jewishness and mourns the immense oppression she faces because of this. However, her German identity is a more complex issue for her. The Frank family are German, yet their citizenship has been stripped because they are Jews. Anne also calls the Netherlands her home as she lives there, but many Dutch people have turned against Jews because of the war.

    Anne's process of maturing into an adult is hindered, stunted, and eventually stopped by her surrounding circumstances. Living through the Holocaust as a young Jewish girl in Europe was an unimaginably difficult position to be in. Anne cannot experience the outside world as her family must hide away in the Annex. This means Anne has no peers to experience her young life with. She also lives in a state of constant fear that her family's position will be revealed to the authorities. Anne's death at a tragically young age is one of many young lives cut short due to the actions of the Nazis.

    I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle, look at the world, feel young and know that I'm free, and yet I can't let it show. (December 1943)

    The Diary of a Young Girl: war

    War and its various impacts are central in Anne Frank's diaries. As the Frank family hide in the Annex, the Second World War rages around them. They are in constant danger and lead a psychologically draining existence. The inhabitants of the Annex regularly gather around their radio to listen to news reports about how the war is progressing. Positive moves for the German forces strike fear into the hearts of all listening. Anne's diaries show the toll the war takes on her and her family. There are times they feel completely hopeless, but Anne consistently manages to regain her sense of hope that they will all one day be free.

    Every night hundreds of planes pass over Holland on their way to German cities, to sow their bombs on German soil. Every hour hundreds, or maybe even thousands, of people are being killed in Russia and Africa. No one can keep out of the conflict, the entire world is at war, and even though the Allies are doing better, the end is nowhere in sight. (January 1943)

    The premise of the war also impacts those in the Annex, particularly the young Anne. They are in hiding merely because of who they are as Jewish people. Anne knows that outside their hiding place, there are thousands of Jews being tortured and murdered for no reason. She often feels a sense of guilt for remaining hidden while they suffer so much.

    The Diary of a Young Girl, Jews outside Auschwitz, StudySmarterFig. 4 - Jewish people being rounded up outside Auschwitz, an infamous concentration camp.

    Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

    Anne Frank lost her life due to typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp sometime in March 1945. She was not yet sixteen. Her diaries were discovered by an employee of Otto's, Miep Gies, after the authorities raided the Annex. Miep collected the scattered manuscripts and kept them until Otto's return after the war. Otto was the only surviving member of the Frank family.

    After some trepidation, Otto read through Anne's diaries. He grappled with whether to publish them or not. Anne wished to be a writer, but some of the information in her diaries was extremely private. He eventually decided they should be published for the world to see. After some difficulty, a Dutch publisher agreed to publish Anne Frank's diaries. The first edition was released in 1947. The text's importance and popularity led it to be translated into many other languages, including English, German, and French.

    In more recent years, there has been controversy surrounding the censoring of Anne's diaries by her father before publication. Otto excluded passages in which Anne criticised her parents' marriage. He also removed sections in which Anne graphically discussed sexuality, masturbation, and menstruation. She wrote of experiencing some kind of same-sex attraction, but Otto edited this out. He also included sections that Anne herself had edited out of her diaries, like her attraction to Peter van Daan. These edits have left some wondering if The Diary of a Young Girl gave a wholly accurate picture of the multi-faceted, flawed, and authentic person that Anne Frank was.

    Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl: quotes

    Anne Frank's diaries were written in her own words. They were a groundbreaking look into life for a young person during the Holocaust. Today, they are viewed as a vital historical document.

    QuoteEntry Explanation
    'It seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. Oh well, it doesn't matter. I feel like writing, and I have an even greater need to get all kinds of things off my chest.'June 1942.In hindsight, this is quite a prophetic quote. Anne Frank could never have known how important her diaries would become. She emphasises that she is just an ordinary girl. This is a key reason behind the popularity of her writings.
    'I can't help telling you that lately I've begun to feel deserted. I am surrounded by too great a void.'November 1942.Anne speaks of her loneliness here. Separate from her peers, she feels very alone, despite the fact she is living in very close quarters with the other inhabitants of the Annex. They are totally isolated from the rest of the world.
    'Terrible things are happening outside. At any time of night and day, poor helpless people are being dragged out of their homes. They're allowed to take only a knapsack and a little cash with them, and even then, they're robbed of these possessions on the way. Families are torn apart; men, women and children are separated. Children come home from school to find that their parents have disappeared.'January 1943.Anne details the horrors going on just outside their Annex. The majority of people being persecuted and tortured are Jewish. This quote encapsulates the extreme trauma Anne and those like her were forced to experience from an extremely young age.

    The Diary of a Young Girl - Key takeaways

    • The Diary of a Young Girl (1947) is a non-fiction text by Anne Frank.
    • It is the diaries of a young Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis during the Holocaust.
    • Two key themes in the text are maturing and war.
    • Anne Frank was an intelligent and talented young writer who used her writing as a refuge from the horrors around her.
    • Anne's father, Otto, eventually published her diaries in 1947. He was the only surviving member of the Frank family.

    The Diary of a Young Girl, content warning, StudySmarter

    Frequently Asked Questions about The Diary of a Young Girl

    What happened to Anne Frank's diary?

    Anne Frank's diary was collected by a colleague of Otto Frank's after the raid on the Annex. Otto went on to publish them.

    Who wrote The Diary of a Young Girl?

    Anne Frank wrote The Diary of a Young Girl.

    Why is Anne Frank's diary important?

    Anne Frank's diary is important because it gives a real insight into the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust.

    Is The Diary of a Young Girl an autobiography?

    Yes, the text is Anne Frank's autobiography.

    What is the central idea of The Diary of a Young Girl?

    The central idea of the text is that all people are truly the same regardless of their background. Anne is just a normal teenage girl. This means that everyone deserves equal treatment.

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